Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ravens in search of playmakers


As our own Brian McFarland forecasted back on February 10, more reports are now surfacing that the Ravens are set to part ways with Willis McGahee.

This should come to the surprise of no one given McGahee’s $6 million price tag for 2011. Compare that to Ray Rice’s scheduled salary of $550,000 and it becomes even more difficult to justify the team’s Six Million Dollar Man. The Ravens can circumvent some possible cap issues by releasing the former Miami Hurricane now. For more on the cap relief, click here.

As for whether the Ravens will bring back McGahee at a reduced number, it’s possible but if a new CBA isn’t struck before the draft, the Ravens have no incentive to bring back McGahee any time soon. That said, McGahee’s agent Drew Rosenhaus may also prefer to see how the dust settles before trying to place his client.

If the NFL labor strife continues beyond April it could affect the way teams approach the draft. Teams that adopt the best player available approach over need may be more inclined to weigh need a bit more heavily. I don’t however see the Ravens leaning that way. Look for them to continue to beat the BPA drum and use free agency later on to fill in holes/needs.

Eric DeCosta shared a sneak preview of the Ravens’ approach on the Norris & Davis Show this week heard on 105.7 The Fan. (LINK)

One of the things DeCosta shared that jumped out at me was an emphasis on finding play makers. They are seeking players who can impact games in critical situations at least in part because they are very aware of the many fourth quarter leads that vanished during the 2010 season.

Reading between the lines here, expect the Ravens to focus on improving team speed and more than likely NOT investing a day 1 pick on an offensive lineman.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Genius of Ozzie Newsome: Reality or Myth?


The Ravens have received their fair share of accolades over the years for their collective acumen on draft day. Ozzie Newsome as long been lauded as one of if not the best general manager in the league when it comes to possessing a keen eye for collegiate talent.

But is it deserved?

Clearly the Ravens have done well in Round 1 for the most part since their inception. Of the seven players chosen in the top 10 by Baltimore, five have earned Pro Bowl status. Two of those players – Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs – also earned Rookie of the Year honors.

During the 15 drafts that they’ve participated in organizationally, the Ravens have selected 16 players in the first round (traded away 2004 first-rounder) and these picks have racked up a total of 46 Pro Bowl appearances.

Overall the Ravens have had 14 homegrown players make Pro Bowl appearances. Thirteen were drafted while another (Bart Scott) was an undrafted free agent.

On the surface, this looks impressive.

But what if I told you that of the 46 Pro Bowl appearances, 3 players (Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed) accounted for 30 of them? Does that make their draft day prowess more or less impressive? Or might this suggest that the Ravens have been successful choosing Hall of Fame caliber players but they haven’t been very consistent otherwise?

By their own admission, the Ravens preferred LB Napoleon Harris (25th pick) in 2002 over Ed Reed.

Was that the byproduct of an inexact science or luck?

To their credit the Ravens stuck to their draft board in 2002 and next in line after Harris was Reed. But if both players had fallen to them, Harris would have been a Raven and not the game’s best ball hawk.

After the first round where Newsome’s touch seems best, the Ravens have seemingly struggled organizationally in rounds 2 through 4 yet they’ve uncovered a few gems later in the draft and by way of undrafted free agents.

Does this inconsistency support the lofty reputation the Ravens have enjoyed on draft day?

It’s easy to sit here years after a draft and criticize the Ravens for passing on talent that in several instances was vastly superior to the player they selected. Some would argue that perhaps the player chosen was expected to fit a system or a positional need yet Newsome, if you take his word at face value, has and always will pick the best player on their draft board.

This then brings in to question the quality of the draft board. If the Ravens back in 1998 picked the best player on their board in Round 1 (Duane Starks), what does it say then about the positioning on their board when Tra Thomas, Keith Brooking, Takeo Spikes, Randy Moss and Alan Faneca were all available in Round 1? Those players combined for a total of 26 Pro Bowl appearances.

Starks never made it to Honolulu.

Today in retrospect that pick has to be considered a draft day black eye for Newsome.
In their defense, the Ravens aren’t alone in missed draft day opportunities. The list is long and well dispersed and some of the misses you might find shocking! Many teams passed on Moss back in ’98 for far less accomplished players just as they did with Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers in 2005.

So in order to fairly evaluate the Ravens draft day prowess, we need a means of comparison and for purposes of our analysis, we will measure the Ravens on draft day against the teams that they have aspired to be like: The Pittsburgh Steelers; New England Patriots; and Indianapolis Colts.

We will evaluate each pick and measure them with a point system that we’ve developed which takes into consideration the following:

· A player’s tenure with the team
· The number of games the player has started
· Where in the draft the player was selected
· How many Pro Bowl appearances each player has had

We will also consider the number of Pro Bowl players passed on by the Ravens’ war room team in exchange for less accomplished players and penalize those picks accordingly.

Upon conclusion of our series, we will attempt to effectively unlock the mystique of Ozzie Newsome.

Is his alleged draft day genius reality or a myth?

In the end, we’ll let YOU be the judge…

1996

1997

1998

Cumulative Scoring

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mailbag: Why Not Al Saunders for OC?


Yesterday I posted a Q&A inspired by recent emails. I was accused of picking out only the softball questions by loyal site visitor Richie G from Dallas. He wanted answers to the following questions instead. He asked, so I’ll deliver…

Was Al Saunders ever considered as continuity replacement Cam - why not or, if considered, why was he not hired?

Organizationally the team is keeping mum on follow up questions regarding Cam Cameron and they are at least publicly showing solidarity in their support of John Harbaugh’s decision to keep the offensive coordinator.

