Saturday, March 30, 2013

7 comments Bill Simmons Does Something Different in Discussing The Walking Dead, Yet It's Still Very Much the Same

I hate spoilers. So if you don't watch "The Walking Dead" or don't want to know what happened on The "Walking Dead" Season 3, then don't read this post. It has a lot of spoilers from Season 3 in it. I was alerted via Twitter that Bill Simmons had written something about "The Walking Dead" for Grantland and decided to check it out. I was told (via Twitter) the article had no substance (very true), it's bad (very true) and it isn't even worth a Bottom of the Barrel post. Well, challenge accepted! It doesn't matter this is a sports-based blog. Bill doesn't ever really write about sports anyway and I really enjoy critiquing television as well as sports, so this is sort of right down my alley. Bill Simmons has written in about one of my favorite shows in a poor fashion, so I am going to write about him writing about it.

"The Walking Dead" is a cross between a four and five star show for me. You may say, "What the hell does that mean and why do you rank your shows like a moron?" I will concede the point that I am a moron, but I rank my shows because I am a loser and have to have a system in order to prioritize my television viewing. My star rankings break down like this with some examples:

5-star: A must-watch show at the very first opportunity. If I don't watch it, I feel like I missed something (Homeland, Justified).

4-star: A must-watch show, but I can go a day or two without watching it and not be concerned (Boardwalk Empire, The Middle...such an underrated show).

3-star: A show I enjoy watching, but it usually gets thrown in with the rest of the shows on my DVR and watched in no particular order (Girls...yeah, shut up, Modern Family).

2-star: A show on it's way out and a show I watch last. Once a show gets to the 2-star level for me, I am going to stop watching the very next season if it doesn't get more interesting (The Office, Dexter).

1-star: Usually once a show hits 1-star I will watch a couple more episodes and then give up on it completely and never even care to watch it again. Few shows ever keep this ranking for long because otherwise I give up on them (zero shows right now).

Obviously in these completely arbitrary ratings a show can go from one ranking to another fairly quickly. "Dexter" has jumped all over these rankings, while "Homeland" has been a firm 5-star since it began, though I have concerns about the upcoming season. "The Walking Dead" Season 1 was a 3-star show. The back half of Season 2 moved it up to the 4-star ranking and it very well could be in the 5-star ranking at this point. Yes, I even watch "The Talking Dead," which is suspiciously and bizarrely entertaining for some reason. So my point is I have no point with these rankings. Bill Simmons wrote about "The Walking Dead," because he really doesn't like writing about sports anyway and he seems to see himself as a television critic now.

My son and I play a game called "Zombie." Basically, I chase him around while pretending to be a zombie and making those hungry/throaty zombie noises, then I finally catch him and pretend to gnaw on his arm or leg. He giggles the whole time. Little kids love zombies.

Little kids also tend to love being chased around and to have their father play with them. But no, this game is all about kids loving zombies, and not about kids liking to be chased.

With another Dead season wrapping next week, it's important to remember the five ground rules we established in Season 3.

It's a Bill Simmons column. Of course there is a list! Also, Bill lists five ground rules (but states one twice) and then names another ground rule. So there are 5.5 ground rules it seems.

Ground Rule No. 2: Nobody Is Safe

If a character isn't working, don't worry — they aren't sticking around for an extra few years like Dr. Melfi, Andrea Zuckerman or even Billy Packer.

The whole idea that "nobody" is safe isn't exactly accurate. At this point in Season 3, we know Rick isn't dying, we know Michonne probably isn't dying, we know Andrea isn't dying, Daryl probably still has a season or two left, and I am betting they won't kill Carl either. Glenn and Maggie just got married, so if it weren't for that I would say they are in good shape. I haven't read the comics and I realize nearly every original character has died, but television is different from the comics. "Nobody is safe" is a good mantra, but I'm not sure it is entirely accurate on a nightly basis for "The Walking Dead."

"The Walking Dead" even killed off Rick's wife, but she is still in the main credits and appears to Rick from time-to-time. So she has become a better version of herself for many people. She's still around, but she doesn't talk. Characters still stick around on "The Walking Dead" if that character isn't working. The character of Andrea quit working nearly two seasons ago and she is still alive.

Ground Rule No. 4: We Will Listen to You, the Internet

After Osama bin Laden was killed, the most hated person on the Internet became Rick's wife on The Walking Dead. And this was well earned. Terrible mother, terrible wife, floozy, hypocrite, manipulator … and none of these things were intentional.

This is why I am not sure Bill Simmons should be doing television commentary. It was completely intentional for the writers to make "Rick's wife," or "Lori" as those people who seemingly don't hate women might call her, a floozy, manipulator and terrible mother. The writers didn't accidentally make her cheat on Rick with Shane, in Season Two they made it very clear she was manipulating Rick to kill Shane, and she was constantly losing track of Carl. The writers didn't accidentally do any of these things. This is how they wrote the character and this is how Lori came off to the audience.

In Lori's defense, she thought Rick was dead and had moved on with Shane who was Rick's partner and best friend in the real world. She cheated with and was possibly impregnated by Shane. The audience is built to hate it when the main character is wronged in any way, so the character of Lori was already behind the 8-ball when we originally met her due to her sleeping with Rick's best friend. Lori was a confused, complex person until the time the group arrived at the prison. There the writers softened her up a bit and allowed her to become more of the silent and better wife that Bill Simmons so desperately craved. The writers didn't accidentally write Lori to be a manipulator or a floozy. Her manipulations were very much intentional. Maybe they went further than they had wanted to in making her annoying, but it was intentional.

When they finally killed her off during childbirth and had her son shoot her before she became a zombie, I actually said the words, "I don't think they went far enough — I wanted to see one of those zombies eat her face off." I rarely agree with showrunners overreacting to the whims of Internet fans, but in this case, Rick's wife had to go.

Bill "actually" said those words. He literally spoke like that.

I just wanted to make sure you didn't forget Ground Rule No. 1. By serving a never-ending slew of zombie deaths and blowing its budget on extras and special effects — not famous actors, or even good actors — AMC has stumbled into Moneyball for television (Zombieball?).

"The Walking Dead" didn't really up the zombie kills that much until Season 3. There were obviously zombie kills before that season, but it really seems like Season 3 is when zombies were getting offed at a much higher rate. I don't really think the acting is that bad on the show either. Clearly, Bill Simmons or any of Bill's friends could do a better job of acting than anyone on the show currently does. It's hard to be an actor on a television show about a zombie apocalypse and start winning awards for your acting on that show. It's just a hard genre in which to rack up awards.

"The Walking Dead" has gotten actors and actress with fairly good resumes to play parts on the show. Will any of these actors be winning Emmy awards? Probably not, but quite a few members of the cast have been in various other television shows or stage productions and received individual awards for these productions. So it isn't like AMC is paying peanuts for their cast and blowing the budget on zombies. The actors have gotten more comfortable in the roles they play and I wouldn't classify any of it as bad acting.

I don't care if anyone survives on this show except Daryl (the guy with the bow and arrow), Maggie and Hershel. But if you told me I'd go five weeks without seeing a zombie get decapitated? I'd flip over my coffee table.

First off, there is no one on the show with a bow and arrow. It's a crossbow that Daryl carries. I know small little facts like this are no big deal to Bill because his larger point is that his writing is so damn clever, but when a person is reviewing a show I am hoping that person would care enough to get the small little facts right. It lends some credibility to that person's point of view. 

Television commentary isn't something Bill should continue pursuing if he doesn't care about character development and only wants to see zombies get their heads crushed. This point of view probably speaks for quite a few "Walking Dead" viewers, but it also doesn't give a sort of five year old's perspective most people don't look for in a critic's television commentary. It's like if Alan Sepinwall reviewed a "Game of Thrones" episode by saying he doesn't care about the plot, he just wants to see more boobs. I know Bill isn't Alan Sepinwall, but that's the point, that he isn't Alan Sepinwall, he should probably stick to what he does best...which appears to be running Grantland and furthering his brand through writing a column every other week.

The people running Dead understand this now.

The people running "The Walking Dead" understand that Bill's point of view is the correct point of view. Why wouldn't Bill be right? The viewers don't care what happens to Andrea, they want to see a random walker get his head smashed in for 42 minutes every Sunday night. In reality, the creators of "The Walking Dead" have realized they need to kill more walkers, but they have also at the same time managed to make the viewers care about the people on the show and their fates...except for Bill Simmons I guess. He only cares about seeing zombies die.

So those were the new stakes heading into last night's second-to-last episode.

How were their stakes at all if you don't care about anyone but Daryl, Maggie and Herschel? None of those three characters were in immediate danger during the episode. Whoops, a bit of a contradiction from Bill. If viewers like Bill don't care about all of the characters and none of the three characters Bill (and everyone else) cared about were in immediate trouble there were nearly no stakes during the episode. Therein lies the problem with Bill's "people only care about seeing zombies get smashed" point of view. There are viewers who don't care about just seeing zombies smashed and that is what creates the new stakes Bill just spoke of. It's fine to show zombies getting smashed, but there has to be plot to go along with it. THAT is what the people running "The Walking Dead" understand now. They understand there has to be a mix of zombie action and character development. Otherwise you have characters no one cares about either getting eaten or not getting eaten by zombies. That gets old quickly.

Two Sundays ago, the Gov's former flame (Andrea, a former Rickette who had about 760 chances to kill the Gov and somehow blew all of them) brokered a sit-down between the Gov and Rick that became gripping for the bad acting more than anything else.

I don't think that was bad acting. I'm interested in what Bill believes to be "bad acting," because I thought the scene between Rick and the Governor wasn't really bad acting. Again, it isn't going to win any Emmy's, but I wouldn't classify it as bad acting. Of course, Bill probably knows many more famous actors and his house smells of rich mahogany, which means he is smarter than I am when it comes to exactly what is bad acting.

Poor Guy Who Plays Rick. He just sucks.

Way to do research. His name is Andrew Lincoln and he has gotten progressively better in the role as the episodes have wore on. Again, this is a show about the zombie apocalypse, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

You know he's bad because he made The Governor look like Daniel Day-Lewis, and I think they hired him straight from a British porn set.

They actually hired David Morrissey from the London stage where he has won quite a few awards, but that's neither here or there. Bill just had to shoehorn a porn reference into the column so he can completely let "the kids" know he is super-hip and speaks to their generation. Plus, Bill seems to have a hatred or distaste for women, as seen in many of columns and his "Book of Basketball," so we should probably just be happy he isn't comparing every character on "The Walking Dead" to a pornstar.

The Governor presented Rick with a moral dilemma: If he delivered Michonne (a mute, dreadlocked, samurai sword–wielding African American badass)

She's not mute, she just doesn't talk a lot.

The Governor wanted Michonne to pay for murdering his zombie daughter (he'd been keeping her alive in case someone came up with a zombie cure), impaling his eye (now covered with an eye patch) and just generally looking like Tracy Chapman (he hated "Fast Car"). If Michonne wasn't delivered, we'd have war.

This isn't completely accurate either. Even if Michonne was delivered the Governor had made it very clear t his inner circle there would be war anyway. He was planning on ambushing Rick and the rest of his group when they dropped off Michonne. So no matter what, there was going to be a war. Rick didn't know this outwardly of course, but I think somewhere down inside he knew it.

No kidding. Hey, Rick, here's an idea — throw everyone in a few cars, hightail it out of there and try to find a safer nesting place.

