September 3, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Clemson-Georgia highlights big college football opening weekend: The college football season is finally underway and no matchup was bigger than Clemson vs. Georgia. In a game pitting top ten teams, the Tigers edged the Bulldogs, 38-35. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is off to a great start in his campaign to win the Heisman. He had five touchdowns in the big victory and as long as the Tigers stay on course this year, that will go a long way with voters.

Johnny Manziel suspended … sort of: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, caught up in an autograph scandal this summer, was disciplined by the NCAA. Sort of. The quarterback reportedly signed autographs for money but the NCAA had no proof and so they suspended the star – for one half of the team’s recent game against Rice. Without Manziel, Rice was competitive with Texas A&M, trailing only 28-21 at the half. But the Aggies pulled away in the second half and ultimately won big, 52-31. The real story, though, was the suspension. If Manziel clearly did something wrong, more than a half-game suspension surely was warranted. However, if there was truly no proof against him, then why suspend the quarterback at all? Confusion continues to reign supreme in college athletics.

When will we see Tim Tebow back on an NFL sideline?

Tim Tebow cut by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a big splash in free agency, signing quarterback Tim Tebow. The honeymoon didn’t last long, though, as Tebow struggled in the preseason and was ultimately cut by the team. The appropriate question is who will be next to take in the quarterback? Tebow surely will get another shot in the NFL and it’s not a matter of if, but when.

Vince Young cut by Packers: After the Green Bay Packers cut backup quarterback Graham Harrell, the job looked like Vince Young’s to lose – heck, I even said as much last week. That won’t be the case, though, as Young was also cut in a bit of a surprise move. His play in the team’s most recent preseason game against Kansas City likely didn’t help. In a blowout loss, Young was only 14-30 in passing for 144 yards and fumbled twice. The quarterback’s departure really leaves Green Bay’s quarterback situation up in the air. With the cut of Young, B.J. Coleman, the team’s practice squad quarterback, is the only remaining option. The Packers will surely sign another player before the season begins and one report said Jimmy Claussen could be their next target.

Pittsburgh Pirates make moves before waiver trade deadline: The Pittsburgh Pirates frustrated some fans by not making any big moves at baseball’s trade deadline last month. That didn’t mean that the team was content going forward and last week, they made a few moves adding veterans Marlon Byrd, John Buck, and Justin Morneau via trades. All three players cleared waivers and the Bucs gave up little in return in a few minor leaguers and reserve outfielder Alex Presley. None of the added players can really be considered superstars at this point, but all fill big needs for the team. Byrd’s 22 home runs are a significant improvement over what the Pirates were getting out of their other rightfielders. After a slow start, Morneau hit nine home runs last month and will be an upgrade over the platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez at first base. Buck gives the Pirates a veteran presence behind the plate to back up starter Russell Martin.

Football on unicycles: Seriously, why not.

Tracy McGrady retires from NBA: Only days after Allen Iverson announced his retirement from the NBA, former All-Star Tracy McGrady did the same. T-Mac never won a championship in the league but was one of the premier scorers at the height of his career. McGrady’s ability to get into the Hall of Fame will be an interesting discussion. When it comes to that, however, failing to go deep into the postseason may be the thing that keeps him on the outside looking in. However, what’s not up for debate is that averaging 20 points over the course of his career, McGrady was one of the league’s best scorers.

FCS strikes again: The FCS, formerly I-AA, has struck again as Eastern Washington knocked off ranked Oregon State over the weekend, 49-46. We’ve seen this act before and West Virginia nearly lost this weekend to FCS foe William & Mary, so the win by Eastern Washington wasn’t a complete surprise. But it’s clear that the divide between the FBS and FCS teams isn’t nearly as great as it once was. At some point, FBS teams will start avoiding them on their schedule altogether since the reward of a win isn’t nearly as great as the harm caused by a defeat.

April 25, 2013

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New York Jets Face a Make-or-Break Draft

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NFL Draft is set for April 25 in New York City and the New York Jets face the most pressure. There are certain teams in sports who are constantly surrounded with drama. Right now, the Jets are the “It” team in this category.