No one will say what really went on behind closed doors when owner Steve Bisciotti confronted Harbaugh about the team’s lackluster offense but the guess here is that Bisciotti left that room demanding accountability. The result is as Bisciotti described, Cameron “under fire.”

I believe that the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement saved Cameron’s job. It’s tough to usher in a new coordinator not already familiar with the system when the players aren’t around vis-à-vis the expected lockout to help implement a new offensive philosophy. In the spirit of this way of thinking, Al Saunders’ name had to come up in those discussions between Bisciotti and Harbaugh because he has an accomplished resume and the transition could have been managed through a lockout.

This at least in part had to influence the Raiders’ hiring of Saunders who has familiarity with Hue Jackson from their time spent together in Baltimore. Good question and I’m sure that many Ravens’ fans will keep a watchful eye on the development of Oakland’s offense and compare it to the Ravens’ offensive development or lack thereof.

If Ozzie said the WRs did not have enough time to jell LAST year, how can they do so this coming year when it is highly likely there will be AT LEAST 2 new guys starting?

A lot of the gelling process takes place during OTA’s and training camp. It’s also important that the WR’s and Joe Flacco take snaps with the same unit when simulating live action.

In the case of Donte Stallworth, he was for the most part fourth on the depth chart and therefore didn’t run with the first team often during OTA’s and camp. That third spot was Mark Clayton’s. Stallworth’s injury put him further behind in the “gel department” and you’ve witnessed the results – 2 catches for 82 yards.

With TJ Houshmandzadeh, he was never in camp and his rapport with Flacco had to develop during the season and that is an uphill battle – not an insurmountable climb but a climb nonetheless.

For me, the team’s inability to get Anquan Boldin the football in the second half of the season is simply inexcusable and in some ways that had to be an embarrassment to Ozzie Newsome who gave up two draft picks and $28 million to get the physical playmaker. During the 9 games after the bye Boldin caught just 26 passes for 319 yards and 2 TD’s. And when the chips were down and the Ravens fought for that No. 2 seed in the playoff during the final four game stretch, Cameron could only get Boldin an anemic 8 catches for 67 yards – TOTAL!

Ozzie can’t look us all in the eye and say that was about gelling. That’s insulting to our collective intelligence.

Can Dickson & Pitta get any playing time (not counting special teams) soon?

The two tight ends are different kinds of players. Dennis Pitta in my opinion is more likely to give you the style of play we’ve grown accustomed to with Todd Heap. Dickson for me is a tweener – a player who is not really a prototypical tight end or wide receiver. He carries his pads well and has excellent speed for his size. In my opinion a more creative coordinator would find ways to get him the ball in space and allow his size to create mismatches much like New Orleans does with a similarly built player in Marques Colston.

How soon will this happen? Hard to say really. I haven’t seen Cameron trust the young guys very much and his control freak ways will have to change. Maybe he should look north towards another control freak who was able to get production from a pair of rookie tight ends in New England. That said, Tom Brady didn’t have the luxury of a Todd Heap nor does Cam Cameron have the luxury of Tom Brady.

Does Cary Williams have playing ability?

The Ravens say they like Williams and his willingness to hit and his size and speed suggest that he has what it takes to be a productive starter in the league. He is a very solid contributor on special teams and it will be interesting to see if his positional coach from last season (now defensive coordinator) Chuck Pagano, shows more confidence in Williams in the form of increased playing time.

Also if the Ravens take a pass on re-signing either Chris Carr or Josh Wilson, it could be Williams’ upside that influenced such a decision.

How could Ozzie have been caught so flat-footed re: the O-line and lack of quality depth?

The Jared Gaither injury absolutely caught them flat-footed and it left them vulnerable. Three players on the offensive line played out of position for an entire season as a result. These kinds of things happen not only to the Ravens but to many teams. Few if any clubs have starter quality offensive linemen waiting in the wings.

However, the team does not get a pass on using draft picks on O-linemen who never pan out. Oniel Cousins was a third round pick and David Hale a fourth round pick, both in the ’08 draft class. One is a proven bust and is no longer with the team. The other is on his way unless he takes to Andy Moeller’s coaching better than he did to the departed John Matsko’s.

Clearly, this is something that the team needs to fix.

Does Harbaugh have the guts to fire Cam if the 2011 offense is a clone of the 2010 offense?

He will have no choice. If the offense underachieves again and Harbaugh tries to dig in his heels in a manner reminiscent of Brian Billick with Kyle Boller, there will be an intervention by the team’s owner and Cameron will be gone.

You can count on that!

Thank you Richie G from Dallas!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

RAVENS MAILBAG: You asked, we've answered...


It has been awhile since I’ve done this Q&A but recently I received several emails on a few different Ravens related topics so I thought, ok…let’s revive Letters 2 TL again!

Do you think there will be a 2011 season and if so when do you think the owners and players will agree to a new collective bargaining agreement? Joe from Parkville

There absolutely will be a 2011 season! From what I can tell, the owners have most of the leverage in these negotiations which from the outside looking in seem almost childishly petty so far. My guess is that the owners will make the players sweat a bit as part of an effort to weaken their union and eventually strike a new deal that will look like a win for the owners – and it will be.

As for when this will happen, I think sometime after the 2011 Draft (April 28-30) and before training camp. I’ll predict more specifically a Memorial Day-ish settlement.

