One Bronco’s Garbage is Another Bear’s Treasure

Jay Cutler has helped make the Chicago Bears relevant again

The Josh McDaniels era may be over but the Jay Cutler one is just beginning.

If there is one move that Josh McDaniels could take back it would probably his decision not to work his problems out with Jay Cutler and ship him out of Denver as fast as possible.

The contrast in situation and the public perception of the pair has shifted dramatically in the last 2 years. Josh McDaniels is now sitting on his couch at home as the immature baby while Jay Cutler is an emerging leader on his way to the NFC Championship game.

Jay Cutler and his undeniable god given abilities has not made the mark on the NFL that many thought he could since he became the starter for the Denver Broncos in 2007. He is known around the NFL as much for his curt, pouty and childish attitude than for anything he has down on the football field.

Just ask Josh McDaniels, who was unconvinced of Cutler’s ability to lead a team. Big mistake.

His brash, my way or the highway approach led to not only the departure of a star quarterback but also his personal demise.

In a way it’s hard to disagree. Honestly, when I see Cutler with his helmet off I can’t help but think of a little kid who is moping because he doesn’t want to eat his vegetables.

However, on Sunday Jay Cutler was saying to us all that hey, I can be big game too. Even if it was against the Seattle Seahawks, the stakes were high and Cutler did not fold under the pressure of the first playoff appearance of his life.

As much as Jay Cutler has struggled in his time with both Denver and Chicago, it looks like he has turned a corner. Mike Martz has helped him find a comfort level that wasn’t apparent at the start of the season. He has dealt with the growing pains of a young offensive line and not coincidentally, now that the O-Line has started to come into its own, so has Cutler.

Josh McDaniels committed what should be considered the cardinal sin when it comes to building an NFL franchise. Getting rid of a potential franchise quarterback.

Mike Singletary was unable to make San Francisco a winner behind Alex Smith

Mike Singletary and Tom Cable have also felt the pain of trying to create a winning environment around a group of less than adequate quarterbacks and have suffered because of it. Obviously, Lovie Smith is reaping in the benefits of having that oh so coveted franchise type quarterback.

Don’t cry all Kyle Orton on me now because I understand that he had a very solid 2010, but the fact of the matter is that he does not hold the potential to reach the level that a guy like, well, Jay Cutler can reach. Tim Tebow, that’s a story for another day.

Cutler may not exhibit those outright personality/leadership qualities that are seemingly a pre-requisite to being a bonafide franchise quarterback. Statements such as telling the media that you have a stronger arm than Bronco legend John Elway is not the best way to win the respect of fans and teammates in Denver.

Nevertheless, those physical gifts that no one can take away from Cutler make him such a prized possession. It’s why the Bears were willing to give up so much to get the guy. For goodness sakes, he throws off his back foot harder than a lot quarterbacks do when their feet are set.

Talents parallel to Jay Cutler’s do not come around every day.

Watching the manner in which Cutler is conducting himself these days and the high level that he is playing at must have the Broncos organization seething.

They made a major gaffe in not trying to work things out with Cutler from the get go and who knows where McDaniels, Cutler, the Broncos and Bears would be at this point in time if the two sides had just given it a shot.


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

Roberto Luongo is sporting a 2.34 GAA, .922 save % and a 20-8-4 record this season

For the first time in a long time the Vancouver Canucks have taken hold of first place not only in the Western Conference but in the entire National Hockey League. It is apparent that the time is now for this squad as it is most likely that their proverbial window of opportunity will not be open for very long.

The Canucks have arguably the most depth of any team in the NHL but their success still hinges on the man who was dubbed the backbone of the franchise not too long ago.

With sky-high expectations surrounding him, Roberto Luongo came to Vancouver in 2006 and did not disappoint. It was not an uncommon occurrence to witness the Bobby Lou show as it felt as thought night after night he would come up with a stellar performance. Some games he flat out carried his team to victory.

As good a team as the Canucks were in relative terms to other teams in the NHL, it was probably too often that they had to rely on their goaltender to get the win for them.

Oh how the times have changed.

After being given the key to the franchise prior to the 2008-09 season when he was named team captain and only the 7th goalie in NHL history to have that honour bestowed on him, Luongo’s play did not backup his newfound status.

His status as Canuck captain was revoked…err voluntarily given up prior to the start of this season and despite being named the NHL’s second star of the month in December, posting a 8-1-1 record to go along with a 2.07 GAA and .922 save percentage, Roberto Luongo is still the (E)X-Factor each night for this Vancouver team.

Like year’s past, the success of this Canuck team still depends on their netminder but the circumstances compared to previous season’s are drastically different.

It is not very often that these Canucks have had to rely on their goaltender to steal a game for them. Fans around the city are only hoping that Luongo can provide solid, consistent goaltending, which he has been unable to do over the past couple seasons.

