Friday, October 31, 2008

Listen To Colletto About Stanton - And Believe The Opposite

At 0-7 and perhaps headed for the first 0-16 season in NFL history, the Lions still somehow find ways to make things worse.
This week began with a dance with veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Some people - I’m among them - kind of liked the notion of the Lions signing Culpepper. As long as it wasn’t for crazy money and an absolute guarantee he’d be starting. The Lions need depth and a veteran presence at QB. I actually thought the Lions were starting to think properly.
Then offensive coordinator Jim Colletto made his comments Thursday about Drew Stanton and not letting him embarrass himself to prove a point. It means that coaching staff is still running the ship and that Lions have made no organizational plans for the future.
Colletto has an awful track record as a coordinator and head coach, dating back to his days with Purdue. He is hardly known for developing quarterbacks. He shouldn’t be making those decisions or statements publicly about Stanton. Those statements by Colletto only further convince me that Stanton can play. I sure don’t trust Colletto’s or head coach Rod Marinelli’s evaluation skills.
There are nine games remaining in the season, The Lions not only seem bent on losing them, but not getting the benefit for the future. It’s a double-whammy the organization obviously can’t afford.

Random Thoughts

- Sometimes I don’t think the Pistons are given enough credit for how much of a championship contender they really are because Rodney Stuckey isn’t factored in enough. That was a brilliant coast-to-coast move he made to end the third quarter during Wednesday’s opener against the Pacers. Not many players in the world are capable of doing it.

- As good as Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are, is there a more valuable player on the Phillies than Chase Utley?

- I know the Red Wings were probably drained because it was the back end of two games in a row, but the Sharks are for real. They will give the Wings their toughest test in the playoffs. That was no fluke Thursday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On Culpepper, World Series Weather And Hossa...

I know it just doesn’t sound right that the Lions are interested in signing quarterback Daunte Culpepper to a multi-year deal, but I do think it might be a wise move if:
A) Culpepper is healthy. He was a terrific player before he hurt his knee. Has the time off healed that knee? Can he still run nearly as well as he did before the injury? In his early 30s, he still should be able to - if his knee is fully healed. Don’t think it was when he played for the Raiders and Dolphins.
B) If he is in good shape. Culpepper tends to gain too much weight for a QB. Has he slimmed down?
C) The Lions pay him reasonably. A couple million per year and a decent signing bonus is OK. But the Lions would be foolish to pay him really big money.
The Lions need depth at QB. Putting all their eggs in Drew Stanton is not the right move. They need to find out what he can do, but they also need a solid Plan B. They have none. Culpepper would provide it if the above questions are answered. Remember, Kerry Collins is the QB for the NFL’s last unbeaten team.

Random Thoughts

- I’d like to see baseball shorten its schedule to 154 games, play more doubleheaders, start the postseason at least a week earlier and play seven games divisional series. Then end it by mid-October. When you are playing baseball this late in October, you get what you deserve weather-wise. It was ridiculous in 2006 in St. Louis and it’s ridiculous this year in Philadelphia.

- I knew Marian Hossa was good. Everybody did. But I didn’t realize he was this good. He makes NHL defensemen seem like beer leaguers.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Michigan's Defense Is Biggest Disappointment

Michigan State is deserving all the credit it is receiving for beating Michigan Saturday. It still doesn't mask how far the Wolverines have fallen for reasons that make little sense.
When you have a defense with that type of blue chip talent and experience, how can being burned for so many big plays be explained? And it wasn't as if Michigan did a solid job stopping the run. Javon Ringer had a huge game.
Michigan's offense isn't good, but did do enough to win many games - if the defense was solid. Michigan's defense was anything but solid Saturday. That's the perplexing part about the Wolverines' downfall. It's understandable to a degree when the discussion involves the offense because of the quarterback situation and inexperience. The same can't be said for the defense. And it does point to an ominous sign that Rich Rodriguez may not be what he was billed.

