Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What's wrong with HGH?

While I do think that the all of the aging Patriots' linebackers are on HGH and I wish they'd get busted for it, just because I hate the Patriots, you really have to wonder if there's anything wrong with Human Growth Hormone, besides making your head really big, like Barry Bonds or David Boston.

Come to think of it, you don't hear the horror stories about steroids that much either anymore, like a Shane Courson or Lyle Alzado whose heart collapses, or the story in this book about the guy who got so hyped on 'roids he ran out into the middle of an intersection and tried to stop a car.

Meanwhile, there ARE horror stories with football that don't involve performance enhancing drugs, like this one:

Invited in by his wife Autumn, she finds the man she came to see sprawled on a couch, unable to stand. Although the house is cool, he is sweating profusely and can't find a position, seated or prone, that doesn't cause him grotesque pain. Every so often his huge body jerks in spasms of head-to-toe agony. The fits, when they come, turn him as white as the walls and send unself-conscious tears down his cheeks. It's DeMarco at 35: dirt-poor, broken, and in a headfirst spiral, taking his wife and children down with him.

The visitor, Jennifer Smith, takes a look around and can scarcely believe her eyes. "There was no food in the house, and I mean none -- not a box of mac and cheese or a can of tuna," she says. "Brian and Autumn hadn't eaten in a couple of days and between them had 75 cents. Total."

Finally, someone in the major media asks the obvious question: Why NOT HGH or testosterone? Money quote:

And the public has been deeply conditioned to think of these drugs in sinister terms, at least when it comes to sports: Any athlete using them is a cheater. Meanwhile, short-statured kids are prescribed HGH injections, AIDS patients get testosterone to combat their wasting away, and baby boomers take related compounds to stay young. A simplistic, good-and-evil judgment of these substances won't continue to hold.

The NFL already lets some players use them (and no, we're not referring to the gaps in its testing program you could drive a stretch Hummer through). Behind closed doors, the league's drug adviser, John Lombardo, has granted waivers to players who have failed drug tests but then explained their medical need for testosterone. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello won't disclose names or reveal how many players have been allowed to pump synthetic hormones into their bodies except to say it's "a very small number."

In each case, he says, testicular disease was the medical rationale. It's a little-used exemption to the league's drug policy, but it's a precedent-setting one: Any player who can show that replacing hormones is critical to his continued health should be allowed to take them.

Later, he notes that it's not just concussions that may be causing the serious injuries to football players:

But in the late 1990s, UCLA neurosurgeon Daniel Kelly noticed that many of his head-injury patients suffered from symptoms associated with pituitary failure: depression, fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration. His findings, which he published in 2000, have led to at least eight studies on three continents, which together involved more than 600 subjects. Each study confirmed the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and a loss of hormonal function. The most common deficiencies in men were those of growth hormone, which occurred in 15% to 20% of cases, and of testosterone, in 10% to 15%.

But researchers in Turkey, in a 2004 study, found growth hormone deficiency to be "very common" among boxers. The sample was small, just 11 top male amateurs, but the results were striking because the number of boxers who may have had deficiencies -- 45.4% -- was so much higher than that of the general population, which is usually less than 5%. More recently, those same researchers published findings from a larger sample, this time 22 kickboxers; 23% showed growth hormone deficits.

You may have noticed that football players get knocked around too.

I'm not saying there's an easy solution to this whole situation, but it seems like acknowledging reality might be a start.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Judo Chop!

Karo Parisyan: I think I already have a title shot if I want to wait
SteelSkins: We don't think you do

After going 4-1 in the UFC from September 2003 thru June 2005, Karo Parisyan was given a title shot. Unfortunately, the Judo expert injured himself during training, and that title shot then went to Joe Riggs, who lost to Matt Hughes on November 19, 2005, the same night that rising talent Georges St. Pierre beat Sean Sherk. After recovering from his injury, Karo was expecting that title shot to still be valid. Only it wasn’t.

It’s a little confusing as to why—perhaps it was the increasing depth in the Welterweight Division—but when Karo eventually did make his return in April 2006, he submitted Nick Thompson, only to lose to Diego Sanchez four months later. Suddenly, Karo found himself even further removed from the title picture.

Karo has since bounced back, only not necessarily in as dominant a fashion as he would like. He’s eeked out decision wins over Drew Fickett, Josh Burkman and Ryo Chonan. His overall UFC record is 8-2 (2 TKOs/Submissions, 6 Decisions; his losses were both unanimous decisions). Now he believes he has earned a title shot—in fact, he believes the UFC has already promised him one, assuming he wants to wait until George St. Pierre fights Matt Serra to unify the titles.

We at SteelSkins admit that we do not know what conversations have gone on between Karo and the UFC, but regardless, we think his title shot is still a ways away. This is because of two factors, really: 1. Karo can’t seem to finish an opponent; and 2. The Welterweight Division of today resembles nothing of what it did in 2005. Consider this:

Before his injury, Karo’s fights included wins over Dave Strasser (via submission), Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle and Matt Serra (all via decision). His only loss during that time was a unanimous decision loss to GSP in Karo’s second UFC fight. These fights, coupled with his record since returning from injury in 2006, paint a picture that’s not exactly dominant. He can’t finish a sub-Top 15 fighter like Ryo Chonan, and he couldn’t get past a game Diego Sanchez, who at the time was ranked by SteelSkins at #4, but has since slid to #7 with back-to-back losses to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.

Back in 2005, the Welterweight contenders list wasn’t nearly as long as it is today. Fighters like Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Marcus Davis—all of whom have since flirted with the Top 3 Contender spots or are currently there—were ranked significantly lower than they are today. Fitch, who was 1-0 in the UFC in 2005 and is today 7-0, hasn’t lost since 2002; Davis is on an 11-fight tear; and GSP has posted wins over some of the very best in MMA, including Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, B.J. Penn, Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes twice.

