Thursday, January 29, 2009

6 comments Top 20 Receivers in Football

I am not going to be able to put up Bill Simmons' column on Friday, so I thought I would try to get his Friday chat up sometime this weekend and give another unsolicited opinion on the top 20 receivers in football, inspired by this article. I am not including tight ends in this discussion and, as always, this is my opinion so feel free to disagree. I am not taking the past statistics of these players into account, but put them where I believe they rank right now.

1. Andre Johnson- He has Matt Schaub/Sage Rosenfels throwing him the ball, which is an automatic disadvantage and yet he still put great numbers. I don't always buy that he has not much else around him, simply because he has a great tight end in Owen Daniels and Kevin Walker helps to take some of the load off him, but he is the best regardless of who is around him. If Bill Simmons wants someone underrated, this would be a decent pick.

2. Larry Fitzgerald- This is not based on his postseason performance but based completely on the fact teams often know the ball is coming to him and yet he still catches it. I am not an expert but it seems he is great at going up and catching the ball in traffic. I have seen this first hand in person and on television too many times. I think the playoffs are his official coming out party. I just wish someone would double team him at some point. Maybe that would work...

3. Calvin Johnson- To amass 1,300 yards receiving and having the ball thrown to him by quarterbacks who have no business starting NFL games is impressive to me. Throw in the fact his numbers are almost the exact same before and after Roy Williams was traded to the Cowboys and I think he could be the best receiver in football in 2 years. Easily.

4. Steve Smith- Forget how tall he is or anything else about his physical stature, he is very hard for just one cornerback to bring down, is fast, and possibly insane. Considering his quarterback is Jake Delhomme, whose favorite pass is the Hail Mary down the field to Smith, it is amazing he has 1,400 yards...and that was in 14 games.

5. Roddy White- If Matt Ryan is the next Peyton Manning, then Roddy White is the next Marvin Harrison (they are nothing alike, I realize that, but for comparisons sake I say this). I sat here and tried to think of someone to put in the 5th spot that was better than White and I can't. Back to back great seasons with two different coaches, systems, and quarterbacks. He is one of the best now.

6. Anquan Boldin- Whether he is throwing hissy fits on the sidelines or not, he is a great receiver. He played in 12 games this year and still had almost 1,100 yards receiving. It's not a Kurt Warner thing either, he had 1,400 yards in 14 games in 2004. Injuries seem to be a problem (not including the hit that knocked him out this year, he has only played a full season twice), but Boldin is a great receiver with or without Fitzgerald on the other side of the field.

7. Marquis Colston- Colston played in 11 games last year due to injuries, had 760 yards in that span. He only started 6 of those games and probably fully recovered from his injury in the last 5 weeks of the season during which he had 438 yards receiving, 4 TD's, and 31 receptions. Having Drew Brees as his quarterback definitely helps him but he doesn't need Brees to be successful, I don't think.

8. Greg Jennings- This was Jennings first year where he played all 16 games and he responded with almost 1,300 yards with a new quarterback (though I am sure he has played with Rodgers at some point in the past three seasons in practice). This year Driver and Jennings switched places in the Packer receiver pecking order and Jennings seems to be the new #1 receiver.

9. Brandon Marshall- Don't ask me why, but I get the feeling he could be out of the league in five years. It's just a bizarre feeling I have. For now, he is one of the best receivers in football. His year long reception is 47 yards, which doesn't seem very high, of course that really means nothing. He has similar numbers that a possession receiver would have: low YPC, tons of catches, but only 62% of his catches were for first downs. Basically I am overanalyzing his numbers and need to quit typing.

10. Wes Welker- I know this is going to seem too low for some people and way too high for others but the bottom line is that Welker had incredibly similar numbers from last year to this year and he had two different quarterbacks. He has his niche on offense and does well within it. Does it help to have Randy Moss on the other side of the field? Sure, it really helps him with his underneath routes, but that is not all that he runs. He is not a prototypical receiver, so it is hard to judge him against these other guys in my opinion.

11. Reggie Wayne- His numbers went down this year, I am not sure if it is because Peyton Manning was hurt or not, but it also happens to coincide with Marvin Harrison having his worst full season ever. I think Wayne is independently a great receiver but I am not sure he is among the top 10 elite. I don't want to hold injuries to other players on the team against him in these rankings, because I still think he is very talented on his own, but I have a hard time grasping whether he is great on his own or because of the Colts system they run.

12. Terrell Owens- This feels low to me but I would rather have every other receiver that is ranked above Owens right now than Owens. He caught 10 TD's and had another 1,000 yard receiving year which good. There were too many drops and he was ranked 41st in the league in catches for a first down. This may mean very little by itself and it may mean nothing. Under half of his catches led to first downs, which tells me personally either Romo is squeezing short passes into Owens or he is not breaking as many tackles as he used to. I am sure Cowboys fans will disagree with me.

13. Hines Ward- I may have him a little bit higher than I would expect but he had his best year since 2004 this year and though his numbers don't stand out over his career compared to a couple ranked behind him, he is a complete wide receiver because he blocks incredibly well also. I may already regret this decision to put him one spot ahead of Randy Moss.

14. Randy Moss- If anyone, besides Patriots fans, missed Tom Brady this year, it was Randy Moss. His receptions and yards nose dived this year, though he still had 11 touchdowns, which is good for most mortals. If Brady comes back next year I think Moss will have a much better year, he is nowhere near washed up and Welker takes care of all the tough passes over the middle so you don't have to worry about him getting his head knocked off. Whether Moss is still among the league's elite, I am not so sure.

15. Vincent Jackson- I think the most amazing number I have seen when looking up all these receiver's numbers is that he had 59 catches this past year and 52 of them were for first downs. It really doesn't mean much but more than 88% of the time if he caught the ball it was for a first down. That seems pretty good to me because if you throw the ball, generally you would like for a first down to result. I haven't decided if this year was a mirage with Jackson having nearly 1,100 yards receiving or the beginning of him breaking out into being a top 10 receiver though.

16. T.J. Houshmandzadeh- It is a shame he is on the wrong side of 30 and has Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball to him. He is a free agent this year and though he is not exactly a deep threat, he is like Muhsin Muhammad with a little bit more speed (and that is a compliment...sort of). I think he may end up getting some more respect than he currently gets because being on the other side of Chad Johnson.

17. Plaxico Burress- He only played in 10 games this year for, ummmm..., various reasons but this is still too low of a ranking for Plaxico and I do realize it. It's not that I don't think he is a great receiver, because he is, I am not sure he is one of the best in the league right now. New York Giant fans, feel free to explain how I am an idiot.

18. Dwayne Bowe- This is his second year in the league and has had two great seasons. I can only imagine how much I would think of him if he actually had one quarterback constantly throwing him the ball. The Chiefs shockingly actually did something right when they drafted him, now they just have to give him another receiver to take some attention off him or maybe help him out by putting an actual NFL team on the field.

19. Santana Moss- I have always thought of him as Steve Smith Lite for some reason. Maybe it is his height, though he is taller than Smith. If this were based on his past two years of statistics, I would not put him in the top 20 of receivers in the NFL, but I think he and Jason Campbell are actually getting some good chemistry together and this year showed that.

20. Derrick Mason- Consistency thy name is Derrick Mason. Every year between 1,000-1,100 yards (with a couple years as outliers) and 3-5 touchdowns. His only down year since 2000 was when Steve "Air" McNair was brought in to specifically jumpstart the offense in 2006. McNair played all 16 games that year and Mason struggled. I found that funny, maybe he had an injury of some sort that year. Either way Mason is part of a long line of good Michigan State wide receivers. Excluding Charles Rogers of course.

I plan on putting up the Simmons chat sometimes soon, so be sure to dread/look forward to that. For now though feel free to give me your opinion and tell me why I am right/wrong on these rankings. This was a lot harder than the QB rankings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

5 comments Ten Things I Think I Think Peter King Has Not Thought Of: Bitter and Angry Edition

I have a good amount of links I want to comment on, so I think today I will do that. I don't like talking about items that are a couple of days old, which I have a couple mixed in, but I am going to do it anyway simply because they are interesting to discuss.

1. I have changed my opinion on the Joe Torre situation about ten times now. When it came out, I thought he was an asshole, then I heard it was not a first person account and I wrote that Peter King was a jerk for judging Torre, then I thought about the comments Torre made, and I think I am back to thinking he is an asshole.

"I think it's important to understand context here. The book is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees and it's about the changes in the game in that period," Verducci told the site.

I agree completely and can see why Verducci does not want Torre to be thrown under the bus based on his quotes, but these were also statements Torre told Verducci so he was merely reporting what Torre had told him. What I don't understand is why Torre feels the need to help write a book about the Yankees right now. Maybe when he is retired from baseball that would be a better time, but it seems like Torre puts a book out every decade or so. I think one big autobiography would work best for him and he should try to not tarnish his Yankee legacy in doing writing the book.