Worst idea ever. Ever. Worst idea. Ever. These "few cars" that Bill is talking about, how many cars is he talking about exactly? From my best recollection, there are a truck and a car that the survivors at the prison have access to. They could probably hotwire a car or two sure, so that isn't the biggest issue, but they would still need large enough transportation for all their gear and food. The biggest issue is why would Rick choose to hightail it out of the prison, the safest place they have ever been by the way and a place they have fences to protect them from walkers, to go on the road to find a new place to live? How far can the truck and the car go with the limited amount of gas we are to believe they have access to and does Bill not believe that the Governor with his massive amount of resources (relative to the fact there is a zombie apocalypse) could find Rick's group?

The idea of finding "a safer nesting place" is great except for the fact there is no proof a safer resting place (other than Woodbury) actually exists. It's hard to get more safe than a prison surrounded by a metal fence. If Rick and his group did try to find another place to live they would have to clear that place out from having walkers with a group that consists of a newborn baby and a man with one leg. Sure, hightailing it seems like a great idea in theory, but Hershel lost part of his leg and T-Dog died trying to clear out zombies in the prison and that may be a risk Rick and his gang don't want to take again. Sure, this may sound better than having the Governor kill them all, but running away isn't who Rick and his group are either.

Bill's idea assumes (a) there is a safer nesting place and (b) the Governor couldn't find them at this new safer nesting place. I don't believe running is an option, especially given the fact they have a pretty good setup going on at the prison and they have a newborn baby to take care of (which brings to mind maybe Lori isn't such the terrible mother Bill accused of her of being, because she tried to abort the baby rather than bring it into the world full of zombies).

This isn't rocket science.

Exactly, it isn't rocket science. The prison is a pretty safe and cozy place to live right now.

What's so great about a dark prison that stinks of festering zombie guts?

Other than the fact the prison has food, shelter, a fence that keeps the zombies out, places where Maggie and Glenn can have sex, and towers where they can pick off zombies and keep a lookout for enemies that may be on the horizon? Nothing. If I am ever a part of a zombie apocalypse then I would first try to get a town cornered off like the Governor did or then go to a prison. Once you clear that prison out, you have a pretty good safe house.

A little bit later, when Merle confidently predicts to his brother that Rick is gonna buckle, he sounds like Skip Bayless talking about LeBron James during the 2011 Finals. But he's right. Rick WILL buckle at some point. It's the only interesting thing about his character —

It's the only interesting thing other than the fact he is trying to be the leader the group so desperately needs when he may not be up to the task? I see Rick as weak, but I think it is part of his character to see the group needs a leader so he is trying to be that guy, even if he isn't completely up for the job.

Speaking of bad acting, Michonne would have been the 39th most interesting character on Lost.

Now begins Bill's bizarre comparison of "The Walking Dead" with "Lost." I liked "Lost," but it is a bit overrated as a television show. The characters weren't that interesting since you knew even if they died they would pop up again at some point (the stakes weren't always incredibly high in my opinion) and the show ended up not making a hell of a lot of sense in the end. Well, it made sense, but the sense it made was sort of meaningless. "Lost" took an excellent villain in Ben and turned him into a nicer guy because they just couldn't handle writing him out of the show and as the outright villain of a couple seasons there's no way he could have stuck around without being killed. Yeah, I like "Lost," but let's not use it as the epitome of what a ensemble cast show should be about.

I feel bad picking on Poor Guy Who Plays Rick, but think about the acting on Lost compared to Dead. Rooker would've stolen scenes on either show.

Bill is talking about Michael Rooker who played Merle. The acting on "Lost" really wasn't all that great, but if "The Walking Dead" had bad acting wouldn't Rooker steal scenes on the show? Wouldn't it make sense for Michael Rooker to steal scenes on a poorly-acted show as opposed to being more likely to steal scenes on a well-acted show? I think the bar would be lowered some if "The Walking Dead" really had bad acting. If Michael Rooker were on "Lost" he would have been an "Other" and eventually the creators would have figured out the viewers liked his character and he would have been softened up or killed only to be brought back in some bizarre flash forward that shows he was really Sawyer's brother or something.

Poor Guy Who Plays Rick could've barely cut it as one of The Others. Even if Rick's character was being played by someone as solid as Matthew Fox, it's a completely different show.

It's interesting Bill compares Rick on "The Walking Dead" to Jack on "Lost" because they are both not natural leaders and struggled to make the tough decisions. "The Walking Dead" is a different show with Matthew Fox as the lead and I think it is a lesser show. We've already seen Fox as a conflicted leader of outcasts and there is a reason some of Jack's group on "Lost" chose to follow John Locke instead of Jack. Locke was decisive and willing to make hard decisions when the time came to do so. I see similarities in Jack's character on "Lost" with Rick's character on "The Walking Dead." I think Andrew Lincoln would have been fine as one of The Others and I also think Bill is not remembering Matthew Fox's portrayal of Jack on "Lost." It was as conflicted and showed the same strains of leading that Rick's character on "The Walking Dead" shows. Bad comparison.

Yeah, but still! Later, Glenn asks for Hershel's blessing because he wants to marry Hershel's daughter, Maggie. Why marry anyone during a zombie apocalypse? Because she's Walking Dead Hot.

Not to be the romantic, but it has been made clear on repeated occasions that Glenn really loves that may have something to do with him wanting to marry her. I'm always down for an example of Bill having a little misogyny in his heart. In his mind the only reason to marry when the world is falling apart is if that girl is hot. True love would be as dead as the zombies of course.

Being Walking Dead Hot is like being Female Prison Guard Hot or Press Box Hot or Sports Memorabilia Convention Hot … if you're a seven or an eight in any of those male-dominated universes, it feels like a 27. Glenn can't risk losing Maggie to Daryl or something. He's locking her down.

And as we all know women have no concept of love and will just jump on the very next penis they see. So Glenn has to lock down Maggie or else she will be the whore of a woman that all women are and hook up with Daryl.

One other thing happened back at the prison: Near the end of the episode, The Poor Guy Who Plays Rick gave a speech to the group about how he needed to lean on others more (and stop over-leading). How uninspiring was it? Halfway through, AMC broke out some Rudy music to spruce it up.

So was "Rudy" an uninspiring movie? I wonder this because if AMC needed "Rudy" music to spruce up a scene then doesn't that also mean the movie "Rudy" needed the music to pump up their emotional and uplifting scenes?

Didn't work. Rick finished the crappy speech, then walked off without letting anyone else weigh in. Again, I want to start leaning on you guys more. But before you have a chance to respond, I'm out of here. What an ass.

I know,. It is sort of like if a writer had worked at ESPN for a decade and never allowed comments on his columns. He writes what he wants to write and then doesn't give his audience a chance to respond. What kind of asshole would have done that though? 

Over the past three years, Daryl might be the only Dead character with a unanimous approval rating, to the point that Norman Reedus has become the Josh Holloway of this show —

And we all see how Josh Holloway's career has bloomed after being on "Lost." He did have that one scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol where he died, but he was great in that scene. His dying was incredibly well-acted.

you always watch him thinking, Could this guy be a bigger star, or is this just the perfect role for him? In Holloway's case, Sawyer was probably the perfect role; he hasn't done much since. We'll see about Reedus.

Anyone who was ever been in college over the last decade has probably watched "The Boondock Saints" dozens of times. So for the first season of "The Walking Dead" Reedus was Murphy McManus to a lot of people and considered that movie and the sequel to be the perfect role for him. I think this is something Bill should be aware of. It appears his attempts to be a television critic have taken another hit.

Because there's a sixth Ground Rule for The Walking Dead that I didn't want to spoil too early in this recap.

When any decent character dies, they absolutely and unequivocally HAVE to return as a zombie, then get re-murdered by someone who loves them.

This is the sixth of the five rules. Bill didn't want to spoil this rule of course. His first five rules that revealed anyone can die and that a main character is killed (Bill presumes because the audience didn't like her) weren't spoilers at all I guess. The idea a character dies and will return as a zombie is a huge spoiler to Bill. The death of the female lead is not a spoiler. Not to mention if anyone is reading this column and hasn't seen the show yet they have already been spoiled tremendously up. The idea a person who dies comes back as a zombie is probably not that big of a spoiler after reading an entire column of spoilers.

It's the way of the world in a zombie apocalypse, the bleakest of places, where you're perpetually surviving as you're forgetting how to live.

And now after a column of snarky jokes and criticizing the acting on the show Bill tries to end the column with his typical, "here is a serious point I want you all to consider so it makes me seem like I am having a deep thought."

Most convince themselves to protect others, if only because it gives them some purpose. Rick wants to protect the Rickettes, but really, he just wants to protect his future serial killer son and his newborn probably-not-his-baby that can miraculously fend for itself without help. The Governor wants to protect everyone at Woodbury, as well as the power he garnered there.

Of course this gravity doesn't matter very much, because as Bill stated earlier in this column/review/clusterfuck, he doesn't care if anyone survives on the show as long as there are zombies getting killed.

Looming over everything: that dreadful moment when a loved one ends up dying, and then you have to re-murder them. That's the law of The Walking Dead. What would you do? Would you put a bullet in your zombie child's head if you knew they weren't coming back? Would you kill your zombie dad? Your zombie wife? Your zombie best friend? 

Considering they are already dead and don't look like themselves at all, yes I would. This is much like the show "Lost" that asked tough questions like, "What the hell happened and why do I have to take two hours of my morning trying to figure out what I just watched last night?" Not everyone can be the acting genius that Matthew Fox is. Imagine if "The Walking Dead" had Fox playing Rick Grimes. We would get to see Fox bite his lip while not being able to make a decision, he would be too sympathetic for his own good, and he would be a reluctant hero. Basically nothing would have changed except Matthew Fox would be playing Jack from "Lost" in a world full of zombies. That's how "The Walking Dead" would have been a different show.

That's why Daryl and Michonne have the best gigs on this show. They reinvented themselves as professional zombie assassins, and really, it's become something of an art form for them. Daryl carries his bow and arrow;

It's actually a crossbow that Daryl carries, but I wouldn't expect someone who has claimed to watch the show for three years and is currently analyzing the show to care about this small little fact. 

They will keep killing those zombies for us. That's what they do. That's what we want.

That is what the proverbial "we" want isn't it? I like how Bill tells us we as viewers don't care about the characters and then criticizes the acting on the show, while also trying to tie in an emotional point about how the show reflects on our feelings for loved ones. This review/commentary is sort of all over the place in that way. But that's what "we" want, isn't it? Any writing from Bill, no matter how choppy and disorganized.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

5 comments Phil Mushnick Can't Allow Other Humans to Feel Joy, Has to Crap on Florida Gulf Coast University a Little

There's always that guy. I probably have been that guy on a few occasions. He is that guy who always has something negative or contrary to say no matter how great a situation may be. He's the guy who always says, "Well, they will never repeat" when a team wins a championship or points out the championship/game wasn't won in impressive enough fashion. I thought we had avoided that with Florida Gulf Coast University and their run through the NCAA Tournament, but I was wrong. How can anyone dislike a team that plays with such abandon and becomes the first #15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen? Well, it can be done. Phil Mushnick doesn't like TNT and CBS's coverage of Florida Gulf Coast University because of the way the Florida Gulf Coast players behave during a game. It's too "look at me" for Phil Mushnick. This is rich coming from the guy who sometimes seems to write specifically for the purpose of gaining attention.