Yes, it’s easy to argue against that point because they play on the world’s largest stage, but the Jets are really good at being a three-ring circus right now. Things undoubtedly started to escalate last offseason when the team signed quarterback Mark Sanchez to a hefty contract extension. That was it–Sanchez was the “Sanchize” quarterback. His contract is worth $58.25 million over five years and a guaranteed $20 million in 2012-13. He was now the guy.

The New York Jets and Mark Sanchez face a make-or-break season in 2013.

Wait.

Then the team traded for Tim Tebow just a few short weeks later.

Hundreds of hours of media speculation later and Tebow attempted a whopping eight throws last season.

The Jets finished a dismal 6-10 in 2012 and were outscored by 94 points.

What now? How does the franchise reinstall faith in their faithful? How do they repair stability from top to bottom? How do they turn their situation into something positive?

Well, the team made a bold move last and traded cornerstone cornerback Darrelle Revis last week to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although sidelined in 2012 with an ACL injury, the Bucs rolled the dice and gave the Jets the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Yes, Revis is as good as they get, but it’s a bit less drama for the Jets. It’s a start.

Now holding the No. 9 and No. 13 pick in the first round, it’s time for the Jets to start gaining some traction. It’s time for some positive attention.

Face it, they’re vested to both head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Sanchez for 2013, they’ve made their bed and they will sleep in it.

Now, they must make the right moves in the draft to deflect all the negativity.

So, who do they take?

New GM John Idzik needs to make a good first impression to the fans, who want nothing more than a return to relevance. Believe it or not, Revis was a good move.

Depending on which style of players are left on the board when their time come the Jets may be best off trading down.

Think of the St. Louis Rams in 2012 when they traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins for who turned out to be Robert Griffin III. While the Redskins got the best of the deal in year one, the Rams got four picks, including three first-round choices in return.

True, the Jets don’t have a No. 2 overall pick, rather Nos. 9 and 13. Also, there is not a RG3 caliber player in this year’s draft. But, if the team were to trade down for both picks they could get potentially four to six picks for the future.

If nothing is sticking out like a sore thumb, be conservative and trade down. If someone can’t be passed on, consider him a steal.

It’s time to think big picture for the Jets. There is no quick fix. Whichever path they choose to travel, little-by-little they can rebuild.

Radio City Music Hall will be filled with crazed Jets fans screaming J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces the team’s decisions. Only after his announcement s will the hometown fans announce their verdict.

The future of the franchise lies in the balance of the first round. Jets fans, keep your fingers crossed.

March 27, 2013

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NFL Free Agency Winners

By: Joe Williams

There are just a couple weeks left until the NFL Draft so you know what that means…it’s time to judge who “won” and “lost” in free agency. And we’re going to do it only about nine months before we really know how good these teams are and what signings were actually good.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

New England Patriots

Yeah they lost Wes Welker to Denver, but signing Danny Amendola is a nice replacement. But that’s not why the Patriots are on the list. It’s because Bernard (Patriot-killer) Pollard has joined the Tennessee Titans. You may remember that it was Pollard who sacked Tom Brady on the play where Brady tore his ACL in 2008. He was also involved in the play when Wes Welker got a torn ACL in 2009 and when Rob Gronkowski got hurt and missed the Super Bowl. And just a couple months ago it was a ferocious hit from Pollard that knocked Stevan Ridley out and forced a crucial fumble in the AFC Championship Game that Baltimore went on to win. But this year, the Patriots don’t have to worry about Pollard because they don’t play the Titans. (I reserve the right to change this opinion if the NFL schedules the Patriots and Titans to play in the preseason.)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle started the offseason with a bang by trading for one of the most dangerous weapons in the league in Percy Harvin. Then they added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to an already stellar defense.

Kyle Arrington

The New England defensive back (and new father) just scored a year’s worth of diapers from new Patriot Adrian Wilson for giving up the number 24 jersey, allowing Wilson to keep his number from his days in Arizona.

Elvis Dumervil

In one of the strangest free agent developments I can remember, Dumervil was cut from Denver because his agent didn’t get a signed agreement faxed to the team seven minutes earlier. Instead, Elvis was cut by the Broncos even though he wanted to stay and they wanted to keep him. It was an embarrassing situation for everyone involved, but signing a 5-year, $35 million contract with the defending Super Bowl champs is a nice recovery for Dumervil.

