Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is Ryan Mallett the Answer to Miami's Quarterback Question?

In the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins may decide to take a big, strong armed, former Michigan drop back quarterback.

Wait, don't the Dolphins already have a big, strong armed, former Michigan drop back quarterback on their roster? Ryan Mallett is best known as an Arkansas Razorback, but don't forget he began his collegiate career as Chad Henne's backup in Michigan.

With the draft just around the corner, speculation as to what will unfold has everyone predicting who will go where. Due to Miami's uncertainty at quarterback, drafting one in the first round might be the way to go and Mallett may be the man for the job.

National Football Post, Draft Huddle and East Coast Sports News all have Mallet going to the Dolphins in the first round. The appeal is in his ability to make big throws down field, to stretch a defense vertically plus he excels in play action situations. Also his experience in a pro style offense should make for an easier transition.

Mallett has many upsides which may make him hard to pass up, but there are a few red flags to consider. The consensus among many is that he's a little slow, doesn't have the greatest footwork, struggles with decision making and his leadership abilities have been called into question.

Of course every quarterback in the draft has pros and cons, but the question here is should the Dolphins use their first round pick on Mallett? Is he a franchise quarterback? Should Miami address other needs by drafting a running back, offensive lineman or wide receiver and try to eventually score a veteran quarterback through free agency or trade? Former Miami legend Dan Marino is pulling for Carson Palmer to suit up in aqua and orange, not likely given the standoff in Cincinnati, but stranger things have happened.

It's interesting that some analysts have Mallett going to Miami, simply for the fact that they already have a Mallett type quarterback in Chad Henne. Mallett racked up great college numbers, but does he have the intangibles? If the Dolphins decide to trade down and get back the second round pick they gave up for Brandon Marshall and Mallett is still there, who knows, we may witness a Henne-Mallett reunion in South Florida.

The Fins definitely have questions when it comes to the quarterback position, but is Ryan Mallett is the best answer?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miami Dolphins: What to do with First Round Pick?

With the 15th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select...

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching and every analyst, journalist and blogger is trying to predict who will go where. While most draft analysts have the Dolphins taking Mark Ingram in the first round, recently another name surfaced, Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. Miami has a good track record with Terrapins, Randy Starks and Nolan Caroll to name a couple, but would it be in Miami's best interest to use the 15th pick on Smith?

The era of running back tandem Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown is coming to a close, so it's time to rejuvenate the running game. Because of this reality many analyst believe the Dolphins will take running back Mark Ingram with the 15th pick. He may be the most complete back in the draft.

Quarterback Chad Henne hasn't lived up to expectations and last season's Henne-Marshall connection was lackluster. Should Miami take a quarterback with their first pick or should they go after a veteran and use a later round pick to secure a quarterback?

Another area of need is the offensive line. The Dolphins made a great move when they drafted left tackle Jake Long and they recently resigned center/guard Richie Incognito. If the Dolphins want a more effective running game though they'll need a stronger line. Do they address the offensive line in the first round?

Miami already has monster wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess has proven to be a good choice in the slot, but the Dolphins need another receiving threat opposite Marshall. This may be the reason Smith's name has been thrown around, but there may be better options at receiver such as Leonard Hankerson or Titus Young. In fact Hankerson had a higher average per catch and more touchdowns than Smith and they both ran a 4.43 40 time.

With all the areas of opportunity the Dolphins have, what will their first move be? Does the front office believe Smith is the best option with the 15th pick? It seems highly unlikely, but I guess we'll have to wait until April 28 to find out.

Florida State Football: High Expectations for the 2011 Seminoles

On the football field replacing a three year starter is a daunting task and if that starter happens to be your quarterback, well that can be difficult. Now if you're Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher that task becomes a little easier with EJ Manuel leading the team.

For the last three years the Seminoles were mainly Christian Ponder's team, but Manuel was always ready when his number was called. It's not often the backup quarterback is the most valuable player in a bowl game, an honor bestowed on Manuel in the 2009 Gator Bowl, plus he led the team to victory over South Carolina in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Manuel, a Virginia Beach, VA native, is 4-2 as a starter. Last season he completed 70 percent of his passes, racked up 861 yards, including four touchdowns and four interceptions. That experience will come in handy as Florida State enters this season with high expectations. They scored the nation's number one recruiting class plus return 18 starters. Needless to say Coach Fisher has the makings of a dominate football team.

The 6-foot-5, 230 pound Manuel began spring practice this week, a huge accomplishment considering he's never completed the full session of spring practice. A healthy Manuel helps with team chemistry and allows the coaching staff more time to really work with him.

Fisher is already impressed with Manuel, saying "He's driven... holds himself to a higher standard, that's why I love him and his teammates respect him. He's got presence. He gives you a feeling that when he gets the ball everything is going to be OK."

The Seminoles will rely on that presence come fall, especially when they face Oklahoma on September 17 in Tallahassee and then turn around to face Clemson in Death Valley. Later in the season they face rivals Miami and Florida.

