Sunday, February 28, 2010

Honeycutt vs Oregon schools

The Good

Honeycutt is really the only thing worth talking about these days.  His career game vs Oreg St on Thursday made up for Reeves Nelson's absence which was due to surgery for a detached retina.  He had a career high 18 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 3 steals.  With so many friends dropping out of going to this game, I went anyway, just hoping to see a breakout game from Tyler.  I was right.  He's the most talented player on our team.  He has court vision, great athleticism and the wondrous innate ability to be around the ball all the time.  While it could be that the rest of our team aside from Nelson and maybe Malcolm Lee are just mediocre, Honeycutt stands out even to the untrained eye as a superior talent.  I'm also glad I went to this victory because the next game would not be so kind.

Honeycutt only took 4 shots vs Oregon but he had another all around game - 13 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals.  Only when he was on the floor did we look like we had a chance to win.  Malcolm's 18 points were in large part due to Honeycutt's assists.

Michael Roll should be applauded as a hard-working player who's labored 5 years with Howland, mostly as a role player, then led this team with his consistency and defensive effort in his senior year, and then showed up on Senior Day with 25 points.  We will miss Michael Roll next year simply since we don't have a capable outside scorer.

The Bad

Dragovic reminds me of Ray Young, but worse.  Ray Young at least seemed to work hard all the time, though he very often made incredibly bonehead decisions on the court.  (And I'll always remember him for that unbelievable 3 pointer to beat #1 ranked Arizona in Lavin's last Pac 10 tourney). But Dragovic has more basketball ability, but very little heart.  I am glad to not have to show up to Pauley Pavilion anymore and see him saunter around the court doing nothing of value except taking 3 pointers.  Now if he was a great 3 point shooter, I could accept that.  But he isn't.  And even when he's making them, his defense allows as many, or more points as he could score.  If Dragovic was a great senior leader and could motivate the team to excel even though he added limited on court value, I could accept that too.  But no, he is a twice arrested man of shady character.  So basically, he has no value to our team.  I'd rather see freshmen Brendan Lane get more valuable playing time than Dragovic.  I feel better now.

Jerime Anderson.  Please take that layup.  Please don't drive to the open hoop and then choose to pass to a teammate's foot.  We could have had a 2 point lead with a minute to play.  Then after Porter's 7th 3 pointer of the day, please don't nonchalantly pass the ball out of bounds.  Don't do that - don't turn the ball over on back to back possessions in crunchtime.  The only Bruin smiling right now is Lazeric Jones.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

US v England - recent developments

There's always an emptiness felt after the Superbowl.  We have to wait 7 whole months before the next NFL game!  So what's next in the world of sports?  Yeah, March Madness will be good for a couple weekends, NBA playoffs will be interesting unless the Lakers steamroll everyone, (don't bring up the bore that is baseball) but greatest of all, of course ... the World Cup this summer!

Its only early February but we've already had a momentum shift in team morale leading up to the US-England clash.  With Charlie Davies, then Onyewu, then Dempsey each going down with serious injuries, things were looking grim for US hopes.  But there has been a turnaround of fortune in the last few weeks.

The news that Gooch and Deuce should be fit by April or May brings some optimism to fans.  Also, the outrageous news that Charlie Davies thinks he will be training again by April is quite shocking, but at least gives US fans reason to tentatively hold its collective breath.  Then, Landon Donovan's performances with Everton, including his man of the match showing vs EPL leading Chelsea yesterday has been an absolute revelation.

England on the other hand was in great shape.  Already in a easy group, they had a squad as experienced internationally as any in the world and equally as healthy.  But recently, they have been dealt a couple blows.  Captain John Terry was found to have been involved in a relationship with then girlfriend of ex-Chelsea (and current England) teammate, Wayne Bridge.  Bridge was supposedly one of his closest friends as well.  Capello, the English manager, stripped Terry of the armband as he absolutely had to do, but was still stuck in the position of deciding whether to bring Bridge to South Africa.