The odd soft goal overshadowing an otherwise great performance is something that Vancouver fans have become all too accustom to.

The fact that backup protégé Cory Schneider has been lights out this season is not helping matters in the Luongo camp either. Schneider made 34 out of 35 saves last night as he lost his first regulation start of the season against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden 1-0.

Moreover, his “me-me” selfish attitude that is slowly rearing its ugly head is giving Luongo a reputation that is making him even less favourable to fans. Roberto Luongo on occasion has not been hesitant to throw teammates under the bus and just recently chose not to skate back out onto ice after being named first star of the game because he was upset at losing his shutout bid with 10.8 seconds remaining.

Even prior to the Canucks awarding Luongo a ludicrous 12 year $65 million contract and Cory Schneider’s impressive .231 GAA and .925 save percentage some people, including myself, wondered if the Vancouver Canucks were making the wrong decision by not exchanging Luongo for some valuable pieces while handing the reins over to Schneider a couple of years ago.

*Note — Here is the link to my facebook status not too long after Roberto Luongo signed his 12 year contract in case you are wondering if I am second guessing the contract.*

However, it is what it is and the Canucks are stuck with what they have. An overpaid, whiney, “franchise” goaltender.

Dependable goaltending is a necessity for any team hoping to make a serious run in the playoffs and this year should be no different. The past 5 Stanley Cup winning teams may not have had great goaltending throughout the season but have had their goalies get hot when it mattered most.

A big knock on Luongo has been his inability to come through in the clutch. He was finally able to get that important career defining win at the Winter Olympics last year, albeit a mediocre performance, but was unable to translate that into playoff glory.

Many have pointed out the huge workload that Luongo is burdened with during the regular season and the amount of key injuries that Canucks have had in recent years playing a part in his less than impressive playoff performance. This may be true to a certain extent; nevertheless his inability to raise his level of play in clutch time is a worrisome thought.

All excuses aside, in order for the Canucks to take the next step Roberto Luongo will need to find at least some of the form that warranted him the captain’s status and his 12 year contract. He needs to shed what has made him the ex-factor and once again become the factor.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Whatever Happened to Good Ol’ Rebuilding?

Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony may be on their way out of Denver

In this modern age of internet, smart phones and high definition TV the idea of immediate gratification is one that can be achieved on so many different levels. Up to the minute stats, highlights and scores all in the palm of our hand seem to be leaving people with shorter attention spans and a want for that instant satisfaction.

What we are seeing in professional sports is the thought of building your team through scouting, drafting, developing and shrewd moves now turning into thing of the past.

Of course in all sports, the New York Yankees over the past 30 years have been the leading proponent in this regard, but in light of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumours once again surfacing, we can see that the NBA may be the league that has made the greatest transition to the hope of instant success.

With the best teams around the league sporting star-studded roster through big free agent signings and blockbuster trades the proof is in the pudding that rebuilding is not the road to take if you want to compete in today’s NBA.

However, for team’s putting all their eggs in one superstar’s basket, there is no doubt in my mind that creating the recipe for success from scratch would also allow them to compete with the NBA’s best.

These days franchise front offices are not willing to be patient enough to execute a solid 5-7 year rebuilding process.

Too often we see team’s overpaying for talent that could be found through other means. Very rarely do we see trades occurring without the transfer of expensive expiring contracts that at one point were given prematurely to these players.

After failing to acquire Lebron James this off-season, the New Jersey Nets, with their new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, are not willing to wait any extended period of time for their players to develop.

Currently, they are close to executing one of the biggest trades in NBA history where they would give up some of their best young talent in exchange for a fringe franchise player in Carmelo Anthony and a couple of aging, albeit, proven veterans in Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

If this trade does indeed go through, the Nets would sport a pretty decent roster, but it won’t be at quite the level that it needs to be in order to win, much less, contend for a championship. Although Brook Lopez is a very solid NBA center, for whatever reason his numbers have somewhat declined from last season, and by giving up Derrick Favors and Anthony Morrow they would be losing two potentially important role players down the road.

Prior to the season Chris Paul had expressed his desire to leave New Orleans

Even if the idea behind the deal is to a certain extent future focused, with the theory that getting Carmelo to sign an extension could possibly lead to acquiring one of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in a couple of years, this school of thought is very wishful thinking and in my eyes is not the best method to go about in building a contending franchise.

The New York Knicks wasted/spent 2 full seasons clearing up cap space just at a chance to obtain the great Lebron James.

They had to settle for Amare Stoudemire. Granted, Amare has been a better acquisition that most people, including myself, had thought he would be. However, the Knicks do not have a roster that is going to contend for an NBA championship anytime soon. What’s even worse is that they do not have a first round pick until the year 2014.