Matt Birk is getting up in age and his effectiveness seemed to dwindle towards the end of the 2010 season. Do you think the Ravens are confident in Chris Chester if Birk retires or goes down with an injury? Mike from Pasadena

Chris Chester is a nice player to have on your roster in that he gives you some flexibility and he is athletic as far as offensive linemen go. That said, he’s undersized and I think he would crumble at the point of attack against a 3-4 defense which by the way is a defense the Steelers have featured for decades.

Do you remember when Kyle Boller was sacked during a handoff against the Steelers back in 2005? It was during a goal-to-go situation from the 2 and Casey Hampton annihilated Mike Flynn. I would expect more of that if Chester was asked to handle Hampton.

Joe Flacco wasn’t very happy about the Ravens’ firing of Jim Zorn. Do you think they will regret that next season if Flacco carries a grudge? Brian in Ocean City

A confidant is nice to have but not necessarily as your positional coach, particularly one who is the friendly, laid back type. Unfortunately that’s Jim Zorn!

Zorn didn’t challenge Joe and he needed to. He was hired to break down Flacco’s mechanics; his decision making; and his ability to study game film. From what I’ve been told, that didn’t happen and Flacco’s progression in 2010 is more a reflection of his own ability. He could use some tough love and improvements in the finer points of quarterbacking.

Flacco’s personality begs for challenges. He’s very low key and if coddled without being inspired he may never make the advances in the league that his skills sets suggest that he’s capable of.

I have heard Nnamdi Asomugha’s name mentioned as a possible addition to the Ravens secondary. Do you think this is possible and if you were Ozzie would you do it? Jason from Pikesville

Any team would benefit from Nnamdi Asomugha. Simply put, he’s a stud! But he’ll command a huge Darrelle Revis-like contract (mid $30 million in guarantees) and I’m not sure that’s a wise move for the Ravens’ cap. Asomugha will be 30 when the 2011 season starts and we’ve seen corners’ skills diminish quickly when they approach their mid 30’s. If he doesn’t perform throughout the length of the contract, the Ravens would be saddled with dead money on their cap books.

Plus I’m of the opinion that the Ravens secondary is a solid group, albeit lacking a shut down guy like Asomugha. I’d rather they find a player in the draft that can get to the quarterback. Together with Suggs that kind of tag team would improve the secondary’s play (and I would argue it was pretty good anyway considering the substandard pass rush) and it would be a more economical approach which will help the Ravens re-sign players like Marshal Yanda, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.

Who do you think the Ravens will go for with their first pick in the NFL Draft? Jim from Catonsville

I don’t think even the Ravens know that at this point. Draft boards will morph between now and the draft after the combines and the individual workouts of eligible collegiate athletes. I think overall the Ravens want to boost their team speed on both sides of the ball and become more explosive. This might sound like a cop out to your question but the best answer I can give at this point is that the Ravens will take the highest rated player on their board at one of these positions (in my order of importance): Defensive end; offensive line; wide receiver; linebacker.

Do you think the Ravens will bring back either Chris Carr or Josh Wilson? Dave from Frederick

I hope they bring back both and I think they can. Keep in mind that their positional coach who they admire and respect (Chuck Pagano) is now the defensive coordinator. Carr has been with Pagano going back to his days in Oakland and has been vocally supportive of his promotion. Although he got off to a shaky start in Baltimore, Carr has settled in to his role and has been one of the team’s most underrated performers over the pass 1 ½ seasons.

Wilson was a steal and organizationally the team would do that trade with Seattle in exchange for a fifth round pick every day of the week and twice on Sundays. They like his toughness and his competitiveness. Wilson is from the area so I think the odds are very good that he’ll be a Raven in ’11.

Any chance that Donte Stallworth or TJ Houshmandzadeh return in 2011? Jeff in Grasonville

I think the return of either is heavily predicated upon what the Ravens do in the draft. Keep in mind that they’ve signed James Hardy to a futures contract and that their scouts ranked him high during the 2008 draft. Some in the organization preferred Hardy over Ray Rice. So if he performs like they think he can, either Stallworth or Housh could be out.

Also keep in mind that the team is very high (no pun intended) on David Reed. Word is that he did a number on the Ravens’ starting DB’s in practice and some expect him to be the team’s No. 3 receiver in ’11.

And let’s not forget about the draft. If the team spends a first or second day pick on a WR, I think that will seal the fate of either Stallworth or Housh. A wild card in the mix could be Derrick Mason’s retirement but I’m not seeing that. My bet is that it’s less than 50-50 for both Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh individually. Together, let’s use the injury report vernacular – DOUBTFUL!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ravens Rumor monger at it again!


Baltimore’s most notorious Ravens’ rumor monger is The Sun’s Mike Preston. Recently he once again fanned the flames of controversy by claiming some players had a problem with the duration of John Harbaugh’s practices leading into their preparation for the Divisional Playoff Game against Pittsburgh.

Side Bar: What fans may or may not know is that the longest practice during the week is on Wednesdays – all of 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Back to Preston’s blog, he would go on to explain (
link) that cooler heads prevailed.

“As a team, both sides came to an agreement but there were some tense moments with some players even threatening to go the players' union and the media.”

Before signing off, Preston fanned the flames one more time.

“This shouldn't be happening during the biggest week of the season.”

Look I don’t know about you, but wherever I’ve been employed there was always some whiny little clique or squeaky wheel that was never 100% on board with anything. You know the type. Every company has them and an optimist might say that they challenge you and help keep things honest. Others might say the whining is a waste of time.

In Preston’s case, the rumors are little more than filler – and some might say that they too are waste of time.

The team discussed it, remedied it and moved on.