One would think I would like Phil Mushnick since he has criticized Joe Morgan, generally doesn't like a lot of what ESPN does, and calls out announcers for inaccurate comments. Just because we like many of the same things doesn't mean we are born to be best friends. Anyway, Florida Gulf Coast University (or FGCU as I will call them out of pure laziness) is what's wrong with college basketball, while TNT/CBS are rewarding this "me first" behavior, and blah, blah, blah.

It’s unlikely Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports — and the son of Jim McKay, for crying out loud — would encourage the kids in his life to acts of excessive, public immodesty.

If it helps out ratings, which it shows that it seems to have done, I bet Sean McManus would encourage any non-vulgar acts of public immodesty a person could think of while celebrating.

Throughout the first week of CBS/Turner’s NCAA Tournament presentation, the networks went ESPN on us. Although four networks televised the games, none was inclined to present basketball as a sport.

I watched every single hour, except two hours on Sunday, of the NCAA Tournament coverage and have no idea at what point the games weren't presented as a sport. Perhaps that occurred during the middle of the Iowa State-Ohio State game or at the beginning of the Temple-Indiana game and I just missed it.

The message was clear and repetitive: If you act like a self-impressed fool, we’ll minimally reward you with a slow-motion cameo.

This really wasn't the message at all. The message was "if you win a game in the NCAA Tournament then we will cover the fact you won a game, including showing footage of you celebrating the fact you won this game." I can see how Phil would have such an issue with guys like Marshall Henderson since Phil seems to treat any "urban" display of celebration with the disdain he rightfully believes it deserves. After all, there are right and wrong ways to act. To show the emotion of happiness while being a college student who helped his team win an NCAA Tournament game is not the correct way to act.

And the more you betray the sport as a sport, the greater the televised rewards. Heck, for as long as your team lasts, we’ll make you a star!

I think this is a better policy than going to a black screen whenever a player for the winning team is celebrating on the court. The NCAA Tournament is full of 18-22 year old kids, what kind of celebration is appropriate for them when coming one step closer to winning an NCAA title?

Friday and Saturday we were force-fed Mississippi gunner Marshall Henderson as a don’t-miss wild, zany, fun-for-the-whole-family act, when he’s a garbage-talking, garbage-Tweeting, chest-pounder whose bio shows a month spent in jail for purchasing drugs — with counterfeit money! — followed by parole violations.

I never really enjoyed Marshall Henderson's act. It was an act. College basketball writers seemed to be the ones more enamored with his actions during the SEC tournament and the college basketball season. Otherwise, he was just a scorer who requires plenty of shots to get his points who was playing a role he knows he gets attention for playing. I found him to be putting on an act, but it isn't TNT or CBS's fault Henderson's team beat Wisconsin and there are people who enjoy watching him play.

And to be fair, Marshall Henderson had a public profile before the NCAA Tournament. TNT and CBS didn't make him a star any more than every other network that showed Ole Miss games this year or web site that gave Henderson attention made him a star. CBS and TNT didn't create Marshall Henderson.

Ole Miss won because, 1) Wisconsin played horribly and 2) Henderson’s teammates played incredibly hard, especially in pursuit of Henderson’s missed shots.

But Ole Miss won and Marshall Henderson is the best player on the Ole Miss team. Why did Wisconsin play horribly? Was it because of the excellent defense Ole Miss played?Wasn't Henderson a part of that? I don't understand the outcome Phil Mushnick wants to achieve. Does he want CBS to not show Marshall Henderson at all? That's depriving the viewers of a player that want and have a right to see.

Although it was repeatedly explained to us that Henderson “fires up” Ole Miss, no one explained why the Rebels would need to be “fired up” to play an NCAA Tournament game.

Perhaps Marshall Henderson fires up Ole Miss when they shouldn't need being fired up in the same way Derek Jeter leads a Yankees team by example when they shouldn't need an example or Ray Lewis motivated a Ravens team before games where they shouldn't need motivating.

Saturday, during Michigan-Virginia Commonwealth, Greg Gumbel twice told us an interview was coming up with the “outspoken” Henderson.” Outspoken? On what? The minimum wage? Fracking?

He's outspoken on why he is trying to do well in the NCAA Tournament, in order to get paid and make it in the NBA. Perhaps someone needs to fire up Phil Mushnick to do some research prior to writing a column. Henderson is well-known for saying (unlike most college athletes) he is only playing now in college so he can make money as a professional later.

He’s outspoken on only one issue: himself.

And of course the only one who is allowed to be outspoken is Phil Mushnick. Henderson is outspoken in regard to his attitude towards playing in the NBA and his relationship with opposing teams' fans. So that is what he is outspoken about. He comes off as honest, even though I personally find his act to be a bit dishonest and contrived...but mostly because I am jaded.

Friday night, Florida Gulf Coast’s upset of Georgetown lost some of its wonder glow as FGCU guard Sherwood Brown seemed eager to show how ungracious and self-smitten winners can be.

So Marshall Henderson should not be shown celebrating because he didn't play well when his team won, while Sherwood Brown should not be shown celebrating because he played well and his team won. I'm pretty sure Phil wishes the players would wear a suit and tie at all times on the court, never acknowledge the fans or celebrate a good basketball play, then calmly walk off the floor after completing a historic upset.

And TV, as always, was there to help him out, encourage him.

For three good reasons:

1. Fans want to see the players react with joy upon completing a historic upset. It helps ratings because fans like to see it.

2. Brown had earned some television time by playing extraordinarily well against Georgetown. He, along with his teammates, deserved to get some attention from the cameras.

3. As screwed up as college athletics are, it is nice to see a player at a small school getting excited about an accomplishment.

Near the end of the game, Brown, playing to the crowd and the TV cameras, walked over to Len Elmore, Reggie Miller and play-by-player Kevin Harlan and shook their hands. “Hah, hah, hah! He’s loving it!” we were told.

He shook their hands? What an enormous amount of disrespect for the game of basketball!

I was watching the game at a bar and the UNC-Villanova game (and it was a tight game with a good amount of UNC fans at the bar) was on, but most eyes were watching FGCU-Georgetown and appearing to really enjoy what they were seeing. Brown going over and shaking Elmore, Miller and Harlan's hand was fun because who the hell does that? Most players ignore the announcers during a game and begrudgingly do a postgame interview.

If you see FGCU play like that and don't understand what a tremendous and remarkable upset you have witnessed, but instead focus on a player's joy being too "me first," then you simply shouldn't watch college athletics. What FGCU has done over the last week is what college athletics should be about. Sherwood Brown was a fucking walk-on, while Brett Comer was overlooked when playing high school ball on the same team as Austin Rivers and they absolutely dunked all over Georgetown and San Diego State.

Sherwood Brown's reaction wasn't him focusing selfishly on his accomplishments, but basking in the glory of the moment he helped created.

But if only one of them had refused his hand and pointed him back on the court to finish the game and show it some respect ...

Then that probably would have been a dick move. Naturally, this is what Phil Mushnick would have done.

Saturday, CBS had FGCU coach Andy Enfield and Brown in a live interview. As Brown spoke, CBS showed tape of him, after hitting a short jumper, in a demonstration of great self-regard.

It's exciting to see Brown hit these shots and then react excitedly. HE hit the shot, and HE helped FGCU upset Georgetown, so it is a moment of self-regard because he created the moment.

That was the chosen clip.

What would have been a better clip to show? Sherwood Brown walking out for the tip-off, him sitting on the bench drinking water? If viewers of the live interview had not seen the game the night before then the clip of Brown hitting the short jumper could show them the emotion and excitement they had missed during that game.

During Indiana’s blowout of James Madison, the Hoosiers’ Yogi Ferrell’s check-me-out gesture after hitting a shot became a chosen slo-mo.

Just too urban. Who are these minorities insisting on showing everyone how good they are? Whatever happened to writing a semi-racist column in order to get attention?

Countless times when CBS or Turner went to commercials, the cut-away was accompanied by the chosen, edited image of a kid show-boating. Is that really TV’s sense of what basketball’s all about, how it should be played?

No, the sport isn't supposed to be like that necessarily, but it shows the excitement the players experienced during the tournament. Where was this complaint when J.J. Redick did the shocker after making a three-point shot or after every other NCAA Tournament when players who won a game were celebrating? These are 18-22 year old kids who most likely aren't going professional in basketball, so let them have their time in the spotlight.

But that’s the bag we’re in. Wonder what would happen if we typed “Down” into our GPS?

The GPS would show a picture of those assholes at FGCU celebrating the two historic upsets they managed to serve up. How dare they celebrate these upsets though. They should simply walk off the court and not acknowledge the history they managed to make.

Any stat, any time: Spero Dedes, during Arizona-Harvard on Saturday, said the Wildcats were “on a 15-3 run.” Given that the score, at the time, was 20-5, that kinda figured.

Really? So if I had just tuned into the game and saw the Wildcats were winning 20-5 then I could figure the Wildcats were on a 15-3 run? I think the point being made was that the Wildcats were in the middle of a run that very minute and Harvard had not just scored five points in a row.

Sideliner Jaime Maggio had a funny way of putting things, reporting that Arizona’s Grant Jerrett is back on the bench after injuring his elbow, and “could return to this game if he feels up to it.” She made the tournament sound like staying home or going to a movie.

Again, we get what she was saying and anyone who isn't looking for a mistake to be made would see what she meant. The game was a blowout and if Jerrett felt like going back in the game, as opposed to resting his elbow for the rest of the game, then the doctor had cleared him to come back in the game. The point was to make it clear returning the game was up to Jerrett, not the team doctor.

Give studio guys Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson credit. They knew that we knew that they knew that they were just filling time with say-anything stuff at halftimes and between games.

Yes, they should get credit for being mediocre. They are useless and knew it, which means they did an outstanding job in Phil Mushnick's mind.

So kudos to Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith for being mediocre, not knowledgeable and useless, but how dare those Florida Gulf Coast players celebrate their historic achievement within the view of a camera. Phil Mushnick is going to be very upset when he finds out CBS will be showing ON CAMERA FOR EVERYONE TO SEE the eventual NCAA Tourney champion hoisting up the trophy in celebration of their achievement and loudly celebrating this achievement. What a selfish display that will be.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

8 comments MMQB Review: Finally, the Ravens Get Revenge on the Broncos Edition

Last week in MMQB Peter King talked about how great the NFC West was going to be this year, but don't go reading too much into free agent acquisitions and trades teams in the NFC West made, because it is going to be a tough division, but Peter can't guarantee us it will be a tough division. Peter also listed his best free agent signings of the offseason, even if he isn't sure how much money they signed for. Clearly, signing Danny Woodhead is a Top 10 move no matter how much money he signed for. This past weekend on Twitter Peter said that his MMQB was going to be very Ravens-heavy, which isn't a shock since the Ravens won the Super Bowl and MMQB has been pretty Ravens-heavy over the last two months anyway. MMQB has been very Ravens-heavy over the last two months, but this week Peter talks about how Baltimore finally got revenge on John Elway (the Ravens signed Elvis Dumervil...didn't Peter make it seem like the Ravens could sign Flacco and no other players just a month or so ago?) and Peter does a tribute to two NFL players who haven't retired so there is no point in really doing a tribute to them yet. Hey, it's the offseason and Peter has some space to kill in MMQB rather than just make it a shorter column.

Revenge is best served cold, but this is ridiculous. It took 30 years for Baltimore to finally get revenge on John Elway.

Quick, let's find a narrative in regard to this Elvis Dumervil signing by the Ravens! It's not enough of an interesting story that the Broncos tried to re-sign Dumervil but could not due to late paperwork and so Dumervil became a free agent, let's create an entirely different narrative!