Many of the UFC’s Welterweight contenders back in 2005 aren’t even around anymore, including Nick Diaz, Brock Larson, Joe Riggs, Frank Trigg, Drew Fickett and Jason Miller. They’ve been replaced by—in some cases—even better talent, namely, Fitch, Kos, Davis, Sanchez, Thiago Alves, Josh Burkman, Mike Swick, and of course a rejuvenated Matt Serra, who might have been on his way out back in 2005, but today holds the belt that all these men seem to want.

Karo faces rising talent Thiago Alves next at UFC 84. With a decisive win, he could find himself next in line for a title shot…that is, after GSP and probably Jon Fitch get their chances, as well as after the loser of the GSP/Serra fight in a rubber match (assuming a GSP victory in April). Wow, that’s a long time to wait. But Karo knows what that’s like.

Learn more about Karo’s title shot hopes, his upcoming fight with Thiago Alves, his claim that he is not ducking Jon Fitch, and his opinion of women competing in MMA here:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Steeler Draft Followup

One argument against my post below (and yes, I know I am arguing with myself) would be that the Steelers have dedicated roughly the same percentage of picks toward the linebacker position as they did over an 8 year period of the 1990s (1992 on--13/82 vs 9/62 -- or 15.8% vs 14%). Plus, if you look at the Chargers and Cowboys, both of whom have the best 3-4 LBs in the business right now, they only picked 10/11 and 9 LBs in the 00's also. However, some of their LBs were "can't miss" prospects, like Merriman and DeMarcus Ware. The Steelers only took an LB in the first round in 07, and Timmons did not contribute right away (unlike Jon Beason of Carolina, who some argued the Steelers should have taken.)

However, my argument is based not on percentages but raw numbers. Based on the
1980s and 1990s draft numbers, it looks like you need roughly 17 picks per decade at the LB position to develop quality 'backers. While 9/62 is a similar ratio, it's not enough critical mass.

Another argument can be made that you shouldn't devote that many picks to one position, especially when there are needs at every position. Also, the Steelers had fewer draft picks, which is partly their own fault for trading some away. This is true, but again, the Steelers have wasted alot of draft picks on 2nd day, and even some on the first (Ricardo Colclough, Alonzo Jackson, I would argue Kendall Simmons, perhaps Anthony Smith, etc.) As a result, the Steelers have paper-thin depth, which was exposed not just on special teams, but also on the defensive line when Aaron Smith went down.

It looks like the real problem is that the whole Steeler draft process in the 00s has broken down, and the lack of drafting quality linebackers is a symptom of the problem.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Numbers Don't Lie

You have heard me complain time and again about the lack of a Steelers pass rush, which, in my opinion has been exposed time and again since 2002, when the Raiders and Pats blitzed the Steelers with the spread passing game. The Pats threw 25 times in a row at one point during a 30-14 win (really 30-7, the Steelers scored a meaningless TD late in the game). The Pats did the same thing in 2007, except they threw it 33 times in a row. To me, though the worst loss was to Cincy in 2003, I think, when Jon Kitna drove the Bengals to a game-winning TD with less than a minute left. KITNA!!!!!!!!!!

In the Steelers 3-4 defense, the linebackers are supposed to make plays and sacks, while the DL are "two-gappers" charged with occupying blockers. Therefore, you can pretty much make a direct correlation between "poor linebackers" and "poor pass rush" in the Steelers scheme.

The Steelers built the LB core of their Blitzburgh D of the 90s almost completely through the draft:

Greg Lloyd: 6th round, 1987
Levon Kirkland: 2nd round, 1992
Chad Brown: 3rd round, 1993
Jason Gildon: 3rd round, 1994
Earl Holmes: 3rd round, 1996
Mike Vrabel: 3rd round, 1997
Joey Porter: 3rd round, 1999

Only Kevin Greene was a free agent acquisition. Also notice that none of these picks came in the 1st round, and most were in the 3rd.

Everyone knows the draft is a crapshoot, but the Steelers did pretty damn good from 1987 through 2001, picking up Clark Haggans and Kendrell Bell in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Then it went downhill. Maybe we did good in 2007 with Timmons and Woodley, but the jury is still out.

You can't be right all the time. But the draft IS a numbers game. The decline in the effectiveness of the Steelers pass rush (post 2001) roughly correlates to the Steelers' change of emphasis towards drafting for the Linebacker position. Thanks to, you can track teams' yearly picks, all the way through their team history.

From 1980 - 1989, the majority of which the Steelers ran the 4-3 (they were the last team to switch to 3-4), the Steelers drafted 17 linebackers. Granted, these were 12 round drafts, so you had the opportunity to pick more players.

However, during the 1990s, which was 12 rounds from 1990 - 1992, 8 rounds in 1993, and 7 rounds from 1994 on, the Steelers drafted, yep, 17 linebackers. This number could be higher, because some players drafted were college DEs.

So how many linebackers have the Steelers drafted from 2000 on? Including college DEs intended for the LB position, through 7 drafts the Steelers picked 7 linebackers. Throw in Year 8 (2007) and you get 9 with Timmons and Woodley. For the Steelers to match their 80s and 90s totals, in 2008 and 2009 they would have to draft 8 LBs out of 14 rounds. Not going to happen, esp. with the need to rebuild the O-line.

I don't count Rookie Free Agent pickups, either; while it is possible to find gems, you are picking through a pretty big pile, mostly of guys not good enough to be drafted.

I guess you get what you pick for.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What You May Have Missed Last Night

If you fast forwarded between UFC fights last night, you missed out on some real treats! More below.

What do you get if you combine the OC, Karate Kid, Rocky, and Fight Club?

