Friday, December 14, 2007

How to NOT Breed a Champion

Hook these two up.

Luckily, they are both on the north side of 50. For those of you not in the know, Chris Evert was most known for losing to Martina Navritilova, and Greg Norman had some memorable choke jobs. For more on choke artists, see this ESPN article.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Formula One's Michael Schumacher Turns Cab Driver

Formula One's Michael Schumacher--one of the most recognized faces in sports outside the U.S.--apparently used his celebrity to commandeer a taxi cab that was going too slow for comfort.

The Schumacher family flew to southern Germany from Switzerland on Saturday via private jet to buy a puppy. The cabbie drove the family to a breeder in Gesuelz, then back to the airport.

But on the ride back, the cabbie apparently wasn't going fast enough for Schumacher's taste, so the seven-time Formula One Champion--the most successful FO driver in history--told the cabbie to skooch over.

"It was sheer lunacy," cabbie Tuncer Yilmaz told the Muenchener Abendzeitung newspaper. "He took the curves with full speed, but you couldn't even notice it. He just knows how to do it."
Schumacher showed his appreciation by giving the cabbie a €100 ($146.72) tip, on top of the €60 ($88.03) fare.

Yilmaz' only regret? He wishes German photo radar would have caught Schumacher speeding.

"I so much would have loved to get a speeding photo of this ride," Yilmaz told the Abendzeitung. "I would have gladly paid a ticket for that."

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 4-3 vs. the 3-4 -- Why the Steelers Should Make the Switch in 2008 -- Post 1 of 2

This is a GREAT quote:

Part of the problem is 3-4 teams have more competition for players who exclusively fit the scheme. A quarter of the league’s teams are expected to run the 3-4 this season, including the Browns under second-year Coach Romeo Crennel — who helped make the 3-4 so popular with his success as defensive coordinator in New England.

More teams are using it now than it any point since the mid-’80s. Just three years ago, only four teams used the 3-4.

“There was a time there when you could look at certain guys (who fit the 3-4) and say nobody else in the league is going to have this guy rated very high because he’s not a 4-3 end and he’s not a 4-3 ’backer,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick says. “That’s not the case now.”

The other issue is unless a 3-4 team is scouting a player at Virginia or Texas A&M, it can’t see that player use the techniques required in a 3-4 defense. As NFL teams have warmed to the 3-4, colleges have cooled to it. That means almost every outside linebacker a 3-4 NFL team looks at is a projection
The way the Steelers do the 3-4, they draft a guy at DE or OLB and groom him for years—Aaron Smith, Brett Kiesel, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, James Harrison. Do the Steelers have the people to replace these guys? At DL, definitely not. At LB, probably not, but you never know.

An advantage of the 4-3, is that many college teams run it, so you can get a DT or DE or LB “out of the box”, that is, you can plug and play the guy without having to sit him for 3 years so he can learn the complex schemes of the Steeler 3-4.

Another distinct advantage of the 4-3 is that the most dominant players from a defensive perspective end up being pass rushing DEs (Dwight Freeney, Jevon Kearse, Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, Terrell Suggs, etc.) who don’t have the bulk to play 3-4 DE and don’t have the linebacking skills to play OLB. That means you take a player (or more typically you pass on the player) who can have an outsized impact on the game relative to his position, and then try to make him into something he is not, which means that you may diminish his pass rushing skills just so he can drop into coverage, or you have to wait 2 years for him to master those skills and then have an impact on the game.

For example: Mark Anderson, DE Chicago. Had 12 sacks as a rookie last year. Picked in the 5th round. Why couldn’t the Steelers take a flyer on him as a situational pass rusher? Oh, right, because he can’t cover the TE. But how is that different from the other Steelers LBs?

Caveat: Granted, Terrell Suggs is considered an OLB in the Ravens 34, but for his first few seasons he rushed the passer almost exclusively and had a huge impact...believe me, Suggs won't sign a rich FA contract in the offseason because he is good at covering in the flat.