Thirty years next month, the Baltimore Colts drafted Elway with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Elway didn't want to play for taskmaster head coach Frank Kush, and so his agent, Marvin Demoff, went about the work of trying to create an alternate market for Elway, both in baseball and in the NFL. Elway was a great baseball prospect too, having played a minor-league season with the Yankees' Rookie League team in 1982. Owner George Steinbrenner loved Elway and projected him to be a starting outfielder for the Yankees by 1985.

And when was one of George Steinbrenner's projections for a Yankees player ever wrong? The answer is "never." Since George Steinbrenner thought Elway could be a starting outfielder for the Yankees, this was definitely happening. So we've heard the story many, many times over the last 30 years of John Elway using his leverage and threatening to become an eventual Hall of Fame baseball player rather than a Hall of Fame football player if the Colts didn't trade him. There was no revenge exacted by the Ravens in this situation because the Baltimore Colts are now the Indianapolis Colts and the Ravens signing Dumervil had nothing to do with Elway forcing a trade to Denver, because the Baltimore Ravens have no affiliation with the Baltimore Colts other than having "Baltimore" in the front of the team name.

It's tough to equate -- no, not tough; impossible -- Baltimore losing Elway to, 30 years later, Baltimore stealing one of Denver president Elway's 10 most important players.

Yet this is what -- no, this is exactly what -- Peter King is doing here. It's impossible to equate the Indianapolis Colts losing John Elway to the Broncos, but that is exactly what he is doing here. It is a slow offseason and he creates stories where he can.

In Baltimore, Elvis is about to enter the building.

This is just bad. Just not good.

In the seven weeks since Baltimore won the Super Bowl, that's the lesson we've learned about the defending champs. First the Ravens had the Ray Lewis retirement, then the Anquan Boldin debacle, then the loss of Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe in free agency, then the staredown with -- and loss of -- Ed Reed (which they really didn't mind), then the Thursday night opener mess ... and then late Sunday afternoon, pilfering pass rusher Elvis Dumervil from Denver.

It's really been a wacky time.

Has it really been a wacky time? The Ravens have made quite a few intriguing moves this offseason, but I clearly recall Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti stating they would be making tough decisions over the next few months. Peter took this to mean they weren't re-signing Joe Flacco, while the rest of the free world took it to mean free agents like Ed Reed may not be re-signed and Anquan Boldin could be let go. It's been interesting, but I think the Ravens gave a heads-up they would be making some bold moves.

I am also told Dumervil did not want to go back to Denver if he could find some team that would pay him more in 2013 ... even one dime more. Baltimore did it. With some of the cap savings from letting Kruger, Ellerbe and Reed walk, here's the breakdown of the deal the Ravens reached to sign Dumervil:

The deal: five years, $26 million, with a max value with incentives of $35 million.

Signing bonus: $7.5 million.

2013 salary: $1 million.

2013 total money: $8.5 million.

There you have it. Dumervil will make $500,000 more in Baltimore this year than he would have in Denver.

Coffee tastes a little better this morning, doesn't it, Raven Nation?

This free hotel coffee doesn't taste any better, that's for sure. 

But...but...but I thought the Ravens would have to make a choice to re-sign Joe Flacco or re-sign Darnell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger? This isn't what we have been told by Peter though. We weren't told the Ravens could re-sign Flacco and still have money to spend. My world is absolutely spinning right now. We all remember...Alex Smith would be the new Ravens quarterback and then they would have him compete with Tyrod Taylor for the starting quarterback position and use the draft picks they got for Flacco to rebuild the defense? At the time, I stated the Ravens were simply trying to get some leverage in contract negotiations with Flacco by suggesting they didn't know if they could re-sign him, but Peter really, really super-thought the Ravens would think about franchising Flacco and then trading him. He can be so naive at times.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no Super Bowl winner lost more than five starting players from its championship team the next season -- until this year. Reed leaving for Houston on Friday marked the eighth player defection, trade or retirement since the Ravens won the Lombardi Trophy. Reed didn't play like a $5 million player last season, which is what the Texans are paying him, and he'll be 35 in September. It was time to move on from Ray Lewis.

Well, plus Ray Lewis retired. This played a big hand in the Ravens moving on from him.

The expected return of Lardarius Webb from injury negates the loss of Cary Williams at corner. And paying $9 million a year for Kruger, a good but not great pass rusher, or $8 million for Ellerbe (lifetime starts: 14) would have created potentially untenable salary problems in the future. 

Peter says this now, but I vividly remember him writing in MMQB the Ravens can't or didn't want to lose Ellerbe/Kruger and they were even willing to let Flacco go in order to do this. I keep bringing this up because Peter is acting like not keeping Ellerbe/Kruger was a no-brainer decision from his point of view. It wasn't. It's like me pointing out why it was stupid to pick the University of New Mexico to make the Final Four this year. I am using information learned after the fact to make it seem like my opinion at the time was different.

And now the Ravens won't open the season at home, the first time in a decade the Super Bowl champ hasn't opened in its home stadium, because of a conflict with an Orioles-White Sox game at 7 p.m. that day in Oriole Park at Camden Yards,

You mean this tradition that isn't really a tradition is going to end because of a stupid baseball game? It's ridiculous the NFL can't just get its way whenever it wants to.

The city's not big enough to handle a baseball crowd exiting the area at, say, 7:15, with much of a football crowd already there, or trying to wedge in there. And a long game, rain delay or extra innings ... a nightmare.

So the Ravens...they are going to have to play ON THE ROAD the first week of the season? But what about the decade-long tradition of the Super Bowl winning team playing at home the first week of the season? Doesn't Bud Selig care about that? Doesn't Bud Selig care about football at all?

One final point that too few people don't understand when it comes to the scheduling of this game. Super Bowl champs like playing the Thursday game. It's a scheduling advantage -- a big one.

I can't believe the Baltimore Orioles have the audacity to dare to not allow the Baltimore Ravens a scheduling advantage. It's bad enough baseball even exists, but now baseball is getting in the way of the Ravens having a scheduling advantage? One more reason to fire Bud Selig.

And they're not the only ones. It was an open secret at the league meetings that New England would have favored being the Thursday night foe for Baltimore to open the season, giving the Patriots an edge headed into Week 2.

So now the Orioles are inconveniencing the Patriots as well? The NFL owners need to call an emergency meeting where Jerry Richardson can use a pie chart to explain how much revenue MLB is costing the NFL and the Ravens, Jerry Jones can use his time at this meeting to sell the naming rights to the urinals in his new stadium, and Robert Kraft will do an interview with Ian Rapport where he blames Wes Welker for the conflict with the Orioles.

it seems like this would be the toteboard for the Thursday night opener:

Most possible: Baltimore at Denver (rematch of the Rahim Moore Bowl, with the Dumervil drama an added twist).

I feel like this "Dumervil drama" is totally made up by Peter. I don't feel like there is any real drama. Dumervil's agent didn't get the contract in on-time, partially because the Broncos and he didn't work out a deal until the midnight hour, and then the Ravens signed Dumervil. End of story for me at least.

Less possible: Baltimore at Detroit (though a Flacco-Stafford matchup would be fun), Baltimore at Cincinnati (meh).

In Peter's opinion the Ravens playing another 2012 playoff team would be "meh," while the Ravens versus the mediocre Lions would be just a really fun matchup. Not that Peter judges games based on the hype around the game and not based on whether the matchup would be a competitive game or not.

I had this thought when trying to figure out a way to solve this problem:

This story is only getting more and more riveting. Let's hear Peter's idea to make sure the Ravens open the season at home, as opposed to waiting an entire week to play a home game.

Let the Ravens play away on the first Thursday on NBC, and let them play home on NFL Network in Week 2 on Thursday, to celebrate the Super Bowl in style at home.

It's almost like this crisis was easily corrected and not really that big of a deal.

Baltimore at Denver Week 1, Cleveland at Baltimore Week 2. Genius move! 

Because no one wants to see Baltimore and Cincinnati play, but everyone wants to tune in to see Baltimore and Cleveland go at each other...presumably this is a grudge match that has something to do with John Elway of course. Maybe the Browns are looking for revenge on John Elway for "The Drive," and this can be shoe-horned into the narrative for this game because Elvis Dumervil used to play for the Broncos. Maybe there will be an entirely different John Elway-related narrative. Who knows? That's why we watch the games.

Then I looked at the baseball schedule: Yankees at Orioles, Thursday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. Curses. But I will say this: Is there any reason the fourth game of a four-game series, on getaway day for both teams, cannot be played at 1 p.m.? Other than local TV revenue lost from turning a midweek night game to day, it's a point worth considering, particularly if the NFL would reimburse the two teams for whatever loss of local TV revenue there'd be.

Other than the lost revenue and attendance from turning a game against an incredibly popular team into a day game? No, there is no other reason that game can't be played at 1pm. Is there any reason the NFL just can't play their game at 1pm...other than the lost revenue from turning a night game into a day game of course? Oh that's right, the NFL isn't going to do anything to lose revenue, but they expect every other league to bend to their will when necessary.

And the Ravens wouldn't lose the edge of the mini-bye; it'd just come between Weeks 2 and 3 instead of Weeks 1 and 2.

And again, it's important the Ravens don't lose the edge of this mini-bye.

And if you're a Ravens fan, look on the bright side.

There will be eight home games during the season regardless of when the first game is played?

Now for a tribute to two of the greats of our day.

Ed Reed left Baltimore for Houston. Brian Urlacher left Chicago, and would like to find a home so he could stick it to the Bears. But before we move on, let's remember a few things about both men.

Did Urlacher and Reed die and I missed it? I know, I know, it is the offseason. Any half-assed story is a good story for Peter to write about.

On Reed.

Now, at 35 he's not the player he was, but the Texans know that. In fact, he plummeted from the NFL's 12th-best safety in 2011 to 59th in 2012, according to safety rankings by

According to those rankings, Ed Reed isn't the player nearly every other safety in the NFL is either. He's almost the worst safety in the NFL statistically. This is very important information to know considering Haruki Nakamura exists as a safety in the NFL. There needs to be a "Nakamura Line" used in the NFL much like the "Mendoza Line" that is used in MLB.

But Houston bought him to be Ed Reed, and to let Ed Reed rub off on good young players like J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus.

And Peter is obviously jealous that Ed Reed gets to rub off on J.J. Watt (nope, not going in that direction with this next comment...though by saying "I'm not going in that direction," I am sort of going in that direction). What Peter would give to rub up against Watt, feel his arms and just mentor him. Maybe sit down with Watt beside the fire with a cold wheat beer in his hand and show Watt what it means to be an NFL player who is covered by Peter King and what to expect when Peter calls him at 3:30am on a Thursday night just because Peter wants to talk. It would be one precocious time.

Where I'd worry if I were the Texans: They could have kept a rising young safety, Glover Quin, if they'd committed to him instead of spending on Reed. They obviously think the intangibles of Reed's presence will help a team that's close to getting over the top. I'm not sure Reed has much left, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the ultimate players' coach, will know how to get out of him what is left.

But are the Texans close to getting over the top? Are they like really, really close? I'm confused because last time I checked they didn't make the AFC Championship Game this year and the AFC South doesn't appear to be as much of a clusterfuck next year with the Colts on the rise and the Jaguars/Titans seemingly having a plan. I don't know. I see the Falcons, Patriots or maybe a team like the 49ers as really close to getting over the top. The Texans? I see them as a really good team that hasn't come very close to the top quite yet. I'd like to see them win a playoff game either on the road or not against the Bengals before I consider the Texans "close to getting over the top."

