Saturday, January 3, 2009

LaDainian Tomlinson, We Hardly Know Ye

Earlier today, I was watching the ESPN NFL Countdown tools talking about the Colts-Chargers game this evening, specifically, about LaDainian Tomlinson's injury, when Tom Jackson stated "Well, LT is right now a first-ballot Hall of Famer". I turned to a roomate and said I didn't agree with that, that he may be a HOFer right now, but he still has some work to do before he is a first-ballot guy. He disagreed, and the argument ensued.

(Let me preface this by saying that while I am a Colts fan, I am not a homer. I have an appreciation for sports in general and you can usually tell when I am intentionally showing my bias.)

I will not argue that LT is one of the most explosive and talented players that has ever played the game. For the past 8 years, he has consistently been the "best back in the game, today" (apologies to Adrian Peterson, the next big thing). He has an MVP and an impressive single season TD record that he seemed to achieve with frightening ease. But does this really qualify him as a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy? I would argue no.

For you to consider Tomlinson a first-ballot player, then that opens the door for two other current players who would have to be considered first-ballot worthy. First, Kurt Warner.

The problem with Warner is that he has been so hit or miss over the course of his career. He started off his career hot out of the gate, but injuries and politics have shadowed what has otherwise been a great 10 year career:

4-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL MVP
1-time Super Bowl MVP
1-time Super Bowl Champion

How does that stack up with Tomlinson? Tomlinson has 1 MVP and 5 Pro Bowl invitations, along with the aforementioned TD record. If Tomlinson is a first-ballot HOFer, then certainly Warner is as well?

Ok, it can be tough to compare a RB to a QB with ease, so how about another back? How about Shaun Alexander?

3-time Pro Bowler
1-time NFL MVP

So Alexander doesn't necessarily match up stat for stat with Tomlinson, but (unfortunately for all of us) statistics aren't always the main factor in HOF voting. Voters do take stats into account, but they also include things like MVPs, Pro Bowl appearences, and, for better or worse, Super Bowls. Before Indianpolis won the Super Bowl, and Peyton had his 2 MVPs and his single season TD record, it didn't matter who you asked, Tom Brady the better Hall of Fame candidate. I will not argue that, but the underlying theme here is that although Pey-Pey had the stats, Brady had the the greater glory. That's important in Hall of Fame discussion. Coming back to the subject at hand here, Alexander has the same amount of MVPs as Tomlinson, held that same TD record one year prior to LT breaking it, and (gasp!) played in one more Super Bowl than LT. Is that fair criteria to judge with? Maybe yes, maybe no. But the fact still remains that at this point, there are players who are just as, if not more deserving the be a first-ballot Hall of Famer than LT.

As stated earlier, I will not deny that LDT is a charismatic and phenominal NFL player. He has achieved great success in his first 8 seasons that compare favorably with just about anyone you compare him with. He hasn't played in a Super Bowl (yet) and seems to be slowing down, but he is definitely Hall of Fame material down the road.

But does this make him a first-ballot material at this point in time? I would argue no.

Wild Card Weekend Part Deux

Wildcard weekend is upon us tomorrow, closes out Sunday with two more great games:

Ravens @ Dolphins (Sun 1:00) - Enough has been said about the turnarounds both of these teams experienced this year. Both rookie head coaches are tops in the Coach of the Year balloting. Both teams have stifling defenses that can shut down anyone. Both have efficient, game managing QBs and solid RB tandems as well. Homefield advantage won't matter much here, though, as Baltimore already showed in Week 7 this year. More of the same tomorrow: Ravens 21, Dolphins 14

Iggles @ Vikings (Sun 4:30) - The two most bipolar teams in the playoffs. Everyone in their mother claims that this is the worst case scenerio match-up for the Vikings: a team that can shut down the run, can spread out the field offensively with the pass, and a far better QB. But if there is one player in this league who can single-handidly change the direction of a game, it's Adrian Peterson (just ask the Packers). The Vikes will live and die by the tempo AP sets in this game, but the Eagles might be the most dangerous team in the playoffs. Eagles 31, Vikings 28

Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL WIld Card Weekend - Where I'll take Terrance Newman's "Most Talented Team in the NFL" Won't Be for $500!