Never Back Down. This movie is described thusly on IMDB:

At his new high school, a rebellious teen (Faris) is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran (Hounsou).
The trailer I saw last night includes an Ed Norton lookalike, a training montage involving a black man and a white man running with an oceanic backdrop, and lots of exotic kicking. How much you want to bet the white man wins the race in the end, while learning invaluable lessons along the way?

Those of us watching the UFC last night were also treated to a "sneak peek" of the new Rambo, which involved Rambo urging his male and female companions to run, setting up a claymore mine and then running like hell. The bad guys (looking very North Vietnamese but actually Burmese) uncover the claymore at the last second before it explodes, destroying half the jungle (apparently one of those nucular claymores.)

Thankfully, Rambo has the necessary footspeed to outrun the explosion, just like Ahnuld way back in Predator. I couldn't quite hear any maniacal, otherworldly laughter echoing through the jungle, because I was singing along to the soundtrack, Rob Zombie's classic "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor".

Anyhoo, upshot is, I'm disappointed that Rambo is stealing from other 80s action movies besides his own. I was kind of hoping the new Rambo movie would just be a bunch of clips from the previous Rambo movies thrown together, almost like Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of Psycho, but different.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UFC Should Let Ortiz Go

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz (15-5-1) is set to fight rising contender Lyoto Machida (12-0) at UFC 85 in May, a fight which Ortiz has suggested may be his last in the UFC.

“I’m just looking to get my final fight over with the UFC,” Ortiz told Sirius’ Fight Network Radio on Monday, citing money as the bone of contention with Zuffa, LLC, the company that owns UFC. Ortiz has one fight remaining on his contract, which the bout with Machida will satisfy.

The UFC typically re-signs fighters prior to them fighting the last fight on their contracts. However, months of contract negotiations failing to produce a new deal has left Ortiz out of the Octagon since a July 7, 2007 fight with Rashad Evans (11-0-1), which ended in a disappointing draw. It should be noted that Ortiz would likely have won that fight, had he not been docked points for grabbing the fence during an Evans attempted takedown.

Ortiz was expecting a rematch with Evans to be his final fight. He’ll now look to hit the free-agent market, come May.

“(The UFC) said I wasn’t worth the money,” Ortiz said. “I was worth no more than what I’m getting paid now, and I’m not a commodity to them anymore. I’m not as viable to them anymore. That was a sign of disrespect.”

There is no doubt Ortiz has been a huge commodity to the UFC in the past for myriad reasons:

  • Ortiz has headlined 17 of his 20 UFC appearances, as Fight Network Radio pointed out.
  • He held the UFC LHW belt for three and a half years, still the longest LHW championship reign in the promotion’s history. He first won the vacant title with a unanimous decision victory over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 25 (April 2000). He then defended his title five times, defeating Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock. He then lost the title to Randy Couture at UFC 44 (September 2003) via unanimous decision, followed by a second loss (his only back-to-back losses) to Chuck Liddell via a second-round TKO at UFC 47.
  • Ortiz remains one of the UFC’s largest draws. His rematch against Liddell at UFC 66 (December 2006) is the largest UFC pay-per-view to date and the largest in paid attendance in North America, with 12,191 fans and $5,397,300 in ticket sales.

But at 33 years old, Ortiz seems to be relatively stagnant while many of his fellow competitors are showing marked signs of improvement.

Since returning to the UFC in April 2006, Ortiz has posted a decent 3-1-1 record, including a split decision win over Forrest Griffin, two TKO beat-downs over aging hall-of-famer Ken Shamrock, a late-third-round TKO loss to the then-Champion Chuck Liddell and a draw to Rashad Evans. Take the 44-year-old has-been out of the equation, and Ortiz’s record is 1-1-1, and even his win is arguable.

Griffin, who is next in line for a title shot against Champion Rampage Jackson, has since bounced back from the close loss to Ortiz, going 3-1, including a third-round submission victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who at the time was considered the #1 or #2 LHW in the world.

Even Liddell, who has struggled at 1-2 since stopping Ortiz, has shown that old dogs can in fact learn new tricks in his recent win over Wanderlei Silva. The three-round slugfest, one of the best fights of 2007, showed a hungry Chuck Liddell (at 38) in significantly better shape than his two previous fights, with a solid chin willing to incorporate a spinning high kick and spinning back fist into his bag of tricks.

But what’s the most devastating to Ortiz’s fading hopes of a title shot is the increase in the UFC LHW talent pool. When Ortiz was granted a title shot last, in December 2006, the LHW division was rich in rising talent, but lacked real top contenders. Fighters like Forrest Griffin, Keith Jardine and Rashad Evans were no where near ready for a title shot. Liddell was fearless and largely considered unstoppable. The UFC was forced to sign fighters who Liddell had lost to in his early years so as to avenge his losses and prove once and for all that he was the greatest champion alive. So it was with Jeremy Horn, and so it was supposed to have been with Rampage Jackson…until Liddell lost. But back in December 2006, Ortiz was the only real option for a title shot—and a good option it was.

But those days are long gone now. Since that time, the UFC has signed an enormous stable of LHW talent, including former PRIDE LHW Champion Wanderlei Silva, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, former PRIDE LHW and current MW Champion Dan Henderson, Thiago Silva, Lyoto Machida, Houston Alexander and Rameau Sokoudjou. Two of these fighters have already challenged for the belt (one of them won it), and four of the six remaining fighters are capable, talent-wise, of immediately challenging for it. Only Alexander and Sokoudjou have a bit more room to grow before they are ready.

Plus during this same time, several fighters who were seen as “up-and-coming” in December 2006 are now legitimate contenders in their own rights. Forrest Griffin, Keith Jardine and Rashad Evans are all either worthy of a title shot or one fight away, and Matt Hamill and Stephan Bonner are closing in on that goal by showing marked improvement with every fight.

During this same time, the only LHW fighters that the UFC has lost have been Babalu Sobral (due to unsportsmanlike behavior inside the cage) and Ken Shamrock (due to retirement), neither of whom will be missed.