Denver Broncos

If not for the previously mention Dumervil debacle, the Broncos would have an almost perfect off season so far. Adding Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Terrance Knighton fills just about every hole on the roster. If they can bring in Dwight Freeney or John Abraham to replace Dumervil, they will be in great shape heading into the draft.

Tim Tebow

Even though he isn’t a free agent, Tebow makes the list because there is finally a team that has come forward and said they actually want him on the roster. Yeah it is the Orlando Predators and yeah it is the Arena Football League. But at least he’d get a shot to play quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins landed the biggest fish in free agency when they signed WR Mike Wallace. They have also made a splash by signing WR Brandon Gibson, TE Dustin Keller, and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. If all goes well, they could challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. If not, at least they have given their fans some hope and shown that they are going for it.

December 27, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tim Tebow reportedly asks out of Wildcat packages: Many news outlets reported over the weekend that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow asked not to be utilized in the team’s wildcat package on offense for this weekend’s game. According to the report, Tebow has been disappointed at not being named as the starter after Mark Sanchez was benched. His frustration can be understood to a degree as the Jets went with unproven rookie Greg McElroy, but if the reports are true, that’s a bad move on his part. Above all else, Tebow has to be a reliable member of the team and play as requested by the coaches – even if he doesn’t feel he’s being utilized properly. If he feels he’s being treated unfairly, he can always ask for a way out. But as long as he’s being paid by the franchise and is a member of the team, Tebow should participate in any way the coaches see fit.

Since benching Mark Sanchez, the quarterback situation for the New York Jets has gotten even cloudier.

Cleveland Indians sign Nick Swisher: The Cleveland Indians made a bit of a splash in MLB free agency by signing outfielder Nick Swisher away from the Yankees. Swisher hit 24 home runs and drove in nearly 100 runs in New York last year and will provide a boost to the Cleveland offense. The move is especially helpful for the Tribe as they recently traded away Shin-Soo Choo. And at 32 having had a pretty healthy career, Swisher should still have a few more years left in the tank.

Jabari Parker commits to Duke, reports backlash: High School basketball sensation Jabari Parker, widely regarded as one of the top two recruits in the class of 2013 committed to Duke last week. Afterwards, he reported being harassed on Twitter. He responded by saying he’s ‘just a kid’, but the fact is that it’s just something he’ll have to learn to deal with. Having a Twitter account is one thing athletes use to connect better with fans, but the flipside is that not everyone will be thrilled with what they do or say. I’m not condoning harassment of athletes on the social media site (particularly ones still in high school), but Parker will need to realize it’s only going to get worse as he advances to college and, presumably, the NBA.

Indianapolis Colts clinch playoff berth: The Colts did the unthinkable this weekend by making the NFL playoffs with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm. When the Colts decided to make the difficult move to transition away from Peyton Manning, most figured it would take a few years to get back to the postseason. But Luck not only had a monster rookie campaign, breaking Cam Newton’s rookie season passing record, he’s led Indianapolis to an unthinkable ten wins so far. The Colts’ management has to be absolutely pleased with the way things have worked out under Luck. He was expected to be a star in the league, but few could have seen this much success in only his first year.

DeMarcus Cousins in trouble … again: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was recently suspended indefinitely by the team for conduct detrimental to the team. The exact reason hasn’t been specified, but Cousins and coach Keith Smart reportedly argued in the locker room at halftime of a recent game and the player was benched in the second half. Cousins wasn’t even permitted to leave the locker room during the benching. Even worse was the fact that this isn’t his first brush with trouble this season. Cousins was suspended for a game after striking the Dallas MavericksO.J. Mayo in the groin earlier this month. He was also suspended by the league for two games after an incident with San Antonio Spurs’ announcer and former player Sean Elliott back in November. For his part in the locker room incident with Smart, Cousins has since admitted he was wrong. But the Kings may be fed up with his actions lately and the indefinite suspension could last a while. If so, you have to applaud management since Cousins is the team leader in points, rebounds, and steals, and one of the few attractions the franchise has.

