The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… Sanchez Makes NFL Mark

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Bleacher Fan.

When considering a quarterback to build an NFL franchise around a lot of names come to mind. Names like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, for example. But today I propose a more subtle and often underrated candidate – Mark Sanchez.

While Sanchez may not seem like the obvious choice, he is no doubt one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He has quietly turned around a less than stellar New York Jets franchise and has shown flashes of brilliance along the way. He has handled the pressures of playing in the New York market under constant media scrutiny with relative ease. Sanchez rises to the occasion in big game situations, and in all likelihood still hasn’t peaked in terms of his maximum ability. What more could a franchise ask for?

People often forget that Mark Sanchez is young. He is currently wrapping up his sophomore season as a professional but has already accomplished some incredible things. In 2007 – two years before Sanchez’s arrival – the Jets were a 4-12 team. They had virtually nowhere to go but up. The next season the team thought it had lucked into an answer for its quarterback issues in landing Brett Favre, but Favre’s brief tenure in the Big Apple was a band-aid for the Jets problems at best. Under Favre the Jets improved to a 9-7 record, but any progress the team experienced was offset by the transition to a new head coach, and then rookie quarterback in Sanchez in 2009.

Sanchez certainly had big shoes to fill in coming in after #4, but he did so in incredible fashion. In his first year as a pro Mark Sanchez led the Jets to another regular season 9-7 record, and then a deep playoff run that took them within one game of the Super Bowl – and that was as a rookie.

This season Sanchez is right back at it again, and he has dispatched both the Colts and the Patriots in the process. It speaks volumes of his composure and talent that Sanchez can not only hang with, but beat the biggest names in the NFL today – a feat he is not supposed to be able to pull off. He has again taken the Jets to within one win of the Super Bowl, and all that stands in his way is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has only thrown one interception in the playoffs this season and is getting hot at the right time, as evidenced by his three touchdown performance against the Patriots. That is quite an impressive season for a second year guy, especially considering most players struggle in the midst of the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Sanchez is still making huge stride, too. He was perfect through the first five games of this season throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. While he began to struggle with turnovers during the second half of the season, critics ignored the fact that he continued to win games. From his rookie to his second season he created statistical gains across the board. During the regular season this year Sanchez passed for his first 3,000 yard season and saw his total passing touchdowns outnumber his interceptions. Those are all the hallmarks of progress, and that is something you want to see in a franchise quarterback.

Another great thing about Sanchez is that he is eager to be molded into a better player. Last season when he was criticized for a reckless and awkward sliding ability that was bound to get him hurt, he responded immediately. Instead of getting defensive and making excuses he addressed the issue head on… or rather feet first, the next time. Sanchez worked with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to learn how to slide in a safer, more effective manner. You don’t see that type of humbleness and eagerness in many franchise quarterbacks.

The guy is a great quarterback, and as long as he continues to improve he should see a ring very soon. He’s got the skills and growth a coach wants to see, but most importantly he has the intangibles that make a winner on the biggest stage possible. In a real life fantasy draft, any coach would be lucky to take him first and build a winning program around him.

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The 2010 Sport You’re Most Thankful For Debate… Thanks for America’s Pasttime

November 24, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

His deep reflections on this simple sport are as accurate as they are well articulated. Baseball is a thing of beauty. America is truly blessed to have such a sublime sport for its national pastime.

As millions of families gather together today and give thanks for the many blessings in their life, one blessing I will remember is baseball. Even though the New York Yankees did not win the World Series, and the 2010 season saw the loss of one of the most iconic figures in all of sports history – “The Boss” George Steinbrenner – this season proved, as always, to be a thing of beauty. It reminded me why, as a grown man, I love a child’s game so very much.

Perfect In Its Imperfections

The 2010 season was the first to see two perfect games in the same season, those of Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay. Shockingly, it came remarkably close to seeing three.

Aramando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers pitched flawlessly through 26 batters. He had a perfect game going through 8 2/3 innings. All indicators pointed toward perfection, and he was just mere pitches away from joining the most elite company in baseball history by pulling off the rarest feat in the Bigs. Fate had different plans for Galarraga. On the last out of the game he was inarguably robbed of immortality by umpire Jim Joyce.

This was a travesty that could have been worse. Arguably the worst blown call in baseball cost Galarraga his shot at immortality. This could have invalidated the sport. This could have driven fans away in droves. Instead, fans were treated to a bittersweet ending, an ending which highlighted the human aspect of the sport, but more importantly ended with a story of forgiveness and redemption.

Jim Joyce, the 22 year veteran and consummate professional, did the unthinkable. He did what no one dreamed an official or anyone connected with professional sports would ever do. He admitted he was wrong.

With a tearful confession and a heartfelt apology, Jim Joyce set things right. He avoided a potential disaster for MLB and instead restored faith in the game for many. For stories like these, I give thanks.