Wildcard weekend is upon us tomorrow, where we're getting treated to a double header of some ill games Saturday and Sunday. We'll get it started with the Saturday games:

Falcons @ Cardinals (Sat 4:30 pm) - Question: Are the Cardinals an actual playoff team? Answer: Fact, at 8-8 they are a playoff team (thanks Seattle, San Francisco, and St. Louis for remembering the season started). They deserve to be in the playoffs? False! Where has Kurt Warner been since, oh, November? This team is collapsing worse than the Mets in September (snap!).Oh, I'm sorry, am I not paying enough attention to the courageous and outstanding Atlanta Dirty Birds? Sorry, I just figured I had had enough of the media gushing about quaterback wunderkind Matt Ryan and essentially crowning him the next "Golden Boy" of the Media (Sorry Tommy, we're not talking about the Tabloids. Move over Favre). Anyways, I actually do like the Falcons and from every angle, I just can't see Michael Turner not running at will on the Cardinals shoddy run defense. Jonathan Abraham is going to eat Warner alive this Saturday. Falcons 34, Red Birds 21

Indy @ Chargers (Sat 8:00) - It's world renown the love we have for the Colts and their almighty leader, Peyton Manning. The Chargers always bring the heat when they play the Colts (ahem 6 picks, anyone?), and the Colts play to their competition in the playoffs. Which LT is going to show up, if he does show up? Can the Colts offense keep the Colts defense from spending too much time on the field? Will Phillip Rivers a.) cry b.) bitch c.) break his helmet in a Colts victory? These are the questions that I can't wait to get answers to. While the Chargers are have won 4 straight, capped off by an epic dismantling of conference rival, the Mike Shanahan-less, but Shannon Sharpe still representing Denver Broncos, a 9 game winning streak with a win already at San Diego and a return of the buzzsaw that is Demond "Bob" Sanders gives the Colts the edge. Indy 27, San Diego 24

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Solution to College Football's Annual BS Fest

Over the years we've all been subjected to the debate about whether college football should stick with the bowl system or finally have a playoff to decide its national champion.  There are pretty good reasons for both, yet all the dumb solutions we have heard so far conveniently ignore some of not all of them.  So as i sit back to watch the likely USC-Penn State train wreck, i thought what better time to unleash a playoff system that can make everyone in college football happy.  Read ahead if you have ever been frustrated by stupid bowl matchups, rolled your eyes at retarded playoff plans, or have ever been  a pissed off football fan.


The basic plan that i am endorsing is an 8-team playoff that combines the winners of the major conferences, while leaving space for excellent at-large teams and accomplished mid-majors to be included if they so deserve.  This way, the 6 major conferences would all be represented as they are today and there would also be a realistic chance for teams that fall victim to BCS's formulas to shut up and prove it on the field.  The tournament would take 3 weeks, with the championship played the January 8th, the week after New Years Day.

The Participants

Here is how the 8 teams would be decided:

- The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC champions would automatically be in the field of 8 *IF* they finish the season in the Top 10 of the coaches and AP polls.  Therefore, if you are a shitty team that won a wack conference, you can go get ghost.  Virginia Tech was an OK team this year, but they in no way belong in a BCS game based on their accomplishment.  Same with Cincinnati.
- Mid-Major champions would automatically be included in the field of 8 *if* they win their conference, go undefeated, and finish the season in the top 10 of the AP and Coaches polls.  Therefore Utah and Boise State would make the field of 8 this season.  
- If there are more than 8 combined big conference and undefeated mid-major teams, the top 8 seeds would be determined based on cumulative AP and coaches poll ranking.
- At-large teams would be selected by highest cumulative AP and Coaches poll rankings.  This would reward excellent teams from deep conferences, such as the Big 12 and SEC, while still leaving a great importance on winning your conference and earning the automatic bid and not taking a chance on being an at-large.  

This selection process would guarantee that the 8 greatest teams are in the playoffs every single year.  If you think there's a better way to choose 8 teams, then tell me how.


