Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Rank Free Agency

At the end of 1992 NFL season, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White became on the first and most high profile players to take advantage of the new Free Agency.  It was a media merry go round, as everyone speculated as to where the most dominant defensive player of the age would end up in his quest for a championship, a quest that was destined never to be fulfilled in Philly.  SI had a famous front cover, showing White in his pads, with various team jerseys pictured as cut outs to stick on to him as they "scrambled to give him the shirts of their backs." Eventually, he signed with the Green Bay Packers, and finally became the winner his talents deserved to make him, finishing with three sacks of New England QB Drew Bledsoe as the Packers routed the Patriots 35-21 in Superbowl XXXI.

Now, in the off season gap between the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons, another stud free agent is available, looking for the best fit after several unfulfilled years, never truly settling anywhere since "his" team upped sticks and went away.  Yes, and NFL Network's Adam Rank is looking for a new team to root for.

Some may think its a simple matter of choosing between the 32 franchises, but in truth Adam is not looking at 32 teams.  There are instant disqualifications.  The St Louis Football Club (still bewilderingly referred to as "The Rams" by some misguided individuals) are an automatic no, as are the Oakland Raiders.  Other teams, like Arizona and San Diego, have held Adams attention for a time, but are undesirable locations at this time.  After careful consideration, and in honour of Adam's very own "Pick Six" column, I present the six most likely outcomes for Adam Rank for the 2013 season and beyond.

So, in no particular order, let us begin.

WHY A GOOD FIT? This would seem to be a very desirable landing spot.  The Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in all of American sports, with a record breaking SIX Superbowl victories.  They are a perennial powerhouse in the AFC North, and are never usually far away from a post season berth.  It is doubtful that this side will ever undergo years of absence from the playoffs.
WHY STEER CLEAR? The Steelers have a loyal and vociferous fan in fellow star Dave Dameshek, and there may be a danger of the hugely succesful Dave Dameshek Football Program podcast becoming a Steelers love in, which would almost certainly lead to a fall off in listeners from the Cleveland and Baltimore areas.

WHY A GOOD FIT? Could Adam follow Reggie White to "Title Town"? There are plenty of reasons why this makes a lot of sense.  Like the Steelers, the Pack have a long and storied history.  Hell, the Superbowl trophy is named after a former Packers coach.  They have the best QB to watch in the game at present, and put up enough points to warm the heart of any fans braving the near freezing outdoor conditions.  Plus, it would give Adam a better opportunity to more frequently hang out with Packers linebacker and #DDFP favourite AJ Hawk.
WHY STEER CLEAR? Not many obvious reasons to go against this plan, other than it is VERY VERY COLD in Wisconsin, especially in playoff time.

WHY A GOOD FIT? After having to watch the Arizona Cardinals suffer from crummy QB play and abysmal O line antics, it is expected that Adam will want to go and watch a team win, and win often.  So where better to stop in than Denver, who are without doubt the cream of a pretty ordinary AFC West.  John Fox has led the franchise to the playoffs in both of his years with the team so far, and after the hilarity of the Tebow experiment, the Broncos are the current home of one of the greatest regular season QBs of all time, Peyton Manning.  A 11/12 win season, at least for as long as Peyton is around, seems certain.
WHY STEER CLEAR? It would be very difficult (nigh on impossible) to see/hear Adam getting behind Peyton Manning, knowing that every regular season win puts him one game closer to an inevitable post season failure.  Plus, by his own admission, Adam did once attempt to nail his colours to the Broncos mast when Arizona QB Jake Plummer left for Colorado, so it is doubtful whether he would be up for a repeat.

WHY A GOOD FIT? Philadelphia sports fans are highly passionate about their teams, and love to show how happy they are when things are going well.  They also possess a healthy dislike of all things from New York and Boston, a trait already shared with Adam Rank.  Under Chip Kelly, the potential is there for a new philosophy of offence in the NFL for years to come. Plus, it must be said, Philly lends itself to sports movies (especially football) in a way that Pittsburgh just doesn't. (Bane didn't go blowing up the Linc, did he?)  The recent award winning "Silver Linings Playbook" centred on the Eagles, the semi biopic "Invincible" was the incredible story of Vince Papale, a man who went to an open tryout for the Eagles and somehow made the team, which is turn saved as the inspiration for the movie "The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon".  Hell, where was Rocky set? Philly!
WHY STEER CLEAR? Prolonged exposure to the Eagles can lead to a high degree of anger and bitterness (see Jonathan Loughran's character in the movie "Anger Management" for an understated example of this).  I mean, this fan base booed Santa Claus.  As an Eagles fan, I'd love to see Adam join the Bird brotherhood, but I couldn't recommend it.

WHY A GOOD FIT? After a decade or more in the doldrums, the last two years under Jim Harbaugh have been welcome fayre for yet another storied franchise.  Undoubtedly the team of the 1980s, the team struggled through the 90s and early 2000s.  But under Harbaugh they have been to a Superbowl (which they lost) a year after reaching the NFC title game (which they lost).  The progression curve would indicate that if Adam gets onboard now, he could be enjoying a Superbowl victory at Metlife in the cold next February.
WHY STEER CLEAR? Geographically, its just too damn close to LA, plus longstanding feelings of rivalry between this time and Adams beloved (and sadly missed) LA Rams make this an unlikely happy marriage.

WHY A GOOD FIT? It is very likely that LA will soon have a team once again, and also increasingly likely (in this authors view) that the team will be the reborn LA Rams.  And what could be cooler than turning up for that first Rams game in LA wearing an original "BROCK #5#" jersey (Dieter Brock Drop...)?
WHY STEER CLEAR? Being a fan of a team means supressing that rational part of ourselves.  Pinning your hopes on a group of men, hoping that THIS week the corner will be turned, THIS year they'll go all the way, that THIS team is the greatest you've ever seen...this is why we love sports.