According to the newspapers' accounts, Torre's displeasure with management goes beyond the widely reported 2007 meeting in which Cashman met with the Steinbrenners to discuss Torre's future as manager, a talk in which the GM was said to have remained neutral as the drawbacks to extending Torre's tenure were discussed.

I don't like Torre, mostly because he managed the team that beat my favorite team twice in the World Series, and he always seemed like a standup guy, which always annoyed me. Apparently he is not a standup guy. It sounds to me like he is still very bitter he is not managing the New York Yankees any more. If he was so unhappy there, why doesn't he just keep his mouth shut, keep doing State Farm commercials and manage his current team? Get back at the Yankees by showing them they made a mistake in letting you go, that's the best course of action.

His Dodgers deal came two weeks after he walked away from the Yankees when they offered a one-year contract worth $5 million plus $3 million in performance incentives he termed "an insult.''

Like I said earlier about Andy Pettitte earlier this week, past performance does not guarantee future results. It doesn't matter what Torre had done in the past. The Yankees had not gotten where they wanted to go, the World Series, in a few years, and thought maybe Torre needed incentive. I am squarely on the Yankees' side on this issue. They have a goal and they want to meet that goal. Do I feel badly for Torre that he did not always get to keep or acquire the exact players he wanted? In a way I might, but he also has to remember if he did not like it, he could walk away. Which he did, very bitterly.

According to The New York Times, Verducci and Torre delve into the period following the Yankees' 2001 World Series loss to Arizona, during which the likes of complementary stars Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Chuck Knoblauch reached the end of the line and were replaced by what Torre describes as "big boppers" such as Jason Giambi in 2002, who Torre believed "wasn't part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively."

See, I thought they prided themselves on great pitching during this era. Call me insane but somewhere along the way great defense doesn't mean shit if your entire pitching staff is old/ineffective. I think Torre is off in saying playing well defensively was what made the Yankees good, I think he should be more focused on the timely hitting and pitching that got the Yankees were they wanted to be, which was World Champs 4 times.

Team chemistry was a part of it, just in that the team seemed to enjoy playing together in the 90's. I don't say that in a Bill Simmons, "I am going to make some shit up now" way, but in that when my favorite team faced them, it felt like the Yankees were a team that was concerned with picking up the guy ahead of them in the batting order if he struck out, while the later teams felt like they were all part of a machine. In the end, the players have to enjoy playing with each other, and whether it was true in the 90's or not, it certainly felt that way.

Whether that was Torre's doing or not, can be up for argument, but writing this book just seems like sour grapes to me.

2. Here is Buster Olney's reaction.

But here's the problem with that: It's Joe Torre's book. His name is on it. He got paid for it. He had a chance to read every word, every sentence, every paragraph. He had to approve every passage.

I can't argue with this reasoning. Buster Olney's "Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" (the title is something like that) is actually a very good book and gives a good insight into the Yankees 2001 team.

Wells tried to distance himself from some of the words in the book, saying they belonged to the writer, but the Yankees' manager would not accept that. After a meeting with the pitcher, Torre said this to reporters:

"We talked to him about a lot of things today. I just sensed he was bothered by it. Not by what we said, but by how it came out. How much of it is actually what he said and how much isn't exactly what he said, I don't know.

"But there's no question: It has his name on it, and he has to be accountable for it."

Ouch. I think I am fully on the "Joe Torre should never have aired this stuff in public" side permanently. Especially when it is obvious that he did not condone this type of action when his players did it.

To this day, I have a picture of Joe Torre in my mind sitting on the Yankees bench staring at the field in a daze and I just could never imagine he would write a book like this.

Now it is Torre's responsibility to be fully accountable for the words in the book that has his name on it, and he must stand behind those words.

With Torre reaching out to Brian Cashman and others in the Yankees organization, I get the feeling he knows he screwed up.

A Rod doesn't really care.

As for Torre, A-Rod indicated that anything his former manager may say about him couldn't hurt him because, as one friend put it, "He doesn't feel like he had any real relationship with (Torre)."

I will usually defend A-Rod the baseball player, but A-Rod the human being is quite a weird person. I know he cares, but honestly some of Torre's thoughts that A-Rod was a prima donna and more concerned with how he looks do seem on target.

A-Rod also told people that nothing Torre could say would be more revealing of how he felt about his player than the act of batting him eighth in the lineup in Game 4 of the 2006 playoff series with the Tigers.

"Alex was really hurt by that," one friend of A-Rod's said Monday. "He believed that Torre did that to embarrass him and he knew then what Torre thought of him.

Sounds to me like A-Rod was a little hurt by some of Joe Torre's actions. Again, this may go back a little bit to what Joe Torre was saying about the Yankee teams that have A-Rod on them. If A-Rod really cared about the entire team, he would not mind being 8th in the batting order, because he was awful in that playoff series and hurting his team by batting higher in the order. Maybe Torre is correct that A-Rod is completely stuck on how things look. Of course, he still should have not aired this dirty laundry in public.

Most importantly, according to people close to A-Rod, is that he insists he doesn't worry about this type of stuff, what people are saying and thinking about him, the way he did when he joined the Yankees in 2004.

I don't really believe that. I could not live in New York because I could not deal with this Melrose Place type drama every single day of the week. Sometimes I wish everyone would just shut up and play their given sport.

Of course, no Yankee event would be worth talking about if I did not get my new friend, Wallace Matthews' take.

And as his parting gift to the New York Yankees, Joe Torre rolled a bomb into the clubhouse and lit the fuse ...

Torre actually left the Yankees last year, so this is not really a parting gift, but more along the lines of sour grapes.

For a dozen years, Torre was the glue that held that ballclub together, kept that clubhouse (relatively) serene, lent a measure of class to an organization that too often veered into crass.

I am actually starting to question whether it was Joe Torre who held the team together or not. Right now, it looks like he just held his tongue and let stuff go on in the clubhouse...then took great notes so he could talk about it in a later book.

Torre's book, "The Yankee Years," ensures that in less than three weeks, from the moment the doors to Steinbrenner Field are thrown open to the media, there will not be a minute of peace in Yankees camp.

Don't act like distractions like this are anything new for the Yankees. If it is not reporters asking questions last year about Joe Torre leaving the team for another job, it is reporters asking about the Yankees latest free agent signing and how that person will fit in with the team, or questions the players got about the Mitchell Report in the past, or why A-Rod chokes so much.

I would not completely blame Torre for the mayhem that constantly seems to go on in the Yankees clubhouse. If Torre had kept his mouth shut, the mayhem would be about the new free agent signings and whatever else drama goes down between now and February. There will always be drama.

The irony of it all is that the people Torre is most angry at - Randy Levine, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost and now, clearly, Brian Cashman - are the ones who will be the least affected by it.

My relationship with Wallace is off to a rocky start right now, simply because I actually agree with him on this.

The ones who will have to bear the brunt of it are the ones Torre professes to care about the most - Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Joe Girardi - and the one he claims to have tried so hard to help, A-Rod.

I don't recall Torre saying he was looking to help any of those people, it seems more like he just wanted to get all of this off his chest and let everyone know the Yankees problems in the 2000's where not entirely his fault, no matter what it makes him look like. I think Torre wanted everyone to know that he did not agree with the team he was "stuck" managing, so he can get some of his reputation as a great manager back. If anyone deserves to stand under a banner that says, "Mission Not Accomplished" it is him.

3. Let's look at everything Torre screwed up while with the Yankees.

If Lou Gehrig was once the luckiest man on the face of the earth, Torre was the luckiest manager. The Yankees had great players, the team that got a ton of breaks and he pushed all the right buttons throughout his first five years in the dugout.

Many times a manager may make a decision that turns out to be either good or bad and the only reason it turns out one way or another is good or bad luck. You may put the right player in at the right time as a manager or you may do it all wrong. Other times there is strategy involved, which is where you really hope your manager does not screw up, but luck does play a small role in how baseball events play out.

But the next seven seasons weren't as kind to Joe. There were early exits in the playoffs, a historic collapse in the postseason that still gnaws at Yankees fans and mistakes in the dugout that helped pave the way for his exit from the Bronx.

I don't blame Joe Torre for everything that went wrong during that time span but he did make some questionable moves on occasion.

6. Torre continually burned out his relievers. Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor were cooked by August and had nothing come October.

I guess there are two sides to this coin. The first being that the Yankees front office should have built a better bullpen so that Torre would have had more confidence in the other members of the bullpen to get an out or two. I always say if you are counting on Tanyon Sturtze to get important outs for you, you have already lost the game. The other side of the coin is that Torre should have known he was playing with fire and not relied on these relievers all that much. I think the biggest thing that did not come back to bite Torre in the ass is how many times he used Rivera for a 1+ inning save. At times I am surprised his arm was still attached to his body.