Bowl advocates have bitched about how a playoff system would add too many additional games to the crowded college schedule.  Under my system, only two teams would play more than the 14 games that bowl teams play under the current rules, therefore eliminating this lame excuse while still keeping the bowl system under its current form.  Here's how it works:

- 2 years ago the NCAA decided to extend the college season from 12 to 13 regular season games.  It was basically a way to make more TV revenue.  The problem is that most big college teams have filled this game with a worthless cupcake oppenent, making it the equivalent of an NFL preseason game.  Under my formula, this 13th game would be eliminated from the schedule.  Instead, the quarterfinal of the 8-team playoff would serve as the 13th game for the teams involved.  This way, TV ratings would become even higher than they are now.

- Additionally, these quarterfinal matchups *Would be played in the home stadiums* of the 4 highest seeds in the tournament to reward regular season accomplishments and also to preserve revenues that a 13th game could bring into the universities and conferences.

- Both the quarterfinal winner and loser matchups would take place at the existing 4 BCS bowl games (Orange, Rose, Sugar, Fiesta).  The locations of the national semifinals, and the consolation games would be rotated similarly to how they are now.  That way the big bowl games still get the best matchups, the fans see the best games, and the teams determine who makes the championship in the most pure form.  Now the Rose Bowl has been a big bitch in the bowl system for a long time.  Their desire to have the Big 10 play the Pac 10 every year has led to decades of shitty matchups.  Frankly the time for this is over.  Tradition is great and all, as long as the tradition isn't worthless.  If the Rose Bowl won't take the matchup its given, then it can peace out to the BCS.  Its spot could easily be given to the Cotton Bowl at the new Texas Stadium or the Capital One Bowl at the refurbished Citrus Bowl.  Either the Rose Bowl can play the same as the other BCS bowls, or it can enjoy the matchup of the best Big 10 and Pac 10 team outside of the top 8.  We'll see how its precious tradition matters at that point.

- The remaining bowl games would be filled as they are now, based on conference rank below the BCS games participants.  Under my system, all of these games would be completed by the end of January 1st, so no attention is taken away from the semifinals and championship.  It makes no sense that the International Bowl is played on January 6th.  Get that shit done with quick.

- Quarterfinals would be played the week after conference championships, which would be moved up a week with the elimination of the 13th game.  Therefore, players would still have a break for finals and bowl preparation.  The two semifinals would be played on January 1st, at 430pm and 8pm after the completion of all other bowl games.

- The Championship would be played a week from New Years, at a rotating BCS location just as it is now.

After all this, there would be 1 additional game played, the bowl hierarchy would be maintained, EVERYONE makes more money, and the fans see the best games.  How can this be a bad thing?


Based on the results of the 2008 regular season, and the system described above,  this is how the 8 team field would be determined:

1 seed - Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12 Champ
2 seed - Florida Gators, SEC Champ
3 seed - Texas Longhorns, Big 12 at large
4 seed - Alabama Crimson Tide, SEC at large
5 seed - USC Trojans, Pac 10 Champ
6 seed - Penn State Nittany Lions, Big 10 Champs
7 seed - Utah Utes, Mountain West Champ, undefeated mid-major
8 seed - Boise State Broncos, WAC Champ, undefeated mid-major

Here are the quarterfinal matchups, if these don't make you pitch a tent then go watch golf.

Boise State (8) @ Oklahoma (1), Norman, OK
Utah (7) @ Florida (2), Gainesville, FL
Penn State (6) @ Texas (3), Austin, TX
USC (5) @ Alabama (4), Tuscaloosa, AL

From here the semifinals would be played on New Years day, and out of the bracket a champion would be determined on January 8th, fully earned and justified by regular season and post-season success.

This whole system probably will never work, because its too right and the people in charge are too dumb and greedy to realize a good thing, but it would ensure a rightful champion is crowned, all while keeping the remaining system fully intact and eliminating the ridiculous controversies that have recently plagued college football.  If you think you can do better, please let me know, i'll be busy watching a meaningless bowl game. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

GDB NFL All-Pro Team

Before the playoffs start this week, GDB felt it necessary to honor the best players from the regular season.  Don't feel bad if your favorite player doesn't make this list, we don't reward reputations here, only pure brilliance and achievement.