So if Ortiz wants to leave the UFC for more money, it’s safe to say the UFC would not miss him either. In fact, it might actually benefit both parties. Consider:

  • Competitor MMA leagues, like M-1 Global, HDNet Fights, EliteXC and Strikeforce, have only a few top contenders in any division who are truly worthy of challenging for the belt. HDNet Fights lists just four 205 lb. fighters on its website, while EliteXC lists only Murilo “Ninja” Rua and Strikeforce lists only Bobby Southworth. M-1 Global lists only one fighter regardless of weight class on its website: its HW posterboy, Fedor Emelianenko. (By comparison, the UFC lists 50 LHWs, although by our count, only about 34 have fought in the Octagon in the past year.) These competitor leagues would be fools not to scoop up Ortiz, should he leave the UFC.
  • Should Ortiz leave the UFC and challenge for a belt in a competitor league—and win—not only would Ortiz be happy, but the UFC would be thrilled as well, because it just shows how stuffed to the gills with talent the organization truly is. How better to demonstrate that the UFC is superior when its throw-aways are kicking your ass?

The bottom line: if Ortiz wants to go, the UFC should show him the door. It’s a great way to save about $210,000 per fight, which it can then re-allocate to a fighter(s) who’s truly next in line.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pro Football Weekly is still a Cool Site

Lost in all the hoopla around, and I like them, though I like them less of late, is the solid football reporting on They have a weekly section called "Audibles", with the disclaimer that: The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on condition of anonymity.
These quotes are always entertaining, if not wildly offbase.

Where I'm in the Amen Corner: (From Jan. 10)

“Every year there is an undrafted rookie defensive tackle who winds up starting. You can find those guys after the draft. … Tony (Dungy) gets the best out of those guys.”

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh takes a lean, rangy 4-3 DT/DE and molds him into a stout, 3-4 DE. This process takes years, and has succeeded....ummm....once? once and a half? Aaron Smith and Brett Kiesel. That's it. Or, they could just find a guy in the draft and plug him in. But that would be too hard, and of course, it's not the "Steeler Way".

Where I'm not sure I believe what I'm hearing: (Jan 17)
“(Offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians is not a good fit for the Steelers. He likes to go four- or five-wide and pitch it around. That’s not Steelers football. The offensive line has gone downhill since Russ Grimm left. It’s lost its identity. I see the ship continuing to sink until they make some corrections.”
Oh, yeah, that's why he had one of the slowest QBs in the NFL run a sweep on 3rd and 6. Because he likes to dink, and dunk.

And wisdom from on high: (Jan. 17)
“You win on defense with talent. You win on offense with coaching. If you have (good) players on defense and you can’t win — you’ve got a big problem.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yoko Romo?

Let me be the first to say that in my extremely amateurish opinion Tony Romo did enough for the Cowboys to win on Sunday. After a 20 play drive that should have sapped the life out of the Giants, the Dallas D allows New York to drive for a tying touchdown with less than a minute left in the half. Then Patrick Crayton drops a ton of balls, and gives up on a deep fade on the last drive that ended up barely out of his reach, and the Dallas vaunted O-Line performed like a leaky sieve. Some knowledgeable football guys have vouched that Pro Bowl tackle Flozell Adams was ineffective because he was too gassed at the end of the game.

By the fourth quarter, the Giants' rush had whipped the massive Cowboy offensive linemen and unhinged Tony Romo, and Dallas was finished. It was like a 15-round bout in which the better conditioned fighter is left standing. Left tackle Flozell Adams, for instance, a highly effective pass blocker, but not what you'd call a finely tuned athlete, was in a state of near collapse toward the end. Andre Gurode, the center, was going through some weird problem with snapping the ball. And so forth.

So no, I don't think that the Romo/Jessica Cabo San Lucas trip was a big deal, in the abstract. After all, Tom Brady was caught on TMZ out in NYC with Gisele during the bye week, and I'm sure Peyton Manning took his wife out to Hardees in between film watching--hey, he lost too.

At the same time, it's been speculated that Jessica's dad released the Cabo photos. Now, Jessica Simpson does seem like the kind of actress/performer who will eventually give up her horrible career to settle down with an athlete and have kids and maybe have a comeback special 20 years down the road. But I'm sure her dad is not thinking that way, and he's trying to build up some/any publicity for whatever terrible project that is being lined up next for her (movie/album/perfume/acne wash).

Whatever Romo's affection for Simpson and/or her knockers--perhaps their relationship is the real deal, as too are the twins. But Romo has to be smart enough to realize that Jessica probably isn't really in control of her life, her dad is. And Romo may not want to get into bed with Joe Simpson just yet.

Do I fault Romo for taking a beautiful young thing to Cabo for a few days of fun and sun? No. Do I fault him for doing it with Jessica? Kind of. Clearly if she's not using him, then Joe Simpson is, and Romo has to be smarter than that.

Sports Illustrated has an amusing slideshow of femme fatales (and in Marion Jones's case, femme fatalers) who brought down their athletic men. I didn't remember that Gastineau quit football in the middle of a season because of Brigitte and/or steroids. Or that Tatum O'Neal spelled the decline of McEnroe's career.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How Far Away?

I say the Steelers are one dominant pass rusher and a solid center away from being a championship team. You look at a team, and there are so many holes, but not all of them get exposed every game, or even exposed in critical ways. They are solid at QB/RB/TE/LB/DB, but need real help at OG/C/DL. The secondary rarely gets any help, and the Steelers have placed such a premium (or gotten awfully lucky) with centers that they have almost as few centers (Mansfield, Webster, Dawson, Hartings) as coaches in the Noll/Cowher span.