Random Thoughts

- The World Series the last three years has always had some last-to-first element to it. The team that was poor the season before (the Tigers, Colorado, Tampa Bay) hasn't fared well once in the spotlight of the series. It doesn't seem to me like the Rays will fall off after this like the Tigers and Rockies did, though. Seems to me like they will only get better. And teams have rallied from that 3-1 deficit before. It isn't over.

- Even though there were less than 55,000 at the Lions' game Sunday, they did get surprisingly loud when it was going well for the Lions. It was at the end I couldn't figure out. It was like half of the people left after the Lions fell behind - even if it was just by five points before the Redskins kicked a late field goal. It was as if just falling behind automatically means the Lions are going to lose.

- Have those who feel all Michigan's ills would have been cured if they had signed Terrelle Pryor, really watched him play that closely? He was brilliant against MSU, but otherwise has been average. Put Michigan's offense around him instead of Ohio State's - and Pryor wouldn't be nearly as effective. He hasn't played as well as his statistics suggest.

- Yeah. I do think Ringer deserves Heisman Trophy consideration. The front runner, though, has to be Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, doesn't he?

- Don't believe for a second Blair White's performance against U-M was a fluke. The kid is just a really player. He surprised no one within MSU's program Saturday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blackout Hurting Fans More Than Ford

Seems like a lot of Lions’ fans are pleased Sunday’s game against the Redskins is blacked out on local television..
They want to punish owner William Clay Ford for all the years of losing caused by his poor decisions - particularly leaving Matt Millen in place for so long.
The Lions are awful, but who is the blackout really hurting? Not Ford. Yeah, it has some bearing on his bottom line, but not much. Ford has enough money to last a thousand lifetimes. The Lions are worth about two hundred times what he paid for the franchise ($4.5 million in 1964). This isn’t hurting him. It’s hurting the average fan, who is so used to watching Lions game on Sunday. The Lions may be bad, but they are part of the fabric of life in these part. They will be missed on TV Sunday.
It also hurts the NFL’s television ratings in the 10th largest market in the nation. What for? The ticket revenue of 5,000? It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the exposure the NFL is giving up with the blackout.
The NFL’s local blackout rule is outdated. It comes from a time when the NFL relied much more on ticket revenue. With such a large pie shared equally from national television revenues, the NFL is actually hurting itself more than anything else by blacking out this game - and any others.
Even in other sports, they don’t blackout games locally anymore. And when they did, look at the adverse ramifications it had on the Chicago Blackhawks up until last year, and how things got better for that NHL franchise when they did cut the blackouts.

Random Thoughts

- I think Michigan will cover the spread, but Michigan State will win the game. The only thing that would surprise me is if the game is a blowout either way.

- The Red Wings better start think about signing Johan Franzen long-term now. He is quickly proving what he did late last season and during the playoffs was no fluke.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dantonio's Message Will Only Mean Something If MSU Beats Michigan

One of the things Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio does very well is measure his words.
He always seems to be in such control, and it does appear to be a reason why his team has responded accordingly on the field.
Dantonio has a 6-2 record mostly with John L. Smith’s one- and two-star recruits because the Spartans don’t tend to beat themselves. They play with poise. He makes excellent use of his one great player, Javon Ringer. Dantonio gets the most out of what is a limited defense in terms of size in the front seven and speed in the secondary. The Ohio State game, honestly, just couldn’t be helped at this stage.
But when it comes to Michigan, Dantonio just lets loose. I think it’s humorous, and good for the rivalry. There is also some tangible benefit for MSU. The Spartans’ collective psyche when it comes to Michigan is not good. The hypersensitivity of Sparty is ridiculous. Seems like Dantonio senses this and his message is about not being intimidated in the least by Michigan. And it’s a good message for MSU - with one very important catch: Dantonio must deliver come game day.
Especially this season when the Wolverines have been so inept.

Random Thoughts

- I have been skeptical about the Rays since the start of the postseason, but they certainly have proven their doubters wrong. I do think the Phillies will capture the World Series, though. Philly’s bullpen, which has been incredible, will be the difference. It will take seven games.