The 4-3 vs. the 3-4 -- Why the Steelers Should Make the Switch in 2008 -- Post 2 of 2

The fabled Steelers D got ripped to shreds last night by the Pats, in a scenario that was first documented by the, yep, New England Patriots way back in 2002. 25 passes in a row by Tom Brady let to a 30-14 win, where the last Steeler TD was in garbage time. Last night Tom Brady threw 33 times in a row -- the result, 34-13, Pats. Since Pittsburgh got exposed by the Pats 5 years ago, little has changed. The Steelers still don't have a dominant pass rush, and thus must take risks to get to the quarterback.

Meanwhile, Tony Dungy runs the Tampa 2, a base defense with a somewhat basic scheme that relies on pressure from the Front 4, allowing 7 players to routinely play coverage. Mike Tomlin, Steeler coach, is a Tampa 2 guy, but in deference to old lion Dick LeBeau (and probably owner Rooney's wishes), the Steelers have stuck with their 3-4 concept this year. In Dungy's defense, players dictate schemes, while in the Steelers defense, schems dicate the players. Here's my argument for why that should change in 2008.

Steelers 2008 Draft Needs: 3-4

3-4 DL depth: currently the Steelers have a quality front 3, Smith Hampton Kiesel. They have one quality backup: Hoke. The steelers need to find 2 3-4 DEs in the draft or FA next year.

3-4 LB depth: Farrior is getting old, Foote is average. Timmons is not a 3-4 OLB, and will probably have to move inside. Woodley has shown flashes, but didn't paly much and is now injured. Haggans is average, J. Harrison is quality, and A. Harrison and A. Frazier are solid backups. Clint Kreiwaldt is only good for STs. At the very least, the Steelers need a pass rushing OLB who can also play well in coverage, which is kind of a funny requirement given how poor the existing Steeler LBs are in coverage.

Secondary: Because of the rules that favor the offense, pass rush becomes more important than coverage. Plus, there are maybe 3 shutdown corners in the league: Charles Woodson, GB; Champ Bailey, Denver; and the Oakland guy with the crazy name. Asante Samuel of NE could be considered too. The Steelers have big, physical corners who are often ineffective in soft zone coverage, as they are asked to play often in the 3-4. The Steelers shouldn't looke for a gamebreaker, but rather look for depth here.

2008 Steelers Draft Needs: 4-3

4-3 DL depth: Kiesel would stay at end, Smith would move inside with Hampton, and Woodley would put his hand down to be a full-time pass rusher. The steelers would need to draft a 4-3 DE and a 4-3 DT, with Hoke as the one quality backup. NOTE: I assume that a 4-3 is easier on the DL, because there are more of them, and they typically have one gap to play rather than 2. Plus, both Hampton and Kiesel can drop weight, which will make them quicker and more effective.

4-3 LB depth: 43 backers are SAM--or strongside linebacker, who is big, physical, and must jam the TE. the MIKE, or middle backer, should be quick and able to flow to the ball (in the Tampa 2 43 he must also be able to cover the deep zone down the field). The WILL, or weakside backer, is set up to be the star--he can roam in space and make plays. In the Steelers 43 system, Haggans plays the SAM, Farrior moves to back him up (he can also back up as MIKE), as he played OLB early in his career. If you want to run the Tampa 2 43, Timmons plays the Mike because of his speed and pass coverage skills. James Harrison must get on the field, but he doesn’t have the range to play a 4-3 Tampa MLB. He may have the skills to play WILL, but I can see a situation where Harrison plays inside and Timmons weakside OLB.

Final Analysis:

In the 43, the Steelers need 2 defensive linemen commonly available in the draft to "plug and play." They also would need a SAM backer and maybe a WILL, but as depth.

In the 34, the Steelers need 2 DEs who must be selected and then forced to add weight and then groomed for the position in 2 years. They also need to find a rarity: the OLB who can rush the passer effectively and play in coverage. They haven't had that player since Joey Porter in 2002.

So, in 2008, you can look for 2 DLs and one LB who can possibly play right away, or two DEs and one OLB that you need to groom for 2 years first. Given the way the game changes from year to year, I don't think the Steelers can afford to go this route again.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Can the Steelers Beat the Pats and/or the Spread?