But then you have to factor in coaching, and the Steelers seemed determined to mess that up. After their amazing 1st drive down the field against Jax, you never saw them come out like that again, even though it worked. And Tomlin calling himself "a gambler who plays to win" doesn't make sense in the context of a) the 2 point conversion from the 12 and b) the turtle play on 3rd and 6 with the game on the line. Unless by "a gambler" he means someone who bets too much on long odds and too little on short odds. Which makes him a loser.

At the beginning of games, it's the players and how well they execute. At the ends of games, it's the coaches putting their players in a position to win. You can play the supposed percentages all you want, punt the ball and put it in the hands of the defense and make them drive the length of the field, or half of it, or only 30 yards because of a shitty punt--or you could go with the player with the hot hand and let them win it for you. Don't put them in a bad position, then blame them for not executing. Too much of that happens in the Steel City.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Are you for serious?

Read this despicable article blaming everyone but Peyton Manning for the Colts loss. Do you really think he needs another NFL journalist to wash his balls?

FACT: Peyton Manning killed a drive by overthrowing Reggie Wayne inside the 20.

FACT: On the last drive, Peyton went deep 2 plays in a row (which he also did in a playoff loss to the Steelers in 2005) when he had been eating up the Chargers on mid-range higher percentage passes.

Peyton surely wasn't the sole reason the Colts lost, but he must shoulder his share of the blame.

This article might make more sense if it was about Tony Romo. Patrick Crayton really let him down, esp. at the end when he gave up on a deep pass.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Playoff Peaking Theory

In 2004, the Steelers went 15-1 in the regular season and lost in the playoffs.
In 2005 the Steelers were 7-5 and went on a 7 game winning streak to take the Super Bowl.

In 2005 the Colts started out 13-0 and lost in the playoffs to the Steelers.
In 2006 they beat their longtime nemesis the Pats and won the Super Bowl.

Since 2004, teams that peaked in the regular season fizzed out in the playoffs, but the following year they peaked in the playoffs. Is that the case this year?

In 2006 the San Diego Chargers went 14-2 and lost to the Pats on a stupid play. They fired their coach, Marty Schottenheimer--known for choking in the playoffs and picked Norv Turner, known for choking, period. They started out 1-3 and finished strong, and guess what, they just knocked off the Colts.

But for my theory to become true, the NFL's worst head coach (Turner) must defeat the NFL's best coach (Billicheat). I think the Chargers are a bigger, stronger, and faster version of Jacksonville, who held their own against the Pats. Their offense just couldn't keep pace. Provided Rivers and Tomlinson are back, the Chargers have a chance...But will Norv fuck it up?

Let's say my theory holds true this year...well, that means the Pats will win next year. Here's hoping my theory dies a quick death post February 3, 2008.

Mike Holmgren Is Searching for a Tight End

Great article on the problems Mike Holmgren has had with his Tight Ends, a key element in the "West Coast" passing philosophy. (See this link for the real history of the West Coast Offense, which is the Sid Gilman/Don Coryell/Zampese/Turner/Martz vertical passing offense, not the "dink and dunk" that Bill Walsh came up with as a coach for the Bengals.)

Holmgren had Mark Chmura, in Green Bay, and Jerramy Stevens and Marcus Pollard in Seattle. Chmura was reliable and athtletic, apparently, though he had character problems too. Jerramy Stevens was big and fast but a notorious pass dropper, esp. in the Super Bowl against the Steelers, while Pollard "pulled a Northcutt" yesterday and fumbled a pass that led to a Green Bay TD, dropped a pass in the end zone, and later dropped another just for good measure.

I, Dennis Northcutt, Am a Professional Pass Dropper

I, Dennis Northcutt, am a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I used to play wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. And to this day I just don't understand why it's so important to catch the ball.

Catching the ball is hard, I know this. Believe me, I've tried. It's hard on the QB, too. People look at me, and say, why did you drop that ball? And I look back at them and say, how many perfect pass patterns have I run, wherein I was wide open, that went unacknowledged? The pass didn't even go my way!! And no one goes back to David Garrard, or, say Tim Couch, and asks them, why didn't you see Dennis out there? That fly pattern was a thing of beauty! And they might say, in reply, well, we ran the ball that play, but my retort is one and the same: Change the play!

But the real change needs to be made at the NFL level. What if wide receivers no longer had to catch passes? What if the quarterback just had to hit the wide reciver? That would make things much easier, on the both of us. And defenses, too! Because if they hit the ball, then it's their's! What a beautiful game that would be, with me running free like a gazelle, concentrating on my movement, with no concern in the world to turn back into the lights and try to bring my useless claws to around that fragile pigskin. And think of the pigs too! Maybe we could play without a ball!

For I am the T-Rex of football.

Editor's Note: Dennis Northcutt is widely hailed by Steelers fans for the easy TD pass he dropped in the Steelers/Browns playoff game in 2002, a game the Steelers did not deserve to win because for some reason the secondary, led by SS Lethon "Lee" Flowers, could not but look up for the ball without falling flat on their asses. Northcutt reprised his pass dropping performance as a Jaguar last night against NE, dropping 2 passes, one of which would have enabled the Jags to score a TD instead of settling for a field goal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings

It’s been two months since our last Power Rankings. Let’s see how things have changed.


Randy Couture’s out, so we need a new Heavyweight Champion. While we’d love to see Arlovski in the mix somewhere (hopefully vs. Gonzaga one day soon), contract disputes have sidelined him for a while now, making his future outlook a little hazy. We’ve dropped him in the rankings accordingly, and since Gonzaga’s last fight was a loss (to Couture), we can’t expect him to hold the #1 Contender spot, now can we?

It only makes sense to give the #1 and #2 spots to former champ Tim Sylvia and “Minotauro” Nogueira—both of whom are coming off wins to “The Truth” and “The Texas Crazy Horse,” respectively. Sylvia and Nogueira will do battle on Super Bowl weekend, February 2, 2008 for an Interim Heavyweight Title. They deserve their spots, although thanks to a near knockout at the hands of Herring in his UFC debut, Nogueira takes the #2 spot, rather than the #1, contrary to what most of the rest of the world seems to rank him.