- The Sporting News college basketball magazine is out and has Michigan State ranked fifth nationally and former Orchard Lake St. Mary’s star Kalin Lucas listed as a second-team All-American. That’s high praise, but I see both the Spartans and Lucas proving worthy this coming season. Just have a feeling the Spartans will be part of the Final Four at Ford Field.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rich Rod Can Turn Tables In Hurry On Dantonio

Even before Michigan State was run right out of Spartan Stadium by Ohio State Saturday, I saw the Michigan game as particularly dangerous for the Spartans.
While the Wolverines are playing by far their worst football in more than four decades, and Rich Rodriguez has been a train wreck so far as head coach, Michigan isn’t lacking talented players. Michigan has better overall team speed than MSU. The Wolverines have a more talented and experienced defense than MSU. Michigan certainly has had its issues at quarterback, but the same is starting to be felt at MSU, although not to the same degree. Kirk Cousins didn’t do Brian Hoyer any favors Saturday when he started picking apart Ohio State’s secondary after Hoyer struggled so.
The weight is on MSU in this game. The Spartans have to win this one, or whatever they accomplished in the first half of the season in regard to apparently closing the gap on Michigan will be considered null and void.
It’s not exactly the type of pressure MSU has handled well in the past. It makes this game a perfect litmus test to determine whether Mark Dantonio’s tenure is, indeed, different. It’s also a golden opportunity for Rodriguez to make up lost ground.

Random Thoughts

- Kevin Smith has not been a draft bust for the Lions. If anything, he has shown flashes of big-play ability. Now if they can only block better for him, and not fall behind by three touchdowns in every game, the Lions might be able to actually put Smith to better use.

- Can you imagine if the Lions played the Bengals this season? What about if it was on Thanksgiving Day? Wow.

- I do believe the Tigers are walking a slippery slope with Rick Knapp as pitching coach. It’s highly unusual that a major league pitching coach is hired from outside an organization, when he has neither been a major league pitcher or major league coach before. It does happen all the time within organizations because a coach may have worked with pitching staff members in the past in the minors, earning respect by helping them reach the major leagues. There is a risk Tiger pitchers won’t listen much to Knapp. It could be, "How do you know, have you ever pitched in the major leagues?" Or: "Who did you help in the major leagues as a coach."
The upside is that Tigers manager Jim Leyland surely understands that and hired Knapp anyway. That means Knapp must have impressed him a great deal.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Lions Draft No Better, Really, Than Those Of The Past

The Lions failures in the NFL draft continue to stick out like a sore thumb.
The latest came this week with this year’s first-round draft choice Gosder Cherilus, a right offensive tackle, being benched in favor of false start penalty specialist George Foster.
The move is particularly telling because it comes the week of the Lions’ game against the Houston Texans. The Lions took Cherilus 17th overall, nine picks ahead of Duane Brown, who has started every game at left tackle - a more difficult and important position - for the Texans. Brown has keyed a Houston running game that has been better-than-expected with rookie Steve Slaton doing most of the ball carrying. He was taken in the third round of this year’s draft after Lions rookie running back Kevin Smith, who has been underwhelming. Slaton has more yards, a better yards per carry average and more touchdowns than Smith. Houston is 20th in the NFL in rushing yardage, the Lions 31st - or next to last.
Throw this in with what Sam Baker has done starting at left tackle for surging Atlanta (he was selected four picks after Cherilus), and that Lions second-rounder Jordon Dizon has contributed little at linebacker, and the recipe for another disastrous draft is starting to cook. There just hasn’t been a lot there in the later rounds, either. It’s amazing, really, this is happening again.
Matt Millen has to go down as the worst general manager in NFL history. And Rod Marinelli’s hands are all over this draft.

Random Thoughts

- The Red Sox are amazing. Their comebacks in the postseason sure it more interesting, but beating the Rays two straight on the road won’t be easy. It was about time David Ortiz woke up.

- To be honest, I don’t have a real good read on the MSU-Ohio State game Saturday. Can see where it could go either way. Ohio State has more and better athletes, but MSU has developed a certain collective character this season. I figure it will at least be close. Spartans everywhere need to remember, winning this game isn’t nearly as important as the Michigan game. Don’t care about the standings. If MSU loses to Michigan under these circumstances, everything the Spartans did before will consider null and void..