So too should we…

Preston’s sometimes sidekick on 105.7 The Fan is the Rebel, Rebel himself, the always amusing (albeit not by design) Bruce Cunningham. Recently Cunningham had a tough time pronouncing the Orioles’ newest hurler Justin Duchscherer. Now on the surface most would struggle to pronounce such a name if not familiar with the player. And that is one of the beauties of the internet and Wikipedia. You see you just go to your computer (making sure it is powered up first of course), get on the web, go to Wikipedia and type in Duchscherer’s name.

And low and behold, there you will find the pronunciation: [DUKE-shur]

Hence the nickname, “Duke.”

Cunningham would have his listeners and Fox 45 viewers believe that Duchscherer’s name was a tongue twister on par with the condiment Worcestershire sauce (pronounced
WOOS-tər-shər-saws).

Good thing Cunningham isn’t the Orioles PA Announcer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Second Coming of Kyle Boller?


Today I was reminded of a rather amusing Ravens practice a few years back at the team’s headquarters in Owings Mills. The Ravens were running some one-on-one drills featuring the wide receivers and DB’s.

Without any pressure the quarterbacks alternated as they tossed passes towards targeted receivers who for the most part ran the full gamut of routes in the route tree.

On one of the 9 routes (a go pattern) Kyle Boller dropped back and let it fly. The pass was so far off the mark that it hit a white metal shed positioned about 40 feet off the sideline and adjacent to the end line. The impact sounded like an explosion.

I laughed so hard I was in mute.

Boller was never known for accuracy and in a very funny way this was for me a defining moment for the mechanically flawed signal caller.

We are all very well aware that Brian Billick fell in love with the strength of Boller’s arm and we all remember the infamous 60 yard toss from his knees through the goal posts prior to the 2003 NFL Draft. Yes that was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as Johnny McEntee, second string QB for the University of Connecticut.

Check out the video below.

Oh and Coach Harbaugh, if you’re reading, please don’t let this influence you on draft day 2011.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ravens owner gives thumbs up to 18 game season


The discussions surrounding the 18 game season are sure to spike heated debate during the collective bargaining sessions between the NFLPA and the league’s owners.

The court of popular opinion seems to side with the players on this one and many who support keeping the 16 game season, suggest that the league is practicing hypocrisy while championing the extended season at the same time they campaign for player safety.

That said if you think about it, an extended season could favor a team that scouts better and one that has a deeper roster. Those frustrating inactive players would likely be a thing of the past and those players would be asked to provide more in the way of snaps.

Here’s what Steve Bisciotti had to say back in October when we discussed the 18 game season with him.

“When I get to the end of 16 games there are a lot of players on my 53 man roster that I don’t know anything about. And there’s no reason why Paul Kruger shouldn’t have played some last year instead of Trevor. And there’s no reason why some of our other players shouldn’t play.

“So through the course of a year you are forced to play those guys because of injury. So as much as everybody talks about the injuries in this league, I still finished with a handful of guys last year that I was not happy didn’t get a lot of snaps. So I can promise you that Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata will not play 20 more snaps in two games.

“I’m still looking for Arthur Jones to get out there. Ozzie Newsome thinks he’s great. Arthur Jones, fifth round pick out of Syracuse, can’t get on the field. I want him on that field and if you go to two more games I promise you are going to see guys like Paul Kruger out there last year more than you would because we’ll start rotating more.”

Sounds like the Ravens owner genuinely supports the extended season.

Or could this all be part of the owners’ master plan of simply creating another negotiating tool to enhance their leverage during the CBA sessions?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Have the Ravens found a WR diamond in the rough?


During the 2008 NFL Draft the Ravens were on the clock in the second round with the seventh pick, the 38th overall. Some scouts liked a 6’6”, 220 pound wide receiver out of the University of Indiana. They were impressed by his range, speed and athleticism.

And the Ravens nearly made him their second round pick that year.

Instead, they traded back in the second round, giving up the 38th overall pick in exchange for Seattle’s second round pick (55th overall) and their third round pick (86th overall). The heavies in the Ravens’ draft room were scared off a bit by the Hoosier receiver’s character issues and as a result, Ray Rice and Tom Zbikowski became Ravens.

So who was this wide receiver?

He was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 41st overall pick and was eventually released after battling through two injury plagued seasons (knee), underperforming when called upon and still at least loosely clutching some off field baggage (handgun violation).

And he is now property of the Baltimore Ravens after signing a reserves/future deal back in January.

His name is James Hardy.

Hardy may never amount to anything but then again, he could. Clearly the risk reward favors the Ravens.

When discussing the deal with one Ravens’ source I was reminded of another wide receiver who possessed plus skills but unfortunately character issues as well. His team, the Dallas Cowboys selected him with the 36th overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, but Jerry Jones & Co. just couldn’t get comfortable with taking on more character red flags since their roster already included Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper, neither of which was ever mistaken for a choir boy.

The discarded receiver eventually got his act together and had an outstanding career while wearing the colors of the Jacksonville Jaguars for 13 seasons and hauling in 862 career passes for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. Comparatively speaking, Hall of Famer Irvin posted 750 catches, 11,904 yards and 65 scores during his 12 year career.

Of course I’m describing Jimmy Smith.

While we aren’t suggesting that Hardy’s career will track closely with Smith’s, it does suggest that sometimes when given a second chance gifted athletes can rise from the rubble.

And for the Ravens, the opportunity cost seems worth the roll of the dice.

Zorn, Matsko firings…The Rest of the Story


Many (myself included) have labeled former Ravens’ assistant coaches Jim Zorn and John Matsko as sacrificial lambs served up to save Cam Cameron by essentially re-directing blame for the team’s underachieving offense towards them and not the team’s offensive coordinator.