If you ask us about Cheick Kongo, we feel the giant Frenchman is still two wins away from a title shot, and he’ll get his chance against Heath Herring at UFC 82, assuming Hearing accepts the rumored bout. Eddie Sanchez is also climbing the ranks with a recent win over Soa Palalei, but he has far to go before he’ll see a title bout.

This month, we unfortunately had to drop Jake O’Brien off the list, due to the 12 months that have passed since his last UFC fight. We know he’s battling back from a potentially career-ending injury, and we wish him the best of luck. While Tom Murphy, who hasn’t fought in 22 months, is still on the list, this is because he was supposed to fight O’Brien, who had to pull out with an injury. If we don’t hear of any rumored bouts for Murphy in the next month or so, he’ll drop off the list once again, making room for Antoni Hardonk. In the meantime, O’Brien’s absence leaves room for Justin “The Insane 1” McCully to make his first appearance into the Top 15.

Upcoming Heavyweight fights currently scheduled and/or rumored include:

  • Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Fabricio Werdum at UFC 80 (Jan. 19) – We favor Gonzaga by decision.
  • #17 Antoni Hardonk vs. #21 Colin Robinson at UFC 80 – We’re going with the underdog via TKO ground and pound.
  • Nogueira vs. Sylvia at UFC 81 (Feb. 2) – We’re going with the former champ, hands down, by decision.
  • Former champ Frank Mir vs. UFC newcomer and former big-time wrestling star Brock Lesnar at UFC 81 – This is the toughest call of the lot in our eyes, as we don’t know what to expect from Lesnar. We go with Mir by decision.
  • Kongo vs. Herring at UFC 82 (Mar. 1) – We’d love to see the Crazy Horse take this one, but chances are Kongo will come in in better shape and avoid the take down. We’re picking Kongo by TKO (strikes) in the 3rd round.

Your Top 15 Contenders are:

Light Heavyweights

Last time we updated the Power Rankings, we moved Dan Henderson to Middleweight to challenge Champion Anderson Silva for the belt. Sticking with SteelSkins’ tradition of ranking a fighter in just one weight class at a time, he was removed from the LHW Power Rankings.

This month sees Michael Bisping do the same thing. His absence from the LHW Top 15 moves everyone below him up one spot (he was ranked #10 last time), and it introduces Wilson Gouveia to the mix, whose 3-1 record inside the Octagon includes back-to-back-to-back wins over Carmelo Marrero, Seth Petruzelli and Wes Combs, with his only UFC loss at the hands of the #1 Contender, Keith Jardine.

At UFC 79 in December, we watched Chuck Liddell defeat Wanderlei Silva in an absolute slugfest. Silva’s stamina and chin deserves consideration here, which is why we’re not dropping him, despite back-to-back-to-back losses to top talent. Plus, Tito Ortiz’s prolonged contract dispute isn’t helping his case for moving up in the rankings. If he wins his next fight, we see a strong case for him moving past Rashad Evans in the rankings, based both on Silva’s excitability and Evans’ inability to finish.

Although once ranked #4 in the SteelSkins Power Rankings, months of inactivity coupled with the introduction of numerous PRIDE veterans has dropped Jason Lambert considerably. Luckily for him, a fight with Wilson Gouveia for UFC 80 this month has been scheduled. A loss could drop him out of the Top 15 entirely. Unfortunately a win won’t do much to push him up, considering the amazing pool of talent ahead of him. So much for missed opportunities.

Lyoto Machida’s win over highly regarded UFC newcomer Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou catapults him past both Shogun and Thiago Silva, who recently halted Houston Alexander’s title hopes. Machida is extremely dangerous and has been calling out Chuck Liddell—a fight we’d hate to see happen, based on both fighters being counter-punchers. Machida should instead be asking for Tito Ortiz or Rashad Evans, in our eyes. Rumor has it, he just might get Ortiz at UFC 84 in May. Otherwise, Ortiz might be pitted up against Shogun Rua.

Upcoming Light Heavyweight fights currently scheduled and/or rumored include:

  • Lambert vs. Gouleia at UFC 80 (Jan. 19) – This is a tough fight to call, but we’re going with the underdog by submission in the 3rd round.
  • #24 Alessio Sakara vs. #25 UFC newcomer James Lee at UFC 80, after which Sakara will drop to MW no matter the outcome, which we agree is in his best interests – Our pick is Sakara via decision.
  • #19 David Heath vs. #22 Tomasz Drwal at UFC 81 (Feb. 2) – Drwal will hand Heath his third straight loss, via KO in the 2nd round.
  • Houston Alexander vs. #17 James Irvin at UFC 83 (Mar. 8) – Alexander wins the slugfest late in the 1st round via TKO (strikes).
  • Hamill vs. Bonnar at Fight Night 13 (April 2) – A great matchup! Unfortunately for Bonnar, who we like to watch fight, we don’t see him getting past Hamill, who will win by decision.
  • Shogun Rua vs. TBD at UFC 84 (April 19)
  • Ortiz vs. Machida at UFC 84 (April 19) – If this rumored fight happens, we see Machida eeking out a win via decision.
  • Champion Rampage Jackson will fight Forrest Griffin after coaching TUF7 (currently unscheduled) – Call us crazy, but we’re going with the underdog here, by decision in five rounds.
Your Top 15 Contenders are:


A lot of action is planned in the Middleweight division in the next few months, which is good because we’ve seen nearly no movement in the Middleweight Top 15 for quite some time.

In the months ahead, we’ll see how a three-year layoff from the sport will affect Ricardo Almeida, who inked a 6-fight deal with the UFC. Almeida is a PRIDE and UFC veteran and MW King of Pancrase, with wins over Nate Marquardt and WW Ryo Chonan.