If you don’t lay down a solid foundation then there is no way that you can build a great house.

It really is as straightforward as spending more energy on scouting, drafting and developing.

Just ask the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder who have built contending team primarily out of guys from within their system who they committed to developing. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka are all players that have been with the franchise since day one.

Despite these prime examples, GM’s continually focus on spending ill-advised big bucks on certain players when it is clear that their team is not ready to compete.

With his failed Allen Iverson experiment, Joe Dumars decided that paying a lot of money for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was going to take his team’s aging roster, with the exception of Rodney Stuckey, to the next level. Good move Joe, good move.

The patience of the Chicago Bulls has paid off as they have built around emerging superstar Derrick Rose. They did sign a marquee free agent this past season in Carlos Boozer, but the signing was warranted because they had the necessary pieces in place. Boozer has only played a bit over half of the season for the Bulls because of injury. Nevertheless they still sit at 25-12, no doubt due to the play of Rose but also his fellow Chicago Bull developed teammates Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

There is no need for every team to feel like they have to follow in the footsteps of the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that patience, commitment and dedication will be rewarded in a rebuilding process, but then again when are there ever any guarantees in sports?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Learn Something New Every Week In The NFL

Rex Ryan has made news with non-football related activity as well

I’m not sure that exciting is the word that does this 2011 wild card weekend justice. 3 out of the 4 games went down to the wire and in the 1 game that wasn’t decided in last 2 minutes we have a very tragic but heart-warming story coming from the life of Ed Reed.

There is just so much that we found out this week that I couldn’t narrow my post down to just one single topic. I think that we learned a lot from only a couple of days and a few games, so without further ado here is my post as we’re going to school a little early this morning and giving you 5 lessons that you should take with you from this past weekend.

1. Don’t bet on sports. If you truly believe that you can predict the winners on any given week then maybe you should join the guys from ‘21’ and head down to Vegas. Much to my chagrin the New Orleans Saints were upset as 11 point favourites away from home against the Seattle Seahawks. I guess I might have been a little wrong about the Saints ability to make a serious run this post-season because the first team to enter the playoffs with a losing record obviously becomes the first team with a losing record to win a playoff game.

Analysts can spew out all the reasons why a certain outcome will occur, but when the game starts all those numbers and whatever else you hear is thrown out the window. Don’t bet on sports, really, it is not a good idea.

2. Rex Ryan can talk all he wants. Rex Ryan is a one man circus. His vast collection of sound bites is unprecedented and his arrogance, whether real or not, seemingly matches that of the late Napoleon Bonaparte. People have been starting to get tired of his antics but when he wins it really doesn’t matter.

Of course, Rex Ryan thinks his team is Super Bowl worthy and prior to his teams matchup with the Colts this weekend he said that it was “personal” with regards to Peyton Manning.

Stupid? Probably, but his team held Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to 16 points. I’m all in favour of his antics because it provides greater entertainment for us all. Moreover, in reality the media blows most these types of inconsequential things out of proportion, especially when the team is losing. Rex Ryan’s team has struggled at times this year and the way he deals with the media suddenly becomes an issue when the task at hand goes off course. As long as Rex Ryan keeps winning he can say whatever the hell he wants to say.

Matt Cassel threw for only 70 yards on 9-18 passing with 3 interceptions against the Ravens on Sunday

3. The Chiefs are not ready. As much as Matt Cassel has improved this year, the last couple weeks he played much like he did at the beginning of the year. Once the Ravens came out of the second half and adjusted to stop the run, the Chiefs weren’t able to muster anything offensively. The defence actually did a pretty solid job considering the field position the Ravens were awarded off of turnovers on a number of occasions.

However, too many mistakes such as being offside on a punt are just part of the growing pains that come along with a young team. The Chiefs were blessed with an easy schedule and a Chargers team that didn’t live up to the expectations. I do think the Chiefs time is going to come eventually, with a big reason for that being their rock solid front office, but it might not be for a couple more years.

4. Michael Vick is not durable enough to be a long-term option. Good luck, bad luck who knows, because when the Eagles were given another opportunity at their 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter Vick ended up rolling his left ankle while failing the conversion attempt. There is no doubt that Vick is soon to be the recipient of some sort of extended contract with what should be a fair bit of guaranteed money.

However, this season we have seen Vick beaten, battered and bruised. He missed 4 games because of injuries and with his constant scrambling he has put himself into situations that spell disaster. Vick became more of a pocket-passer than most of us could have ever imagined this season, but that didn’t mean that he stopped doing what makes him the most electrifying player in football.