When rumors began to fly that Steve Bisciotti met with John Harbaugh for a total of five hours over the course of a few days to discuss among other things the team’s offensive architect just prior to the club’s annual State of The Ravens address, many concluded (and Harbaugh’s post address comments seemed to confirm this) that Harbaugh successfully salvaged another lifeline for Cameron.

I believed that the firing of Zorn and Matsko was Bisciotti’s influence. My conspiracy theory suggested that Bisciotti wanted to remove any potential future scapegoats and clear the way to assess blame or bestow praise accurately depending upon the performance of the offense in 2011.

However, it now appears that the firings aren’t the diabolical machinations that I once thought they could be.

Word now surfacing from Owings Mills suggests that Matsko wasn’t quite getting to the players on the offensive line – they weren’t embracing his style and there were some rumblings from that group to higher level coaches. Moreover, the team is said to really believe that recently promoted offensive line coach Andy Moeller, despite his troubles off the field, is a rising star among young coaches. He is said to have a unique ability to communicate equally as effectively with young players as with established veterans.

The seemingly unanimous support of Moeller at team headquarters suggests the same.

As for Jim Zorn, he was brought in to provide constructive criticism of Joe Flacco to help accelerate his development; to challenge him and to teach him how to break down game film like a professional.

That didn’t go as planned.

Zorn, being the nice guy that he is never provided the tough love to Flacco and morphed into a confidant more than anything else, treating him with kid gloves. It’s said that Flacco preferred it that way and that could explain at least in part why the Ravens’ signal caller was unusually vocal about Zorn’s firing.

Cameron on the other hand is tougher on Flacco and he’s unafraid to deliver the challenging yet necessary criticisms.

It remains to be seen if Flacco will embrace Cameron’s style.

Sometimes the most successful collaborations are semi-adversarial.

Charlie Weiss and Tom Brady come to mind.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Has Roger Goodell become the Gordon Gekko of Professional Sports?



There was a day when I really liked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. I liked the way he entered the league, talked softly while wielding a big stick. He dealt swiftly with things that undermined the league’s integrity and dished out penalties as if to say, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

He was a welcomed replacement for the guy who told Baltimore to build a museum instead of a football stadium.

Now I see Goodell as nothing more than Gordon Gekko in disguise and personally I’d rather have Gekko as commissioner because at least with him, you know you are dealing with a shark.

Goodell will give you charm and gentlemanly smooth talk until your gullible heart is content just to win your support. He’ll do it in a way that makes you believe he has YOUR best interests in mind. But then it isn’t long before you realize that you were merely a pawn in the master plan of achieving HIS best interests.

A perfect example is his campaign for an 18 game season. He has repeatedly sounded the horn of the fans, trumpeting their alleged desire for two additional regular season games. But Goodell really heard only what he wanted to or more likely spin doctored the fans’ true desires to achieve his goal – more money for the NFL.

Gekko in the movie Wall Street didn’t try to disguise his ambition. He boasted, “Greed is good!”

“Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies.”

Gekko welcomed you aboard his ultra capitalistic, cut throat locomotive but at least you knew in advance what the ride would be like.

Goodell takes your ticket for his ride, a seemingly pleasant Ferris wheel but once locked in your seat, it morphs into the Zipper and he catches you with yours down.

Fans have complained for years about paying regular season prices for less than desirable preseason games. Goodell empathized and told the fans they deserved more for their money. Oh he’s a sly one that Roger dude.

Season ticket holders bought in to Goodell. Finally someone was sticking up for the fans or so the fans thought. Instead, he was really trying to stick it to you and/or to the TV networks because he’s greedy.

He’s twisted your words fans.

When you said you don’t want to pay full price without a full effort during relatively meaningless preseason games, Goodell heard, “fans support an 18 game regular season.”

Sorry, I didn’t say that and you probably didn’t either.

I ain’t buying and neither should you!

If Goodell was a waiter he’d interpret your passing up on appetizers as an opportunity to up-sell some expensive side dishes or desserts without consulting you and then present the padded check with a smile.

Let’s face it, what the league is essentially doing by adding two bone chilling weeks to the season is to taking 2 meaningless preseason football games, throwing them on to the back end of the season when many playoff spots will have been determined essentially substituting 2 meaningless games at the end of the season while charging the networks for 3 more weeks of football (assuming another bye is added).

No thanks Rog…

You know with the advances in technology going to the games live will soon be less and less appealing unless the league does something to enhance the game day experience.

Think about this…

Two end zone seats at M&T Bank Stadium in the lower bowl cost $180.00 – TODAY; parking $40; let’s put a modest consumption for 2 fans (a dog and a couple of beers each) at another $40. That’s $260.00.

Most would say this is a very conservative estimate of game day expenses for two. Mix in pre and post game activities; tolls; gas; commuting inconveniences; disruptive fans; lines at the bathrooms; at the concessions and to get in the stadium.

And let’s not forget the threat of inclement weather!

Suddenly using that $260 plus towards a nice 32” HDTV that you can now get for $350 looks like a pretty good trade off particularly from that end zone seat where probably for half the game you are watching the jumbo scoreboard HDTV’s.

Plus for my $350 I get to keep the TV. The game day ticket only gets me a 20% discount on Ravens’ bling!

I don’t know, maybe I’m getting old.

But then again, maybe, just maybe there are others out there like me who are beginning to get to the point of diminishing returns when it comes to going to a Ravens game. It doesn’t mean we love the team any less. It just means that there are more economical and convenient ways to take in a game.