All in all this seems like a pretty minor complaint, no matter whether it is true or not. A manager wants to make sure his team wins the game, so he goes with guys he trusts. In my opinion, the bullpen would not have to be overworked if the starting pitchers could do their job and get into the 6th inning, which did not always happen either.

5. Instead of pulling his team off the field until a swarm of gnat-like bugs fleed Jacobs Field, Torre allowed rookie reliever Joba Chamberlain to get eaten alive. Chamberlain spit bugs out of his mouth and coughed up a one-run lead in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees eventually lost in 11 innings.

I agree that Torre should have pulled his team off the field in that situation. It was almost like he was angry with his players and wanted to watch them suffer through the infestation of bugs. Maybe he was just not paying attention to the game anymore. I don't know if we can chalk that as the reason Joba Chamberlain gave up the one run lead but the players should not have been on the field.

4. By tinkering with his batting order in the 2006 playoffs, Torre messed with Rodriguez's head. He batted A-Rod sixth, fourth and eighth in the four-game loss to the Tigers. Torre also benched Gary Sheffield in Game 3 after batting him clean-up in the first two games.

Whereas Bobby Cox sticks it out with this players a little too long at times and actually shows too much loyalty, Torre's moves did scream of desperation at that point. Joe Torre has gotten some credit for being good at handling egos, but given the fact most of his poor managerial moves came at the point when he had a bunch of egos to manage, I would actually say he had no clue what to do with all these players. This is a great example here of that. He had no idea whether to show loyalty to Sheffield/A-Rod, so he just made a desperation move.

3. Torre didn't tell his batters to bunt against Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who was hobbled by a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle that limited his mobility for Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. In Torre's defense, most of the hitters in his slugger-laden lineup hadn't dropped a bunt since Little League.

Ok, maybe Jeter should have done this, but really the Yankees were not built to bunt and that was definitely not in the team's best interest. I do agree a bunt or two to get Schilling moving would have been incredibly smart, but this is an example of where I think Torre was almost sticking it to management and showing them he can't win with the team assembled for him.

2. Torre placed righthander Jeff Weaver on the 2003 World Series roster against the Marlins, then used him in extra innings of a tie game. Light-hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez homers to win Game 4 and tie the series.

First, we insult Torre for overusing his relievers, and then we insult him for using a starter in an extra innings game. You can't have it both ways. This was not a bad move, regardless of the outcome, because there was no telling how long that game would have gone and no one could forsee Alex Gonzalez hitting a homerun.

1. If there is any mistake Yankees fans can classify as unforgivable, it is be starting Kevin Brown in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox. Brown didn't get out of the second inning of a 10-3 loss.

What were Torre's other options? Javier Vazquez or Esteban Loaiza or even pitch Mike Mussina on three days rest? Those guys would probably have been better but really, Joe Torre had no other options. Personally, I am bringing back Mussina on three days rest or going with Vazquez, but Torre chose the worst option, Kevin Brown, who had gotten shelled in his Game 3 start. This is all hindsight based on reading what Torre said in his new book, but maybe he was trying to prove a point to management that these players they had given him were not good enough, so he threw out Brown knowing he would fail. That would have been supremely stupid, so I don't actually believe he did that. He had marginally better options though.

4. Let's do a Peter King MMQB follow up.

From Nathan, of Natick, Mass.: "Quick question on Hall of Fame voters. If one of the voters were to be the ghost writer for a coach or player contending for HOF, what does the rule book say? Can the voter still vote for the player/coach? It seems like a clear case of conflict-of-interest to me. This question sprung to my mind when I saw Tom Verducci write this book for Joe Torre.''

No offense Nathan, but this is kind of a dumb question. What does it matter? There is no difference in a voter ghost writing a book with a player and a voter being great friends with a player, like ummm...Peter King and Brett Favre. Either way the bias that could come up is present. Woody Paige was already quoted as saying he voted for a player because that player was always nice to him. There is literally no difference in ghost writing a book with a player and having any other type of relationship with a player, the bias is still present.

I'm sure there is nothing in the bylaws about that. But in today's world, you never know -- maybe it should be.

Can anyone imagine how badly Peter King would yell "foul" if he was not able to vote because he ghost wrote a book for a player? I am not kidding about this, there is no difference. If a voter wrote a book with a player he would have no more bias than Peter King would have when it comes to voting Jerome Bettis or Tiki Barber in the Hall of Fame. He works with them everyday, eats meals with them and seems to genuinely like those two players. You are a liar if you say that won't color his HoF vote...and I am sure it will have an effect on it.

Jeff, of Hoboken, N.J.: "If I were Matt Cassel and I were franchised, I think I would sign the offer sheet immediately. While he will be leaving $10-12 million in guaranteed money on the table, he will receive $14-million-plus this year, and then either get a 15% raise in 2010, or become an unrestricted free-agent in an uncapped year. What are your thoughts?''
(Bengoodfella begins playing Russian Roulette with a six shooter that has five bullets in it.)

Look if you don't know Peter King's thoughts on Matt Cassel, you need to just Google it, you will find about 10,000 hits.

Couldn't agree more, but I don't think it's going to go down this way exactly. I think the Patriots will franchise him, and I think if Tom Brady is healthy they will explore trading Cassel. If that happens, the team that trades for him won't allow him to come in a one-year deal. Cassel will have to sign for a longer term to be made some team's quarterback of the future.

(Pulls trigger twice)

From Paul Rotondi, of Hoboken, N.J.: "Peter, it really bothers me that you can't go one week without bringing up President Barack Obama. People read you for the NFL. And putting in quotes from players or owners as you have been the last few weeks about Obama is the same as you saying the words yourself. Nobody wants to read politics in this column. I know literally dozens of people who are bothered by this.''

Of course no one wants to read about his favorite foods, the best places to dine in Pittsburgh, annoying traveling facts and at least 44% of the things Peter talks about in his column and that doesn't stop him from being successful in writing about it.

5. Rick Reilly gets paid millions to write columns like this.

Approximately 2.6 million Americans lost their jobs last year.

And you still have one! It's crazy isn't it?

So Lionel, 42, did what any true Philly fan would do: He started begging, borrowing and stealing his way into every Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers game he could. And nobody nudges better than Lionel. "I've never been to a Springsteen concert with him where he didn't say, 'Follow me,' and we didn't end up in the front row," says Lionel's best friend, Tom (Tush) Millison.

Oh I get it, he is an annoying mooch! Not only that but somebody paid hundreds of dollars for front row seats to a Springsteen concert and then have to get crowded out by a sweaty, unemployed man. Sounds like a great guy, let's profile him.

"Look to your right," Lionel says. And there he is, sitting TWO rows back, DEAD CENTER behind home plate, grinning like Phil Mickelson.

So he LOOKED exactly like Phil Mickelson when he GRINNED? I am NOT sure what THAT means because I am having trouble REMEMBERING how Mickelson grins. Great reference though.

Now Lionel starts going lotto-champagne crazy, squirting multimillionaire athletes up the nose, in the eyes and down the shorts. He pours an entire bottle over the head of slugger Ryan Howard. Matt Stairs gives him a head butt. He kisses pitcher Jamie Moyer on the cheek and yells, "Thank you for everything!" And Moyer yells, "No, thank you!"

Somewhere in America thousands of out of work journalists who have spent hours/days/weeks doing heavily researched stories about corruption or some other important matter, only to have the paper fold due to a lack of readership, read this column and weep violently into a pillow.

At this point, it is almost like Reilly is just flaunting that he has nothing of value to write.

And now I see the Flyers playing well. And my only thought is: Wonder how Lionel will spend his day with the Cup?

I counted how many sentences that did not contain quotes that were written in this column.

The answer: 42 sentences. This includes small sentence fragments. 42 sentences. Rick Reilly has the life and this fact has to hurt someone who wants to really be a journalist but can't find a job.

6. Ross Tucker shows why hiring ex-players is not always a good idea.

As bad as many of the columnists on the Internet are, I think he should leave writing columns to them instead of blatantly throwing incorrect facts for others to digest and believe.

The recent comments from Julius Peppers and his agent, Carl Carey, concerning his desire to leave the Carolina Panthers still bother me immensely, and they are over a week old.

I had never heard of Carey, and based on his handling of the Pepper's situation thus far, I think I understand why.