"I've been real mum on talking too much about RGIII. He wants his recovery to be fairly private,

Oh, well then I understand that. There's no need to---

but I can tell you he's way ahead of schedule. His recovery has been unbelievable so far. RGIII is one those superhumans. First patient I ever had like that was Bo Jackson.

But you just said Griffin wants his recovery to be fairly private...but then you go and say he is recovering at a superhuman pace. That's not really being mum nor keeping Griffin's recovery private.

And recently I, of course, had Adrian Peterson, who is also superhuman.''

-- Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who reconstructed Robert Griffin III's knee Jan. 9, to Stephania Bell of ESPN. I can see the Washington head coach, offensive coordinator and front office shaking its collective head over the expectations that quote will create.

Hey, remember back when Lance Armstrong made a superhuman recovery from cancer and then it turns out he had some PED-related help in making that recovery? Remember back when baseball players were achieving superhuman feats back in the late 90's and early 2000's, but then it turns out they had help achieving these superhuman feats? Isn't it interesting how sometimes the public falls for superhuman recoveries that don't seem logically possible and then it turns out we are disappointed when the player used some sort of PED to aid his recovery? Think about how prevalent PED and steroid use must be in the NFL. Those guys are just huge, so color me suspicious when any player makes a miraculous recovery. My point is that I am always going to have suspicions of players who make superhuman recoveries from an injury and then achieve feats we didn't think were possible.

One reason women's college basketball still struggles for acceptance in the sporting society: It's just not nearly as competitive beyond the top few teams as it needs to be to get the average sports fan interested.

On Saturday and Sunday, 16 teams seeded either 1, 2, 3 or 4 in the NCAA women's tournament played. They went 16-0, by these margins: 68, 20, 17, 21, 26, 22, 14, 20, 34, 20, 16, five, 33, 16, 30 and 42.

This is kind of an unfair comparison. Parity hasn't exactly hit the women's game as of yet. If you notice, more and more there are upsets in the men's NCAA Tournament over the last decade because parity has hit the sport. The women's game isn't quite at that point yet. I get what Peter is saying, but there was a time when there were more blowouts on the men's side of the NCAA Tournament and #15 and #14 seeds had very little chance against #2 and #3 seeds. So Peter's point stands, but the problem with the women's game lies in other areas as well. Mostly for me it lies in the idea watching women's basketball is like watching two unathletic high school teams play each other.

In the first three days of the men's tournament, a 1 seed (Gonzaga), 2 seed (Georgetown), 3 seed (New Mexico) and 4 seed (Kansas State) all lost, as well as three of the four 5 seeds.

Again, this isn't an entirely fair comparison. There have been quite a few upsets and Cinderella teams this year in the men's NCAA Tournament, which has been unusual. If Peter is saying women's basketball lacks parity, that is true, but the men's tournament hasn't experienced #15 seeds beating #2 seeds for very long. No #15 seed had beaten a #2 seed until 1991 and four of the seven #15 over #2 upsets have happened in the last 13 years.

More of a "Life in New York'' note than a travel note: Walking down East 51st Street Thursday, on the way to the Sports Illustrated offices in midtown, I heard a distinct whinnying sound. A loud one. So I did what most people do when they hear what appears to be a person imitating a horse behind him -- cross to the other side of the street, quickly. Once on the other side, I looked over and saw a man, maybe 25, in a business suit, galloping down the street while slapping himself on the right hip with his right hand, whinnying like a palomino. Person after person just walked on by. No moral to the story. That's just what you see once in a while living in this great city.

I can't get enough of these stories about how crazy of a city New York is. I almost fell off my plow and spilled my whiskey all over the corn crops I was planting upon hearing about all these crazies Peter encounters in the big city.

Ten Things I Think I Think

2. I think the one thing I took from sitting in a group for 50 minutes and talking with Sean Payton at the league meetings is that he'll be able to put the pain of the past year behind him, because he realizes it's not going to help him win -- and it's certainly not going to help the Saints. I didn't hear him say a bitter thing in nearly an hour of reporters trying to get him to admit anger or resentment.

I'm really happy Sean Payton isn't bitter and is not being a child about being punished for lack of accountability as the Saints head coach when the Saints defense was placing bounties on the head of opposing players. What a man of great moral standing Payton is.

Also, if anyone thinks Payton really isn't bitter about being suspended for a year and he isn't going to use his suspension as a rallying cry for the Saints during the 2013 season then you are a naive person. Payton may not be bitter or resentful, but he is going to play up the fact he is resentful or angry when trying to motivate his team. I have no doubt about that.

3. I think I still wouldn't trade Darrelle Revis if I were the Jets.

We know, Peter. You think Revis deserves a new, huge contract because cornerbacks are just so absolutely valuable it only makes sense to set aside 8-10% of your salary cap space for one cornerback. We very, very much understand this.

And I think New York GM John Idzik will try to find a way to not trade Revis. But in the end, I believe he'll go to Tampa Bay for two high draft choices sometime before draft day.

And what a mistake that will be! Whatever on Earth could the Jets do with two draft choices and some more salary cap room that trading Revis would allow? Certainly they couldn't improve the team, that's for sure.

4. I think Bruce Arians sure didn't sound like he wants to take a quarterback with the seventh pick in the first round. He's not in love with any of the quarterbacks, and it's looking more and more like Drew Stanton will have the best chance to be under center (or in the shotgun) to take the first snap for the Cards in Week 1. "I feel comfortable with Drew as our starter,'' Arians said at the league meetings.

Then Bruce Arians immediately excused himself, went into the bathroom, and burst out into laughter until he cried while muttering, "I think they actually bought it" repeatedly.

5. I think eloquent linebacker Scott Fujita outdid himself Sunday in the New York Times, writing about his support for marriage quality.

Marriage quality? There is a movement for legislation to improve the quality of marriage? Boy, the government certainly does enjoy invading people's bedroom doesn't it? Trying to pass a law supporting the quality of marriage...

I agree with him on the evolving acceptance of gay marriage among players I've been exposed to in recent years.

Now the players that Peter has exposed himself to in recent years, well, they aren't so sure about the "gay marriage" thing. 

8. I think the Lions will have some intriguing candidates at No. 5 in the first round. If they choose to let Dee Milliner pass, which would be an upset based on the Lions' crying need at cornerback, 

Plus we know from what Peter King has told us about Nnadmi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis that cornerbacks are the foundation of any winning NFL team. Just look at how many Super Bowl victories those two cornerbacks have between them.

I wouldn't be surprised to see them strongly consider one of the two tackles likely to be there then: Oklahoma's Lane Johnson or Central Michigan's Eric Fisher. Both could step in and play right tackle on day one -- if the hype is right -- and replace Gosder Cherilus, who left for Indianapolis in free agency.

Protecting the franchise quarterback. What a novel concept.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

This is as opposed to his football-related thought that dealt with gay marriage. Of course Peter was linking a football player's column about gay marriage, so it was totally football-related.

b. Yanks-Red Sox opener a week from today likely to have Melky Mesa and Jackie Bradley Jr., in the starting lineups. No Jeter. No Ortiz. No A-Rod. No Granderson. No Teixeira.

And yet, we will all somehow manage to go on enjoying baseball when the Red Sox and Yankees don't have a roster full of well-known players.

g. My rotisserie baseball draft is Wednesday night. I have not looked at one season preview of any sort. I am concerned. I just hope I don't reflexively pick Pedro Martinez in the fourth round.

I would say that Peter is going to pick mostly Red Sox players anyway, but I'm not entirely sure Peter knows the names of any of the players currently on the Red Sox roster. Of course if Peter knew the names of the players he would probably just complain how overpaid and underproductive they were anyway.

i. Memo from a concerned citizen to our legislators in Washington: Do not forget Aurora and Newtown. Do not let the passage of time and the ardor of some gun zealots prevent you from taking action to limit the kind of weaponry and equipment that make it possible for mass killings to happen -- and from taking action to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable. We're watching.

Because we all know how easy it is to determine if a person is mentally unstable or not, so it should just be easy as pie to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable. Limiting the kind of weaponry and equipment may be a good idea, but glossing over the whole "keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable" part isn't going to help solve the problem. Limiting guns is one thing, figuring out who doesn't need access to a gun is another...and nearly impossible to do.

j. Thanks for all the kind words and wishes on the new website I'm working to develop for Sports Illustrated. It's an exciting time.

Peter King is getting his very own Grantland. If this site means we are going to get more Peter King entertainment reviews or anything like political commentary, count me in as not excited.

l. Coffeenerdness: So I go into the SI office more than I used to, and the coffee there is the Green Mountain Keurig cups, and I've taken a liking to the Dark Magic blend. One request: make it darker.

Green Mountain needs to change their Dark Magic blend specifically for Peter King. Why wouldn't they change around their coffee's flavor to meet the needs of one person?

m. Beernerdness: Fitting, on Saturday, when I met the Varisco family of New Orleans at a West Village bar in Manhattan, that I had an Abita Turbo Dog. On a raw Saturday in New York, nothing like Louisiana's best black beer.

"I have been drinking more Bud Light of late and taken a liking to it. One request: Make it not taste like piss." 

The Adieu Haiku

If Revis must go,
get a one and two next year.
Free advice, Idzik.

Nothing's free except a little bit of bad advice. If the Jets traded Revis then they may (potentially) have a better overall team, but they wouldn't have the NFL's best (second best?) corner. What good is a better team without a Revis Island?

Monday, March 25, 2013

8 comments So Apparently Mitch Williams Has a Blog

There are times in everyone's life when he/she/it wonders "How the hell did I miss this?" Today is one of those days for me. Mitch Williams, or "Wild Thing" as he was better known as a baseball player, has a blog where he uses the English language and a not-firm grasp on logic to talk about baseball-related topics. To Williams' credit, at least he acknowledges it is a blog (ahem, Murray Chass). Thanks to Cory (again) for sending me the links to these. I will cover two of Mitch Williams' posts today. I'll start off first with the continuous, never-ending Jack Morris-Hall of Fame discussion because there's no way anyone is tired of talking about it. Then I will delve into Mitch Williams' column about how Jon Daniels doesn't have enough baseball experience to effectively run the Rangers franchise. Daniels isn't a great GM like that "baseball guy" Andrew Friedman.

But first, Mitch talks about Schilling and Morris.

The Hall of Fame voting is coming up on us and there are a few people that I don’t quite understand what Hall induction is supposed to be based on. I hear arguments that Jack Morris should not be voted in, and I have heard arguments that Curt Schilling should be.

It's all very confusing isn't it? Both players have memorable postseason performances, so which memorable postseason performance is better? Isn't that what Jack Morris's candidacy is all about? Game 7 of the 1991 World Series?  

Let’s clear this up. Inclusion in the Hall of Fame is in recognition of an outstanding career. It is not based on Postseason performance.

Great then, it's settled. Neither player gets in the Hall of Fame

(Bengoodfella starts packing his bags and walking out of the room)

If we compare Jack Morris’ numbers to Schilling’s and we remove the Postseason — where Schilling was 11-2 and Morris was 7-4 — and we get down to the career numbers, I think you will see what I’m talking about.

I'm going to spoil the conclusion for all of you. Mitch Williams uses some deducing to tell us that Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame, while Curt Schilling should not. Before I get to this comparison more in-depth, let's go back and look at perhaps the most ironic comment I've read in reference to Jack Morris being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It is not based on Postseason performance.

