Friday, June 14, 2013

The Devil's Second Greatest Trick

Recently, many people have inferred (or said outright), that Nick Saban is the devil. They are wrong, however; he is not the devil, but he did, at one point in his career, work for the devil. And the devil just played his second greatest trick: he signed Tim Tebow to the New England Patriots.

Make no mistake, Bill Belichick did not sign Tebow as a publicity stunt (see Jets, New York). This was a football move, pure and simple. Belichick is always looking for football players, and Tebow is the quintessential football player.

From a football perspective, the move makes sense for both parties. The Patriots get a guy who will do whatever is asked of him, play whatever position is asked of him and work as hard, if not harder, than anyone else. Tebow will be able to learn how to be a better quarterback from Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels, he'll be able to play a variety of positions while learning the offensive system, and most importantly, he will not be looked at as a savior or the key to the team's success.

There were many connections prior to Belichick's signing of Tebow.

One, Belichick has long had an appreciation for everything Urban Meyer, and Tebow is as close to Meyer as Belichick will get in a football player. Tebow knows the Meyer spread option offense inside and out and can help McDaniels and Belichick develop plays within that system.

Two, McDaniels originally drafted Tebow as the head coach of Denver, even moving up to the bottom of the first round to get him. Sadly, McDaniels was never able to complete his project of turning Tebow into a viable NFL quarterback, although his successor, John Fox, was able to use Tebow and a version of the spread option to take the Broncos to the 2011 playoffs, defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the first round before falling to the Patriots.

Three, Belichick has reunited Tebow with his favorite target from their days at Florida: tight end Aaron Hernandez. They played the "goal-line-Tebow-run-up-the-middle-whoops-no-wait-it's-a-jump-pass" play with the Gators, at least giving the Patriots the option to use it, even just as a decoy, in goal line situations.

Finally, there is precedence of Belichick taking a relatively unused player from an AFC East team and turning him into a key contributor (see Welker, Wes and Woodhead, Danny).

Wes Welker with the Dolphins: 2 seasons, 48.0 rec, 560.5 yds, 0.5 tds
Wes Welker with the Patriots: 6 seasons, 112.0 rec, 1,243.2 yds, 6.2 tds

Danny Woodhead with the Jets: 1 season, 15 runs, 64 yds, 0 tds, 8 rec, 87 yds, 0 tds
Danny Woodhead with the Patriots: 3 seasons, 83.3 runs, 399.7 yds, 3.3 tds, 30.7 rec, 327.3 yds, 4 tds

So if history is any indication, Tebow should be an effective player for the Patriots. Certainly much more effective than he was for the Jets. (Who will face the Patriots on Sept. 12, a Thursday night game to kick off week two - gee I wonder what ESPN First Take will discuss on Sept. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16…)

Because when it comes to player personnel, Belichick always makes the right decision (see Ochocinco, Chad. Actually, don’t.).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My 'Dear Jack' Letter to the Golden State Warriors

Dear GS,

Now that the NBA season is all about wrapped up (Heat in six), I feel it's time to come clean about something. I've been living a bit of a lie this entire season, and it's been eating away at me. Not that I've lost sleep, or weight, or anything like that - heck, I really don't even think about it that often. But eating at me nonetheless.

You see, before the season, I was ready to give up on you. I had decided that enough was enough, that I wanted a new team to follow. I wanted a team that cared about my feelings, a team that listened and most important, a team that looked good. I mean won games. I wanted a winner.

I even had my new team picked out. I couldn't go with the Heat, because, well the Decision notwithstanding, it's just too much fun to root against them (and get disappointed when they succeed). So I went with the team that couldn't handle the Heat and had to get out of the kitchen - the Oklahoma City Thunder. What a team! Young, good looking talented, plays hard...and it couldn't be considered band-wagon jumping because they lost in the finals. To be a band-wagon jumper means you are jumping on the wagon of the winner, and the Thunder were the losers (those are the rules, I didn't make 'em up).

To be fair, you shouldn't be surprised - I left the Knicks for you! In 2001-02, New York was a shell of its former self, having sent away all of the players I had grown to love (including my favorite player of all time, John Starks, who went to you and, I was delighted to hear from some of your staffers, was a super nice guy). Sure, they had Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, but it just wasn't the same any more, especially after Jeff Van Gundy left midway through the year, probably because of me. Frankly, my fanship (fandom? fanness?) of the Knicks started its downward spiral when I made the mistake of going to a Knicks-Raptors game (I believe in 1999) and discovered that these "blue collar fans" I had heard so much about were nothing more than a bunch of slicked-back hair guys in suits who spent 97.8 percent of the game on their cell phones, and MSG kinda stunk as an arena.

So I was in the market for a new team. It seemed like kismet. I had just started working for you; you had just put together a seemingly excellent draft class of Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy and Gilbert Arenas to team up with a seemingly excellent blend of veterans (Mookie Blaylock, Adonal Foyle, Erick Dampier) and role players (Marc (not Mark) Jackson, Danny Fortson) along with a seemingly star player (Antawn Jamison). The next year you brought in a young, seemingly excellent head coach in Eric Musselman. The crowds always showed up in force and they all seemed genuinely into the games. I was hooked.

But then the losing started. Musselman was canned after two solid, if unspectacular seasons (unwarranted, in my opinion). Seemingly excellent college coach Mike Montgomery was brought in from Stanford and was nowhere near seemingly OR excellent in the NBA, winning 68 games in his two seasons. You re-brought in seemingly Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson, who had an ok season (42-40) with an excellent playoffs run (upset top-seed Dallas in six, lost to Utah in five), followed by a good season (48-34) with a ninth-place finish in the standings, followed by a return to your losing ways, winning just 55 games over the next two seasons, followed by 36 in 2010-11 with new head coach Keith Smart.

So forgive my lack of faith when, before the 2011-12 season, you hired Mark (not Marc) Jackson, who had not one, not two but ZERO years experience coaching, to be your HEAD coach. You drafted Stephen Curry (good) who played the exact same role as Monta Ellis (bad), who never met a shot he didn't like (worse), even though he was a much poorer shooter than Curry (worst).

So I was ready to move on. I was frustrated with the decisions you had made with coaching, drafting, free agencing...I had had enough. And since I wasn't band-wagon jumping to the winner, it didn't make it band-wagon jumping, so my conscience was appeased.

But then something happened. The Oklahoma City Thunder made a move that stunned me - they traded their third-best player for a bunch of role players, because apparently their billionaire owner couldn't afford his salary (according to many, this particular third-best player looks like me, albeit with a beard and a different skin color. Other than that - we're like twins). Suddenly it hit me - all NBA teams are the same. None of them really take into account the fans and how they would react to signings, draftings, trade-ings, etc. Which is not to say that teams should use local sports radio callers as part of their decision-making staff - far from it. But why would OKC send off its third-best player the summer after going to the Finals? Did they not care that the fans would be upset about this?

So I decided not to leave you, to give you one more chance and stick it out with you for at least one more year.

And you know what? I'm glad I did. You traded Monta Ellis; you put together a team with size and skill inside (David Lee, Andrew Bogut), youth and athleticism (Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green), veteran toughness (Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack) and a seemingly superstar (Curry). They all seem to have bought into Jackson's coaching, and he does a good job of pushing them to play at least some defense, while allowing them to play the offense that is best suited to their skills. You defeated the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and essentially sent the 2013 Coach of the Year packing. You played the Spurs as tough as anyone in the West did, losing in six after they swept the Lakers and before they swept the Grizzlies.

So I'm in. You are fun to watch and I can't wait to see what this group of good looking players will do next year.

I mean talented. Talented players.