Too often Michael Vick is in positions where he is going to get hurt. With him being over the age of 30 I can’t imagine him lasting multiple season’s injury free, much less one full injury free season. As a fan of the game I hope that Michael Vick can play a good 5 more years of football, but it looks like the team that signs him better have an adequate backup waiting in the wings.

5. Running Backs are a dime a dozen. What has to be the position where we hear the most stories of players leaving the depths of obscurity for the bright lights of the NFL? Running backs. In my humble opinion, teams spend too much effort on find and subsequently drafting supposed franchise running backs. There are just a whole lot of them out there and you can take your pick because most of them aren’t much different from one another.

Your Adrian Peterson’s, Chris Johnson’s, and Maurice Jones-Drew’s may not be a dime a dozen but given the right offensive line there are so many guys that can fit the bill of NFL running back.

James Starks of the Green Bay Packers became the latest member of the unknown running backs who make an impact club. Fresh out of the very prestigious University of Buffalo, Starks, a 6th round pick, ran for 123 yards on only 23 carries against the Eagles on Sunday. He didn’t just rack up the yards on one big run either as his long on the day was only 27 yards. James Starks was a major factor in the Packers victory but as I said this is nothing new for the NFL.

From this year exclusively, Starks joins the likes of Fred Jackson, Christopher Ivory, Peyton Hiillis, Mike Tolbert, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Arian Foster (2009 doesn’t quite qualify as a breakout season) who have made a significant impact for their respective teams. Quite an extensive list there eh?


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Musings On the 2011 Hall of Fame Class

Roberto Alomar is now a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

The only thing that was stopping one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game from being inducted to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame was a single incident. A lapse in judgement, in the heat of the moment when Roberto Alomar, then with the Baltimore Orioles, spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck.

Last year, a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer was snubbed because of an incident that reflected poorly on his character. Many voters decided to make a point to Roberto last year, but not this time.

Roberto Alomar with his 12 gold gloves, 10 all-star appearances, career .300 average and 2724 hits was inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday with a decisive 90% of the vote (75% is needed for induction).

The Hall of Fame is not also meant to be the moral Hall of Fame and the fact that Roberto Alomar had one major blemish during his playing career should not lead to a snub from Cooperstown.

Obviously it didn’t.

This year, a major distinction that Hall of Fame voters have made is the difference between character/personal transgressions and cheating. They are finally getting this right.

However, Andrew Stoeton, a very good writer for the website Drunk Jays Fans, points out that this is a flaw in the logic of the Hall of Fame voters.

Really?

He also seems to think that Roberto Alomar’s personal indiscretions that are not widely reported to be a certain double standard in the minds of reporters.

Most of the time the guys on Drunk Jays Fans point out to us readers the amount of stupidity that is all around us but we’re going to turn the tables on them.

Honestly, something must not be connecting in your brain if you want to excuse these players of cheating the fans and more importantly the game of baseball. Just because PED’s were known and commonly accepted during that era does not mean it was right for the players to use them. I’ve mentioned it before but I want to reiterate that the inflated numbers caused by the use of steroids does not create an equal comparison of players who have legitimately made the Hall without performance enhancing drugs.

Jeff Bagwell was not a first ballot inductee as he received a bit over 40% of votes largely due to the speculation that he was steroid user during his career. 449 home runs to go along with a .297 ain’t too shabby, which make Bagwell’s power numbers a major reason pertaining to the argument that he is deserving of a Hall of Fame spot.

Mark McGwire admitted he had the juice

Although, doesn’t it seem more than a little odd that his home run total in his minor league career prior to his call-up to the big leagues does not even reach double digits? Granted that does consist only of 274 games according to baseball-reference.com but if a key part of Bagwell’s consideration to the Hall of Fame is due to the amount of home runs he hit how it is fair that that those numbers may be skewed to a great degree? Oh yeah, same to you Big Mac, who saw his percentage of votes dip despite his admission of guilt with regards to his use of steroids.

Players in the past who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame set a precedent by which voters make their decisions on future inductees. However, with likely steroid users the precedent is thrown out the window as there is no way by which we can evaluate those players in relative terms to current Hall of Famers.

On the other hand, character issues and personal transgressions play no part in statistics. There is no doubt that players who face character questions, yet have no connection to performance enhancing devices, have put up numbers that are 100 percent legitimate.

Steroids deal directly with the game of baseball where as personal indiscretions do not. It’s as simple as that and if you can’t distinguish between the two then I feel sorry for you.

The same goes for the spit balling, belt cutting pitchers that are currently in the Hall of Fame. That was something that was also common and well-known at the time but again, it still doesn’t make it okay.

In any sport the Hall of Fame is meant to recognize players who have excelled in playing their respective game.

If we ever do accept cheating we compromise the integrity of the game and will just be cheating a different way. We will be cheating the guys who made it into the Hall the right way, the real way, the hard way.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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