I'm not exaggerating when I make this statement. I have not read a pro-Jack Morris column where Game 7 of the 1991 World Series was not mentioned at least once. I know a pro-Jack Morris column without a mention of the 1991 World Series exists and I know this because Mitch Williams rambles his way through one right now. Still, saying the Hall of Fame is not based on postseason performance is ignoring the fact 95% of pro-Jack Morris Hall of Fame columns at some point mention his postseason record or Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Some writers (Jerry Green) seem to base Morris' induction solely on that game. So the idea Mitch Williams is excluding postseason performance when determining Morris should be in the Hall of Fame has blown my mind and I will struggle to go on.

Won/Loss: Morris 254-186, Schilling-216-146

Wins are dumb. Using wins to determine if a pitcher was any good or not is dumb. 

Career duration: Morris 18 seasons (all in the AL), Schilling 20 seasons (14 in the NL where there are only eight hitters in the lineup)

ERA: Morris 3.90, Schilling 3.35 (4.00 during six seasons in the AL)

3 things worthy of mention:

1. Mitch Williams' best years all occurred in the National League. If he is bashing the National League then he is bashing his ability as a relief pitcher.

2. A closer criticizing a starting pitcher for "only" facing eight hitters in the lineup is just too rich for me. The guy who faced 3-4 batters if he did his job correctly is the one criticizing Curt Schilling for not facing enough quality batters while playing in the National League.

3. Cory in his email to me makes this point better than I do. I can make these points myself, but he makes them pretty well. Since I'm using his email to me, I want to give his blog a shout-out too. He writes at

''ERA: Morris 3.90, Schilling 3.35 (4.00 during six seasons in the AL)''

The 2nd quotation requires more in the way of critical thought

Yes, Schilling did have a higher career ERA in the American League. Fun fact though: His first tenure in the AL (1988-1990) lasted all of 69 IP for the Orioles, where he amassed a 4.54 ERA (85 ERA+)

In his 2nd tenure (2004-2007), Schilling pitched 675 AL innings, posting a 3.95 ERA (120 ERA+) 

I also believe it is relevant to note when comparing the numbers of Morris and Schilling in the American League that Schilling only pitched in the American League during the beginning and end of his career. Schilling pitched in the American League when he was 21-23 years of age and 37-40 years of age. I would venture a guess that his career statistics in the American League would have been better had he pitched in the American League anywhere near the prime of his career. Back to the point Cory is making,

Both quotations also indicate Mitch Williams (flawed) belief that it's fair to compare the American League of the 70s and 80s to the NL of the 90s, where runs per game were almost identical.

The photo attached has Runs Per Game averages during Morris's American League career (1977-1994) and Schilling's National League Career (1991-2003)

From roughly 1993 to 2003, runs per game in the National League were either on par or exceeding the American League yearly averages of 1980 to 1991 (the meat of Morris's peak) 

So basically, Mitch Williams has no point. National League teams scored 4.56 runs per game from 1991-2003. American League teams scored 4.50 runs per game from 1977-1994. It's important to remember that Schilling pitched right in the middle of the Steroid Era. Knowing 'roided-up batters were putting up historically great numbers during the Steroid Era has to be factored in when comparing the American League from 1977-1993 and the National League from 1993-2003. So over the time Morris pitched in the American League and Schilling pitched in the National League, the National League teams actually scored more runs per game. This is what happens when a knee-jerk reaction is made without doing research.

Innings Pitched: Morris 3,824, Schilling 3,261
Complete games: Morris 175, Schilling 83
Shutouts: Morris 28, Schilling 20

These are good numbers, but I still lean towards neither player entering the Hall of Fame. Comparing Morris to Schilling and believing Morris to be the superior player doesn't mean Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame.

This all speaks to my point. The Hall of Fame is recognition of a career, not Postseason stats! Postseason stats don’t count towards MVP or the Cy Young Award.

And yet, very few pro-Jack Morris voters fail to leave out Morris's postseason record.

If the people who vote on this induction only care about Postseason performance, then Greg Maddux one of the best pitchers in the history of our game, wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer! He was just 11-14 in his Postseason career!

Great point. If we just used assumptions that pitching in the American League was more difficult because a pitcher has to face 9 hitters instead of 8 hitters a pitcher faces in the National League then the result would be what Mitch Williams has written here.

If they come up with a Postseason Hall of Fame, Curt Schilling is a first ballot Hall of Famer!

Why is Mitch Williams using exclamation points excessively? Is he is a 12 year old girl?

But until they do, he was a good pitcher, but his career is not Hall of Fame worthy.

This also happens to be the perfect rebuttal to a person who claims Jack Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

One final point on the Hall of Fame: the fact that Lee Smith has not been voted in is, in my opinion, a joke!

A joke like a "haha" joke or a joke like "why is this guy using exclamation points at the end of every sentence, he must be fucking with us" joke? 

And his career ERA — which for a closer is a stat that can be very easily inflated for the season by one bad outing — was 3.03.

A closer's ERA can also not be inflated because he often comes in the game with no runners on-base and only has to face three batters if he does his job correctly.

The telltale sign for me would be poll the players. Ask all the hitters that faced Lee, Trevor and Mo who they would have rather faced in the ninth. Trust me, Lee Arthur would be last on that list!

Thanks Mitch! I'm glad you used a poll of ex-MLB players that you never actually took to prove your point! It's very persuasive for you to make up the results of a poll and then use them to support your argument! This is analysis and very persuasive!

Most likely you know why Mitch Williams doesn't think Curt Schilling should be in the Hall of Fame? Because he doesn't like him. (Go to the 2:35 mark...and again, this was sent to me by Cory)

At least Williams is unbiased, right?

Now Mitch Williams discusses the shakeups in the Rangers front office and tells people to not tell others how to do their job. Williams goes about this by telling the Rangers front office how to do their job. 

Today we learned that the job of President of Baseball Operations with the Rangers has been taken away from Nolan Ryan and given to the team’s GM, John Daniels.

This is the problem plaguing our game.

Without knowing the next sentence, I would have no clue what "the problem" here is. It's not readily apparent. Is the problem GM's trying to have too much responsibility within an organization? Is the problem baseball "experts" like Mitch Williams who believes he is informed enough on a topic to comment on that topic, but he isn't really informed enough to spell all the names of the concerned parties correctly? John Daniels is not the Rangers GM. Jon Daniels is the Rangers GM. A small mistake, sure, but given Mitch Williams is paid to cover MLB and seems to carry a strong opinion about Jon Daniels...

I have all the respect in the world for these young front office people that come out of Harvard or Yale — or in Daniels’ case, Cornell. I respect them when they know what they are good at: business, finance, or organizational skills — those sorts of things.

The amount of idiocy that Mitch Williams is spewing right now is amazing. So being the General Manager of a MLB franchise doesn't require business, finance or organizational skills? It sounds to me like Mitch Williams isn't quite intelligent or informed enough to be making these criticisms that he is making. Being a General Manager requires business, finance and organizational skills. Anyone who doesn't believe this is true is an uninformed moron.

Also, I like how graduates from Cornell/Harvard/Yale are good at only these three things and should not look for a job that requires other attributes. Mitch Williams graduated from West Linn High School in Oregon, perhaps they are famous for learning their young ones on how to be a baseball analyst? Because otherwise, it sounds like graduates of West Linn High School should know what they are good at...and I'm not sure it is writing.

Where I tend to lose respect for them is when they decide they know how to evaluate baseball talent better than people like Nolan Ryan! When they so that, they do their players a disservice, as well as their fan base and the entire organization.

Yeah I know! It's not like Jon Daniels is the GM of a baseball team that he has helped build into a franchise capable of making back-to-back World Series or anything. What does he know, other than he was able to replenish the Rangers farm system and make them competitive again? Leave the baseball stuff to guys like Nolan Ryan (insert exclamation point here)

I can’t speculate what the problem is down in Arlington between Nolan and Daniels

Mitch Williams can't speculate but he knows the fault is on Jon Daniels. There you go, that makes sense.

I was a Ranger back when going to a game was something a fan did when there was nothing else to do that night in town. Over the last four years, they have done something I never thought would be possible, and that was take away fans from the Dallas Cowboys.

And the reason the Rangers have had such success is because they have won baseball games. Should the credit for putting a team together that won games and made the World Series go to the President/Owner of the Texas Rangers or the General Manager of the Rangers? It seems to me like Jon Daniels put this Rangers team together, so he should get at least 50% of the credit. What do I know though? I'm not a scrappy, competitive, ex-baseball player like Mitch Williams. He clearly knows what he is talking about when he is talking about John (Jon) Daniels. Daniels needs to stick to what he knows best, like business, finance, and having them organizational skills. Leave the running of the Rangers' business, dealing with the Rangers' budget, and organizing the organization to run as effectively and efficiently as possible to those who who are qualified to do such things...which obviously isn't a graduate from a Ivy League school.

Also, the Rangers haven't really taken away fans from the Dallas Cowboys. It's not an either/or situation since each team plays a different sport. Fans can cheer for both teams.

I don’t know Daniels, but the way that Michael Young was treated there was just wrong.

You mean the part where Daniels gave Young an $80 million contract extension? Boy, that was an asshole thing to do.

Young changed positions four times for the good of the team. He became an All-Star at three different positions, then demanded a trade after the signing of Adrian Beltre.

Michael Young demanded a trade nearly every time he was asked to switch positions. I have discussed it before on this blog and the bottom line is the Rangers replaced Young with a better player each time he was asked to move. There have been plenty of MLB players who have moved positions repeatedly and not made a peep, but for some reason the media insists on making Michael Young a martyr.

One thing I can say for sure is that as soon as a GM starts to think he can evaluate talent better than someone like Ryan without anywhere near the baseball background, he is giving himself too much credit.

The Rangers have been to the World Series two of the last three seasons. Jon Daniels doesn't think he can evaluate talent well, he knows he can evaluate talent well. Whether he is a better judge of talent than Nolan Ryan, who's to say, but having played baseball doesn't mean Nolan Ryan is a better judge of talent than Jon Daniels. Nolan Ryan threw a baseball well. Throwing a baseball well doesn't mean Nolan Ryan can judge talent better than Jon Daniels can judge talent.

The problem I see in Texas is that they have power arms in their rotation, and all of them are trying to become sinker ball pitchers. 

It is harder to command a sinker than it is a four-seam fastball.

I forgot about Mitch Williams credentials as a pitching coach. After not being retained as the pitching coach for an Independent League franchise early in the 2000's I know he is turning down pitching coach offers left and right. It's funny how Mitch (in just a minute) will say people who tell others how to do a job they can't do themselves are ignorant. Hopefully Mitch was looking in the mirror when he wrote this.

So if you can’t command it, it becomes a 91-MPH hit-me pitch. Trust me.

I don't trust you. You have shown through the misspelling of Jon Daniels' name and your inability to understand running a baseball team requires organizational and business skill that you have very little clue of what you are talking about. But hey, Mitch Williams throws a baseball well, so he believes that makes him qualified to do anything baseball-related. I'm really good at driving a car so that means I could own a NASCAR team, right?

I think that has to change. I think they need to let these guys who can throw 95 to 98 go out and do it, and use a sinker only in spots where it is needed.

I would remind Mitch Williams that Nolan Ryan is on record as being the guy in the Rangers organization who has had the most influence on the Rangers pitching staff. So these changes Mitch criticizes the Rangers for not making, well, he is basically criticizing his boy Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan is on record here, here, here, here, and here as having a great effect on the Texas Rangers pitching staff. It doesn't shock me that Mitch Williams doesn't understand he is essentially criticizing Nolan Ryan when he criticizes how the Rangers pitchers are pitching.