Then, in a wicked twist of fate, Ashley Cole, the starter in front of Bridge at LB, broke his ankle during a 50-50 ball in the aforementioned Chelsea - Everton match by, who else, LANDON DONOVAN.  Hilarious.  Cole is expected to be out through May and will have a hard time being fit by June.  This means that Capello will have to decide if Wayne Bridge should be his replacement especially since his position on the field is literally right next to John Terry.  Incredible.

Yes, I know that England is still the more talented and favored side, even if they decide to not replace Cole and play with just 10 men.  But, at the very least, US fans can hope for a splintered and battered English team on June 12th.

Wynalda - Harkes

In an odd coincidence, the Terry - Bridge episode closely mirrors what happened to the 1998 US team.  Wynalda finally revealed after this Terry incident that John Harkes, the captain "for life" in 1998 had an inappropriate relationship with Eric Wynalda's wife.  The US manager, Steve Sampson, decided to drop Harkes from the squad 2 months before the 98 WC but told no one the reason for his decision.

This doesn't excuse Sampson for his horrific coaching during that WC but it does shed a different light on his predicament.  Harkes has not denied Wynalda's revelation (while Sampson has spoken freely about it since) and it really has made him out to be the bad guy in retrospect.  After being dropped, Harkes went on the warpath in critcizing Sampson, using Sampson's noble decision to keep the affair a secret against the manager.  While Wynalda and Harkes have both become soccer analysts, it will be interesting how this plays out in the lead-up to the World Cup fervor.

Personally, the situation makes me absolutely sick but I would have handled in differently.  I would have brought in both Harkes and Wynalda in a meeting together to see what their thoughts were.  Perhaps the seeds of reconciliation could have been planted at that point especially since Wynalda had expressed his opinion that Harkes should be kept on the team anyway.  Though we don't know exactly what the rest of the team knew, it was important for Sampson to explain everything to them simply because this situation, while personal, still affects everyone on the team.  I would've had both Harkes and Wynalda speak to the team on the issue and let them vote on whether Harkes should stay on the team.

Team cohesion is important going into a WC.  Confusion and doubt cannot come from the manager.  Just as Capello has done to Terry, Harkes should've been stripped of his captaincy but allowed to play, as long as these 3 things occurred: he was remorseful about his actions, Wynalda endorsed his participation and the team voted unanimously in his favor.  Ultimately, while I don't necessarily disagree with Sampson's decision to drop Harkes, it was important for him to be forthright with the players, if not the media.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Superbowl weekend

Its taken a few days to come to terms with such a disappointing weekend but since it was Superbowl weekend, I should say a few things:

1) First things first, you gotta be happy for Drew Brees.  After being unceremoniously dumped by the Chargers after tearing up his shoulder in the last game of the season, Drew worked hard in rehab to come back from what many predicted was the end of his career and was picked up by a downtrodden Saints franchise.  Since then, he's become one of the premier QBs in the league and played lights out on the biggest stage.  If he continues to play as he did this past season, Brees will be considered one of the best of his generation.  Also, as a fairly new father myself, I was happy to see Brees sharing the moment with his infant son.  But mostly, Brees has won me 2 fantasy football titles so he's all good in my book, heh.

2) SB 44 turned out to be the most watched television show in history with 106 million viewers, breaking MASH's seemingly untouchable record.  The NFL is king.  It just is.  Anyway, when the Colts went up 10-0, I thought the game was definitely over.
A few big moments from the game after that: Pierre Garcon's drop on 3rd down halted the Colts momentum.  The Saints dominating possession in the 2nd quarter.  The Colts running the ball 3 times and having to punt even though they had 2 minutes left and multiple timeouts in their pocket to end the half.  The Saints onside kicking to start the 2nd half - and actually recovering.  The Colts unable to stop the Saints offense from then on.  Stover's missed FG.  Of all things that could happen to lose the game, Peyton threw an interception when Montana would've scored a TD.

