Salary Caps Suck, Just Ask the Cowboys

Dallas_CowboysFor those of you who are familiar with my blog, y’all know that I am a Dallas Cowboys hater.  Check that, I am an AVID Dallas Cowboys hater.

That said, the NFL’s salary cap will screw Dallas in its attempt to re-sign both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray.

The Cowboys will place the franchise tag on the All-Pro wide receiver by Monday’s deadline, which will guarantee Bryant $13 million in 2015.  As a result if a team were to be interested in acquiring Bryant’s services, it would have to give up two first-round picks if Dallas chooses not to match an offer sheet.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys will let Murray test the market – and may not re-sign him.

Let’s be real about something: Bryant and Murray were the driving forces in the Cowboys’ resurgence last season.  Murray proved to be an unstoppable force toting the rock on his way to a rushing title.  As for Bryant, his physicality and competitiveness gave the Cowboys an edge that few could attempt to match.

And the almighty salary cap will prevent the Cowboys from being able to re-sign either player – or maybe both.

I understand that the salary cap is meant to be an equalizer that ensures competitive balance in the NFL.  I also like the fact that the NFL is nothing like Major League Baseball in that the same few teams are not good every season.  Fans of every NFL team have hope at the beginning of every season.

However, I think that teams who are smart in their personnel moves should be rewarded in being able to keep their own players.  If anything, the NFL should adapt a “soft-cap” rule similar to that of the NBA.  At least it would give Dallas a chance at keeping both Bryant and Murray.  And in turn it would give QB Tony Romo his top two offensive playmakers back.

Instead, the “hard” salary cap forces every NFL team to choose which of its stars to keep.  It’s a shame that those teams can’t capitalize off of their success from previous seasons.

Long live the NFL…

 

Floyd vs. Manny: it’s About Damn Time

manny-pacquiao-floyd-mayweather-jr-fight

It’s about damn time.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will fight on May 2nd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  I can’t wait, and guess what: y’all can’t wait too.

I know a lot of y’all are mad that this fight too five years too long to happen.  It was supposed to have gone down when both fighters were in their prime.

Mayweather was schooling boxers in the ring with his defensive wizardry and speed.  Pacquiao took out fighters with his unique blend of power and speed.

It was only a matter of time that fans would clamor for both fighters to get in the ring and settle the “Best Pound-for-Pound” debate once and for all.

However, a one thing got in the way: the method of drug testing in the lead-up to the fight.  Mayweather demanded random blood and urine testing and Pacquiao declined to accept the specific protocol Mayweather wanted.

As a result, the deal fell apart.  Pacquiao also sued Mayweather for defamation for accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs; the case was eventually settled out of court, but the bad blood remained on both sides for years.

But on February 20, 2015, the fight that boxing fans young and old had been clamoring for had finally materialized.

Props to Mayweather for not budging off the May 2nd date and working with Pacquiao to ensure that the fight would become reality.  Props to Pacquiao for staying aggressive to force Mayweather to set the fight up and for being humble to negotiate and accept the terms.  And perhaps most importantly, props to promoter Bob Arum for staying the hell out of the way.

This fight may have been five years too late, but one thing is for certain: both Floyd and Pacquiao are STILL the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.  And deny it all you want: most of y’all are going to at least tune in to that fight on May 2nd.

I know I will be…

Evaluating Pre-Season NBA Picks at the All-Star Break

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_Given that we are at the All-Star break, I will take this time to evaluate my preseason NBA picks.  I usually do this to remind myself how terrible of a prognosticator I tend to be from time to time, but follow me nonetheless…

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Predicted

  1. Toronto Raptors
  2. New York Knicks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Philadelphia 76ers

Actual

  1. Raptors
  2. Nets
  3. Celtics
  4. Sixers
  5. Knicks

Analysis:  Not a shocker that the Raptors are running away with this moribund division.  What’s shocking to me is how bad my Knicks are.  The good news is we are having lots of salaries coming off of the books this season.  I sure hope Phil Jackson knows what the hell he is doing.