I also enjoy how Mitch is trying to blame Jon Daniels for the pitchers the Rangers have acquired and developed, but doesn't give Daniels credit for any of the success the Rangers have had over the past five years.

I will point to an organization that has a very smart GM: Tampa. Andrew Friedman is very smart. I believe he is smarter than any other GM out there right now, because I believe he surrounds himself with very good baseball people and trusts each of them to do their job,

Mitch Williams should not be writing any of his thoughts down. He contradicts himself, he doesn't really make sense and I get a feeling he doesn't have a firm grasp on the point he is trying to make. Let's compare the backgrounds of Jon Daniels and Andrew Friedman. One guy Mitch Williams likes because he is "very smart" and the other guy Mitch thinks needs to leave running a baseball team to baseball guys.


Jon Daniels- Cornell University
Andrew Friedman- Tulane University

Major in College

Jon Daniels- Applied Economics and Management
Andrew Friedman- Management with a Concentration in Finance

First Job out of College

Jon Daniels- Business Development for Allied Domecq (They operate wine and restaurant businesses)
Andrew Friedman- Analyst for Bear Stearns

First Baseball Job

Jon Daniels- Internship with the Rockies in 2001 and Assistant, Baseball Operations for Rangers in 2003
Andrew Friedman- Director of Baseball Development for the Rays in 2004

Now if you can tell me how based on their backgrounds Andrew Friedman is a "baseball guy" and Jon Daniels is not, then you are lying. Both guys have very similar educational and baseball backgrounds, but Mitch Williams thinks Jon Daniels can't run a team because he isn't a "baseball guy," but Williams likes Friedman and seems to accept him as a "baseball guy." In related news, Mitch Williams has no idea what he is talking about and isn't consistent with his criticism.

I don’t know about y’all that are reading this, but I don’t for a second think Friedman is making any decisions involving talent without consulting his baseball people.

Don't think for a second that Jon Daniels makes any decisions without consulting his baseball people.

In my opinion, you are only ignorant if you try and tell someone how to do their job if you aren’t qualified to do that job.

You mean sort of like how you just told the Rangers organization how they need to encourage their pitchers to throw the baseball despite having no experience despite having no experience as a pitching coach at the major league level (Williams was a pitching coach for an Independent League team for 2002 and 2003, but his contract wasn't renewed)? Or does Mitch mean like how he is calling Jon Daniels not a "baseball guy" and stating he doesn't have the knowledge necessary to do Nolan Ryan's job, despite the fact Mitch Williams has no experience as a scout or baseball executive?

This whole column is basically Mitch Williams telling Jon Daniels how to do his job and what job to stick to.

I don’t think I’m going to get to many people calling me to do their taxes or represent them in court. Just as I am not going to argue with someone who does a job that I have no clue about.

You mean like being the General Manager of an MLB team? Mitch seemed to argue with the qualifications of Jon Daniels to do Nolan Ryan's job and Mitch doesn't seem to have a clue that being an MLB GM requires business, finance and organizational skills...which are all strengths Mitch admits Jon has due to graduating college from Cornell.

If the Rangers lose Ryan, they will be headed back to where they were before he got there

I don't think the Rangers should lose Nolan Ryan, but it is incredibly premature and uninformed to state the Rangers will be a bad team if Ryan no longer has an affiliation with the Rangers organization.

Much like Mitch seems to dislike Curt Schilling and this drives his belief Schilling should not be in the Hall of Fame, Mitch doesn't like Jon Daniels not being a "baseball guy" (unlike Andrew Friedman...mind. blown.) and so he thinks Daniels can't do his job as Rangers GM without Nolan Ryan around.

I wish Mitch Williams wrote more blog entries because his blog could be a gold mine.

Friday, March 22, 2013

4 comments MMQB Review: NFC West is the Best Edition

Last week in MMQB Peter King again seemed somewhat confused about exactly what constitutes a haiku. In much more disappointing news, he is still doing haikus at the end of his columns. I think that's the big story here. Peter also warned Eddie Lacy that he could suffer the fate of Arian Foster and be undrafted if NFL teams don't see him run soon. How horrifying for Lacy would it be to end up being able to choose the team he signs with and eventually get a lucrative long-term deal? What a nightmare. Peter also kept going on and on and on and on about Darrelle Revis and how the Jets shouldn't trade him no matter the circumstances. It's getting a bit old at this point. This week Peter talks up the Rams (again...except this time he has a reason) and the rest of the NFC West, because we all know whatever teams win free agency will obviously win the Super Bowl. Peter also lists his best free agent signings so far and it won't take a genius to figure out which one Peter will place first. There is no travel note for Peter this week, so he cedes his travel note to his partner-in-synergy, Mike Florio. Well, he doesn't let Mike write the travel note, but writes the travel note about Mike. I'm a little confused too.

Lord, the NFC West is going to be a bear of a division in 2013.

On paper. It could very well be true in action as well, but right now it looks like a strong division on paper. For some reason Peter doesn't seem to remember that parity is king in the NFL and one or two injuries can set an entire team's season back or a certain team may just not play well during the season. But yes, on paper it looks like a strong division.

It's a signing fraught with uncertainty. We -- most of us in the media, and fans, and teams -- overrate free agency as a tool to improve teams. How many times (including recently, in 2009) has Washington won free agency, then stunk the joint up when real football began? We yell at the Giants, Steelers and Packers for doing nothing in the free market except bleed players -- more about that in my Tuesday column, with some startlingly honest admissions from Packers GM Ted Thompson -- but tell me: How can you be critical of Thompson or Jerry Reese of the Giants or Kevin Colbert of the Steelers right now?

This is a clusterfuck of thoughts. Peter starts off saying the NFC West is going to be a tough division in 2013 because of all the trades and free agent signings that have brought good players into the division. Then Peter says the media overrates free agency and uses the Giants/Packers/Steelers as an example of teams who don't do much in free agency and still thrive. This despite the fact he just (potentially) overrated the NFC West for the free agent signings and trades that were made to bring new players into the division. So Peter is guilty of what he is saying the media tends to be guilty of. Then Peter asks,

"How can you be critical of Thompson or Jerry Reese of the Giants or Kevin Colbert of the Steelers right now," 

when I'm not sure who is being critical of them. Is Peter being critical of these GM's? I know Peter is rating the NFC West highly for the 2013 season because of the offseason moves they have made, so he seems to be guilty of doing exactly what he says the media is guilty of doing.

Back to the (sometimes false) hope of free agency. For a franchise that had been trying to compete with one competent tackle, Rodger Saffold, and a Ringling Brothers arrangement on the other side, the Rams getting Long is a big add. Very big.

I mock Peter for pumping up the Rams and Jeff Fisher because he shares an agent with Fisher, but I think at this point in the offseason the addition of Jake Long has been the biggest acquisition for an NFL team (that includes Harvin and everyone the Dolphins have signed). The Rams have what they see as a franchise quarterback and they just signed a guy who has shown himself to be one of the best tackles in the NFL. It's the biggest addition in my mind.

Miami was in on Long aggressively, and one Dolphins official Sunday seemed confident Long would return for a sixth year. But no. And the Rams Sunday night were giving the credit for the migration to coach Jeff Fisher. "One of our players texted Jake and told him he'd retire if he had to play for any other coach besides Jeff,'' Rams GM Les Snead texted me late Sunday night. "Jeff gets veterans to Sunday ready to play ... Gets them to December ready to play ... So yes, he knows how to keep vets fresh physically, mentally and spiritually as good as anyone in the NFL."

I do wonder if Peter's agent knocks his typical fee by 0.5% if Peter pushes enough of his clients in MMQB. We all know players tend to like Jeff Fisher, but I look at Peter's endorsement of Fisher always through the prism that Peter and Fisher share an agent. It ruins a lot of the positive stuff Peter says about Fisher for me.

Arizona: Hired a new coach, Bruce Arians, who will implement a deep passing game,

A deep passing game with no quarterback and a shaky offensive line. Think that could end up being an issue? I know, I know, these are just minor details. Who is to say Brian Hoyer or Drew Stanton isn't the answer?

(Me. I'm to say. They aren't the answer unless the question is, "Who are two NFL quarterbacks that played at Michigan State?")

St. Louis: Lost three valuable offensive pieces (Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson) who won't be easily replaced. They'll ask Saffold to move to the right side, which he hasn't played.

St. Louis lost their most productive receiver, their best deep threat, and their starting running back. But it's okay because Peter says the Rams are on the rise. Everything is fine.

The Rams are the only team with three picks in the top 50 of the draft (16, 22, 46), and they'll need a receiver upgrade after losing two in the first five days of free agency. Tight end signee Jared Cook is an expensive question mark, though Fisher had him in Tennessee and loves him.

Stop it Peter! Is Jared Cook's agent paying you to say nice things about him? If not, focus more on Jeff Fisher.

Whatever, San Francisco has to be markedly better in the back of the defense to have a chance to win the Super Bowl in 2014. Clutch physical receiver Anquan Boldin will help Colin Kaepernick make plays downfield.

Boldin better be clutch to make those catches downfield because he certainly isn't going to speed by anyone in an effort to make those catches. I realize I sound like Pete Prisco.

I've mentioned this before, but don't go handing the division to the Niners or Seahawks yet.

No one is handing any team in the NFC West the division quite yet other than you, Peter. You are the one writing MMQB.

St. Louis was 4-1-1 in the division last year. What if the Rams can keep Sam Bradford (sacked 71 times in his last 26 games) significantly cleaner?

Pump up the Rams more Peter! Just don't bring up the fact they could have had Robert Griffin last year, that would ruin the point you are wanting to prove.

And what if Arians can invent a quarterback? That's a huge what-if, and it's doubtful, but this is March. We major in what-ifs in March.

If Bruce Arians can invent a quarterback and all of the teams in the NFC West are good then it won't potentially mean much. These NFC West teams all play each other six times, so if every team is good then there is a chance there won't be one outstanding team in the division because they will end up beating each other.

The death of the tuck rule. This playing rule, expected to pass, will change the tuck rule -- 12 years late for Raiders fans -- so that a fumble will be ruled if the passer loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body. The officials will rule a fumble on such a play, and it will be eligible for replay review. "We are going to change this to clean this up and eliminate the tuck rule, so to speak,'' said Competition Committee co-chair Jeff Fisher.

Jeff Fisher then added, "No, really, we are happy having Sam Bradford rather than drafting Robert Griffin and seeing Griffin play half of his games every year on a faster artificial surface. It's no big deal we didn't draft Griffin. We got more draft picks! Those are great!"

More steps to take helmet hits out of the game. In his Super Bowl press conference, Roger Goodell said the top safety issue in the NFL was to "take the head out of the game."

DeAngelo Hall was very happy to learn about this new rule change because, "Honestly, my head has never ever really been in the game at any point."

Emmitt Smith told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas if he didn't lower his head when a linebacker came his way, the linebacker could bust him in the head and he -- the runner -- would be defenseless. "It [the rule] sounds like it's been made up by people who have never played the game of football,'' Smith said. Well, the Competition Committee doesn't have active players, but it does have a Hall of Fame tight end, Ozzie Newsome, and two former NFL defensive backs, Mark Murphy and Fisher.

Then Emmitt added, "Plus, I would have appreciated some more strategification on the dismissal of this new rule from the brains of those alike," and followed it up with, "I'm just benevolently upset right now and can't speak of clearness in the words my mouth just made up. It's probably best to turn your head away from me."