3) I was crushed to see Peyton lose this game.  It was going to put him up there with the Montana and Unitas.  Now, while Peyton could go down as the greatest regular season QB ever, a SB loss essentially forever denies him the title of greatest of all time.  I hope he wins another 2 SBs before his career ends so that he can change his postseason reputation.

4) I hate that reggie bushleague has a superbowl win under his belt, even though he did very little to contribute toward it.  I'm glad CBS stayed away from showing the Kardashian.

5) The Bruins got waxed by a Cal team shooting about 50% from the 3 point line.  Though they got off to a good start, the Bears were just too much.  Its okay, I'll take a season split with the preseason Pac 10 favorite.  But we better beat sc on Sunday.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Leading the Pac

First place in the Pac 10.  Yeah, its a 4 way tie.  Yeah, we've got Cal next and 5 nasty away games left (3 home games).  And yeah, we're only at .500 (11-11).  But you know what?  If I told you after that ridiculous loss to Portland in the 76 tourney that we'd be atop the Pac10 standings just halfway through, you'd be ecstatic.  So enjoy it while it lasts.

The most impressive stat from last night's game was the fact that we only had FIVE TURNOVERS.  Look at our Pac 10 games and how many TOs we had: OSU - 20, OU - 11, WSU - 13, UW - 16, sc -12, Stan - 22, Cal - 17, UA - 15, ASU - 13.  That's an average of 15.5 TOs a game.  We did a great job of minimizing our mistakes.

The 2nd most impressive stat from last night was our FT shooting in the 2nd half.  After an atrocious 0-4 first half, we shot 18-22 in the 2nd including a heart-pounding 6-6 in the last 24 crucial seconds by Malcolm, Drago and Roll.  Yeah, Keefe, Nelson and Honeycutt need more FT practice...

But speaking of Nelson and Honeycutt, its a good feeling when 2 freshmen are making the most eye-popping plays on the court.  Nelson continues to be the bully inside shooting 7-10 for 18 points while Honeycutt's athleticism gives Bruins fans hope for next year.  Check out his line: 12 points, 11 boards (6 offensive), 8 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals.  That's a good night for a NBA bound senior.

The only downside is the fact that Malcolm may be discontent with the offense as indicated by his latest twitter posting - something about being a "caged pitbull" for 2 years.  The rumor is that he wants to go pro after this year.  I honestly cannot understand what the heck this kid is thinking.

Howland has put more players in the NBA than any coach over the same time period (especially guards).  Farmar, Afflalo, Westbrook, Moute, Collison (Love and Holiday are not included here because of their 1 and done attitude).  Wake up, kid.  Learn from Holiday's mistake - if you learn to play bball Howland's way, you will be better prepared for success in the pros.  Just shut up and work harder.  That vaunted class of a year ago is turning out to be a joke.  (Holiday jumped ship, Gordon got kicked out, Bobo is terrible, Jerime is not living up to the hype and now Malcolm).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top Ten QBs of the last 3 decades

In honor of the Peyton Manning v Drew Brees clash this Sunday in the 44th Superbowl, I decided to do a top 10 list of QBs.

Of course, all top 10 QBs of all time lists must include legends like Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham or Sammy Baugh.  But what do I really know about those who played before my time?  Not much.  Definitely not enough to do a legitimate ranking.  So I'm going to do a top 10 list of QBs since I've been around, starting about 1980.  These would be the QBs that I watched with my own eyes and cheered for, or against.

If I could play any position in all of sports, I would want to be a NFL QB.  I think its the most difficult position in all of team sports to do well.  It requires intelligence, leadership, poise, adaptability, accuracy, athleticism and the ability to perform under extreme pressure.