You have to love undeserved cheap shots. Julius Peppers is a free agent. That means after the free agency signing period ends, he can sign a contract to play for any team in the entire world and he can sign for as much or as little as he wants to. The Carolina Panthers will have no rights to him after that free agency period begins. Peppers' agent was afraid the Panthers would try to franchise tag Peppers, so he told ESPN that Peppers wanted a change of scenery and did not plan on re-signing with the Panthers. Rather than play games with the team, he actually was kind enough to give the team a chance to trade Peppers and get something in return for him. Peppers is not holding out of training camp, refusing to play in games, nor is his agent doing anything immoral or illegal. He is making it clear he wants to exercise his right to play for another team.

This, to me, has everything to do with money and nothing to do with the style of defense in Carolina.

If it was about money, he would take the $17 million he would get for having the franchise tag placed on him.

But if it is about money, why eliminate the hometown team desperate to keep him in the fold? He would have more leverage among if the Panthers were actively in on the negotiations.

Because as his agent very honestly said, he doesn't want to play for the Panthers anymore.

My guess is that Peppers' camp is weary of having the franchise tag placed on him by the Panthers, so they chose to fire a pre-emptive strike.

The Carolina Panthers have NEVER placed the franchise tag on Julius Peppers. His rookie contract has run out. If you are going to criticize someone, at least have the courtesy to get your most basic facts correct. Your guess is wrong and your criticism of Peppers' agent is also wrong.

Their claim about wanting a system that would maximize his abilities is completely unfounded.

Peppers has never played in another system, how the hell do you know this is unfounded. He is a free agent, if he wants to go to a team that has a more diverse Canadian community, he could do that.

Go back to playing football or do something you are good at.

7. This is my favorite article of the week.

Remember last week when I criticized Rick Reilly for this article? Here is a realistic response to Reilly's story focusing on whether his father can accurately cover him in the Super Bowl.

All the stories note father and son's shared grief over the loss of Fitzgerald Jr.'s mother to cancer, as well as Fitzgerald Sr.'s belief that it's inappropriate to cheer in the press box—even for your own progeny.

Reilly, too, fixates on Fitzgerald Sr.'s objectivity, writing:

[I]t's going to be murder for Larry Sr. not to violate that no-cheering-in-the-press-box rule.
"I won't cheer," Fitzgerald says. "I'm going to stay objective. I've come too far to suddenly show up in the press box with pompoms. But if you could put a monitor on my insides, you'd find a whole fan club in there."

There is no way he can objective. It is impossible.

Fitzgerald Sr.'s column in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, a weekly African-American newspaper, is less a work of journalism than a proud parent's scrapbook. Judging by the last two issues, the Spokesman-Recorder doesn't run straight game stories, meaning that Fitzgerald Sr.'s columns represent the bulk of the paper's writing about football. As such, the Spokesman-Recorder sports section is essentially a Larry Fitzgerald Jr. tribute page—since 2003, the elder Fitzgerald has written about his son at least 23 times.

I want you to remember Fitzgerald Sr. is a columnist in Minnesota and Larry lives in Arizona. There is even a pro football team in Minnesota and Fitzgerald Sr. has written about his son 23 times. This doesn't sound objectivity, and there is actually nothing wrong with not being objective, the problem lies in the fact Rick Reilly and Michael Wilbon have done stories on how objective Fitzgerald Sr. is able to be without doing any research into whether it is true or not.

In both articles, more than half of the copy is devoted to detailing Fitzgerald Jr.'s exploits; in neither story does the author disclose that he's writing about someone who shares his DNA.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this but Fitzgerald Sr. can not claim to be objective when the facts completely lean the other way.

It's also hard to argue with what Fitzgerald Sr. has been saying—it's true that nobody has played better in these playoffs than his flesh and blood. It's easier to find fault with Bell and Reilly, who've concocted a fable about the impartiality of a man who basically acts as his son's PR rep.

Rick Reilly concocts fables and leaves out facts because he does zero research? I don't believe it.

Fitzgerald Sr. might not cheer in the press box, but he fashions the written-word equivalent of minutes-long standing ovations.

This is my favorite sentence.

Why does Reilly want us to believe that the author of 2004's "Fitzgerald shines at workout" ("The consensus is that Larry Jr. should have won the 2003 Heisman Trophy")

It is true but also shows that he is not completely unbiased.

Lapointe explains that his mother's passing was especially hard on Fitzgerald Jr. because they were estranged at the time. He also takes note of the recent domestic violence accusation by the mother of the wide receiver's young son.

If Rick Reilly had any journalistic integrity he would at least think, "Whoops." Instead he is on to his next story that has no significance, and more importantly, involves no research. The fact Fitzgerald Jr. was estranged from his mom is a major part of the story when talking about the fact she is dead.

Josh Levin is my hero for the day.

8. I hope Gary Williams quits/gets fired soon. This is getting very embarrassing with the forty point losses, blown leads and now he is arguing with the AD.

Gilchrist, a 6-foot-10 forward, transferred to South Florida during the summer. Evans, a 6-3 guard, ended up at Kent State.

Williams told reporters: "It wasn't my fault that they're not here. That was somebody else's call."

That prompted Maryland senior associate athletic director Kathleen Worthington to tell The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday: "I want to clarify the facts and the timing and the decision process of these situations. It was my recommendation that we not sign a release for Gus. I didn't want to release him. It was the head coach's decision. No one else released Gus."

Please just fire Gary Williams. Let him go somewhere that will actually respect him. He is a great coach and I think he deserves a little bit better than the effort his players are giving him and the complete lack of support the Athletic Department shows.

Williams' latest volley: "Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me, she has never won a national championship, she has never done anything. She's an associate AD. This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."

Felton at the University of Georgia got fired today. They would be wise to call Gary Williams and see if he will coach there next year. Ask him to pull a Manny or something. Maybe there is something I don't know about Gary Williams and he may really suck as a coach, but I don't think that is the case.

This is embarrassing for Williams also though. He should shut up and let Maryland look like the bad guy.

9. Brett Favre's master year long plan is finally taking shape.

The Brett Favre-Vikings rumors have been circulating for a week. It's risky, but if the Vikings are unable to trade for Matt Cassel of New England or Matt Hasselbeck of Seattle, it wouldn't be shocking if they made a run at Favre should he become available, as expected.

I only believe about 10% of the crap I read on Truth and Rumors, but since Favre wanted to play for the Vikings last year, I will go ahead and believe this.

New Jets coach Rex Ryan expects Favre to attend offseason workouts, which Favre rarely did when he was in Green Bay. Currently, Favre counts for nearly $13 million on the Jets' tight salary cap, and they could save that money if they place him on waivers next month.

(Favre rubbing hands together excitedly talking to his wife, Deanna) "What I will do is refuse to go to offseason workouts and say I think I may retire, they will figure they won't have me either way, so they cut me, save them some money and I can go somewhere else. Brilliant!"

The future hall of famer would then become a free agent and available to the Vikings, who were interested in him last summer.

"My master plan is working! Deanna, I will be right back, I am going to go shit on my legacy some more. Maybe moon a school bus full of kids or expose myself to the ducks at the park. Why is Peter King in a van outside our house?"

10. I don't like the ACC's unbalanced schedule. Wake Forest will not be playing UNC at UNC this year and Duke plays N.C. State only once. It would be nice if every team in the conference played a home/away schedule. I guess the conference tournament takes care of a little bit of that but still, I would like to see Wake go into UNC and play the Tarheels. It also annoys me in college football that some teams don't play other teams, especially in the Big 12, but they play so many fewer games, it is more understandable.

I wrote a few months ago that I will not predict Duke to get past the second round in the NCAA Tournament until they show everyone they are a different team from the past couple of years and they still have not shown me anything. I knew Wake would be good before the beginning of this year, but I was thinking #10-#15 in the country, but not quite this good though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

14 comments TMQ: I Can't Let This Go Edition And Simmons Doesn't Understand His Own Definitions

I have a tendency to go on a bit long when writing about Bill Simmons and Gregg Easterbrook (as some commenters have noted correctly to me, it ends to dilute some of my points), so I am going to fix that by giving everyone a two for one special and try to hold back a little bit. One post with both Easterbrook and Simmons in it. There are some things you just know, and I knew I was going to hate Gregg Easterbrook's All Unwanted All-Pros. First, let's scan over some of his idiotic comments before he blows our minds with his All-Pros, which my analyzation (I like this word much better than "analysis") of could take 10 pages of text to argue with if I wrote all I wanted to about it.

At Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, when not watching the action or checking out cheer-babes, I will be nervously scanning the skies overhead, watching vigilantly for alien starcruisers decloaking.

Since I am not sure he understands football, this does not shock me.

Now the Arizona Cardinals, led by "Kurt Warner," are in the Super Bowl. Now I realize his identity -- "Warner" is a Tralfamadorian. In several Kurt Vonnegut novels, the Tralfamadorians are an ancient super-advanced alien race that means no harm, but intervenes with lesser civilizations for amusement. Tralfamadorians look like walking toilet plungers. Many foibles of human history have been their doing, as are many features of Earth. The Tralfamadorians, for example, manipulated construction of the Great Wall of China so that its apparent random zig-zags, when viewed from orbit, spell out a naughty word in their language; Tralfamadorians find this hugely hilarious.