Do I really have to go to every home game?

Am I not more comfortable in my living room or a friendly pub in December watching the game where I don’t have to dig through layers of clothing just to use the facilities?

The league keeps pushing more costs upon its customers – aka the fans and soon the fans will start to push back. Just ask MLB.

You see Rog, Gordon was wrong. Greed is not good.

Keep pushing and soon you might have to start building smaller stadiums just to avoid local blackouts.





Monday, February 07, 2011

The Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV



YES!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

An Ode to the Green Bay Packers


There once was a QB named Aaron
Proudly, Green & Yellow he was wearin’
When it came to the inbreds
Who he surgically tore to shreds
And made Yinzers worldwide take to swearin’.

He threw it to the left, screened them to the right
The scoreboard was like a pinball all through the night
Oh the Steelers they cried
And they cried, cried, cried
But in Baltimore their suffering was a very pleasant sight

Their Pig Ben who wore that No. 7 shirt
Targeting teenagers with his Western PA hillbilly flirt
He was beaten and battered
Bloodied and tattered
A lesson for navigating little girls skirts

Those Terrible Towels they were nowhere around
The Yinzers were motionless, heads hung to the ground
As the 4th quarter arrived
The Black & Yellow hardly alive
Their silence like music, oh what a beautiful sound

The scoreboard ticked down until the very end
Aaron Rodgers, our hero, and brand new best friend
A picture perfect story
The Pack returned to glory
DisneyWorld rejoiced, there would be no Pig Ben

And that folks is the end of football this year
Next season we’ll do it all again with laughter and cheer
To Indy we’ll go
And play in the big show
And make those Yinzers again cry in their Iron City Beer

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Why I HATE The Pittsburgh Steelers!!!




The Pittsburgh Steelers…the name alone makes my skin crawl and the moment I type it or say it I can almost feel my body recoil into a defensive posture. With every fiber of my being I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers!

HATE ‘EM!

Some will tell you that “hate” is a pretty strong word and that it is tossed around so casually despite an absence of genuine malice. Not in my case!

· Hate, noun: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury
· Hate, verb: to feel extreme enmity toward


Is there a stronger word to describe my hostility and/or aversion towards the Steelers?

After consulting Webster’s online dictionary, these definitions don’t seem strong enough to describe my angst towards that team. So for me saying, “I hate the Steelers” is akin to saying it’s a bit warm when the thermometer outside is pushing 105 degrees.

Despite the “extreme enmity”, there is a respect I have for the team and its organization. How can you not respect 20 divisional titles, 8 AFC Championship berths and 6 Super Bowl Trophies? You have to, right? They have reached a level of consistent competency that I yearn for, for the B’more Ravens.

And for all you silly people who say, “The Steelers Suck!” well now doesn’t that make you sound a bit cerebrally challenged? Don’t talk like a Steelers’ fan. That’s just dumb. They don’t suck. Isn’t that obvious?

So why do I harbor all this hate?

Well, I’ll be man enough to admit that part of it is jealousy. Yes I’d love for the Baltimore Ravens to be playing the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in Dallas and yes back in 2008, I wish Daren Stone would not have had a head of stone when he hit that Steelers player late and out of bounds costing the Ravens critical field position as they were on the verge of a comeback and another trip to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL – a magical kingdom of sorts for my team.

I hate, hate, hate the Pittsburgh Steelers and I can say it without it weighing on my conscience one iota. Last time I checked, the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou Shalt Not Hate.”

And here are the Top 10 reasons why I do when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers…

10. The Black and “Gold”: I know black and yellow doesn’t sound as glorious but to call the Steelers other color “gold” is, well just yellow. It’s YELLOW! YELL-OH! Deal with it!

9. Stairway-2-7: An obvious reference to the franchise’s quest for their 7th Super Bowl title. It’s corny and it will now forever taint a classic rock and roll standard from Led Zeppelin. The lyrics read, “All that glitters is gold”, not YELLOW!

8. Yinzers: Look you knuckleheads, you live in the United States so learn how to speak the language. Unfortunately when you call businesses today you are often greeted by a voice prompt that says “press 1 for English.” That’s bad enough but soon, instead of Spanish it will say, “Press 2 for Yinz.” Please Yinzers, just go back for a walk in Don-Ton Pittsburgh atop the waters of the Monongahela River and get out of B’more!

7. Bill Cowher: Just when I think I’m over this say-it-don’t-spray-it human Bidet, this smug Cleveland reject and every inch of his exaggerated Dudley Do-Right chin has to remind us of his black and yellow roots which make his objectivity about as pure as a hazmat truck.

6. Joey Porter: Talk about a chump, the guy is the antithesis of sportsmanship and cries like a jaundiced child on the field. And may I remind you of the time he pushed an obviously injured Todd Heap to the ground and then hovered over him like a vulture to road kill.

5. Heinz Field: No wonder so many of the Steelers’ fans feel so at home at Heinz Field – it looks like a cow pasture. The middle of the “turf” area has been described by some Steelers as a sand pit. Where else in the NFL do teams allow high school games to be played on their home “grass” field the night before hosting a game?

You think the Steelers are angling for home field advantage while placing opposing teams at risk?

Of course they are and the league allowing it is just more of the same pro-Steelers sentiment that has permeated the NFL’s ivory tower like swine flu. Come to think of it, this field is barely suitable for even a swine. Have you ever seen a towering punt land on a grass field and just stick like a Phil Michelson approach shot? It happened at Heinz Field in 2007 when the Steelers hosted the Dolphins.