Said Anderson: "If a player is caught not wearing the thigh and knee pads or is not wearing appropriate thigh and knee pads, he will be given an opportunity to comply. He will not be permitted in the game until he does comply. If there is a continual refusal to comply, he simply will not be allowed in the game.''

James Harrison thinks it sounds like the NFL wants it's players to wear a different kind of pad during the game...if you get what he is saying.

The best signings in the first six days of NFL free agency:

Come on, you know what #1 is. It's the wonderful combination of a white slot receiver that Peter King loves with a quarterback Peter loves.

1. Denver: WR Wes Welker, two years, $12 million.

(Bengoodfella is so surprised he stops breathing for 10 full minutes)

And he'll be used by a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who absolutely loves the slot receiver. If Welker breaks down, which he's shown no sign of doing, the grade will have to be revised here. But if Welker plays 16 games and doesn't catch 100 balls, my name's Joe Don Looney.

It is a pretty good signing for the Broncos. That's for sure. And don't worry, Peter updates us all on how Brandon Stokley is handling this news. If Stokley were Michael Young then he would immediately demand a trade, but we get Stokley's reaction to Welker's signing and he took it much better. In fact, Peter calls him the class guy of the week. Don't worry, I will be getting to Stokley's reaction when the Broncos signed Welker very soon. I know you are all on the edge of your seat right now. 

3. New England: CB Aqib Talib, one year, $5 million. Patriots fans would want it to be a longer deal, because Talib could play himself into a bigger money deal elsewhere if he plays the way he can this year. But the Patriots weren't going to overpay for a player who could blow up in their faces. The best overall cornerback on the market was a must-keep for New England.

I like this signing, but the 3rd best signing in free agency so far? Not so sure about that one.

4. New Orleans: CB Keenan Lewis, five years, $26 million. The worst defense in history (by yardage, anyway) was desperate for a cover corner, and I'd say any corner who allows 52.7 percent completions with a league-high 16 passes defensed (according to Pro Football Focus) is a marked upgrade for the Saints.

I can handle the completion percentage against him, but the fact Keenan Lewis led the league in passes defensed could also mean he was targeted a lot by the opposing team.

I hated the Saints losing their left tackle, but if you ask me if I'd have lost an adequate left tackle (and Jermon Bushrod is that, or just a little better) for the Steelers' best corner in 2012, I'd say sure.

Peter and I are not compatible in terms of how we would put together an NFL team. I don't know if the Saints losing their left tackle is a wash in terms of adding a good cornerback. I'm a huge fan of a strong offensive line and I think corners can look good or bad based on how strong of a pass rush the front seven gets. It seems to me losing a decent left tackle is a big loss, but the Saints did need help in the secondary. I mostly feel like Peter consistently overrates corners.

8. San Diego: RB/returner Danny Woodhead: two years, undisclosed.

Really? How is this one of the best signings of the offseason (so far) when Peter has no clue how much money the Chargers gave Woodhead? What if they gave Woodhead $4 million per year? I realize I will never understand the intangibles Woodhead provides to a team, but I do realize Woodhead has 2828 all-purpose yards for his entire four year NFL career. To put that in perspective, Jacoby Jones didn't get signed by the Ravens until last May and he had 5051 all-purpose yards for his five year NFL career at that point.

Without knowing how much Woodhead signed for, I think it is impossible to say he was a good signing. I know Woodhead is beloved in certain corners, but his production doesn't seem like it has quite matched up with his belovedness (is that a word?).

OK, I don't know the dough, so I can't pass judgment on the wisdom. But I'm sure it's not a huge deal,

Peter is sure it was a good deal. The point is that a team signed Danny Woodhead and that is only a good thing.

Woodhead, in the running, receiving and return game, didn't lose a fumble over the past two seasons in 233 New England touches. Great insurance for the disappointing Ryan Mathews.

The fact Woodhead doesn't fumble doesn't mean he was great insurance for Mathews. If Mathews got injured could Woodhead really carry the load or would Philip Rivers be stuck with very little running game again? I don't hate the signing, but the 8th best signing of the offseason so far? Not really.

Class Guy of the Week.

Brandon Stokley, slot receiver, Denver.

Think of those last three words -- "slot receiver, Denver'' -- and what do you think of?

(Drawing a blank)

Wes Welker, obviously.

Considering Welker wasn't signed until a week ago and hasn't played a snap for the Broncos, he isn't at all what I think about when I hear "slot receiver, Denver."

But think of Stokley for a moment. A year ago tomorrow, Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. During his brief free-agent fling, Manning used the home of one of his best friends, Stokley, as a refuge. Stokley lives in the Denver suburb of Castle Pines. A year ago, he was unsigned. Maybe he'd be signed by the Broncos, maybe he wouldn't. But he helped his buddy, Manning, hide out -- and decide what to do.

So when it came time to sign Welker to a two-year, $12 million deal last week, a decision that took the Broncos about 10 seconds to make because Welker's the most productive slot man in football, coach John Fox picked up the phone to inform Stokley. "Heartbreaking,'' Fox said here Sunday, "because Stokley'd been such a great guy and important player for us.''

That's why Brandon Stokley, who may have had his career ended by the acquisition of Welker, is the Class Guy of the Week.

I just hope Stokley is able to find a job after his career ends with the Broncos. It is heartbreaking when an NFL player who is near to retirement is replaced by a better NFL player. You just hope Stokley can find some work out there to support his family. Devastating. Heartbreaking. Shocking. Welcome to the real world Brandon Stokley. Just try to keep 6 months of savings on hand to get past these hard times.

So Mr. Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio of Bridgeport, W. Va., had gone 15 1/2 years without flying until Sunday.

Well, he is from West Virginia so he also probably isn't aware there is a civilization outside of the state, because otherwise he would have fled the state years ago.

(I'm kidding West Virginians, my mom's side of the family is from West Virginia and they are fine people. They are all dead, but they were great people when they were alive)

For him, it wasn't a fear of flying so much as a loss of control. When he drove, or was being driven, he could see the road and the other drivers if he wasn't the one driving, and he felt secure knowing that whatever the statistics about the relative safety of flying versus driving said, to him, driving just felt safer.

Plus, he did have one of those extra-large trucks with mud on the side that I am constantly seeing whenever I drive in West Virginia. Even if those things are murder for everyone else, they are safe for him to drive shoudl an accident occur.

Florio wanted to go to this week's league meetings, and Phoenix was going to be too far to drive. So he finally decided to get back on a plane, flying here nonstop Sunday afternoon from Pittsburgh with his wife, Jill.

"It was uneventful,'' he said once in the Valley of the Sun. "I wish I could tell you some great story about getting all claustrophobic once they closed the door, or something like that. But I can't. I was hoping for a better story. The only thing I can tell you is when we were turning the corner to get out on the runway, my wife said to me, 'Does someone know where our wills are?' And I said, 'I really don't want to think about that right now.' ''

It's always interesting to here a second-hand account of a person's traveling experience. It's like being there, except for wishing the person who was telling you the story would just stop telling you the story.

What has changed since he last flew: the fact that visitors can't go to the gate with flyers. "The whole security thing is so different,'' he said. "First, you practically disrobe going through security -- your shoes, your belt, your jacket, and then all your electronics in different bins. Then you get through security, and it's like a ghost town in there.''

It's important for everyone to be aware that air travel security has changed over the last decade. Otherwise, without Mike Florio's account of how air travel security has changed we would have no idea.

Ten Things I Think I Think

3.I think, speaking of free agency, the tackle market sure has some good leftovers: Super Bowl left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Sebastian Vollmer, Eric Winston, Andre Smith (likely to stay in Cincinnati), and, if some team wants to trade for him, Kansas City's Branden Albert. The Chiefs will listen to offers for him.

Yes, but it is more important that players at skill positions get signed first. After all, what does it matter if a team has a good set of tackles or not? It's not like the offensive line does anything. The sexy positions go first, then the positions that aren't as sexy but very crucial will get paid sometime down the road.

5.I think the cutest thing I saw on the weekend before the NFL Meetings began here at the Arizona Biltmore hotel is the Harbaugh brothers, and families, playing with kids in the hotel pool. Number two: The Harbaugh brothers, out for a 6 a.m. walk together on the jogging path outside the hotel.

These are grown men who are brothers. Please don't call it "cute" when they spend time together. They aren't children, but grown men. I don't know what Peter's fascination with calling adults "cute" or "precocious" but it has gone from weird to a little creepy.

8.I think when I see headlines about the Jets keeping an open mind on whether or not to trade Darrell Revis, I am heartened that they have not lost their minds.

I continuously find it interesting that Peter spends time (like he did in this one) talking about how the 49ers are in good shape to build their team because they have a lot of draft picks, but Peter doesn't think the Jets should trade Revis in order to rebuild their team through the draft. So draft picks are great, but only if you aren't a rebuilding team like the 49ers. Got it. I've repeated myself 100 times on this issue, but if there is ever a market for Revis then the Jets need to explore the market and see what Revis can bring back in a trade.

There's far too much smoke out there, and far too little whispering to sources off the record that Revis is going nowhere, for me to believe they aren't desperate to move him. Mistakenly, of course.

I don't know if the Jets should be desperate to move Revis, but they have a lot of holes on that roster and he is such an asset. What sense does it make to have a team with holes and then choosing to give a cornerback a new contract (which is what Revis wants)? It doesn't make much sense to me.

9.I think it was nice to speak to you again Sunday night, Sean Payton.

Please tell him in person and not through MMQB. I don't need a reminder Sean Payton is going to be coaching in the NFL next year and every writer is going to cuddle up to him and preach about his brilliance all year.

10.I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

b. Ohio at Denver in the NIT Tuesday night. Bobcat fever, baby.

It's going to be very cute to watch these teams play. These coaches are going to be so precocious during this game.

e. And, though I have absolutely no idea who is any good in college basketball,

There are no good college basketball teams and parity is all around us. That's why two nights ago many experts on ESPN and CBS were putting all of the #1 and #2 seeds in the Final Four...because there are no good teams and the field is wide open. That's what I've been hearing all year.

f. My bracket philosophy? Simple -- since the days when I followed the game. I pick the favorite in every game, put my $20 in the mail to my good buddy Ron Fisch in Montclair, N.J., and hope for the best. I never have won a dime in Ron's pool, so he loves to see my $20 arrive in the mail.

Peter would be the kind of guy I wouldn't want in my pool. At least try to pick upsets and don't just write down the favored team and call it a day.

h. Hey Pope Francis: The more you talk, the more I love hearing you talk about the poor. Keep it up.

Also Pope Francis: Pray for this week's class guy, Brandon Stokley, and see if you can do something about the coffee at hotels. But do keep talking about the poor. Peter loves it when you remind him he isn't poor. Maybe you could set up a tournament where poor people fight to the death for cash prizes. Peter would heartily love to see that while he sipped on a wheat beer.

j. Coffeenerdness: Yes, the Arizona Biltmore is fabulously overpriced. But it has the best hotel coffee I've had in forever.

And really, what is paying $30 more for a room if the cup of coffee you get is delicious? I wish Pope Francis would talk more about the poor. Peter loves it when he does that. Someone needs to talk about the poor more often. Anyway, let's get back to Peter talking about how he pays for an overpriced hotel room because that hotel has good coffee.

The Adieu Haiku

Belichick. Smart coach.
That doesn't mean he can't err.
Wes Welker: E-Bill.

I'm pretty sure the fact each line has the correct amount of syllables doesn't make this a haiku.