A True Team Celebration

I was similarly blown away by the thoughtfulness of the Texas Rangers clubhouse in celebrating their post-season advancements. When the Texas Rangers clinched the America League West crown they celebrated in typical fashion with a champagne free-for-all in the clubhouse. This was an unforgettable night and deserved an equally unforgettable party, but one man was unable to partake in the festivities.

Rangers sluggers Josh Hamilton, who struggled mightily to overcome his history of substance abuse problems, chose to be elsewhere. While he was no doubt as excited as his teammates, his self-imposed lifestyle restrictions left him out of the party. But when the Rangers advanced, the players didn’t make that mistake again.

Instead the Rangers showered each others with ginger ale, a touching consideration for their valued teammate. This type of camaraderie is not often displayed in professional sports, but special moments like this renew ones passion for baseball and for that I give thanks.

Miracles and Heroes Abide

Without a doubt, the thing about MLB I am most thankful for is the fact that heroes and miracles still survive. Baseball has had some serious PR issues over the past three decades. From the strike to The Steroids Era, there were plenty of reasons to look down on baseball. But there are still players and stories that keep the legacy of the past alive.

Perhaps nothing is more touching to me than the story of players who hit homeruns on command for a sick child. This seems to be a folk tale from a bygone era, but amazingly it is not. As recent as the 2009 season Brett Gardner defied the odds and did exactly this. Making it all the more improbable is the fact that Gardner did it with an inside the park homerun.

A special young girl in need of a heart transplant asked Gardner that to hit a homerun for her. She even told him that she had been praying he could do it. He wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. He wasn’t a bruising slugger, and he wasn’t even in the lineup that night. But due to an ejection of the left fielder and a miraculous hit Gardner was able to live a story that even Disney could not have even imagined.

It’s so very refreshing to hear good news about a sport and see there is something worth being fanatical about.

So, amidst all the turkey and even the football, I stop to give thanks for baseball, and the great American legacy it continues to build.

Former San Francisco Giants third baseman, Al Gallagher once said, “There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball.” I am inclined to agree.

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The 2010 NFL Mid-Season Playoff Push Debate… Texans Still Hunting

November 11, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

The Houston Texans kicked off the 2010 NFL season in remarkable fashion when they shocked the Indianapolis Colts.

That start did not surprise many people, though, as many picked the Texans to continue with the progress they have made in recent years en route to their first ever playoff appearance.

After turning in the first winning record in franchise history last season the Texans entered into 2010 with high hopes. They brought back the league’s most promising aerial combination in quarterback Matt Schaub (who led the NFL in passing yards in 2009) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (who racked up over 200 more receiving yards than anyone else in the entire league last season). The team is now poised to challenge the Indianapolis Colts’ stranglehold over the AFC South.

More recently, however, after jumping out to an early 3-1 record, the Texans have experienced a bit of a reversal in fortune by losing three of the last four games. They currently find themselves a game behind both the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South standings, and considering their recent struggles, look like more like the Texans of previous seasons than the team we saw during the early weeks of 2010.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is the same old Houston Texans team that has blown its chances at the playoffs.

The primary reason the Texans will continue on in the postseason hunt is the astonishing performance of running back Arian Foster. In a season where everyone expected Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson to run away with the rushing title, Foster has come out of nowhere to dominate on the ground. Halfway through the season he leads the NFL both in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He has single-handedly carried the Texans to this point in the season.

Although Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson have not been able to find a rhythm yet that matches pre-season expectations, it is only a matter of time before they start to light it up in the air. Once that happens, the rest of the NFL better watch out, because an offense that features the league’s top run game, and complements it with what could be the top passing game, becomes the best offense in the league.

Obviously the Texans have an uphill climb ahead of them. Once more, they find themselves chasing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in their division. Their defense has not done them any favors, either, as it allows more yards than any other team in the league. But unlike any other season since the Texans joined the league, there is no team that has dominated the AFC South. All four teams have shown flashes of brilliance, and all four have also turned in very forgettable performances.

In a toss-up division, with the potential of developing into the league’s most potent offense, there will be more than enough to keep the Texans in the hunt late into December.

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The Time To Panic Debate Verdict

October 18, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-4 and are a full two games back from even climbing out of the NFC East cellar, let alone contending for a playoff spot. They have a lousy rushing offense, averaging only 95 yards per game, and join Miami and Buffalo as the three teams in the NFL to score only one rushing touchdown on the season.

But at least they are not the Minnesota Vikings.

I can appreciate the fact that the Vikings have a better record than the Cowboys, and that the Vikings actually BEAT the Cowboys last Sunday. But if we are talking about identifying the team that is in most need of a panic-driven overhaul, I have to agree with Loyal Homer that it is indeed the Vikings.