4. Steely McBeam: The team mascot looks like the love child of Bill Cowher and Hines Ward.

3. Terrible Towels: What does a boxer’s corner do when their guy can’t answer the bell? They throw in the towel, right? So how is it that a towel (an ugly freakin’ towel at that) can be a rallying prop? Isn’t this yet another example of how cerebrally challenged the Steelers fans are? Yet somehow they all seemed to be comfortably numb to the irony, anesthetized by the aroma of three rivers perhaps?

2. Bandwagon Fans: You’ve heard the term “fox hole guy” before I’m sure. He’s the kind of guy that you know has your back if he’s your friend regardless of the circumstances. Bandwagon fans in Baltimore are just the opposite.

Look if you are from Pittsburgh and you live in Baltimore, I get it. I wouldn’t want to live in Pittsburgh either. And if you cheer for your team, fine. But natives of Baltimore who adopted the Steelers when the Colts left town and they STILL root for the Steelers despite the presence of the Ravens, for the life of me, I don’t get you; don’t understand you; can’t look at you; I hate you!

1D. Cockroaches: Steelers fans are everywhere. Chances are that if you head over to Cairo, Egypt right now amongst all of the looting, rioting, chaos and explosions, there’s some dive bar in a rat infested part of town with a bunch of fat toothless women waving a Terrible Towel drinking an “Arn” City Lite and have no idea why they are doing either.

1C. Lucky SOB’s: Has any call in any important game ever gone against the Steelers? It all started with Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception back in 1972 and it hasn’t stopped since. For those of you old enough to remember, there was a TD pass from the Oilers Dan Pastorini to Mike Renfro that was ruled incomplete during the AFC Championship Game in 1979 that cost Houston a potential Super Bowl berth.

Then there was Jackie Smith’s dropped pass during Super Bowl XIII that cost the Cowboys the championship, thus handing it to the Steelers; they’ve played some of the weakest Super Bowl teams in history such as the LA Rams, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals and nearly lost 2 of those games; they were gifted a Super Bowl XL win due to some incredibly inept officiating; this season they benefitted from a “do over” thanks to referee and Pittsburgh area native Gene Steratore in Miami and Stevie Johnson dropped a would be walk off TD that could have cost the Steelers the AFC North title this season.

I’m sure there’s more and as much as I hate to say it, God certainly seems like a Steelers’ fan.

1B. Hines Ward: Consistently voted among the dirtiest if not the dirtiest player in the league by his peers, Whines Hard has the stones to criticize the NFL for wanting to extend the season to 18 games. He chastises the league for promoting safety yet wanting to put the players in the line of fire 2 more games each season.

On the surface, he has a point but it’s hard for a hypocrite to accuse another of being hypocritical. Wards’ cheap shots suggest he’s hardly concerned about the safety of his peers. One day before the pumpkinhead retires, I hope that when he gets up after a hard hit and smiles, that his pearly whites crumble like a Steelers fan taking an IQ test.

1A. Ben Roethlisberger: This guy should be a poster child for stupidity. He’s got the world by the cojones, a $100+ million contract yet joy rides on a crotch rocket and decides to use his head to test the resistance of windshields. Then as a 26 year old multi-millionaire, he runs around bars all over America, stiffs bartenders and waitresses despite being the wealthiest person in those establishments and then invites borderline minors for “joyrides” in the men’s room. But the only thing the Yinzers care about is their Stairway-2-7 and morals be damned! More here on this douche bag.

Wow, that felt good.

GO PACKERS!!!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

It's Ravens Ground Hog Day!

This has been a long winter and if you buy into the folklore of Groundhog Day, then the winter still ahead just got shorter. The plump rodent did NOT see his shadow today so there will not be six more weeks of winter (although no one is saying just how much longer it will be and if we listen to local area meteorologists, they don’t know either).

Maybe Mr. Groundhog was too tired to even bother given all the wood that these woodchucks have been chucking lately on Geico Ads.

Groundhog Day has developed in folklore even more so in recent years thanks to Billy Murray’s flick of the same name which debuted in 1993. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, Murray plays an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman named Phil Connors who dreads his assignment – covering Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. Soon he finds himself repeating the same day over and over again.



So for sh*ts and giggles I’ve decided to put myself in Phil Connors’ shoes and become the cast director for Ravens Groundhog Day…

STARRING

John Harbaugh:
Head Coach who continually repeats the same rhetoric about great players, great coaches, mighty men and what it means to “Play like a Raven” while tirelessly sending Dannell Ellerbe back to the doghouse and reciting how excited he is about everything.

Ozzie Newsome: General Manager who tirelessly roams the team’s headquarters repeating the mantras, “Right player, right price” and “Best available player.”

Greg Mattison: Defensive Coordinator who time and time again can only count to 3 when asked how many rushers to send after the opponent’s QB when defending the red zone.

Cam Cameron: Offensive Coordinator who does the same things, the same way expecting different results and covers up his ears whenever any suggestions are made.

Joe Flacco: Quarterback who melts down more than the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz reruns as he plays the Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh Steelers and then explains how he just didn’t get it done and promises to try and do better the next time. He doesn’t!

Willis McGahee: Back up Running Back who substitutes for starter Ray Rice and each time he does, he runs a delay into a mass of humanity for no gain.

Michael Oher: “Blind” Side Tackle whose hearing is actually questioned after repetitive false starts.

Anquan Boldin: Wide Receiver who constantly recites the rhetorical question, “Why did I come to Baltimore?”