(Silence from me having nothing to say)

Ummmm...the Tralfamadorians would not find this column hilarious though.

Over the years, I've realized what people want is for me, or anyone masquerading as a sports pundit, boldly to assert exactly what's going to happen. People seem to like the idea that insiders have super-ultra-secret knowledge that allows them to predict events;

I mean, I don't know, I guess it is silly for someone to think a person who works for a major sports web site and has the resources of that site behind him/her could provide some sense of insight into the biggest football game of the year. If he/she can't do this, then what separates that person being qualified for the job from everyone else? I think that would be the question that everyone asks. If you go to the doctor and you ask him what medicines are going on the market in the next couple of years to help fight your stomach ulcers. If he answers that he doesn't know and wonders why everyone asks him like he is an expert, then you will switch doctors fairly quickly.

Everyone, from my personal friends to the "SportsCenter" audience to the 1 billion people who will watch the Super Bowl, seems to want to believe that insiders, using incredible expertise, already know what will happen.

Not really. I would say most people are just yearning for some good analysis of the game. Excuse them if they look to ESPN/you for that.

Obviously, Pittsburgh will come into the Super Bowl knowing Arizona has surprised two straight opponents by running the ball more, and so will expect Arizona to run the ball. Therefore maybe Arizona should come out passing. Then again, since the Steelers know the Cardinals may surprise them by running, and may expect to be surprised by passing, maybe the Cardinals should double-surprise Pittsburgh by running, since that's what Pittsburgh expects, and therefore will assume won't happen.

(Sound of Bengoodfella running around attic looking for something heavy to bang head on repeatedly so he can forget this cluster of sentences...only finds insulation which doesn't work, tries to jump out window but mom has boarded it shut, feels he has failed miserably so continues torturing himself by reading the rest of this column.)

The Steelers' defense can bring a rushing game to a halt, and against Pittsburgh, staying with the run and continuing to pound the ball doesn't seem to work. Unless Arizona breaks a couple of runs in the first half, the Cardinals may have little choice but to go pass-wacky. Pittsburgh is also first in the postseason against the pass.

During the regular season, the Steelers' defense was tops in yards allowed and points allowed; the Cardinals' defense was 19th and 28th, respectively. That is a gap you could drive John Madden's bus through.

Gregg picked the Cardinals to win 28-10 by the way. Just thought I should mention this so you would know his pick has nothing to do with anything football related.

Arizona should use power sets on offense. Pittsburgh should go with the pro set (the Steelers haven't lined up in the pro set since Rocky Bleier). On defense, Arizona should back away from safety blitzes; it's now a Cards tendency and opponents know it's coming.

Hey, you know the offense a team has built its entire team around? Forget that, try running an offensive set that doesn't fit your personnel. That should work. I mean, this may work one or two plays but I would not build my entire game plan around it.

Gregg really needs to know there is such a thing as a run blitz and they do tend to work every once in a while. Teams can also disguise blitzes so the offense doesn't know it is coming, so giving up on a safety blitz may not be the best choice. Seriously, does this guy know anything about football?

The football gods chortled when Julius Peppers threw his ego fit about wanting to move from the Panthers' 4-3 to a 3-4 team so that his sack stats would improve.

He wants to be a standup LB in the 3-4 defense not a defensive end.

After his final game at Buffalo, in 1999, Reed publicly denounced his coach, Wade Phillips, for not making the game plan all about Andre Reed.

THE Wade Phillips, the same guy who is currently running the Dallas Cowboys in the ground? The same guy who had the entire offense of the Cowboys counting how many throws were to them under his watch this year? Don't let Reed get in the HoF for showing up a guy who clearly is such a great coach. Andre Reed, no Hall of Fame for you.

In the last season of episodes, the Cylons have also started saying "frak this" and "frak that," though they are incapable of reproduction! Are we to believe that between them, two super-advanced societies able to build enormous faster-than-light starcruisers can only think of one swear word?

(Taking deep breath because for the umpteenth time Gregg wants to be the ombudsman for a completely fictional show.)

I don't know Gregg, I am not sure if the writers of a science fiction show where aliens of different races mingle together, yet all speak English, were completely worried about making sure the amount of curse words was accurate.

Many readers, including Marlene Mitchell of Nashville, Tenn., pointed out that after defeating the Steelers at home in Week 16, Titans players engaged in the immature stunt of stomping on the yellow towels of Steelers fans who came to the game. What happened next? Tennessee went 0-2 for the remainder of the year, blowing the AFC's top seed in the postseason. "Do not tempt the football gods," Mitchell writes.

The same man who can't believe a fictional science fiction would only give an alien species one curse word and wants all television shows to be as realistic as possible, actually believes in the existence of "football gods" that endorse good behavior and punish bad behavior. That's pretty much all I have to say about that.

Each year, TMQ honors those gentlemen who became NFL success stories despite going undrafted, or being waived, or both. Here are the qualifications for my All-Unwanted All-Pros: A player must have been undrafted, or been waived, or been let go in free agency when his original club made no bona fide attempt to retain him. Players who left their teams via trade are not eligible, because the team received something of value in return; free agents whom their original teams wanted to retain, but could not for salary cap reasons, are not eligible.

Got all of that? Here is my problem with this team. It includes many players that are now wanted by other teams and there is really no real way to explain the real reason a player left their original team. It could be they had a young player who could play the position for less or they thought the player got paid too much and needed to save money under the salary cap. Basically I am not sure Gregg understands how a salary cap works. To call them "unwanted" is incorrect, they may have been wanted in some cases, they just could not be afforded or they are actually now "wanted" but in the past were "unwanted," which makes me think they are no longer "unwanted." I will explain more for each one. Let's just say Gregg has a much looser interpretation of "unwanted" than I do. I will give you the facts and let you decide if they are "unwanted" or not. These are some of the most egregious examples he included:

Willie Anderson, Baltimore

3 time First team All Pro, 4 time Second Team All Pro, 4 time Pro Bowl selection, drafted #10 overall in 1996.

Cut after he refused to take a pay cut. Signed 3/$11 million deal with Ravens. Not unwanted, but too expensive.

Kevin Mawae

3 time All Pro Selection, 7 time Pro Bowl Selection, drafted in the 2nd round in 1994.

Cut after suffering serious triceps injury in 2005. Signed free agent deal with Titans nine days later. Jets drafted Nick Mangold in 1st round so Mawae became expendable in the Jets mind.

Antonio Gates, San Diego

Has only played for San Diego in his career and was undrafted because he did not play football in college.

Signed 6/$24 million deal with Chargers in 2005 and has been All Pro selection 3 times. Has never been unwanted.

Kevin Curtis

Was 3rd round pick by Rams and left them as a free agent in 2007 to sign a 6/$32 million deal with the Eagles. Gregg put him in here because he was a walk on at Utah State and was a third team All American (which sounds pretty good to me). I have no idea when he was unwanted, other than high school, but that was over 10 years ago.

Cornelius Griffin

2nd round pick in 2000. Became a free agent in 2004 and was signed by the Washington Redskins. Not every player that signs with another team is an "unwanted" by the original team. There is this thing called a "salary cap" teams have to adhere to, so it is hard to say a player was actually unwanted without knowing specific details of the reason that person was not resigned.

London Fletcher

Has been signed twice to big free agent contract, once by Buffalo and then was signed to 5/$25 million deal with Washington in 2007. Was undrafted but has been pretty wanted since then.

Will Allen

1st round pick in 2001 and was not resigned by the New York Giants and signed 4/$12 million deal with Miami.

Antonio Winfield

1st round pick in 1999 by Buffalo and let him go for salary cap reasons and signed 6 year/$34.8 million contract by Minnesota with $12.8 million in guaranteed money in 2004. Has never been unwanted, just too expensive.

Roberto Garza

4th round pick by Atlanta. Signed one year deal with Chicago in 2005 and a 6 year deal in 2006.

Derrick Mason

2 time Pro Bowl selection. Signed as UNRESTRICTED free agent by Ravens in 2005 after Titans decided not give him large enough contract offer. Too expensive, not unwanted.

Kerry Collins

I don't even have to look this up. 5th pick in 1995 draft, got drunk at a bar in 2007 and made racial slur at one of his offensive lineman, went into the office of head coach Dom Capers and told him he did not have the passion to play anymore, so team cut him, went to New Orleans and got a DUI and team cut him, went to New York Giants and was released because fellow "unwanted" Kurt Warner was signed, went to Oakland on 3/$16.82 million dollar contract and was cut because of salary cap reasons, went to Tennessee and had one good year. Is an inconsistent performer, self admitted alcoholic, former racist and quit on his first team...was unwanted but for good reason.