QB - Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints.  It was a great year for quarterbacks, even with the injury to Tom Brady.  Anyone could argue for Peyton Manning or Matt Ryan to man this spot, but come on.  Brees threw for over 5,000 yards with his top 3 recieving weapons out for significant portions of the season and would have made the playoffs if he didn't play in the NFL's toughest division.

RB - Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings.  Any time you run for 1,700 yards without people noticing, you know you're damn good.  All Day made people in the NFL forget that the Vikes quarterback was Gus F'in Frerotte for most of the year, and thats quite an achievement.

RB - Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons.  The greatest free agent signing of 2008 helped the Falcons make it all the way to an 11-5 record.  

LT - Stephen Roos, Tennessee Titans.  A lynchpin of one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL.

LG - Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings.  Still opening up big holes for All Diggity Day, even thought he may not be at an all-world level anymore.

C - Sean O'Hara, New York Giants.  Major part of the dynamic and versatile Giants O-Line, helped B Jacobs and Derrick Ward both get over 1,000 yards rushing.

RG - Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons.  Symbolic of the Atlanta Falcons newfound success in the power running game.

RT - Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers.  No team had a more dominant running game in the 2nd half of the season than Carolina, and Gross' emergence at right tackle had a lot to do with that.

WR - Andre Johnson, Houston Texans.  Simply a man among boys, Johnson is the most dominant individual player in the NFL.

WR - Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers.  When he ain't smacking teammates around, he's torching cornerbacks as the most explosive reciever in the game.

TE - Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts.  Him and Manning were a giant part of the Colts mad dash in the 2nd half of the season.


DE - DeMarcus Ware - Dallas Cowboys.  Despite the pathetic play of his overrated teammates, Ware continues to emerge as the best young edge rusher in the NFL, as evidenced by his 19 sacks and countless QB pressures.

DT - Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee Titans.  Buy the hype.  Everyone knew he had the talent going back to his Volunteer days, now that he's figured it out there are few as dominant in the game.

DT - Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens.  Incredibly athletic for a 350 pound man, Ngata's run stuffing ability has allowed the Ravens' linebackers and safeties to be so aggressive and destructive.

DE - John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons.  As a pass rushing specialist there was none better in the game this year.  His constant pressure helped save the Falcons in many games this year.

OLB - James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers.  The best Steeler linebacker since Greg Lloyd.  Harrison is as good rushing the passer as he is at stopping the run, and he makes huge plays every game.

MLB - Keith Bulluck, Tennessee Titans.  This guy has been a great linebacker for over a decade.  His leadership and talent helped make the Titans defense so imposing this year.

OLB - Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins.  I never thought i'd include Peezy in a list like this, but it would be ignorant to dismiss his contribution the the miraculous Dolphins turnaround.

CB - Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans.  The most physical corner in the NFL.

CB - Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers.  A couple years ago he was benched by his coaches, now he has improved into as close to a shutdown corner as the NFL rules will allow.

FS - Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens.  The best safety the NFL has seen since Ronnie Lott.

SS - Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Spiritual leader of the best defense in the NFL this season.  Can truly do it all on defense.

P - Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers.  Led the league in average, good enough for me.

K - Steven Gostwowski, New England Patriots.  Led the league in points, good enough for me.

KR - Johnnie Lee Higgins, Oakland Raiders.  Not a great year for kick returners, but this guy scored td's and has an awesome name, which is good enough for me.

Coach  of the year - Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins.  Took chances on unwanted players and then coached them up from a 1 win to an 11 win team.

Rookie of the Year - Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons.  How is it that he is better as an NFL rookie than he was as a college senior.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NFL Regular Season Recap and other sports observations

Fall Semester in grad school can be a pretty heady undertaking, and it pretty much claimed Young Swole. I apologize for the lack of content on GDB, but i'm hopeful that i will be able to provide the cutting insight that the millions of readers demand. With that apology, I reflect on the recently completed NFL regular season and other significant events unfolding in the sports universe....