In a word, yes, or maybe. Actually I don't think so. This game has the makings of the Steelers Colts in 05 where the Steelers got blitzed 26-7. But remember, they came back in the playoffs and beat the Colts on their way to the Super Bowl.

Also, I read on one of the major sports sites that since the 38-7 cremation of the Ravens, where Big Ben had 5 TD passes, he has thrown 5 TDs and 5 INTs in the following 3 games. Not good.

Watching the Steelers week to week, I know these things: If they have a shutdown corner in Ike Taylor, I haven't seen it yet, but maybe it's more scheme than ability. If they have a pass rush that can get to the QB without blitzing, I haven't seen it yet. If they have an offensive line that can impose it's will on a defense, I haven't seen it yet.

Maybe they are holding back, playing possum, not revealing too much lest it show up on tape for Belichick to analyze. But obviously I haven't seen that yet.

Another thing that I haven't seen, that I wish I have, is Rookie LBs Timmons and Woodley playing bigger roles. Woodley seemed to show an ability to get to the quarterback off the edge, which the Steelers need like the Dolphins need a win. Timmons is fast, fast enough to be split wide on the punt team, and apparently has flashed enough coverage skills in practice that he may prove valuable in covering the New England TEs and RBs. But that's in practice.

But there's one thing I HAVE seen from the Steelers is inconsistency. Mental lapses, seemingly deficient gameplans and attention to detail, bumbling plays, and a knack for playing down to their opposition. Will they be able to get up for the New England megalith? I hope so. But if not, maybe if they meet again in the playoffs, things will be different. I would like to see that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Which Douchebag Coach Do The Patriots Have to Thank for a Perfect Season?

Bill Belichick? Or Rex Ryan?

With 1 minute left in the game and the Pats driving for the game winning TD, the Pats rushed the line of scrimmage on 4th and 1 for a patented Tom Brady QB sneak. You would have to be stupid not to expect that play, and the Ravens D knew what was up, and took Brady down behind the line of scrimmage. Say Goodbye, Perfect Season...

But...But...Wait...Oh, timeout? By whom? Oh...Ravens...What?? Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan called timeout from the sidelines just as the play snapped. Do Over, Pats 1st down, Game Over.

Calling timeouts from the sideline has been NFL coaches signature douchebag move this year (see Shanahan, Mike), esp. right as a game winning or tying field goal is about to be kicked. As much as I hate the Patriots and wanted to see them lose, I am pretty pleased to see the sideline timeout backfire on a coach. Maybe then they'll actually change the rule so that only players within the lines can call timeout, as it should be.

On another note, the Ravens D thought they had this game won, and they did. They certainly have a beef with Head Coach Brian Billick, who resorted to unimaginative playcalling when trying to protect the lead and left Kyle Boller to be fed to the wolves by passing in obvious passing situations. However, Ed Reed did fumble an INT right before the half--if he merely held onto the ball, the Ravens would have been in scoring position--which is unconscionable, esp. for Bill Belichick's favorite player. And Bart Scott's meltdown, being assessed 30 yards in penalties after the go-ahead touchdown, basically downgrading the Ravens chances from slim to none, is also unforgivable. The Ravens D is just as much to blame in this loss as their Offense...but maybe not their coaches.

Monday, December 03, 2007

They Are Not Who We Thought They Once Were, But Now Are

Dear Joe Gibbs:For Christmas, I will buy you a car. Hell, three cars, but if I do, that football has got to go. Don't worry, it looks like your poop. So you won't miss it. And it won't miss you.

Dear Marvin Lewis:

I guess coaching God's Linebacker in Baltimore made you think that you could draft questionable characters and still get results on the field. Well, it's true. But you didn't learn another thing from God's Linebacker, or He Who Sanctioned But Did Not Commit--So, You Must Acquit!--Murder Because It Is God's Will: Don't draft pussies.

Chad Johnson: If he acts like a transvestite when he scores, maybe he is. He even has a stage name!

T.J. Housmenzadeh: This guy is prettier than your wife.

Carson Palmer: He's like Troy Aikman, but gayer.

P.S. Don't play grabass with the refs, either. It's unprofessional.