Texas’ Myck Kabongo has season-long suspension cut: Texas guard Myck Kabongo was recently suspended by the NCAA for the rest of this season, but last week had it cut to 23 games. Kabongo reportedly lied to the school about receiving improper gifts, but was found to have not lied to the NCAA. More alarming for me, though, was Texas coach Rick Barnes who said his thoughts are with Myck and his family and that he ‘feels’ for him. So let’s get this straight – a player lies to the school that provides him with a free education and a place to display his athletic talents, but is then treated as if he did nothing wrong and is virtually being tortured. Got it. I don’t deny that everyone makes mistakes, but Kabongo deserves to sit this time out. Instead of feeling bad for him, Barnes would sound much more credible if he said he was disappointed in his actions.

April 2, 2012

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Believe it or not – Jets a Good Fit for Tim Tebow

By: Anson Whaley

In only a few short years, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has become a lightning rod for attention. Recently, Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets. With the signing of Peyton Manning, it wasn’t a surprise that he was dealt. But the Jets’ willingness to step up to make a move raised a few eyebrows. At first glance, Tebow ending up in New York might seem like a disaster waiting to happen. But a longer look shows that it could actually be a good fit for both parties.

With Tim Tebow on the team, Mark Sanchez will have competition this season.

Tebow’s been through the media firestorm. Locally in Denver, the attention wasn’t nearly what it will be in the Big Apple. But here’s the thing – the national attention Tebow drew will undoubtedly prepare him for what he’ll face from the NY/NJ market. If any player can handle the added attention he’ll receive going to a larger market, it’s him.

Tebow will also have the added benefit of not being the main story 24/7. Even when he wasn’t putting up great numbers, Tebow was still the main focus out in Denver. But in New York, there are any other number of things that can keep him off the front page. The Knicks and Linsanity will be in the middle of their season, the Yankees are a front-page story year round, and if the Rangers have another year like this one, they’ll be a focal point as well. Throw in the New Jersey Devils and Mikhail Prokhorov’s antics with the Nets and it’s easy to see there are plenty of other distractions. Tebow won’t be able to avoid the media insanity that’s sure to follow him, but he won’t be the only story in town.

With Tebow out of Denver, many thought a great landing spot would have been in Jacksonville. But playing for the Jets may actually be better for him. In Jacksonville, the media scrutiny would have still been significant and Tebow would have had to balance that with constantly playing in front of family and friends. Sure, they could have provided a support system for him of sorts, but it will also be beneficial for him to avoid having the weight of needing to succeed in front of them.

On the field, Tebow will (for now, anyway) likely start the season as the backup to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has been good, but not great. But he’s done enough to keep his job for now and that will be an advantage for Tebow. He’ll have time to study the playbook and get acquainted with his new team. There’d be no opportunity to do that had he been traded to a team in immediate need of a quarterback and surviving the media blitz he’ll face will be infinitely easier as a backup. Tebow, of course, has aspirations of starting eventually, but it will behoove him to let Sanchez take the reins for at least a bit.

The other part of that is that because Sanchez has struggled at times, the door could be opened for Tebow to become a starter. In Denver, Tebow would have had no shot to get off the bench with Manning leading the team. But head coach Rex Ryan won’t be hesitant to pull the trigger on a quarterback change if he doesn’t feel that Sanchez is living up to expectations. Sanchez completed fewer than 60% of his passes last year and had a passer rating of only 78.2. If the Jets have aspirations of getting to a Super Bowl, they’ll need better production from their quarterback. And while Tebow posted worse numbers than Sanchez last season, he was able to lead his team to a slew of victories at the end of the year – something Sanchez didn’t do. The bottom line is that if Sanchez doesn’t win early, Tebow could get onto the field.

And even if Tebow can’t unseat Sanchez, Ryan has said he’d like to use him in wildcat packages. He will still be able to contribute but not have all of the pressures of being the starter. There will still be plenty of eyeballs on him, but he won’t face the same amount of scrutiny as he would if he were under center on every single play.

Tebow isn’t the only one who will benefit, either. The Jets will have someone to legitimately push Mark Sanchez for playing time. In addition, having Tebow will give their offense another dimension with the wildcat package. There will also almost certainly be more interest in the team and a revitalization of sorts after a disappointing 8-8 season.

The success (or lack thereof) of the New York experiment won’t be known for some time. Still, it’s possible that Tebow could not only survive, but thrive, there.