Central Division

Predicted

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Milwaukee Bucks
  5. Detroit Pistons

Actual

  1. Bulls
  2. Cavs
  3. Bucks
  4. Pistons
  5. Pacers

Analysis:  This has shaped out to a competitive division at the top.  Only three games separate the Bulls, Cavs and Bucks.  Speaking of the Bucks, Milwaukee has exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Looks like Jason Kidd knows what the hell he is doing after all.  As for the other two squads at the top, it should be fun who will earn his squad the division title: LeBron James or Derrick Rose.

Southeast Division

Predicted

  1. Charlotte Hornets
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Orlando Magic

Actual

  1. Hawks
  2. Wizards
  3. Hornets
  4. Heat
  5. Magic

Analysis:  Nice to see the Hornets fulfilling my bold prediction  in the preseason.  Gee, talk about a no-brainer.  While I have struck out on Charlotte, I have really been wrong on the Hawks.  The fact they have the best record in the East should be a surprise given the fact that they are healthy and have a head coach who learned under the great Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.  The Wizards are healthier and is poised to make a run at a fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  As for the Heat, think they miss LeBron right now?

Western Conference

Southwest Division

Predicted

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Memphis Grizzlies
  5. New Orleans Pelicans

Actual

  1. Grizzlies
  2. Rockets
  3. Mavericks
  4. Spurs
  5. Pelicans

Analysis:  Damn, who’d seen the Grizzlies coming?  Hell even their fans didn’t see this coming.  Those boys have been playing together for a long time, and their chemistry shows on the court.  And while the Rockets and Mavs are doing as well as I thought, the Spurs seem to be just middling along while waiting for the playoffs to begin.

Northwest Division

Predicted

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
  2. Portland Trailblazers
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Actual

  1. Blazers
  2. Thunder
  3. Nuggets
  4. Jazz
  5. Wolves

Analysis:  While the Thunder have struggled through some injuries, specifically to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Blazers have taken advantage in a big way.  Given how bad the rest of the division is, it seems that Portland should moonwalk its way to the division title.

Pacific Division

Predicted

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Sacramento Kings

Actual

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Suns
  4. Kings
  5. Lakers

Analysis:  I knew the Clippers and the Warriors would be good.  I didn’t think the Warriors would be THAT good.  Credit to first year coach Steve Kerr for getting the best out of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the crew.  Though the Clips are underachievers at the moment, they are going to be dangerous come playoff time.  And who knew that the Lakers will suck THIS bad.  Maybe Kobe should not have signed such a huge extension (not that I would have turn down that money either)?

The Cleveland Browns Are a Friggin’ Mess

cleveland_brownsLet me make something clear.

I am a BIG Pittsburgh Steelers fan, which means I despise the Baltimore Ravens, and hate the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, and lately the New England Patriots. So I am admittedly not coming from an objective point of view in terms of talking Browns football.

However I DO believe in getting the facts and the facts are this: the Browns franchise is one of the most dysfunctional in all of sports.

How does one explain having the general manager Ray Farmer (who I grew up with in Kernersville, NC) allegedly sending texts to the coaching staff on the sidelines not only criticizing the plays being called, but suggesting some plays that should be called! Who the hell did he think he was, the head coach?

How else does one explain an offensive coordinator wanting out of town after ONLY ONE YEAR on the job? Kyle Shanahan got on that first train out of Cleveland when he could, didn’t he?

Their so-called QB of the future Johnny Manziel is now in rehab. While it’s too bad that he is in rehab, it wasn’t like Johnny Football was tearing it up in his two starts last season. I guess that’s what happens when the general manager, ownership and the coaching staff is not on the same page on personnel matters – specifically as it pertains to drafting a franchise QB in the first round.

The messed up part is the Browns actually played well last season. Keep in mind that they were 7-4 at one point last season.

But alas, for every step the Browns take forward, something slaps their asses four or five steps back. That alone should drive Browns fans to drink.