Luckily Manuel will have help from his supporting cast, including running back Chris Thompson and cornerback Greg Reid, last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl offensive and defensive MVP's, along with last year's ACC defensive rookie of the year Xavier Rhodes and team sack leader defensive end Brandon Jenkins.

Throughout 2010 we watched Coach Fisher step out of Bobby Bowden's shadow and begin laying a new foundation. In the upcoming season he will undoubtedly expect more from his players. He's assembled a National Championship caliber team and has made it clear if the ball is in Manuel's hands he believes everything will be OK. I'm sure the Seminoles fans are counting on that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NFL Los Angeles: Where to Build It So They Will Come

By Courtney Sweet

Los Angeles County, CA, population 9.9 million, home to the NBA Lakers and Clippers, NHL Kings, MLB Dodgers and Angels and NFL... well nobody. That's right, the nation's second largest media market has two basketball teams, two baseball teams, a hockey team (two if you count the Anaheim Ducks) but not a pro football team in the mix.

Until 1995 Los Angeles was home to not one, but two football teams, the Rams and Raiders. Due to lackluster facilities and alleged citywide apathy, both teams relocated elsewhere. Since then the closest thing the city's had to a pro team were the Pete Carroll lead USC Trojans in their prime.

The 16 year football drought boils down mainly to finances, without public funding available, a new stadium must be privately financed. There are two groups willing to put up their own money and they're fighting for the right to bring football back to Los Angeles.

Spearheading the Majestic Realty Company bid is CEO Ed Roski Jr. This plan calls for an $800 million stadium on 600 acres, in the City of Industry (now referred to as Grand Crossing) approximately 25 miles outside of Los Angeles.

This stadium requires less steel which keeps cost lower, would be the league's first LEED-certified green stadium, provides plenty of space for football related activities such as tailgating, plus Majestic already has an approved Environmental Impact Report and approval from Legislature that blocks all other lawsuits. This stadium also meets all FIFA requirements to host a World Cup.

The other proposal is headed by Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group or AEG. They are proposing a $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The venue would be part of a renovated Los Angeles Convention Center hoping to attract other events such as Final Fours, concerts, and conventions. AEG is responsible for building the sports and entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles which includes Staples Center and L.A. Live.

Recently AEG made headlines announcing a naming rights deal with Farmers Insurance. It's estimated that the 30 year deal is worth $700 million dollars. AEG also boasts celebrity endorsement, including Los Angeles' own Magic Johnson.

Regardless of which group is granted a franchise, there are a few obstacles in the way. First there's this little thing called the CBA which has to be resolved. Second, there's the question of a team, will Los Angeles be rewarded a new team or will an existing team relocate?

In attempting to bring football back to Los Angeles here are a few questions to ponder:

Enduring a football famine for 16 years, NFL fans in Los Angeles already have loyalties to other teams, so will the city get behind a new team? If the downtown stadium is chosen, how do traffic and a lack of tailgating factor into the total fan experience? Plus in an already congested downtown how would it work logistically with the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and NFL all in season?

As evidenced by Dallas, New York and New England, stadiums built outside urban areas can be successful, but if Roski's plan is chosen, will the fans follow? Will surrounding business around Grand Crossing survive in the off-season?

AEG secured $700 million in naming rights, but Majestic has alluded that they will be the first stadium to secure billion-dollar naming rights, will they pull it off?

Unless a new franchise is awarded, a current team would need to relocate, possibly the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers or San Diego Chargers. Are any of these teams willing to make the transition?

Will the NFL miss the leverage that Los Angeles brings? Lets face it, whenever existing stadiums start to wear down, the imposing threat of a move out West most certainly prompts a stadium face lift or a new stadium all together. I'm sure the NFL head office would dismiss this idea, but I'd be willing to bet this argument holds merit.

So, the battle wages on to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles and until it happens Los Angeles residents will continue spending Sundays cheering on their beloved Lakers in their Sunday whites. `

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NFL Draft: At Radio City the Show Must Go On

In this time of NFL uncertainty one thing is certain, neither side can afford to make a bad public relations move. On Monday, the players may have made one. It was reported that the NFLPA* has asked potential draft picks to boycott the draft.

In a SportsNation poll of 75,000, 72 percent believe it was a bad move. At the moment, looks like the players have a slight edge with fans, but more moves like this and who knows which way public opinion will sway.

It seems hypocritical asking the prospects to boycott when the NFLPA* was willing to cut their pay (it should be noted that I fully support a rookie salary cap, but that's easy for me to support since I'm not the rookie who's salary is being capped). That being said, it's understandable that these draft prospects may not want to take the advice of the NFLPA* concerning the draft. Remember technically there isn't a union and even if there was, incoming rookies aren't members until they're drafted.