Over the past two months, we saw #18 Dean Lister defeat #34 Jordan Radev (big surprise) at UFC 79. We also welcome Michael Bisping to the Middleweight Power Rankings, thanks to his drop in weight.

With Martin Kampmann’s prolonged knee injury and no mention of his return any time soon, he’s dropping quickly from his one-time #4 status. We hope he returns soon, because his division needs the depth.

Upcoming Middleweight fights currently scheduled and/or rumored include:

  • Kendall Grove vs. #25 Jorge Rivera at UFC 80 (Jan. 19) – Grove is going to wipe the floor with the old timer, winning by submission in the early 2nd round.
  • Nate Marquardt vs. Jeremy Horn, who is filling in for an injured Thales Leites, at UFC 81 (Feb. 2) – This is going to be a great fight, and we hope Horn pulls it off. That said, our money is on Marquardt by decision.
  • Richardo Almeida vs. #21 Alan Belcher at UFC 81 – The UFC isn’t doing Almeida any favors by re-introducing him to the UFC with Alan Belcher. We say Belcher submits him in the 2nd round.
  • #24 Patrick Cote vs. #28 Drew McFedries at UFC 81 – McFedries is going to wish his severe staph infection would have sidelined him even longer. Cote wins this slugfest in the 3rd round via TKO (strikes)
  • Terry Martin vs. #23 Marvin Eastman at UFC 81 – Eastman’s welcome to the MW division will be a rude one. Martin by decision.
  • Champ Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson at UFC 82 to unify the UFC and PRIDE MW titles (Mar. 1) – Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but we think Hendo has a shot at the upset. Smart money says otherwise. Bet on the champ, but not until the extra innings. Silva by TKO (strikes) in the 4th.
  • Yushin Okami vs. Evan Tanner at UFC 82 – Man, we like Tanner, but Okami is a beast at 185. That said, we refuse to bet against the old man. Tanner by submission in round 3.
  • Former Champ Rich Franklin vs. Travis Lutter at UFC 83 (Mar. 8) – Another incredibly tough fight to call. If Franklin gets taken down, it could be over. He won’t, winning by decision.
  • Michael Bisping vs. Charles McCarthy at UFC 83 – Yawn. McCarthy’s only hope is he’s a submission wizard. Bisping KO’s him in the 2nd round.
  • Jason MacDonald vs. TBD at UFC 84.

Your Top 15 Contenders are:


The #1 and #2 WW Contenders, GSP and Matt Hughes, fought their rubber match in late December at UFC 79 for the Interim WW title (GSP was filling in for an injured Champion Matt Serra). GSP won in convincing fashion to earn himself a unification bout with the Champ, which should take place this April in GSP’s own backyard, Montreal, Canada. The loss knocks Hughes down several spots, and it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll go from here (although with a GSP win over Serra, Hughes will most likely fight “The Terror” in a grudge match).

UFC 79 also saw #21 Roan Carniero defeating #22 Tony DeSouza via TKO (strikes) in the 2nd round. We’ve also removed Hayato “Mach” Sakurai from the rankings (apparently that deal fell through).

Additionally, the TUF 6 Finale on December 8 featured a crap ton of WW action, including:

  • Finalist Mac Danzig defeated #16 Tommy Speer via rear naked choke in the very 1st round (Danzig will now drop to his natural weight, 155, where we rank him at #17—we had him at #13 among WWs).
  • #20 Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver defeated #35 Jared Rollins via TKO (strikes).
  • #18 George Sotiropoulos defeated #44 Billy Miles via rear naked choke.
  • #29 Ben Saunders defeated #41 Dan Barrera via unanimous decision.
  • #37 Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz TKO’d #39 Richie Hightower (strikes) in a terrific slugfest.
  • #30 Matt Arroyo defeated #38 John Kolosci via arm bar.
  • #33 Roman Mitichyan defeated #47 Dorian Price via ankle lock.
  • UFC veteran #23 Jonathan Goulet defeated newby #42 Paul Georgieff via rear naked choke.

Upcoming Welterweight fights currently scheduled and/or rumored include:

  • Marcus Davis vs. #25 Jess Liaudin at UFC 80 (Jan. 19) – Davis will continue his climb up the WW ranks with a late 1st round submission.
  • #24 Paul Taylor vs. #34 Paul Kelly at UFC 80 – The Battle of the Pauls will end with a Paul Taylor TKO (strikes) in the 2nd round.
  • Mike Swick makes his WW debut vs. Josh Burkman at Fight Night 12 (Jan. 23) – This is going to be a battle, and Burkman could nail it with a submission, but we see Swick taking this fight in a decision.
  • Chris Lytle welcomes UFC newcomer #26 Kyle Bradley to the UFC at UFC 81 (Feb. 2) – Lytle KO anybody?
  • Jon Fitch vs. Akihiro Gono at UFC 82 (March 1) – We see no way for Gono to win this fight. Fitch via submission in the early 2nd round.
  • Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett at UFC 82 – Another tough fight, but Kos will take him via submission in the early 3rd round.
  • Luke Cummo vs. #17 Luigi Fioravanti at UFC 82 – Cummo is going to sink in a guillotine choke late in the 2nd round.
  • #16 Tommy Spear vs. #40 Anthony Johnson at Fight Night 13 (April 2) – Tommy Spear will ground and pound his way into a TKO (strikes) victory in the early 2nd round.
  • Champ Matt Serra vs. GSP at UFC 84 (April 19) – GSP will regain his title in a great fight. Watch for it in the 3rd or 4th round.
  • Karo Parisyan vs. Thiago Alves at UFC 84 – So much for trying to dodge tough competition in hopes for a title shot. Karo will have his hands full with the striker. We see an upset here, with Alves winning by decision.
  • The extremely dangerous BJJ black belt (but low ranked because of his 5-3 record and history of backing out of fights due to training injuries) #46 Jeff Joslin vs. TBD at UFC 84.