Value Criterion

In comparing the great ones, we'll look at how many rings he has, MVPs he's won, Pro Bowls he's gone to, overall record, QB rating, pass completion %, TD/INT ratio, yards, playoff stats, and lastly, and most importantly: my opinion.

While some fans put way too much credence on the number of championships a player has since football is the ultimate team game (just ask Marino), it obviously matters a great deal in considering one's greatness.  The player of all time cannot be ring-less.  Plus, if everyone is aiming for a championship above any other accolade every year, then the who meets his goal often must be awarded thusly.  His overall record can also be taken into account.

The MVP trophy helps us understand how the player is viewed by sportwriters during that season.  I think a QB who wins the MVP and the Superbowl in the same season should be viewed in higher regard.  Pro Bowls are not always the best measure but it shows how good a QB was in relation to his peers.  Special consideration goes to being a first team All-Pro as well.

I couldn't actually explain to you what a QB rating actually is, but everyone is rated by the same scale, so it is what it is.  I also picked out these two stats specifically since I think they're ultra important in evaluating a QB:  pass completion percentage will highlight accuracy while TD/INT ratio will reveal decision making skills.  Total career yards gives proof to longevity which is an important measure but not the paramount value of a QB's greatness.

While most look at just regular season stats, we'll also look at playoff numbers - including win-loss record, QB rating, passing percentage and TD/INT ratio.   It is in no way equal to the regular season numbers simply because of the smaller sample size but also because the level of competition is ratcheted way up during the postseason.  Still its worth seeing how a QB performs with much more pressure and against much better defenses.

Top 10 Quarterbacks since 1980

1) Joe Montana

4 rings (3 Superbowl MVPs).  2 MVPs.  8 Pro Bowls (3 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 117-47.  92.3 QB rating.  63.2% completion rate.  273 TD, 139 INT - 1.96 ratio.  40,551 yards.
Playoffs: 23-16.  95.6 QB rating, 62.7% completion rate.  45 TD, 21 INT - 2.14 ratio.

Montana's clearly the most clutch QB of all time.  With 4 Superbowls to his name, he is unsurpassed in this generation.  Also, its interesting that his QB rating and TD/INT ratio actually improved in the playoffs.  Many critics point to the fact that he played before the salary cap era, under the guidance of the genius of Bill Walsh and with all-time greats like Jerry Rice.  However, it was also before the era of free agency which limited team's to building through the draft and trades.  Secondly, we will never know to what degree Walsh's genius and Montana and Rice's excellence truly contributed to the 49ers success.  In my view, all three are the best there ever was at their respective position.

2) Peyton Manning

1 ring (1 SB MVP).  4 MVPs (a standalone record).  10 Pro Bowls (5 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 131-61.  95.2 QB rating.  64.8% completion rate.  366 TD, 181 INT -   2.02 ratio.  50,128 yards.
Playoffs: 9-8.  87.5 QB rating.  62.4% completion rate.  27 TD, 18 INT - 1.50 ratio.

If Peyton wins his 2nd SB on Sunday, he will seal his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.  In the end, Peyton will have played the position of quarterback perhaps better than anyone has ever played it.  He has more MVPs than anyone in history and inevitably he'll end up with more Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams than anyone including Favre.  At this rate, assuming he's injury free, he could have all of Favre's volume records (career yards and TDs but not INTs) as well, the difference with Favre being the fact that Peyton actually played the position of QB WELL throughout his entire career.

As for the debate between the QB giants of this generation (Manning and Brady), NBC sideline reporter Andrea Kramer took a poll of living Hall of Fame QBs which was quite revelatory. When asked who they would rather have as their QB, 13 members chose Manning, while only 2 chose Brady (Elway and Bradshaw did so on the strength of Brady's 3 titles) and 5 (including Montana, disappointingly) abstained. Thirteen of the 15 most qualified judges of QB talent has more respect for Manning's ability than Brady.