Why was this a bad move? Fans don't want to be used as leverage. We just want football and the draft is part of that. With all that's going on, let the draft picks have their moment. Let their families have their moment. Let the fans from the college they played for have their moment. Let the fans of their future team have their moment.

Walking across that stage is the culmination of years filled with blood, sweat and tears. It's a graduation ceremony that few ever get to experience, even fewer if the NFLPA* gets their way. At the moment player executive George Atallah is doing damage control proposing an alternate ceremony possibly hosted by current players and DeMaurice Smith. That's like skipping your graduation ceremony and instead going to your fraternity house to receive your diploma from your fraternity brothers. It doesn't hold the same meaning.

Lets pray for a momentary truce, one that will allow for a draft with players in attendance. Current players can sit at home and revel in how challenging a draft without a CBA in place will be for the NFL anyway. Should be interesting having a straight draft without as many trade options.

I understand why the NFLPA* is looking for alternatives. There's a lot at stake, and I do support their right to fight for what they believe in. I also can see the point brought up by sports agent Drew Rosenhaus who tweeted, "The NFL Draft is an extremely popular event, but the players being drafted are locked out too."

Just a thought from the fans though, you'll have your day in court, but when it comes to the court of public opinion, boycotting the draft might not be the best strategy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

College football violations: Is the Price of Winning Costing the Game?

Bruce Pearl, Reggie Bush, Cam Newton, Terrelle Pryor, all names involved with NCAA scandals. College athletic violations infiltrate the news on a regular basis. The most recent involving the man who made the sweater vest cool again, Ohio State head football Coach Jim Tressel. Tressel is the latest in a long line of violators, whether it be coaches or student-athletes.

Allegedly Tressel had knowledge of player violations and didn't disclose the information (in his news conference he didn't admit to any specifics). Then there's the issue of allowing the players in question to participate in this year's Sugar Bowl. Some felt the player's suspension should include the bowl game. Pryor and the others participated anyway and the Buckeyes finally recorded their first bowl win over an SEC opponent.

So here's the question, is it too hard to do the right thing? Contrary to popular belief it is not impossible. Take for instance BYU basketball player Brandon Davies, a young man who wasn't violating NCAA rules, but his own school honor code. It appears he turned himself in, with his school THIS close to a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

He didn't wait for the news to break on Facebook, Twitter, or other media outlets, and we never saw him shirking responsibility. Instead he sat on the bench, supported the team and cut down the nets while in street clothes. Whether you agree with the BYU honor code or not, you have to admit that the school is not hypocritical, they practice what they preach regardless of the accolades on the line.

Even the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant chose integrity over potential victory when he benched superstar Joe Namath for the final two games of 1963. It wasn't a popular decision at the time, but Namath broke the rules.

Bryant showed more interest in teaching this young man character than in winning. He said, "I believe if you have rules, you abide by them. You can't make exceptions,"(Barra, 2005). Later, after admitting he deserved the consequences handed to him, Namath praised Bryant in saying he was "not only the smartest coach I ever knew, but the man who taught me the meaning of integrity."

Today's coaches and players would be wise to take a page out of Bryant's playbook.

Barra, A. (2005). The last coach: A life of Paul "Bear" Bryant. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Forget about the billions of dollars, what are we gonna do on Sundays?

I've been reading about the ramifications of an NFL lockout, billions of dollars lost, draft day complications, no off season workouts, loss of time for new coaching staffs, etc... This got me thinking, while these topics are important, the real issue is, if there isn’t football what are we gonna do on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays?!!

Now I know some women would be grateful to have a football free fall so their guy can complete his honey do list, but this gal is definitely NOT one of those women. Without football my Sundays would not be complete. I mean the thought of not getting to see the Peyton Manning-Dallas Clark reunion, or another defensive clash between the Steelers and Ravens, literally sends shivers down my spine. I look forward to watching the Super Bowl Champion Packers and Aaron Rodgers belt celebration, I want too see if the NFC West can send a team with a winning record into the playoffs, and of course we all want to see if Rex Ryan is indeed Nostradamus and correct in predicting a Jets Super Bowl victory (my opinion, he isn't but we'll have to wait and see).

Don't get me started on the idea of life without fantasy football. I lost in the semifinals last year by less than 1 point so I'm definitely motivated to win it all this year. That won't be possible if there's a lockout.

I don't believe we're gonna get to that point, but in case the owners and players need reminding please think about us, the fans, and what you're asking us to live without. There will be no appearance of Ed Hochuli's biceps, or sighting of Belichick's Patriots hoodie, we won't get to see if Matty Ice is still calm under pressure after last year's playoff loss, or if Marshawn Lynch goes into beast mode again!

Life without the NFL could make us nostalgic for the days of the Farve retirement saga or the debate over legal and illegal hits. In this time of uncertainty there are two things I know come fall:
1. The answer to the question, Are you ready for some football? will be a resounding yes
2. Even if there isn’t football we can all be comforted in knowing Rex Ryan will predict a Jets victory anyway!