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do You Believe In Miracles? Lions Make A Great Trade

It wasn't a good deal. It was a great deal.
More than anything else, the Lions need to gather as many picks as possible, and build through the draft.
Getting first-, third- and sixth-round draft choices for wide receiver Roy Williams was steal in that regard.
Williams was eligible for free agency after this season. It wasn't worth putting the franchise tag on him to retain his services. A third-round draft choice alone for him would have been worth it under the circumstances. A first and sixth, too? Are you kidding me?
But don't underestimate Williams' ability. Or his motivation. He is from Odessa, Texas. Went to the same high school "Friday Night Lights" was based upon. He starred at the University of Texas. Playing for the Cowboys completes his circle. Williams is a very good player, who was beaten down by the constant downer environment that is the Lions. He could take off.
The Lions were fortunate in that this smacks of desperation by the Cowboys. Such robbery never would have been possible if the Cowboys hadn't lost their last two games, QB Tony Romo wasn't hurt or Pac Man Jones didn't get suspended by the NFL this week.
Williams is Jerry Jones'version of throwing $700 billion into the faltering economy. The Cowboys market rebounded quickly.
While it makes going 0-16 more a possbility for the Lions, and it would be utterly embarrassing, so be it. Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, either, if the Cowboys go on to win the Super Bowl and Williams is the MVP.
The Lions needed to hit rock bottom and move forward with something that provides hope for their future and their long-suffering fan base.
This was a better-than-expected start.

Random Thoughts

- Obviously, this trade improves Martin Mayhew's chances of becoming the Lions general manager. He has been with the team for awhile and has good qualfications for the position on his resume, but he does have a reputation for hypersensitivity, a massive ego and lacking people skills. It's one thing to make tough decisions after weighing issues. It's another to never listen. That was one of Millen's big problems - he knew everything, was a poor listener and never got a feel for this area. Those would be the same concerns with Mayhew - although it does seem like he has learned some things as time has gone on.

- Getting pounded like they did Tuesday at Fenway Park has to be devastating for the Red Sox. If there has been a game, more than any other, that proves the Rays are for real, that was it.
And don't let anybody fool you - the Red Sox badly miss Manny Ramirez this postseason. His departure likely cost the BoSox another World Series run.

- I think overall, Jon Kitna's legacy in Detroit will be a good one. He was a solid leader. He did display toughness and grit. It just he wasn't that good, and he was placed in an impossible situation with the Lions. It didn't end well for him - the bad body language and all on the field. But for the most part, he will be fondly remembered, if for no other reason than he displayed more competitive spirit than Lions' QBs of the past such as Scott Mitchell and Joey Harrington.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not As Big An Upset, But Just As Bad A Loss For UM

First of all, I don’t believe Michigan’s loss to Toledo Saturday was worse than the one to Appalachian State. Not even close.
That was one of the monumental upsets of all time. Regardless of sport or level. Mid-American Conference schools beat Big Ten teams quite often. You just don’t see a Division I-AA team defeating teams that are supposed to be in the Top Ten, like Michigan was at the start of last year.
But this is an indication of just how far the mighty have fallen and indictment on Rich Rodriguez.
With all due credit to Toledo, Michigan did every thing in its power to lose that football game. And it does come back to coaching. Or lack of it.
The personal foul penalties. The interception near the goal line. The fact both quarterbacks have regressed rather than made progress. How Toledo kept completing the same pass to the same player over and over.
Thing is, Michigan is stuck here. They have to give Rodriguez time. While it is disturbing this looks like a possible three- or four-win season with much better talent than that, you just can’t take his program and dump it into the garbage after one year, even if that’s where it belongs after these continual dreadful performances.
The only hope is that Rodriguez can cure this with time. Earlier in the season, that seemed certain. But to be honest, does that appear so clear anymore?
I mean, it is possible this guy is taking Michigan’s proud tradition and dumping it right down the tubes. It’s getting worse instead of better, isn’t it?