I guess I should lift the Browns Nation’s spirits a bit and throw them a bone.

There is some cause for excitement next season.

There is some cause for excitement.

Manziel’s entry into rehab may signal that the QB will take a “more mature, measured approach to the game of football next season,” a rather optimistic take by Football Betting Center. Whatever the case, even if Manziel only reaches Hoyer-esque levels of prodcution, that still leaves the Browns with a competitive squad.

The case of making chicken salad out of chicken poop perhaps?

Dean Smith: a College Basketball Icon

deansmithBefore I share my thoughts on the passing of Dean Smith, let me first start by disclosing the following.

I am an alumnus of North Carolina State University (Class of 1997). Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC (ok, actually Kernersville), I was a big fan of Wake Forest basketball. And finally, I thought that only Satan smiled up the University of North Carolina basketball program.

So as you all can plainly see, I hate all things UNC – and it intensified with Smith.

I always crowed about how much preferential treatment his Tar Heel teams in the 80s and 90s received from the officials (in my mind, of course). I also thought that Smith made a pact with the devil so his teams could beat up on my Deacons and other ACC schools (another reference to Satan).

But even from my biased anti-UNC eyes, I knew what Smith meant to UNC and college basketball as a whole.

To understand Smith’s legacy, one has to realize that his legacy was bigger than what he did on the court.

That is not to say that his career was devoid of any achievements during his 36-year career at UNC. Let us count the ways…

  • He had 879 wins, which is good for 4th all-time (he was the winningest coach when he retired)
  • He had 30 20-plus win seasons, which is 2nd all-time
  • He had 23 consecutive NCAA appearances – the most all-time
  • He had 27 straight 20-plus win seasons – the most all-time
  • He had 65 NCAA tournament wins, which is 2nd all-time
  • He had 11 Final Four appearances, which is tied for 2nd all-time
  • He won 13 ACC tournament championships
  • He won 2 national championships
  • He won the Olympic gold medal in 1976

On the court, Smith’s UNC teams exhibited the importance of unselfish play. Dean’s most lasting invention: when a basket was made, the scorer pointed to the player who threw the pass. His teams were the first to huddle at the free throw line before a foul shot was attempted. Bench players on Smith’s teams would stand up and applaud players coming to the bench. Smith taught his team, and fans alike, that everyone is connected.

Another Smith invention was the infamous Four Corners offense, the delay game that iced Carolina wins. It was only after opposing coaches – and probably bored TV executives – that led the way to the shot clock in college ball.

As great as Smith’s on-court achievements are, I’d argue that his biggest achievements came OFF the court.

There was a reason why Smith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor. Ninety-six percent of his lettermen graduated. Dean was active in politics. He fought for a nuclear freeze and against the death penalty. Smith also was a supporter of LGBT rights.

As honorable as those things were, Smith’s biggest impact was when it came to race.

Smith, after meeting with his pastor, recruited Charlie Scott – the first scholarship black player at UNC (and second one in the Atlantic Coast Conference) – in 1966. He became the ACC’s first black star. There was story where the angriest anybody remembers seeing Smith was a night at South Carolina when a fan called Scott a “black baboon.” Smith headed into the stands to confront the fan before a coach pulled him back.

There are some who call Smith one of the biggest underachievers in college sports (two championships in 11 Final Fours).  There are others who think that Smith was an overrated coach because of the talent he had accumulated over his coaching career.

Calling both of those opinions ignorant is a HUGE understatement.

Nevertheless, Smith will go down not only as a great basketball coach – but as a greater person.  RIP, Dean Smith.

 

Carroll Blew the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLIXI haven’t seen it once, I’ve seen it a billion times in sports: a coach who out-smarts himself out of a win.

You’ve seen it.  When a coach decides to allow his defense to go into “prevent mode” and let the opposing QB drive his team down the field for the winning score.  When a coach decided to “ice” an opposing kicker, only to have said kicker take advantage of the second chance after missing the first kick.

And my personal favorite: after winning the coin toss in overtime, the coach tried to be cute and took the WIND INSTEAD OF THE BALL.

