Friday, January 20, 2012

High School Hoops Are Back!

Took in my first high school basketball this season during my travels--watching my alma mater win two (boys and girls) from a nearby rival. Every season when I start watching basketball closely again I remember what a love I have developed for this simple game of putting a ball through a hoop. The love affair is especially renewed by seeing a game live, even at the HS level. To see the strategy, the physicality, the style of the game up close is to remember.

More hoops photos will follow, and it will be fun right to the end.

P.S. My alma mater's boys team had not lost a game as of Friday.

Football Notes

Two days from now we will know who will be in the Super Bowl as the NFL Championship games are completed Sunday night. Our New York Giants will take on the San Francisco 49'ers and the Baltimore Ravens will take on the New England Patriots. The Giants win over the Packers was not a big surprise, but I was pleased. Our KC Chiefs gave the blueprint and the Giants took it. Packers helped by definitely being out of sorts on offense. When you get to this point in the season, you have to bring your A game for the whole game.

I am hoping the underrated Ravens beat New England because if the Giants make it to the Super Bowl, I am afraid the Pats will thump them.

These both should be good games, although probably not as good as the 49'ers-Saints game, which was a classic.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wildcard Weekend: More Tebow Magic

So the Wildcard round is over. Houston, New Orleans and New York took care of business with wins that ended up with some one sided scores. It was certainly interesting to watch the best units of these teams rise up and just be better then the opposition. New Orleans offense in the second half. The Giants defense all game.

Then there is Tebow. Tim Tebow was already showing signs of this being different. He and his wind up had completed passes all day. The Broncos built a lead. Pittsburgh, being a good team, even when down many men, came back with two TDs in the last 10 minutes or so to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Which lasted exactly one play. Tebow throws a 20 yard pass Thomas runs 60 more and Denver wins 29-23. Amazing. The Broncos' reward? Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Your Josh Freeman Update

Tough year for Freeman and company this past season.

This was not a good year for Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Bucs. They started 3-1 but finished the season with 10 straight losses, looking really bad in the process. Basically, I would check the score, and sigh. The last game the Atlanta Falcons blew them out so badly, it was 42-0 in the second quarter.

Josh had 22 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles during 2011. Not all, of course were his fault, but that is a huge increase from 2010 where he threw just 6 INTs and lost 3 fumbles. TDs were down from 25 to 16. The relatively useless QB rating tumbled 20 points from 2010 to 2011.

I would suspect that the firing of the coach is related to the step back that Josh and this entire team took this year. This team folded, in addition to playing badly. The way it folded is something you have to lay at the feet of the coach. I keep comparing the Bucs to the Chiefs. The Chiefs never folded. They always kept playing, especially the defense. Tampa Bay folded--lost their focus and professionalism. While players are very responsible for that, much of that comes from the coach.

Josh is very talented, but prone to take his talent for granted, thinking that talent alone will get it done. If he is smart, he will take this off season to spend a lot of time thinking about how he wants his career to go. He might want to look at the best QBs in the league for models: Brady, Breese, Rodgers, even Rothlesburger. Look at these guys for clues as to what works and what doesn't work to help become a professional QB that is a step above the average--a guy a team can build on towards a championship.

So Behind...

...I will never die. Seriously.

Let's start with the NFL. The playoffs are going on as we type, with the Wildcard games going on right now. Houston got us started by beating the Bengals, the Lions are playing the Saints in the kind of game that will be determined by a big defensive play...

Football's hot stove league is already started, with speculation about who will draft who. Coaches and GMs are being fired and hired. Probably the biggest stunner was the firing of the Polians, Bill and Chris from their executive positions. Mind you, this is after one losing season--it will be interesting to see how Colts owner Robert Irsay fills this position, which will be essential to get right as they have that number 1 draft choice and tough choices about personnel and coaches. The Colts are not the only ones with firings and hirings. The Rams, Chiefs, Bucs, Jags and Dolphins are in the process of looking for coaches. Chicago, and St. Louis are also looking for GMs.

After 40 years of watching football I have come to a few conclusions about how to have a winning team. While having a good quarterback is very important, he does not have to be a HOFer level guy. Someone who is consistent, disciplined and makes few mistakes is good enough. A good team has all the bits to a greater or lesser degree: line play that is strong enough that they can push the opponent around much of the time, smart players that don't make many mistakes, depth of team where guys are good enough to step up in the face of injuries, team speed (can't coach it), coaches that complement each other. When you see a team like the Chiefs that have some good bits, but are missing important parts, or don't play the same from week to week, you know you are not looking at the Super Bowl champion.

As to the current crop of playoff teams, the Giants, who really sucked during parts of the season, are playing much better. Your solid teams are the Packers and Saints and they will be hard to upset. Both can be had by playing sturdy defense, keeping the ball on offense and not getting behind on the scoreboard. Can any of the NFC playoff teams do that--Giants, San Francisco, Atlanta or Detroit? In the AFC, it has been a surprise how many are making the Steelers-Broncos game their upset special. Many think the Broncs will beat the Steelers. It really rests on the Bronco defense, to stifle the undermanned and injured Steeler offense. If Tebow and company can run and move against the Pittsburgh defense, then the donkeys have a chance. If the Denver defense has to play the whole game, eventually they will wear out, and Pittsburgh will win. Waiting in the wings: the Patriots who have quietly, but efficiently been winning with offense. Cinncinati has already bowed out, but a nice year for the Bengals. It will be tough for Houston to move on with their number 3 QB at the helm.

So an interesting playoff and an interesting off season--what more can a fan want?