Trevor Pryce

1st round pick in 1997, 4 time Pro Bowl selection and was signed as a free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007.

Morlon Greenwood

3rd round pick in 2001 and signed with Texans as a free agent. Has never been an "unwanted" just not "re-signed."

Fred Smoot

2nd round pick in 2001 and signed free agent deal with Minnesota Vikings where he had on field and off field problems and signed by Redskins to 5/$25 million deal in 2007 after Vikings released him because another "unwanted" Antoine Winfield was performing well.

receiver Antonio Bryant

2nd round pick in 2002, traded to Browns in 2004 for arguing with Bill Parcells, signed free agent deal with 49ers and was suspended 4 games by the NFL in 2007, and could not sign with a team even when suspension was over because he failed a drug test over the summer, and signed with Bucs. Not an "unwanted," just not worth the trouble compared to his previous production on the field.

center Justin Hartwig

Signed to unrestricted free agent contract by Carolina Panthers in 2006, was cut for salary cap and injury reasons and signed 2/$4 million deal with Steelers.

Justin Gage, Tennessee. Drafted by the Bears, spent four seasons in Chicago, starting 15 of 55 possible games and generally invisible. In two seasons at Tennessee, has 89 catches for 1,401 yards and eight touchdowns. This season, Kerry Collins repeatedly looked to Gage on clutch downs, and the Flaming Thumbtacks earned the AFC No. 1 seed. Has emerged as one of the NFL's best-disciplined, exactly-in-the-right-place wide receivers.

So Gage was unwanted because he stunk in Chicago, that seems to make sense to me. I am not sure how you measure being a "best disciplined, exactly-in-the-right-place wide receiver," but I have a feeling this is a measurement Gregg made up to make himself sound right.

In Gregg's world, there is no such thing as the salary cap and if a player has been "unwanted" at ANY point in their career, they are eligible to make the list.

Let's go to the underratedly overrated Bill Simmons.

Thanks to the Internet, 93% of the American population now has a sports column, podcast or blog. All we do anymore is estimate things!

I don't think a podcast or blog is all about estimating things. I think it is about writing things. Bill's ability to confuse me when he is talking about something serious is underrated.

A guy carries around the underrated tag for so long, he becomes overrated—or, in Wallace's particular case, wildly, perplexingly overrated.

Sound the drums and cue the band...Bill Simmons and I have agreed on something again.

I think more in terms of Bobby Abreu and Garrett Anderson. They were so underrated, all of a sudden everyone realized they got paid too much and became overrated. Now they are older and no one wants them. For future reference, this does not make them underrated.

If you want to find someone who is truly underrated, you have to look for a player who 1) actually matters, and 2) has the potential to remain underrated for more than a few minutes.

This is Bill's criteria for being underrated. Just remember this when he starts talking about the NBA Rookie of the Year last year and a Hall of Fame baseball player being underrated.

My personal definition of underrated has three parts. First, it needs to refer to someone currently achieving at a crazy high level, only nobody seems to realize it.

If Bill would be a little clearer on the definition of "nobody" I could agree a little bit more. If this were the case, most soccer players in other countries would be underrated to Americans and most cricket players would be underrated as well. I am a worldwide/global person, so you have to take these things into account on the underratedness scale.

Second, that guy has to resonate in a unique way with his fans, even as nobody outside that circle realizes the degree of his resonation. (And if I just made up that word, so be it.) Third, he needs to make you think, I bet that dude would be really fun to follow on an everyday basis, except hardly anyone is actually thinking that.

Shockingly, Bill's three parts of the underrated definition are all completely subjective and incredibly impossible to prove are incorrect. I will try anyway.

That last characteristic is a little tough to understand. I will explain. Any NBA fan knows Derrick Rose is going to be unbelievable. He will be either a poor man's Magic or a rich man's (not to mention drug-free) Micheal Ray Richardson. He plays in a big market. He's been appropriately covered. He's played on national TV a few times. He's drawn his share of raves. He's probably going to be Rookie of the Year, unless voters stupidly buy O.J. Mayo's me-myself-and-I routine. Rose, therefore, is properly rated, non-Chicago fans being sufficiently envious of Bulls fans and sufficiently appreciative of his skills (as well as his resonation).

Every NBA fan knows Rose will be great, that is just assumed. No need to even discuss this when Bill is trying to prove a point, just get the well known crap out of the way so he can throw a completely egregiously wrong example of his own in our face. Rose is properly rated because he will be voted Rookie of the Year and his team is on national television, that's Bill's opinion.

But Kevin Durant—now, he's a different story. For someone to be truly underrated, we have to feel as if we've already thought him through, digesting him before arriving at a conclusion and moving on.

Kind of like you just assuming Rose is rated perfectly because his team plays on national television and how you just digested him as a great athlete, named him Rookie of the Year and then moved on?

If anyone expected the two examples Bill threw out there to NOT be players he has hyped up in his columns before, well then you don't know Bill Simmons. You would think the players could be properly rated by being talked about in Bill Simmons column frequently, being the National Player of the Year in college basketball as a freshman, being taken #2 in the NBA Draft, being named Rookie of the Year in the NBA, or being paid $4.5 million dollars this year to play pro basketball. You would be wrong in Bill's eyes, because Kevin Durant is just so much more.

Kevin Durant is underrated, even though he won Rookie of the Year, and it is probably because his team does not play on national television. Why? Well, mostly national television shows Celtics games.

Durant won the argument by default after Oden missed his rookie season with a knee injury, then struggled enough this season to get us all wondering if he's better than even Bynum (a guy I just called overrated).

Who the fuck is "us all?" Not me, because I don't have a massive grudge against Greg Oden and realize a 20 year old kid coming off major knee surgery on a playoff caliber team is not going to need to put up great numbers and the team is going to let him slowly get back in the flow of the game and not rush him. Also, what a shocker that Bill thinks a Los Angeles Laker is overrated. I know it could never have been a Celtic, they are all sufficiently rated.

Meanwhile, Durant won ROY playing for a disintegrating franchise and currently toils in obscurity in a new town for a team that is the dregs of the league.

Exactly, he played for a crappy franchise in a dying market and people still thought enough of him to vote him Rookie of the Year. He is properly rated.

Ask the average fan to tell you who will be the best player in the NBA in three years, and the first five answers will be LeBron, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, D-Wade and either Rose or Carmelo.

If anyone needs further proof that Bill is just absolutely full of shit, I want to know why no one would say Kobe is in this group in Bill's fake poll of what everyone thinks. Bill has such a hard-on to prove his point he doesn't even include Kobe as one of the best players in the league in his fake poll.

(How does he know what everyone thinks? Well Simmonsologists know that Bill can read minds and knows what you are thinking right now. That's why his columns don't allow comments, he doesn't need your comment, he knows what you are going to say.)

I don't see Durant getting many votes.

Probably because this is a fake poll that you made up to prove a point you want to make. I don't see Kobe get a lot of votes either in your "I can read your mind" poll either. Since you neither polled real people nor included arguably the best player in the NBA, I say this poll sucks.

Got it? Now look at those point totals: 28, 25, 26, 26, 28, 26, 25 … You know in Jaws when Richard Dreyfuss calls the shark an "eating machine"? Durant is a scoring machine.

Yes, he can score. Everyone knows this but this doesn't make you underrated. Also, shots can be a component of how many times you shoot. Durant is on a shitty team, so he naturally shoots a lot, so he scores a lot. Points are overrated.

He has more career buzzer-beaters than LeBron. Trust me, it's true.

Maybe this is sarcasm, maybe not, either way, there is no way I can easily check to see if this is true.

Know also that NBA players peak between ages 25 and 29. So what's Durant's realistic peak? Will he average 33 a game on percentages of 55-90-50? Will he average 36 ppg? Thirty-eight? Seriously, where does this go? Nobody's discussing that. Nobody's even acknowledging it. And that makes Kevin Durant totally, completely, unequivocally underrated.

Who the hell is "nobody?" I will gladly talk to anyone about how good Kevin Durant is going to be.

How ironic is it that Bill spends a good portion of his columns talking about New England area teams and ESPN lets him, but he also complains in his non-New England writing time that no one pays attention to the little guy like Kevin Durant? I find it ironic since his entire writing career has been based on focusing on one select area of the country, he gets angry when no one pays attention to other teams.

By my count, Durant is one of only two athletes who are actually underrated. The other? Manny Ramirez.

This is so absurd and inherently wrong, I can't even begin to describe it. Every move Manny made this summer was analyzed and he even got votes for NL MVP despite only playing 50 games in that league. How can a guy who champions Kevin Durant as underrated, then throw Manny Ramirez in that same argument? He can't do that and expect me to take him seriously.