ESPN tried vainly to stuff aggravating stories like the Dallas Cowboys and Brett Favre down our throats all fall, and to the enjoyment of sane people across our country, both crashed and burned worse than the Hindenberg. First off we have the Cowboys, with their choke-artist quarterback, much-maligned reciever and the rest of the crew. I can't remember such a mediocre team being covered so closely, and I don't think a failure so rife with blame to be dispersed has ever been directed in the wrong directions. Recent days have seen TV commentators (Cris Carter) basically calling for Terrell Owens to be murdered while much greater problems have been largely ignored. Tony Romo continues to be excused of his pathetic play, mostly because he tries hard and bangs a girl that fat sportswriters jerk off to. Jerry Jones has recieved some blame for putting together a bunch of mercenaries and meddling with his coaches, but this has mostly been excused because he really wants to win badly, as if others didn't. Finally Pac Man Jones is made a laughinstock for his Sunday performance, as if he was responsible for Romo and Barber's fumbles and the entire defensive ineptitude. Bottom line here, everyone deserves equal blame, and to lump in entirely on loud black men while excusing white teammates screams of racism.

Onto Favre, who was made the biggest story of the season by ESPN in late summer when he signed with the Jets. He was awful on Sunday, throwing two of the dumbest picks i've ever seen. No one is more responsible for the Jets collapse than him, as evidenced by his 2td to 9int ratio in December. Yet his poor play has been largely excused because he was supposedly injured (as if no one else plays hurt) and that he was "curageous" to try and play in new york. Now we have to endure another offseason of will-he or won't-he when it comes to retirement. If his play is any indicator, then ol' Brett should just hang up his wranglers and go back to nowheresville Mississippi where he belongs.


- The biggest tragedy of the NFL season occurred late in the Tampa-Oakland game. It wasn't the ugly collapse by the Buccaneers against the hapless Raiders, no it was that Cadillac Williams got injured again. Last year, Williams tore a patella tendon in his right knee which doctors thought would end his career. Miraculously, Cadillac returned to the Bucs late in the season and was a big contributor for a team that suffered through injuries from Ernest Graham and Warrick Dunn. However, in the 4th quarter of Sunday's game, Cadillac tore the patella tendon in his left knee, and is looking at another career threatening situation. I've always loved the way Cadillac has run the ball way back to his Auburn days, and its heartbreaking that the same devastasting injury could happen to the same guy again. I just hope that he doesn't go the way of players like Willie Davis and Yatil Green and never make it back.

- All the NFL numbskull commentators aren't mentioning him, but Ed Reed would be my MVP this season. Reed was always a great player, but he has been simply dominant on defense this year for the Ravens. Every week it seems he's returning a TD for a touchdown or making a huge play on defense. His emotional contribution is arguably larger than any other player in the league as well, Reed is the identity of the Ravens and he has helped make them one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs. My second place would be Peyton Manning, 3rd place Chad Pennington

- As a Lions fan, all i can really do is shake my head in embarrasment. Unlike the Dolphins and Falcons, i have no hope in the Lions actually turning this around. They are sadly mismanaged and do not have the intellectual capability to even acknowledge that they are clueless. There is literally no hope for this franchise. Whoever they draft will be wasted because they can't find good enough coaches. The coaches they do hire are either inept or lazy. I honestly don't even think they will win a game next year either. There are no good young players on this team and no rookie is going to be able to make that much of a difference. its sad to see the franchise this damn bad, but what's even sadder is they will continue to be this awful for a lot longer.

- I am convinced this is the year of Lebron. Silence me with that KG competitor talk, no one has had a greater will to win since MJ than Lebron. Plus he actually has decent teammates around him this year, which will lead him to his first of many NBA titles. Lock it in right now, he will be Sports Illustrated's sportsman of the year in 2009, unless Tiger comes back and sweeps the majors.

- The college bowls are in full swing, and they have been very good so far. Unfortunately it looks like the big bowls could all be letdowns, thanks to the mismatches created by the greed of the BCS and college presidents. If anyone thinks Penn State, Ohio State or Utah actually has a chance in the bowl game, then they need to get some smelling salts.

Coming up in Future Days: Young Swole's NFL All-Pro Team, The perfect solution for a BCS playoff, BCS Bowl Predictions, Australian Open Preview, Young Swole's Life Observations