So what will Adam choose? We shall have to wait, and watch.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

On Top, Down Under?

The limited over jamboree has come to an end, with England successful in both the T20 and the 50 over contests against a spirited New Zealand side, no slouches in those formats.  The Test series is now upon us, and the continuing journey back to the top of the world rankings under the captaincy of Alastair Cook begins again.

It is however the captaincy of our opponents that has overshadowed the build up to both the recent Kiwi tour to South Africa and this series.  Ross Taylor, the mercurial middle order batsman and captain since Daniel Vettori stood down, was removed from office by the new head coach Mike Hesson after a series in Sri Lanka for the limited overs sides.  Taylor was offered the chance to continue as Test captain, but felt aggrieved and chose to sit out the South Africa tour entirely.  Hesson, sensing a public relations breakdown, tried to infer that the move was designed to increase Taylor's use to the side.  The sporting public in New Zealand didn't seem to take this, and indeed some of the senior players were quick to show their support for "Rosco".  Opening batsman Martin Guptill dedicated his T20 century during the South Africa series to the outgoing skipper.  Hesson was not assisted by the teams bowling coach Shane Bond basically agreeing that Taylor had been screwed over.  Taylor's replacement as skipper is limited overs keeper/batsman (but inconsistent Test player) Brendan McCullum, a former Otago teammate of...Mike Hesson.

During the 50 over matches, McCullum (batting oddly low in the order) seemed to be fighting a lone battle, especially since Guptill was ruled out of the whole series after batting on one leg in the first match.  His explosiveness helped prop up a poor effort from the top order, but never really looked like taking the match from England.

This will be England's first Test action since winning in India, and it is likely that the side will show few changes from that last test.  Cook and Compton look likely to be allowed to continue their fledgling opening partnership, while the new wonder kid Joe Root is expected to continue his education at number 6.  After their "one or another" rivalry during the India tour, I'd expect England to reunite Broad and Finn, alongside Jimmy Anderson (who needs 12 wickets to go to 300 Test scalps) and the ever reliable Graeme Swann as the leading spin threat.

I can see no other result than an England series win, but that doesn't mean attention should be allowed to waiver.  This series, followed by a return visit, is the starter to a meal that includes back to back series against Australia.  There are question marks (some manufactured, some warranted) over several players.  Can Compton cut loose, after showing his grit during the India series? Can Root continue to show his class, and deliver one or more big scores? Can Ian Bell, once again playing with the sword of Damocles over him, return to his ruthless form of 2010-2011 and finally put to bed doubts about his mental toughness? I believe the answer to at least two of these questions is YES.  I'd like to say for all three, but we shall have to see.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Mock Draft 1.0

Its been a while since last I committed any of my thoughts, half baked or otherwise, to paper.  For those of you that have missed my offerings, I can only apologise.  For the rest of you, those who's peace I am about to shatter, I again apologise.

This blog will feature my first effort at predicting the picks of the NFL teams for the upcoming Draft (Player Selection Meeting).  We have been told again and again that there are no "studs" in this draft class, and that teams with high picks may seek instead to look for solutions elsewhere.  However, the teams still have to draft, and in every class there is the hope that a roster will be improved with each selection.

This is the first time since 1999 that my beloved Philadelphia Eagles "earned" a high draft pick through their ineptitude in the 2012 season.  The Eagles are in transition, with a new coach Chip Kelly coming in to try and turn around a Franchise that has not won a playoff game since the 2008 postseason under Andy Reid.  But the first overall pick goes to the Kansas City Chiefs, who are now coached by...Andy Reid.  They, for a "worst team in football" have very few glaring needs, but quarterback is certainly one of them.  That is the reason why I suspect, despite the absence of an Andrew Luck, a Robert Griffin III...even a Nick Foles, they will still use the first pick on a quarterback.

So, without further ado, here is my first round mock draft.

KANSAS CITY - Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
OAKLAND RAIDERS - Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
DETROIT LIONS - Bjorn Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
CLEVELAND BROWNS - Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
ARIZONA CARDINALS - Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
BUFFALO BILLS - Manti T'eo, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame
NEW YORK JETS - Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
TENNESSEE TITANS - Chance Womack, Offensive Guard, Alabama
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
MIAMI DOLPHINS - Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
CAROLINA PANTHERS - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
ST LOUIS RAMS - Kenny Vaccaro, Strong Safety, Texas
PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
DALLAS COWBOYS - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
NEW YORK GIANTS - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
CHICAGO BEARS - Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State University
CINCINATTI BENGALS - Eric Reid, Free Safety, Louisiana State University
ST LOUIS RAMS (from Washington Redskins) - Keenan Allen, WR, California
MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Deandre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State
GREEN BAY PACKERS - Travis Frederick, Center, Wisconsin
DENVER BRONCOS - Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
ATLANTA FALCONS - Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - Matt Elam, FS, Florida
BALTIMORE RAVENS - Sam Montgomery, DE, Louisiana State University

My mock draft does not account for possible trades, nor does it try to guess what the 32 teams will do in free agency with their own and available players.  I have merely attempted to identify urgent needs for all teams and assigned them the best available players at that position.  I'm sure my next mock draft will contain many changes, but its a start, isn't it?

If you have any comments, please feel free to hit me up on The Twitter, @ndutton13 and don't forget to listen to my and Paul Mainwarings weekly rantings on "Waxing Lyrical with Mainz and Dutts", available on iTunes.