None of those instances could touch what happened Sunday night.

When faced with a 2nd and goal on the one-inch line with 20 seconds left to play in the Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll decides to pass the ball.  That wouldn’t have been totally bad if it wasn’t a quick slant over the middle.  And it wouldn’t have been insane if they didn’t have Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch in the backfield.

Shoot, I’m going to take that a step further – in the 30+ years I have been watching the NFL, that was the stupidest play call I have ever seen.

So let’s get this straight.  Carroll has one of the best running backs in the NFL and had less than a yard to successfully defend his teams’ Super Bowl title.  And the man decided to show how smart he was and call a quick slant OVER THE MIDDLE instead.

Well we all knew what happened: an undrafted free agent intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass to the No. 4 receiver to win it for the New England Patriots.

I’ll say this about Carroll, at least dude owned up to that stupid-ass play call.  The same couldn’t be said for the offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who made the play call.  If I were the owner, I would have made that Bevell pay his way back to Seattle – and whoop his ass upon arrival.

Let this be a lesson to aspiring coaches everywhere: if you have a chance to win a big game, DON’T BE CUTE.  Keep it simple, stupid.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  And so on.

Otherwise, you’ll end up like Carroll.  Seahawk fans, you are in my prayers…

2015 Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Super Bowl XLIX(Shameless Plug Alert: check out my Super Bowl preview podcast here…)

With all the talk of “Deflate-Gate”, I am glad as hell that Super Bowl XLIX is almost here.  And what a matchup this is.

Both teams come into this game as the top dogs in their respective conferences – and for good reason.  The Patriots do employ a coach and QB named Bill Bellicheat and Tom Brady, respectively.  And the Seahawks have The Legion of Boom led by Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.

The Patriots are a much tougher team than the one who played the Seahawks in last year’s Super Bowl: the Denver Broncos.  In addition to Brady, New England has a tough tight end, who happens to be a stud, in Rob Gronkowski.  And while the receivers do not scare anyone talent-wise, they do have a tough crew led by Julian Edelman.  Even though I think this dude is a quitter for what he did to my Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount is a beast running the football and has been a rough-rider in these playoffs.

I like the Pats’ D a lot.  They have an excellent secondary led by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.  Vince Wolfork is a beast up the middle.  The linebacker crew is underrated thanks to the likes of Jamie Collins.  In short, this defense is a bit tougher and a lot more talented than last year’s crew.

Even though the Seahawks do not possess the offensive power as it had last season, they are still capable of moving the ball and putting up points if needed.  Seattle is led offensively by QB Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch.  Even though Golden Tate and Percy Harvin are no longer with Seattle, as long as Wilson can make plays with his legs and Lynch keeps summoning “Beast Mode”, the Seahawks will be fine.

Aside from the aforementioned “Legion of Boom”, Seattle also has a formidable front seven.  Led by Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and bicycle enthusiast Michael Bennett, the Seahawks can get after the QB with the best of them – usually without blitzing.

As talented as both offenses are, I think this will be decided by the defenses.  Both defenses have not good but great secondaries, and can create havoc with their respective front sevens.

That being said, I am giving the edge to Seattle’s defense.  Its front four alone will generate more pressure on Brady without having to blitz.  And as we witnessed in the Patriots last two Super Bowl losses (both to the New York Giants), the best way to take down Brady and Co. is to have a ferocious pass rush.  I think that Richard Sherman and Co. can easily take away the likes of Edelman and Danny Amedola.  The only wild card is Gronk, and I am more than confident that he could be controlled by Chancellor.

New England may be much improved on defense, but I don’t think it’s improved enough to keep Wilson inside the pocket where he won’t do as much damage.  And I really do not like the Pats’ chances in slowing down Beast Mode, which means Seattle will be able to pick New England apart on the read-option.

This is going to be a close, low-scoring affair with the Seahawks D and Beast Mode leading Seattle to a back-to-back championship.  Seahawks 17, Patriots 13.  

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