3) Tom Brady

3 rings (2 SB MVPs). 1 MVP. 5 Pro Bowls (1 All-Pro)
Regular Season: 97-30. 93.3 QB rating. 63.3% completion rate. 225 TD, 99 INT - 2.27 ratio. 30,844 yards.
Playoffs: 14-4. 85.5 QB rating. 62.0% completion rate. 28 TD, 15 INT - 1.87 ratio.

I don't have a ton of respect for Tom Brady as I still think that the Patriots first championship was won through Belicheat's cheating ways. Still, with the aid of Belicheat, Brady won 2 more and with superfreak Randy Moss, Brady put up record numbers in 2007. It is ultimately fitting that they fatefully lost that Superbowl on that miraculous David Tyree helmet play. Otherwise, the comparisons to Montana would have been nauseating.

4) Brett Favre

1 ring (0 SB MVP). 3 MVPs. 11 Pro Bowls (3 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 181-104.  86.6 QB rating. 62.0% completion rate. 497 TD, 317 INT - 1.57 ratio. 69,329 yards.
Playoffs: 13-11. 86.3 QB rating. 60.8% completion rate. 44 TD, 30 INT - 1.47 ratio.

Owner of almost every volume record out there, Favre has amassed stat after stat in his 19 years.  However, the fact that he has only won 1 SB in 19 tries is still a pockmark on his resume and it is clearly the driving force behind his unwillingness to retire.  Had he won another this year, he could then perhaps lay claim to the title of the greatest of all time.  Invariably, his penchant for throwing bone-headed interceptions in the most critical of moments drops him on the greatness scale.  In the end, just because he's played a long time doesn't mean that he's played WELL the entire time.  In fact, some years he was one of the worst, such as in 2005 when he lead the league in INTs with 29 (the next highest was 17).

5) Dan Marino

0 rings. 1 MVP. 9 Pro Bowls (3 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 147-93. 86.4 QB rating. 59.4% completion rate. 420 TD, 252 INT - 1.67 ratio. 61,361 yards.
Playoffs: 8-10. 77.1 QB rating. 56.0% completion rate. 32 TD, 24 INT - 1.33 ratio.

Besides Peyton, there may not ever be a more pure passer than Marino. Though he never won a championship (losing to Montana early on), it is clearly attributable to the dearth of a running game as well as defensive talent on his teams. Besides Peyton, never has a team relied more on their QB's arm.  Sadly, he drops beneath Favre as he became the former holder of volume records.

6) Kurt Warner

1 ring (1 SB MVP). 2 MVPs. 5 Pro Bowls (3 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 67-49.  93.7 QB rating. 65.5% completion rate. 208 TD, 128 INT - 1.62 ratio. 32,344 yards.
Playoffs: 9-4. 102.8 QB rating. 66.5% completion rate. 31 TD, 14 INT - 2.21 ratio.

Kurt is ranked slightly above Steve Young simply because he lifted two of the most defunct franchises to the Superbowl, winning one, being cheated out of another by Belicheat, and losing a 3rd to an incredible last minute TD catch.  As only two others on this top 10 list had done, he raised his level of play in the postseason, and his improvement, nearly 10 points higher on his QB rating, is astonishing.  Unfortunately, only a lull in the middle of his career due to injury and inane coaching keeps him from being considered among the greatest.

7) Steve Young

1 ring (1 SB MVP).  2 MVPs.  7 Pro Bowls (3 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 94-49.  96.8 QB rating.  64.3% completion rate.  232 TD, 107 INT - 2.17 ratio.  33,124 yards.
Playoffs: 12-8.  85.8 QB rating.  62.0% completion rate.  20 TD, 13 INT - 1.54 ratio.

Steve Young's championship was one of the great sports moments of my life.  Having lived under the shadow of Montana and the Cowboys for so long, he finally emerged victorious in one of the greatest performances in SB history.  He is also the most accurate QB of all time.  Too bad he only won 1.