Random Thoughts

- OK, I've seen enough of Dan Orlovsky. Drew Stanton's upside is obviously much higher. The sooner the Lions play Stanton, the better. I thought the Lions offense was awful Sunday. The fact they were in the game against the Vikings was 100 percent about the defense.

- And I thought Manny Ramirez was on the downside of his career. He is by far the best player in baseball right now, and he is solidfying his spot as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

- Does Johan Franzen have the scorer's touch or what? Wouldn't surprise me if he gets 40 goals this season. Doesn't seem like his hot playoff streak was a fluke.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lions Need To Find Out What Orlovsky Can Do, As Well

It seems obvious to me that if the Lions have anybody on their roster, who might represent the answer at quarterback in the future, it is Drew Stanton.
I don’t think that makes me the Lone Ranger in that regard. Seems like everybody in this town feels the same way. They just can’t wait to see what Stanton can do when the bullets are real.
Dan Orlovsky, however, will likely get the first crack at it, and it could come as soon as Sunday when the Lions play the Vikings on the road. Jon Kitna’s playing status is iffy because of a back injury.
I do question sometimes if we’re giving Orlovsky a fair shot. He has been with the team for a number of years, and never really been given a real chance to display his capabilities.
Certainly, he has been thrust into difficult circumstances this season. While he hasn’t been impressive, how can it be much of a gauge? During the preseason, Orlovsky has played both well and not-so-well. Stanton definitely has presented more flash.
Perhaps it would be a good thing to let Orlovsky prepare for a week or two as starter - and then start him. What do the Lions have to lose? They certainly have enough season remaining to find out what both Orlovsky and Stanton can do.
I just wonder if Rod Marinelli would ever consider that given his apparent dependence on Jon Kitna.

Random Thoughts

- Defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s contention the Lions just overlooked cornerback Brian Kelly, and that is why he dressed, but didn’t play last Sunday vs. Chicago, is laughable. How can the Lions dress a player and afford not use him on special teams? That is especially so since their depth has been diminished by having so many healthy defensive linemen on the inactive list each week. That just cripples their special team units, and was a particular oversight considering the threat the Bears Devin Hester presents. Seriously, they were fortunate that game was just 34-7.

- It was strange watching the Red Wings play such undisciplined hockey Thursday night against the Maple Leafs. Doubt we’ll see more of the same Saturday night in Ottawa.

- It is a trap game, but I have a feeling Michigan State will control the clock with its running game against Northwestern. The Spartans' offensive line is much better than had been anticipated.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How Low Can The Red Wings Loss Total Go?

After the stink bomb the Tigers dropped, it’s almost humorous to see the reaction many Detroit-area sports fans have about the start of the Red Wings’ season.
The Red Wings have the makings of a truly great team. They didn’t just win the Stanley Cup last season - they steam-rolled to it. And seldom in the history of sports, has a team that dominant added this significantly following their championship. Maybe never. Marian Hossa is one of the top dozen forwards in the world. Brad Stuart will be with the Red Wings the entire season. Ty Conklin was second in the NHL in save percentage in 2007-08. And nobody, other than Dallas Drake, is gone.
How can Ville Leino not be on this team? Looks like he could score 20 goals right now in the league.
Darren Helm can fly. Proved himself on the playoff stage. He didn’t make it, either.
So I must bring up a point. It’s about a number. The number is 10. Can the Red Wings go this season with less than 10 defeats. Single-digit losses. It has been done before, by the Canadiens in the 1970s, sandwiched around a couple other seasons in which the Habs almost did it, too.
It’s understood, the regular season means far less than the playoffs. But it could be something to shoot for. I know, I know - don’t jinx ‘em. But you must admit, it is a legitimate question.

Random Thoughts

- Everybody raves about youngsters Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews - as they should - but the Blackhawks best player is Patrick Sharp. He is the one who usually inflicts the most damage on the Red Wings. Sharp is a very, very underrated player.

- The key for Michigan Saturday will be Sam McGuffie. If he has a breakout game - and he is capable of it - the Wolverines will rout Toledo.