I will agree with Babe Ruthless’ sentiment that coaching in Dallas is a real issue. As a head coach, Wade Phillips has never accomplished remarkable things, even though he has been blessed with remarkable talent. He has instead inherited great teams, and accomplished only the average with them.

He has coached players like John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and most recently guys like Terrell Owens, and Tony Romo. He has led teams like the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys on to a career record of 82-58 (VERY respectable) during the regular season, but his playoff record is a horrible 1-5.

For as much as Wade Phillips should be replaced in Dallas, though, there is a difference between needing a coaching change and needing an overhaul.

The Dallas Cowboys, struggling though they may be this season, are just a few mistakes and special teams plays away from being 4-1, or even 5-0.

They lost to the Redskins without giving up an offensive touchdown (a fumble returned for a touchdown was the difference for Washington). An excessive celebration penalty late in the game against the Tennessee Titans set up a game-winning score for Chris Johnson. If not for a 95 yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin the Cowboys would have potentially put away the Vikings.

Realistically, the Cowboys are still just a few plays away from finding themselves right back in contention. Felix Jones is getting better every week, and the combination of Tony Romo and Miles Austin is one of the most exciting and talented passing duos in the entire league. They are a potent offense that can put points on the board, and despite their record, have a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest yards per game.

That does not sound to me like a team in need of an overhaul.

By comparison, the Minnesota Vikings are in a very bad state right now. The main reason for that is because they have mortgaged their entire future on this one season. As Loyal Homer points out, there is no tomorrow for the Vikings. This is it.

In fairness, we knew they were going all-in this season before it even began when they sacrificed any value they could have realized from training camp by patiently waiting for Brett Favre to make a decision on whether or not he would return one more time. But then they lost their top receiver, Sidney Rice, to a hip injury (and are HOPING to get him back by mid-season) and Percy Harvin, has been battling migraines all season long.

Then, when Favre did make the decision to come back for one last chance at glory, it became evident very quickly that he was not going to repeat the magic of his 2009 campaign.

Last season he had a career best passer rating of 107.2. This season he is on course for a career worst with a rating of 72.1 (only his 1995 season in Green Bay was worse, at 70.9).

Last season marked the ninth time in his career that he was able to pass for more than 30 touchdowns. This season he has tossed only six touchdowns in five games, which could have him on pace to match his career low of only 18 touchdowns in a season.

Last season Favre set a career low with only seven interceptions all season. This season he already has seven interceptions and still has 11 games left to be played.

It just doesn’t seem like Favre wants to be on the field any more. Injuries are now clearly taking their toll, and the resurgent allegations of inappropriate texting provide nothing more than another distraction that the ailing Favre doesn’t need.

But as Loyal Homer brings up, the Vikings HAVE to stick with Favre, because after him is no one else. Tarvaris Jackson has instilled confidence in no one, and I didn’t even know who Joe Webb was until this debate came along.

Sure, the Vikings brought in Randy Moss, who still has big-play potential every time the ball is snapped. But let’s be honest, a Favre-to-Moss passing combination does not NEARLY have the punch it would have ten years ago. Even if Moss can capture some magic at the receiving end of Favre’s arm, the Vikings have made it clear that they have no immediate plans to keep Moss around after the season draws to a close.

Dallas still has a lot of young talent at the core of their roster. Dallas has proven that, despite a poor showing in the standings, they are capable of performing very well week in and week out. The Vikings, on the other hand, have cashed in all their chips for this last roll of the dice, and so far, the gamble has not paid off.

So panic, purple people. Today may seem bleak, but if this win over the Cowboys does not help to turn things around quickly, tomorrow can always be worse!

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The Time To Panic Debate

October 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

As NFL training camps opened a few months ago, and people were looking ahead at the regular season schedule, many pegged yesterday’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings as one of the more important games of the season.

Both teams were returning after having won division championships in 2009, and both came into the 2010 season expecting not only a shot at the playoffs, but each team had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

Now that week six is in the books, it appears that we could not have been more wrong.

Rather than battling in a race for the Lombardi Trophy these teams are instead battling for the first pick in the 2011 draft. Today, the Dallas Cowboys sit at a pathetic 1-4, while the Minnesota Vikings are at a not much more impressive 2-3, by virtue only of a victory over Cowboys yesterday afternoon.

Here is the most frustrating thing for fans of both franchises – both teams have a great deal of talent on their rosters.

Minnesota’s offense features the NFL’s top running back in Adrian Peterson, and his talents are complemented with two future Hall of Famers in Randy Moss and Brett Favre, as well as younger superstars like Visanthe Shiancoe, and Percy Harvin.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Miles Austin have had no problems in moving the ball this season, despite the team’s record, as they had the second highest yards per game average in the NFL (421.5) entering yesterday’s game, behind only the San Diego Chargers.