Just look at the stats. He's three quality seasons away—90 HRs, 300 RBIs, 550 hits and a .900 OPS—from becoming the greatest righthanded hitter ever.

First off, he has to sign with a team before he can play three more seasons and the reason he hasn't is because he wants $22.5 million dollars and a four year contract. Is that the sign someone is underrated when they ask for that much money? How about the fact he signed a $160 million dollar contract with the Red Sox? How is he underrated at that point?

Second, Manny is widely viewed as one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time. I am not going to debate Bill's fake numbers because they have not happened yet, but suffice to say Manny is going to the Hall of Fame. He is not underrated.

And no one who saw him in all his Ruthian glory with the Dodgers last summer or reach base 24 of 36 times in October can honestly say he's washed up.

And no one has.

And yet nobody wants him after his messy divorce with Boston—a divorce that, by the way, the Red Sox cannot escape without blame. Manny gave them seven quality years and two titles, and they yanked him around in Year 8. No, he didn't handle it well; I'm not sure I would have handled it well either.

Wow. Bill does not blame Manny and blames the Red Sox. Anyone remember this? It was all Scott Boras' fault wasn't it? Every little bit. Read it again and see if it jives with Bill's new opinion that the Red Sox jerked him around.

The Angels, who need him more than anyone, claim they're fine with Juan Rivera. Really?

He wants too much money and the fact he allegedly quit on the Red Sox last year really doesn't make a $20 million investment seem all that wise. Sure, it would make the Angels better but you can't blame them for not breaking the bank on Manny.

He will draw fans to any ballpark, and nobody is interested. You can say it's because he's a cancer; I say it's because he's unequivocally underrated.

So because Manny is not getting signed as a free agent, that makes him underrated? I guess we can include Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Ben Sheets, and dozens of other players who have not signed with teams as underrated as well. Good thinking Bill!

He will soon find a team and prove one of us right.
And it's going to be me.

I want to scream in Bill's ear and then step on his foot. Nobody is arguing that Manny is a bad hitter or won't help out a team if he signed with them. That is not the issue. Right now, money is the key issue and the fact that Manny is really weird, so it makes teams nervous. He is not underrated, maybe misunderstood if anything.

6 comments MMQB Review: Super Duper Hype Bowl Edition

I couldn't stay away. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. I felt empty and hollow without Peter King and his MMQB this week, so here it is one day later but with no less joy. This week we are getting ready for the Super Bowl and making sure all the proper hype filled storylines are talked about, and Peter is glad to help this cause.

I'm dizzy from all the connections between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh.

Peter gets dizzy from writing about hotel shampoo bottle smells, walking up a flight of stairs, and any visit to Dunkin' Donuts, so this is nothing new.

There's Ken Whisenhunt, who didn't get the Steelers head-coaching job two years ago, now coaching the Cards. Ditto Arizona line coach Russ Grimm. The new Cards coaches basically created Steeler West in Sun City.

The two teams are both so similar. Pittsburgh is known as a hard hitting, blue collar city team that relies on tough defense and a running game to give Ben Roethlisberger enough time to throw the ball. The Cardinals are known as a bunch of perennial losers who play in the desert that relies on a passing game to buy enough time to run the ball once or twice a half. See? Just the same.

I think Arizona being known as Steeler West is only a by product of three coaches that have Steeler ties and the fact Larry Fitzgerald played his college football at Pittsburgh. Basically, I think it is a little early to call Arizona Steeler West since the teams are nothing alike and the only similarity is the coaching staffs. Carry on though...

Partly because he's been in the lab for the past week, trying to figure a way to stop the team he loved so much as a kid from winning its NFL-record sixth Super Bowl on Sunday.

"He's been in the lab?"

What are the odds that Peter King either heard Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001 for the first time this week or he rented "8 Mile" recently?

The best story is Haley, and mostly because of a story that's been hidden pretty well over the last five years, a story about getting pulled between two conflicting and powerful feelings.

Part of the reason it has been hidden is because nobody knew who the hell Todd Haley was before two weeks ago and those that did know who he was only knew him because he was famous for feuding with T.O. a couple of seasons ago.

Haley couldn't believe his good fortune. It could have been any of the NFL's 32 teams that wooed him, but the Steelers. His Steelers.

Seriously, when did the Super Bowl turn into featuring personal interest stories like American Idol does? You know a Super Bowl is going to stink when you have to hear about these type of stories all week. Not that the game will stink for certain, but if it was that exciting wouldn't we get to read stories about the actual freaking game and the anticipation for it?

I realize these stories are part of the game but they really bore me.

And it's Haley who has played a major role in the professional refinement of Fitzgerald, who stands a very good chance of being the difference-maker in Super Bowl 43.

Some may say the difference maker is Willie Parker or the Cardinals defensive ability to stop the Steelers offense (Gregg Easterbrook, step right up) and give the offense time to score on the Steelers defense or even possibly the difference could be anything else that happens on the field during the game. Peter King says, no, those guys only play the actual game, the difference is going to be the offensive coordinator for the Cardinals, who calls the plays that the players run. He is the difference maker.

Even if it's going to feel very strange to be on the other side of the field from his old team.

"His" old team. The team he has never played/coached for, but the team his father coached for where little Todd hung out in the locker room, presumably picking fights with the team's wide receivers. The bond is deep between Todd Haley and the team that has never paid him a dime to employ him in any fashion.

What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week

One night last week, I was with an NBC crew in Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison's home north of Pittsburgh. He was talking about staying in one piece during the physical NFL season, and he said he owed a lot to acupuncture.

That's not really about football at all Peter. If you labeled this part "What I Learned About Home Remedies and Their Relationship to Football Players I Didn't Know Last Week," it would be a much more accurate title.

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

Last Monday night, Steelers president Dan Rooney attended a dinner in Washington on the eve of the inauguration, a get-everyone-on-the-same-page fete thrown by the president-elect honoring John McCain. Rooney brought a football from the AFC Championship Game with him and gave it to Barack Obama, who promptly began throwing it around to aides and others in the room.

First off, this is not a "factoid," this is actually a "story." A fact is a piece of true information and a story is exactly what you just told. I have never been to journalism school and the last time I was in an English class it was led by a professor who only had feminism books on the syllabus and I sat beside the nicest hippie I have ever met named James, who smelled like a distinct mix of body odor and patchouli, which was nine years ago, and I still know the difference between these two things.

(See what I did? I just told what Peter King calls a "factoid," but it was actually a "story.")

Rooney, who introduced Obama at a couple of campaign rallies in and around Pittsburgh, loves the 44th president.

Loves him, but not in the way Peter King loves Brett Favre. Of course, who doesn't love Obama?

"I love his energy,'' Rooney said.

I am not sure quoting a 76 year old man complimenting a person's energy is good writing. To a 76 year old man, pretty much everything in the world has a lot of energy compared to him.

What is wrong with this picture?

a. You cannot mail a letter in Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport. "Security reasons,'' one of the TSA employees told me Sunday. "They took out the mailboxes after 9/11.''

What the hell? This is new information for me. How crazy is this? I went to my local Toyota dealership and they would not mail a letter for me either.

How the hell is Peter going to correspond with this person he wants to speak to. If only there was such thing as email, cell phone, fax, or text. I am vexed!

b. You can use a regular knife in first class on Continental. For the past -- oh, I don't know -- year or so, I've noticed when my frequent-flying gets me upgraded that they have real knives in first class now. Whatever happened to the edict that the airlines were taking metal knives off airplanes permanently because they didn't want them to possibly be used by terrorists in the future.

Rich people aren't going to try and hijack a plane, that's why they get knives. How silly for Peter to be worried about this. Apparently Peter has not ridden in the back of a plane lately. Whoever gets to sit in the back two rows of the plane get an Uzi each. The 40th person to use the restroom on a Transatlantic flight gets an RPG.

I have two words for you, Continental: Sleeper cells.

I think Peter King just threatened Continental airlines with a terrorist attack.

This week, instead of comparing one current player to an old-timer,

Please say we get a run down of the HoF selections that are possible! Please, please, this is all I want for the new year, another HoF debate.

I'll set up Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame selection meeting by doing something absolutely stupid,

He will be voting for players based on actual performance and not basing it on how much he liked that player or how many times that player granted him an interview. Stupid, but yet so fair.

As one of the selectors, I'm always surprised by the vote. So this is a dangerous exercise, and I make it clear that it's one man's opinion, nothing more.

Too late, I have photocopied this article 4,000 times and sent it out to everyone I know. Everyone thinks this is your opinion, I even sent two to Matt Ryan, now he will never talk to you again because he thinks you are stupid.

My only question is whether the voters will look at the gaudy numbers being put up by Tony Gonzalez and those behind him and wonder if Sharpe's totals will be passed by three or four tight ends in the next decade or so.

