Thursday, January 30, 2014
By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)
So Richard Sherman deflects a pass on a fade route (that’s how Richard Sherman described it) into the end zone against the 49ers and Michael Crabtree. The tip leads to the game-clinching interception by linebacker Malcolm Smith. Sherman mouths off to Crabtree and makes the choke sign, apparently at Colin Kaepernick.
All in the heat of the game, right? Well, bush league as those actions may be, not exactly. After the game, being interviewed by Erin Andrews, he mocked Crabtree. Later, in the post-game press conference, he further mocked Crabtree, a very good NFL receiver. Sherman kept repeating the word “mediocre” when referring to Crabtree.
So, in that magical and tough trip from Compton to Stanford to the NFL to the Super Bowl, nobody ever taught Sherman (or he, despite his intelligence, was unable to learn) one simple thing: how to win with class.
Sherman’s right; it’s totally unfair (and ignorant) to call him a thug or a criminal. Stanford grad or not, he doesn’t deserve that. But to do what he did to fellow competitors competing at the highest level: well that’s a jerky thing to do.
Despite all of the apologies and backtracking and tweeting, at the end of the day (and upon reiterating that Crabtree really is a “mediocre” receiver), Sherman still doesn’t get it.
And as for all the references to Muhammad Ali, understand this: there was only one Ali, and Richard Sherman isn’t in his neighborhood, despite being a great corner.
MICHAEL CRABTREE – CLASSY IN DEFEAT
On the other hand, there was Michael Crabtree, maybe two or three inches (of a higher throw) away from going to the Super Bowl, standing in front of his locker answering questions after the tough loss. And what did Crabtree say: “He’s [Sherman’s] a TV guy; I’m not a TV guy. I play ball.”
Well, Amen to that. Whatever Sherman really thinks of Crabtree (and he may have been trying to psyche him out for next season, as these teams play at least twice a year), he could learn a lot about class from Michael Crabtree.
In addition, Crabtree complemented Sherman not once, but twice, saying he made a good play.
Michael Crabtree showed a lot of class in defeat, something Richard Sherman was unable to show in victory. Unfortunately, millions of kids will see and emulate Sherman before Crabtree.
And people want to know why kids act the way they do today.
On the first Seattle offensive play against the 49ers, Russell Wilson made a gigantic mistake, which presumably was overlooked because the Seahawks won the game. You’ve seen the play plenty of times in the NFL. Virtually everybody on Seattle moves to the right, but Wilson fakes a handoff and rolls out left. Coming with him is tight end Zach Miller.
Only Aldon Smith goes with Miller and you have something that you see all the time on this play: two offensive players against one defensive player. Smith is about eight or nine yards away from Wilson and right near Miller. If Smith stays with the tight end, Wilson runs. If Smith sprints towards Wilson, he simply lobs the ball over Smith’s head to Miller.
But, inexplicably, on this play, when Smith runs towards Wilson, Wilson keeps the ball, and tries to run around Smith, who strips Wilson of the ball. The 49ers recover on the Seattle 15 but the 49ers are held to a field goal, a victory for the Seattle defense.
This was even worse than a rookie mistake by Russell Wilson, again virtually ignored by the media. If he makes a terrible play like that against the Broncos, it might very well be 7-0, not 3-0, a play that could change the complexion of the game.
But Russell Wilson is a very bright guy who should learn from his mistakes.
RICHARD SHERMAN – INTELLIGENT JERK (PART 2)
In addition to the classless behavior Sherman exhibited towards the 49ers, it was arguably even worse towards his own teammate. After the game, Sherman was talking about how, if the Seahawks knew the game was going to turn on a fade (that’s Sherman’s characterization of the route) route thrown his way, they would have celebrated their victory a lot sooner.
Of course, he totally missed the point of the play. If you watch a lot of NFL games, there are literally hundreds of fade routes thrown every year in the NFL. Even the average fan knows that most of them are one on one, receiver on corner, into a corner of the end zone. Depending on the throw, more often than anything else, the pass is either completed or not.
On the Sherman-Crabtree play, the throw was slightly underthrown and Sherman was in good position to deflect (not intercept) the throw.