On the defensive side, both teams came into the matchup boasting one of the ten stingiest squads in terms of yards allowed each weekend, and Minnesota’s 16.8 points allowed per game average was the seventh best in the league.

Consider the pre-season aspirations and talent levels on each roster, then look at the current state of their franchises. Now let’s debate: Which team has more reason to panic, the Minnesota Vikings or the Dallas Cowboys?

As a side note to Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer, who will be arguing today for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, I have used the word “panic” in my debate topic for today. I don’t just want to know which team has been the most disappointing, or has the least chance at still making a playoff run. I am talking about a full-on, “women and children first,” “the sky is falling,” “Armageddon is upon us” type panic.

The little red emergency phone in Roger Goodell’s office is ringing, is it Jerry Jones or Zygi Wilf in hysterical tears on the other end?

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The Time To Panic Debate… Big D is in Deep Trouble

October 17, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2010 season with great expectations. With Cowboys Stadium playing host to the Super Bowl this season, Dallas wasn’t just playing to make the playoffs but to secure home field advantage in the NFL’s most important game. As lofty a goal as that may have seemed before the season, it seems even more improbable now that the Cowboys are off to a 1-4 start. Now the Cowboys are merely trying to get out of the cellar of the NFC East.

This would be a bad start for any franchise in the NFL, but it is even worse for the Dallas Cowboys. Just like the old adage, “Everything is bigger in Texas!” Their abysmal start has pretty much killed the dreams of a playoff appearance. But I would say that it is also indicative of a much bigger problem… or should I say problems.

The Cowboys need a new vision. They need a new coach. And they need a new running game. In short the Dallas Cowboys need a Texas-sized overhaul.

The current game plan isn’t working for the Cowboys. They are a one dimensional team that the rest of the league has figured out. Their “pass, pass, and if all else fails pass” approach just does not work without the right personnel (i.e. Peyton Manning). Looking at the stats. The Dallas Cowboys boast one of the most potent passing games in the NFL, but that claim is somewhat misleading. The Cowboys excel at the pass because they must. The team lacks any semblance of balance. The Cowboys have an incredible wealth of receiving talent in Miles Austin, Jason Whitten, Dez Bryant, and Roy Williams, but their ineffective rushing attack leaves them vulnerable.

Marion Barber was at one time among the most capable backs in the NFL, but not any longer. He isn’t even the most effective rusher on his own team, as Felix Jones was posting better yards per attempt than Barber through week six. Thus far running backs in Dallas have only scored one rushing touchdown. That definitely does not pose a threat to opposing defensive coordinators, and until something changes, opposing defenses can focus on shutting down the passing game.

Adding to the dysfunction in Dallas is the team’s lack of discipline. The team ranks in the top third of the league in number of penalties and penalty yardage. Similarly, turnovers have been a problem as the Cowboys rank near the very bottom of the league in turnovers lost compared with takeaways. These problems are fixable, but they are matters of personnel and coaching. Since we all know Jerry Jones isn’t about to relinquish managerial control, the the Cowboys must do something about the latter.

The time has come for the Cowboys to cut some dead weight, starting with the head coach. Wade Phillips is not the coach Dallas needs right now. Obviously he is somewhat effective having led the Cowboys to the playoff twice in three full seasons as head coach, but that really isn’t good enough. In Dallas the expectation isn’t to simply make the playoffs, but to WIN. Phillips has taken the team as far as one victory in the wild card round in the 2009 post-season, but that’s it. After dropping four of the first five games it looks like this season isn’t going to pan out either. His inability to win the big games and address the sloppy play that continues to be the albatross around the Cowboys neck should show Jerry Jones it is time to move on from Wade Phillips.

But, the most obvious and frustrating aspect of the Cowboys failures is the lack of a running game. A successful rushing attack would certainly open up the pass. Obviously the team should capitalize on its strength – passing. But, the lack of effective rushing is one of the things hold the Dallas back. Obviously every team wants to rush the ball well, but the Cowboys should be in a position to do that. Jerry Jones is a competitive owner who is not afraid to throw money around in order to get the players he wants, but it seems since Emmitt Smith led Dallas the running backs haven’t been a top priority target. There were difference making players that were available this off-season – most notably LaDainian Tomlinson – as well as players available via trade during the season – like Marshawn Lynch – if the Cowboys felt they needed another back. Instead it appears that Dallas will stick with Barber and Jones and hope something changes. This approach doesn’t seem reasonable for a team that wants to compete and be the best.

It’s definitely panic time in Dallas. Jerry Jones should break out the broom and clean house. He can hang onto a few key guys – Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and DeMarcus Ware – but the rest can go. The Cowboys need top down reform. They need a new coach with a different, more balanced vision. They need fresh players who can breathe some new life into a storied franchise suddenly fallen on hard times, and sweeping reform is the way to go.

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