Your Top 15 Contenders are:


Sean Sherk’s steroid appeal fell on deaf ears, which strips him of his title; however, his suspension was cut in half from one year to six months. Because of this reduction in time, he has not been bumped entirely from the UFC Power Rankings, unlike his ‘roid buddy, Hermes Franca.

In the meantime, the #1 and #2 LW Contenders, B.J. Penn and Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, respectively, will fight on January 19 for the Interim LW Belt. The winner will likely fight Sherk, upon his return.

In other LW action, crowd favorite Roger Huerta defeated Clay Guida in one of the best fights of the year at the TUF 6 Finale. Despite Guida’s 2-3 UFC record (which SteelSkins believes should be 3-2, as he may have been robbed in his split decision loss to Tyson Griffin), we hope to see Guida continue to fight in the UFC, and we’re sure he will. In the slugfest with Huerta, Guida was actually winning after two rounds, until Huerta sunk in the rear naked choke.

We also saw #24 Rich Clementi defeat the foul-mouthed pity-party-craving Melvin Guillard via rear naked choke in the very 1st round at UFC 79. SteelSkins normally doesn’t knock a fighter, but Guillard has no class and needs to seek action elsewhere until he can learn some.

TUF 5 Runner-Up #25 Manny Gamburyan also submitted #47 Nate Mohr via heal hook at UFC 79, and #39 Mark Bocek upset Doug Evans via unanimous decision, dropping Evans to #43.

Upcoming Welterweight fights currently scheduled and/or rumored include:

  • B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 (Jan. 19) – If Penn shows up in shape, this fight is likely his; however, if he takes this fight light, or if this fight goes into the 4th or 5th round, we can see Stevenson pulling off the upset. Our money is on Penn to submit Stevenson in the 3rd round.
  • #20 Sam Stout vs. #32 Per Eklund (filling in for Terry Etim) at UFC 80 – We don’t know much about UFC newcomer Per Eklund, but we know Stout’s punching power ain’t nuttin’ to mess with. KO in the 3rd round, Stout.
  • The long-awaited premier of 6’6” lightweight #44 Corey Hill vs. #55 Joe Veres at Fight Night 12 (Jan. 23) – Something tells us Hill won’t disappoint. Submission victory in the 2nd round.
  • Thiago Tavares vs. #53 Michihiro Omigawa at Fight Night 12 – Thiago Tavares will easily submit Omigawa in the 1st round.
  • Kurt Pellegrino vs. #31 Alberto Crane at Fight Night 12 – We like Pellegrino’s chances vs. the relatively unknown Crane. Batman wins by submission in the 2nd round.
  • TUF 5 Winner #18 Nate Diaz vs. #21 Alvin Robinson at Fight Night 12 – Robinson is actually one inch taller than the lanky Diaz, so this should be a good fight. Still though, Diaz will follow his big brother’s advice: “Fuck him up, and don’t be a bitch.” Diaz via submission in the 2nd round.
  • #22 Jeremy Stephens vs. #30 Cole Miller at Fight Night 12 – The even lankier Miller will likely have his hands full vs. the “Little Heathen.” Stephens wins by TKO (strikes) in the early 3rd round.
  • #26 Dennis Siver vs. #29 Gray Maynard at Fight Night 12 – We see Maynard pulling off the upset via decision.
  • #33 Matt Wiman vs. #40 Justin Buchholz at Fight Night 12 – While few people will actually care to see this fight, Wiman will win by decision.
  • Tyson Griffin vs. #16 Gleison Tibau at UFC 81 (Feb. 2) – This is a great match-up! Tibau is riding a 4-fight win streak with his only UFC loss coming against Nick Diaz. But we see Griffin eeking out another victory with yet another decision.
  • #38 Rob Emerson vs. #42 Keita Nakamura at UFC 81 – The hood-rat Emerson deserves to be in jail for his involvement with the rich, pretty-boy SoCal gang, the Lords of South County. We hope to see him lose badly to Nakamura, which is wear our money is. We don’t care how it happens.
  • #23 Jorge Gurgel vs. #35 John Halverson at UFC 82 (Mar. 1) – The Ohio native will win in front of his home crowd. Gurgel by submission mid-way through the 3rd round.
  • Kenny Florian vs. Joe Lauzon at Fight Night 13 (April 2) – This is a great match-up for Florian, but we think Lauzon is still a little too green to be challenging such an experienced fighter. Florian will win by submission in the 2nd round, set up by an intense ground and pound.
  • Spencer Fisher vs. Marcus Aurelio at Fight Night 13 – Another great match-up. Fisher will look to keep this fight standing, but Aurelio could surprise him. Safe money says Fisher rebounds from his one-sided loss to Frankie Edgar and survives to win a decision.
  • Former Champ Sean Sherk vs. the winner of Penn/Stevenson at UFC 84 or 85.

Your Top 15 Contenders are:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The U.S. Exports Democracy, What Does Canada Export? Ass Beatings, That's What!

Russian players, like other Europeans, were often regarded as "soft" when they started playing in the NHL because they weren't down with the NHL's long and storied tradition of dropping the gloves when a) the team needed a "spark" b) the game was boring c) the game was out of hand d) the goalie looked at me cross-eyed and b) during regulation time. But as we can see below, the Russians think fighting is pretty cool after all!

I didn't listen with sound, which I imagine is in Russian, but it looks like some footage replayed at different angles. I like the part where they are all standing around and then someone's like, "Hey guys, we never fight on other side of rink! Let's check out!" Plus, it's always good to see the fight instigators deliver the most vicious beatings.
(Hat Tip: Deadspin)
Cross-posted on Barrelhouse

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