The FAR BETTER play was by linebacker Malcolm Smith. Think of all the fade routes you see every year. When, if ever, is there a linebacker with the speed and the brain to run into the end zone to be around the play?
It was, of course, the interception by Smith that clinched the victory. Had he not been there, after Sherman’s very good play, it would have been second down. Yet Sherman, at least right after the game, gave no credit to his teammate. It was as if he thought he had intercepted the pass.
So, once again, with kids growing up in the look-at-me world that we live in, how do you expect them to act?
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: SEATTLE 23, DENVER 19
While I agree that it’s hard to root for Richard Sherman, the NFC has been stronger than the AFC all year. Since this writer picked the Seahawks (over the Patriots, however) to win the Super Bowl before the season, we’ll stick with Seattle winning the Super Bowl.
Best defense beats best offense? While that usually happens in history, recently the NFL has become a video game offensive game. But the Broncos had trouble scoring touchdowns against the Patriots (and no matter what you think about Manning “carving up” the Pats defense, it was 3-0 when Aqib Talib was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter by a Wes Welker pick) and Tom Brady was unbelievably inaccurate on some huge plays.
It says here that Russell Wilson will make some big plays and Percy Harvin will be at least an important decoy and quite possibly, despite his layoffs and injuries, an actual contributor.
It doesn’t look like the weather will be much of a factor and people think that will help Denver, but it says here that the Seahawks get the job done.
We will see soon enough (actually, the game can’t get here soon enough).
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)
So many people believe that the NBA season begins and Lebron James is crowned the Most Valuable Player before he’s scored a basket. Well, this season, things are vastly different.
While it’s stupid to crown someone MVP before the season starts (how did that happen, anyway? More on that later), it’s clear that this season, so far, Kevin Durant is the hands-down Most Valuable Player. Since Russell Westbrook was injured, Durant has taken his game to a much higher level and, in terms of value to his team, has surpassed any other player.
While Durant has gone off on an 11-game streak where he has scored at least 30 points, it’s really come together for Oklahoma City in the last seven games. Those games, all victories, include road wins at Houston and San Antonio and home wins against Portland and Golden State, four excellent teams in the vey deep West.
In games in which the previous iron-man Westbrook has not played this year, Durant has had to score more, averaging over six points more per game (28.6 to now 34.7), has shot slightly better with everybody keying on him (50% to now 52%) and has scored all six of his 40+ point games without Westbrook on the court.
Why? Because he’s had to, in order to give his team the best chance to win.
Oh, by the way, he’s done all of this by only taking 2.5 more shots per game (18.7 per game with Westbrook; 21.2 per game without Westbrook).
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER (“MVP”) v. MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER (“MOP”)
Many “experts,” in many sports, make this mistake. The MVP is not about who is the best player. The MOP is about who is the best player. Under no analysis is Lebron James the MVP so far this season.
This disease (giving the MVP to the MOP) is especially prevalent in baseball where, in the past, the MVP has been given to the Most Outstanding Player a number of times. Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and even Alex Rodriguez (when he was a Texas Ranger) all won MVPs while playing for poor teams.
Just because you put up great numbers and just because you are the best player in the league, doesn’t mean you are the most valuable.
SO WHAT ABOUT LEBRON JAMES IN 2013-14?
Let’s look at the case of Lebron James this season. Without his running buddy, Dwyane Wade, this year, Lebron has been the leader of a mediocre team, at best. Wade, whose chronic knee condition is a cause for concern virtually every year now, has missed 13 of Miami’s first 44 games. That’s about 30% of the season, if you are scoring at home.
With Wade in the line-up, the Miami Heat are 25-6. With Wade out of the line-up, the Miami Heat are 7-6.
JAMES IS THE MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER IN THE NBA
This isn’t meant to take anything away from Lebron James. He is the best, most talented, most outstanding player in today’s NBA. Nobody who understands basketball really disputes that.
Having said that, nobody who REALLY understands basketball thinks Lebron is the MVP of the NBA so far this season. In fact, if you had to pick somebody to be second in the MVP race right now, it would be LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland, who is a star that nobody knows about (it’s hard to believe that he’s not starting the All-Star game but, hey, Kobe was voted a starter and he can’t run). Lebron is probably third.
It’s really as simple as that.