8) John Elway

2 rings (1 SB MVP). 1 MVP. 9 Pro Bowls (5 All-Pro)
Regular Season: 148-82-1. 79.9 QB rating. 56.9% completion rate. 300 TD, 226 INT - 1.33 ratio. 51,475 yards.
Playoffs: 14-8. 79.7 QB rating. 54.4% completion rate. 27 TD, 21 INT - 1.29 ratio.

John's numbers are poor compared to most others on this list. However, after a disappointing career of postseason failure, including a drubbing at the hands of Montana, he won 2 consecutive SBs (including one head to head vs Favre) and retired on top.

9) Troy Aikman

3 rings (1 SB MVP).  0 MVPs.  6 Pro Bowls (1 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 94-71.  81.6 QB rating.  61.5% completion rate.  165 TD, 141 INT - 1.17 ratio.  32,942 yards.
Playoffs: 11-5.  88.3 QB rating.  63.7% completion rate.  23 TD, 17 INT - 1.35 ratio.

Aikman was perhaps the exact opposite of Marino.  He was the direct recipient of being on the most well-rounded and talented teams.  However, 3 SB rings alone earn him the right to be on this list.  Plus, he's a Bruin.

10) Jim Kelly

0 rings (4 SB appearances).  0 MVPs.  5 Pro Bowls (1 All-Pro).
Regular Season: 101-59.  84.4 QB rating.  60.1% completion rate.  237 TD, 175 INT - 1.35 ratio.  35,467 yards.
Playoffs: 9-8.  72.3 QB rating.  59.1% completion rate.  21 TD, 28 INT - 0.75 ratio.

This last name was more difficult. I ended up deciding between Kelly, Warren Moon and Donovan McNabb. Jim Kelly won out simply because he had taken his team to the Superbowl FOUR times.  Though Moon was a 9 time pro bowler, he never even made an appearance in the conference championship.  McNabb only got to the SB once though he was a frequent NFC title game visitor.

Extra Point:

In honor of Drew Brees' SB debut, here are his stats as of today.

Drew Brees
0 rings (1 SB appearance).  0 MVPs.  4 Pro Bowls.
Regular Season: 68-53.  91.9 QB rating.  64.8% completion rate.  202 TD, 110 INT - 1.84 ratio.  30,646 yards.
Playoffs: 3-2.  100.6 QB rating.  63.8% completion rate.  1 TD, 2 INT - 5.50 ratio.

If Brees can keep up his production with the Saints for another handful of years and be a regular fixture in the playoffs, he can definitely make his mark among the greats.  It will have to start with a victory on Sunday.

So I got to wondering, who are the Hall of Fame Quarterbacks anyway?

I highlighted the standouts, in my eyes.

Pre-Modern Era
John (Paddy) Driscoll 1920-1929
Jimmy Conzelman 1920-1929
Arnie Herber 1930-1940, 1944-1945
Earl (Dutch) Clark 1931-1938
Clarence (Ace) Parker 1937-141, 1945-1946
Sammy Baugh 1937-1952
Sid Luckman 1939-1950

Modern Era
Bob Waterfield 1945-1952
Otto Graham 1946-1955
Bobby Layne 1948-1962
Y.A. Tittle 1948-1964
Norm Van Brocklin 1949-1960
George Blanda 1949-1975
Bart Starr 1956-1971
Johnny Unitas 1956-1973
Sonny Jurgensen 1957-1974
Len Dawson 1957-1975
Fran Tarkenton 1961-1978
Joe Namath 1965-1977
Bob Griese 1967-1980
Roger Staubach 1969-1979
Terry Bradshaw 1970-1983
Dan Fouts 1973-1987
Joe Montana 1979-1994
John Elway 1983-1998
Dan Marino 1983-1999
Warren Moon 1984-2000
Steve Young 1985-1999
Jim Kelly 1986-1996
Troy Aikman 1989-2000