- It’s more than a coincidence Bill Laimbeer keeps winning WBNA championships with the Shock. Maybe that success shouldn’t be overlooked the next time an NBA job comes open. Obviously he knows what he is doing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Who Knows What Ford Is Thinking About Rod

It’s strange how it works in William Clay Ford’s world. He just lets his football team wallow at low points until he essentially doesn’t really have to step in. The decisions make themselves for him.
Matt Millen was only fired after William Clay Ford Jr. came out and said what the rest of the world knew forever.
Now it’s head coach Rod Marinelli. The team he is putting on the field is woefully unprepared to win National Football League games.
If the Lions remain on this course, they could be a winless football team this season. At some point, Ford won’t have to really step in. It’ll just kind of happen - like when Millen was dismissed.
I just wonder when. The sooner the better because the Lions must start playing their younger players, in particular quarterback Drew Stanton. They would give the Lions a better chance of winning a game or two, if for no other reason than the energy is clearly missing at this stage from their veteran players, particularly QB Jon Kitna and wide receiver Roy Williams. Both should be on the borderline of getting benched given their body language on the field alone.

Random Thoughts

- I see the White Sox coming back and ousting the Rays. Winning that clinching game can be very difficult for a young team.

- Michigan State’s last two wins were encouraging. The Spartans aren’t overwhelming teams, but doing what is necessary to win. They deserve their spot in the rankings. Northwestern will present a tough test, though.

- Michigan can’t lose to Toledo, right? The Wolverines aren’t that bad, are they? They were against Illinois, that’s for sure.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Rip, Rasheed Comments Not A Good Sign

Joe Dumars should be distressed by the recent comments Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton made blasting their former coach, Flip Saunders.
It comes across as if they believe Saunders is the only reason the Pistons, when it got to the crucial point of the Eastern Conference finals the last two years, melted down.
It sounds like they are taking accountability and shifting it totally elsewhere - when both were in on the blame.
Wallace, in particular, played poorly in clinching those games by Cleveland in 2007 and Boston last year.
Last season, Jason Kidd and Shaquille O’Neal were moved during the season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same scenario develops with the Pistons and their Big Four. Obviously, the pickings were slim during the off season, but Dumars may have options - and decide to take them - during the season.

Random Thoughts

- So Jim Colletto is going to open up the Lions offense this week. What is the point of letting the whole world know?

-The sooner Drew Stanton becomes the Lions starting quarterback, the better for the overall good of the franchise. It might even help them this season. There is no guarantee Stanton would play well, but there is no guarantee he wouldn’t, either.

- Think the Packers regret not taking Brett Favre back? It could go down as one of the greatest blunders in NFL history.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dombrowski's Inaction On Leyland Says It All

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was forthright with his comments following the season, except for one important issue - manager Jim Leyland’s desire for a contract extension.
While he did praise Leyland, he didn’t comment about Leyland not getting a contract extension through the 2010 season.
Dombrowski didn’t have to say anything. His inaction on the subject says it all.
Leyland let the world know he wanted an extension. And he was testy about it, uncharacteristically throwing a couple reporters out of his office late in the season for asking about it. Then he did talk about wanting the extension several times with the media. Now he is miffed he didn’t get one, and said so publicly.
Dombrowski? He has no comment.
I think Dombrowski is making a mistake here. Leyland needs the security to deal with a clubhouse of veteran players, many with long term deals.
There could be a point Leyland has to put his foot down next season. It will fall on deaf ears with the players knowing he might get fired at the first sign the season is going South.
Then again, that could be what is in the cards for Leyland. Get off to a good start - or else.
It was the clear message Dombrowski sent with his silence this week.

Random Thoughts

- It’s a wonderful problem to have, but making final roster cuts for the Red Wings is nearly impossible. Their depth is incredible. Ville Leino looks like a player to me.

- We’ll see if Michigan State’s defense is improved this week vs. Iowa. Last season against the Hawkeyes, the Spartans blew a 17-3 halftime lead and were manhandled during the second half in a loss against a struggling team. The Spartans’ defensive breakdowns at Indiana last week were alarming.

- I see the Phillies over the Brewers in five, the Cubs over the Dodgers in four, the Angels over the Red Sox in five and the White Sox to upset the Rays in four.