And here’s one final thought: neither Lebron James nor Kevin Durant is winning the NBA championship this season without their respective wingman (Wade or Westbrook).
@ COPYRIGHT 2014 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Saturday, January 18, 2014
By Rick Morris
^ As we worked into The FDH Lounge Championship Sunday preview show, let’s start with one of the nerdier stats about the games that you will find anywhere. This is the 5th time since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970 that two stadiums will host Championship Sunday after doing so previously on the same day. Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High hosts the AFC title game after doing so in 2006 (as Invesco Field at Mile High); Seattle’s CenturyLink Field likewise hosts the NFL title game and did so on the same day in 2006 (as Quest Field). This stat specifically pertains to the same pair of stadiums being used, which is critical, as just about every team has changed stadiums since 1970, some more than once. The previous combos (keeping in mind that the years referenced are literal ones and not indicative of a season, meaning that the 2006 games were actually for the 2005-06 season)? Three Rivers Stadium and Candlestick Park (1995 and 1998), Three Rivers Stadium and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1976 and 1979), the Oakland Coliseum and Metropolitan Stadium (1975 and 1977) and the Orange Bowl and Texas Stadium (1972 and 1974). For anyone anticipating a Denver-Seattle Super Bowl based on this trend, keep in mind that the two teams associated with the aforementioned stadiums hosting championship games did meet in a Super Bowl in at least one of the two years in every instance except for Pittsburgh-San Francisco in the 1990s.
^ Continuity remains the watchword for the teams involved. Last year, New England, Baltimore and San Francisco all made repeat appearances on Championship Sunday, marking the first time since the 1993 season that three teams came back (Dallas, San Francisco and Buffalo). This year, New England and San Francisco are marking rare three-peat appearances, making this the first time since the 1976 season that more than one team made three consecutive appearances – unbelievably, three teams made their third consecutive appearance that year, Pittsburgh, Oakland and the Los Angeles Rams – with Minnesota also having appeared twice in those three years! The only other time that two teams made simultaneous trifecta appearances was the 1971 stretch with Miami and Dallas. Taking into account this item and the previous one, the 1970s were a time of unprecedented stability.
^ This is the 11th consecutive AFC Championship Game that involves either New England, Indianapolis or Pittsburgh (meaning that whoever won last week’s Pats-Colts Divisional Round game would have extended the streak). It’s notable that three of these game actually featured two of the teams (New England-Indianapolis for the 2003 season, New England-Pittsburgh for the 2004 season and Indianapolis-New England for the 2006 season). Showing how generally consistent these franchises have been over a long stretch of time, all of them were represented on Championship Sunday in the seasons just prior to this period (New England in 1996 and 2001, Indianapolis in 1995 and Pittsburgh in 1994-95, 1998 and 2001). This stretch matches the 11-year run from 1970 to 1980, in which Miami, Oakland and Pittsburgh all made AFC Championship Game appearances. The only one that is longer is the Dallas-Washington-Los Angeles Rams combination from 1972-84, which really only featured the Redskins on either end of the run. Because of the hegemony of the Pats, Colts and Steelers in the AFC Championship Game since the 2003 season, there have only been seven AFC teams in that spot since then. Since 2003, there have been 11 NFC teams in that spot.
^ Both conferences are going through prolonged stretches without having their championship game being hosted in a southern outdoor climate. These games have either been in a dome or a cold northern setting for a long time. The last AFC Championship Game outside in the South was in Jacksonville in January 2000, while the equivalent in the NFC last occurred in Dallas in January 1996).
^ This AFC Championship Game is the first one west of Indianapolis since Denver last hosted back in 2006.
^ The cities involved don’t have a tremendous amount of postseason history with one another in any sport. San Francisco and Seattle have almost no sports history prior to the blowup of this intense rivalry. Boston and Denver have little to join them aside from the 2007 World Series, which featured the Red Sox sweeping the Rockies.
By Rick Morris
Mini-Episode #374 of The FDH Lounge previews NFL Championship Sunday with Vegas handicapper and FDH Lounge Dignitary Kyle Ross.
By Rick Morris
As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days. We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.
Mini-Episode #373 features a review of Episode 2 of Season 5 of Justified with FDH Senior Editor Jason Jones.