Not only can the Hall of Fame voting committee nominate and vote people into the Hall of Fame, they can also predict future statistics of current players. This is what irritates me about HoF committees, the criteria they use. Is it too hard to base a player's merits on his achievements and statistics? Don't base it on how nice of a person he was, whether he was voted to All Star games, who will be voted in the future and what their numbers will look like, nor base it on who has gotten in the HoF in the past. It's ok for one person's numbers to look good compared to another HoF and still not make it in the HoF because those numbers aren't seen as being excellent anymore.

I'm a big Wilson supporter because of how he propped up the AFL in its struggling days in the early '60s. (I'm not sure the Raiders would have ever reached three years old without Wilson's under-the-table loan to keep them afloat.) I also like him because he has been such a loyal backer of the Buffalo franchise when he's had multiple chances to move and make bazillions.

Kind of like when they played home games in Toronto this year?

I'm no fan of Pro Bowl berths, because they've become so diluted, but making 12 in a row, as McDaniel did, has to count for something.

"I am not a fan of using this specific criteria to judge a player, I think it is almost meaningless now, but the fact the player achieved this specific meaningless criteria 12 times mysteriously has meaning to me for some reason. Maybe it is the voices in my head."

1. I think the Jets have just sent the divorce papers to Brett Favre. When owner Woody Johnson said Thursday in New York that Favre would have to participate in the offseason program if he wanted to return, he was echoing something felt in the Jets locker room and said openly after the season by safety Kerry Rhodes.

What an insane demand. Why should Favre have to prove he wants to be a part of the team and interact with his teammates? He is Brett fucking Favre, the man who threw 22 touchdowns (and 22 interceptions this year) he is the all time leader in the NFL (in interceptions) and has been to two Super Bowls (one less than Kurt Warner and as many as Ben Roethlisberger), and has won one Super Bowl (as many as Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson). He doesn't need no stinkin' offseason program!

Problem is, Favre will never attend a team's full offseason program.

Could that be because he is a self interested, self involved prick? Or because he has no interest in being a member of a team and would rather do things his way on his own, regardless of whether they are successful or not?

"I've never been in a [full] offseason program,'' Favre told me a month ago.

Unless you want to count going to rehab for a Vicodin addiction. Rimshot!

What makes the most sense now is, sometime after the Super Bowl, Favre and the Jets having an amicable separation, and Favre retiring.

Brett's ego will never let this happen. Peter King stated on a radio show yesterday Favre still will likely end up with the Minnesota Vikings.

2. I think, with no games this weekend, that I'll have Phil Savage, the former Browns' general manager who scouted all the practices at the Senior Bowl in Mobile last week, check in with his thoughts on the movers and shakers among the prospects there:

Sure, get the opinion of the guy who just got fired, that sounds really smart.

a. The senior quarterback group is not strong. Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez [juniors from Georgia and USC, respectively] must have known if they came out, they'd go high. ... I liked the arm of Rhett Bomar, the Sam Houston State quarterback. He got a lot of exposure here and kept himself alive.

I don't like Mark Sanchez, I want to go ahead and get that out. I do think Rhett Bomar is going to be a good QB somewhere in the NFL. I have seen him play and it may take a couple of years but I could see him starting somewhere in a few years.

b. Alex Mack, the center from Cal, distanced himself from the pack at his position. He probably got himself into late in the first round.

If anyone needs a reason to root against this man, just think of how many "Secret World of Alex Mack" jokes we may have to endure if Mack ever became any good at pro football. Ok, maybe I am the only one would make that joke and I have never watched that show, so don't mock me.

e. Brian Robiskie, the Ohio State wide receiver, has had his speed questioned, but you can tell this is a kid who'd been to NFL camps and worked with his dad, because in the one-on-ones, he was very prepared and competitive. He's probably still a mid-round pick, but he's a good third-receiver type, a possession type who will make some plays with his size and his hands.

(Coughing) Paging John Fox...

f. Rey Maualuga is a first- and second-down run defender. Not sure if he's going to be a great third-down player.

This, my friends, is why Phil Savage got fired. I have seen Maualuga play several times and would use my lack of expertise to disagree. He doesn't seem to struggle that much in passing situations when I watch him.

I would think Pat White's a receiver, probably, but he can be a third quarterback type and play the wildcat. He adds a dimension to the Wildcat because he can throw.

Another brilliant Phil Savage insight. That added wrinkle missing from Miami's Wildcat was Ronnie Brown throwing the ball! Wait...the Dolphins did throw the ball out of the Wildcat, nevermind.

The great thing about taking a left tackle is if he doesn't pan out, he'll be able to be a right tackle.

How did Phil Savage get fired with such great insight? I wish I was taking notes because this is brilliance in action. Just move a failed LT to RT, and he will automatically be a great player. Why did the Packers not think of this with Tony Mandarich? I am sure there is no correlation between a player sucking at LT and sucking at RT, because they are such similar positions and all.

4. I think, speaking of the Saints, I don't like the naming of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator.

Oh no, this is worse than Hurricane Katrina, Peter King doesn't like this move!

I love it. He'll bring toughness and an accountability I didn't see with the New Orleans D last year.

You got me again, you silly little bitch!

5. I think the Browns must really like the Bill Belichick tree, and Baltimore. In 2005, they hired an under-the-radar general manager from Baltimore, Phil Savage, who had cut his teeth as an apprentice on the Belichick staff in Cleveland in the mid-90s; and they hired a coach, Romeo Crennel, who'd coached under Belichick with the Patriots and Jets.

In 2008, they have hired an under-the-radar general manager from Baltimore, George Kokinis, who cut his teeth as an apprentice on the Belichick staff in Cleveland in the mid-90s; and they hired a coach, Eric Mangini, who'd coached under Belichick with the Patriots and Jets. I hear the Browns have whacked 15 people since Mangini took over. And to think people in the front office were worried about a mass purge if Scott Pioli had taken the GM job.

I am still confused, isn't this just an extension of the Bill Parcells tree? Either way, everyone should love the Bill Belichick tree, it has been so damn successful.

I knew Peter would not go an entire week without mentioning Bill Belichick in some capacity.

I think I'm still mulling the outcome of this game. I thought I was sold on the Cards for a while, but I spent time last week talking to coaches and defensive backs who have played Larry Fitzgerald, and there's a good deal of faith out there that the Steelers won't get ramrodded by this great player. Give me a few days to noodle on the outcome.

"Noodle on the outcome?" What the hell does that mean?

By the way, I JUST realized John Madden and Al Michaels are going to be calling the Super Bowl. As if I need another reason to watch the game on mute.

a. For the love of urinals: My SI pro football editor, Mark Mravic, was quite taken with my note on the Jerome Bettis urinals with the picture window in last week's column. Manhattanite Mravic reports: "There's a bar in Soho where the doors of the bathrooms are floor-to-ceiling clear glass, but somehow frost over when you close the door. It's very disconcerting; you really have to trust whatever the technology is.'' Bar 89 is the name. Saw the doors online, and they're a tad strange.

In related news, Peter King has just invited Brett Favre to dinner at Bar 89 and will be sure to fill him up on a lot of water, you know, just to look at the technology when Brett goes to take a piss.

c. You and the boys are in our thoughts and prayers, Mike. Be careful. I'll make sure Warner knows how much this means to you.

That certainly doesn't seem like a message that could be delivered over any other medium rather than Internet, and could be delivered a lot faster. Which will Sgt. McGuire get first? A text message, phone call or a mention in a column posted online? Hmmm...

e. I really want to meet Bruce Springsteen this week. Is that too much to ask?

Yes, it is. Bruce would probably not like this. You are boring and would talk about your latest colonoscopy or how you get irritated at how people don't make a full and complete stop at a stop sign.

i. Finally did some catching up with the sixth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in the past few days. It doesn't get much better than Larry getting caught stealing flowers from his best friend's mom's memorial site. Might not sound funny, but it is.

That does sound very funny. It was especially funny when I actually watched that episode over a year ago. It is 2009, I don't need an explanation for the premise of an episode for a popular television show that is almost 2 years old.

j. Hey, Tom Verducci: Sounds like you might have captured the real Joe Torre. Look forward to reading the book.

Is that some sort of shot that Joe Torre is an asshole? Peter cheers for the Red Sox and he always knew the Yankees were assholes. It's finally proven! It doesn't matter, maybe if Peter read the web site of the company he works for, he would have seen this.

Sounds like he should have said, "Hey Tom Verducci: Sounds like you might have captured the real third person narrative account of the time Joe Torre spent with the New York Yankees."

Verducci says in the article linked above:

Smart people will judge the book upon actually reading it and not reading preliminary reports prior to its publication.

That explains Peter King's last sentence well enough for me.