Derrick Mason: Wide Receiver who constantly recites the rhetorical question, “Why didn’t I retire?”

TJ Houshmandzadeh: Wide Receiver repeatedly shouts, “I should have caught that ball!’

Donte Stallworth: Wide Receiver who runs more reverses than the Tazmanian Devil on crack!

Ray Lewis: Star Linebacker who begins each sentence with, “The bottom line is…”

FEATURING

Bruce Cunningham: PA Announcer repeating, “Ronnie Perdue with the tackle.”

Mike Preston: Columnist, chanting over and over, “WE WANT BULGER, WE WANT BULGER!”

Damon Yaffe: Radio Lack-of-Personality with his ipod stuck on replay with the Steelers’ fight song, “Here We Go.”

Please feel free to add to the cast if you’d like…

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

SUPER BOWL XLV Fun Facts & Ads


The Super Bowl is unquestionably one of the biggest party days of the year. It is Americana at its finest and you can count me among those who believe that Congress should figure out a way to carve out another national holiday and my vote would be for Super Bowl Monday (with St. Patty’s Day a close second.)

Think about how much better the parties would be if folks didn’t have it in the back of their minds that they had to get up early for work the next morning. Might that provide a little economic boost? I think YES!

Super Bowl XLV for me is a bit like last year’s game featuring the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. Why? Well for one you had the underdog Saints who represented a city that has had its fair share of bad luck. The Saints story was the heartwarming one made all the better by their opponent, the reviled Irsay Mayflowers who did a Roethlisberger on Baltimore’s football heritage.

This year the team Baltimore despises even more than the horseshoe imposters is once again in the Super Bowl touting their Stairway2Seven credo. Got Pepto?

The Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers, a team that you would be hard pressed to find even a smidgen of a reason to dislike. Aaron Rodgers deserves this one and I hope it’s not his last. How great would it be that he delivers more Lombardi’s to Green Bay than ESPN’s favorite drama queen Brett Favre?

Ever been to Green Bay? The fact that this city not only has but even owns an NFL team is like a huge slice of old school. Talk about a throwback! Lambeau Field. The Frozen Tundra. Vince Lombardi. Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers. Think Frederick, Maryland with its own NFL team and you’ve got Green Bay. Really!

How can you not root for the Packers?

If you are NOT pulling for Green Bay, you probably hoped Toto was slaughtered by the Flying Monkeys; or you wanted Clubber Lang to beat Rocky; cheered when Seabiscuit ruptured his leg tendon; maybe even wore a USSR hockey jersey in 1980 and shouted, “No I don’t believe in miracles!”

But of course Steelers fans will hear none of this as evidenced by the responses to this blog.

Oh and by the way all you Yinzers and Damon Yaffe, Google the word “yellow” and then click on “images.” The color you will see is the exact color opposite the black and white on your team’s uniform!

But I digress…

The Packers are favored on Sunday by 2 ½ points – the over/under is 44 ½. I think the fast indoor track favors the Packers spread offense – an offense that has given the Steelers trouble in the past (think Patriots).

Green Bay is the second No. 6 seed to advance to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, Pittsburgh was the first, going to the 2006 Super Bowl. Then the favored Steelers defeated the No. 1 NFC seed Seattle Seahawks.

Look for the Packers to capture some of their own No. 6 seed magic on February 6. Over the past decade, the favorite has gone 6-4 in the Super Bowl. The last time Pittsburgh was the underdog in a Super Bowl was XXX. They lost.

They will lose again on Sunday 27-24 on a late field goal from Mason Crosby.





Back to the Pepto for a moment…

DID YOU KNOW…That on Super Bowl Sunday, more food is consumed than on any other holiday in America other than Thanksgiving? It’s true… Check out these numbers:

• 8 million pounds of guacamole are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.
• It takes 49.5 million pounds of avocados to make that guacamole. To put that in perspective, cover the football field from end zone to end zone in 12 feet of guac!
• 22,000 tons of chips are eaten along with that guacamole.
• About 1.25 billion wing portions
• 9 million pieces of pizza
• Super Bowl fans spend more than $50 million on food during the 4 days prior to the super bowl.
• The average number of people at a Super Bowl party is 17.

MORE SUPER FACTS

• 5% of Americans will watch the game alone.
• Of the top 10 most watched television programs of all time, 9 of them are Super Bowls.
• Budweiser has been the exclusive Super Bowl beer advertiser for the past 13 years.
• The Super Bowl is measured in Roman numerals because a football season runs the span over two calendar years. The year the season began in 2006 and ends in 2007.
• Since the 1980s the Super Bowls have always started around 6pm Eastern Standard Time.
• More drivers are involved in alcohol-related accidents on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year (except St. Patrick's Day), according to the Insurance Information Institute.
• The Vince Lombardi Trophy made by Tiffany takes 72 man-hours to produce; it costs $12,500.
• The NFL also pays for up to 150 rings for the winning team at $5,000 apiece (plus adjustments for extra gold or diamonds) and 150 pieces of jewelry for the losing team, each to cost up to half the price of the Super Bowl ring.
• 35% of people who attend the game write it off as a corporate expense.
• Over 700,000 footballs are produced annually for official NFL use and 72 of them are used for the Super Bowl.
• No network footage exists of Super Bowl I. It was taped over, supposedly for a soap opera. The two teams in Super Bowl I were the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was played in Los Angeles.

Many casual viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl for the commercials. Here’s a compilation of 2010’s best and then a sneak preview of a Go Daddy ad you will see this Sunday.

Enjoy the game…drink responsibly!