Friday, March 18, 2011 @ 8:30am
I think it is safe to say that after a four-game losing streak that included two losses to teams they are now chasing in the race for the 8th and final playoff spot that we can stick a fork in the Phoenix Suns.
For Phoenix to overcome Memphis, New Orleans and Houston and take the 8th seed they would not only need those three teams to falter down the stretch but they would likely have to go 12-4 in their final 16 games. And that is something that the Suns are just not capable of doing.
After 66 games the Suns are what they are - a .500 team. No better. No worse. And it is completely unrealistic to think that a team that has played .500 ball for 80% of the season can now play .750 ball. And especially not with Steve Nash playing hurt and Channing Frye still out of the lineup.
Make no mistake that ownership, management and the players wanted desperately to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs generates excitement, extra revenue, gives fans a good feeling about their team and gives the players pride in accomplishing something over a grueling 82-game schedule.
But there is a silver lining. By not making the playoffs the Suns will get to keep their draft pick, which was lottery protected, instead of giving it to Houston as part of the Goran Dragic for Aaron Brooks trade. The Rockets instead will get the pick that Phoenix acquired from Orlando in the blockbuster trade that sent Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Magic for Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter.
I know it may not seem like much now but when draft day comes you will be much happier with Phoenix picking 12th or 13th instead of 22nd or 23rd, barring a lottery miracle. The difference in picks between Phoenix and Orlando will likely be around 10 or 11 draft spots. That's a big deal in terms of getting a better prospect.
And it's not like the Suns would have made the playoffs and shocked the world by knocking off San Antonio again. They in all likelihood would have been a first-round out type of team. So is it better to make the playoffs and pick in the low to mid 20's or miss the playoffs and pick 12th to 14th?
This upcoming NBA draft is supposed to be one of the worst in recent memories for true talent, but there are always gems in every draft and maybe, just maybe Phoenix can find one.
The Suns competed hard this season, they just never were able to overcome the loss of Amar'e Stoudemire. It's hard to lose a star player, replace him with role players and not take a step back. Just look at Cleveland without LeBron James, Toronto without Chris Bosh and Utah without Carlos Boozer this season. Right now none of those four teams that lost star players in the offseason would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Whether they like it or not Phoenix is in a transition phase, trying to be competitive and make the playoffs while rebuilding at the same time. And if you are rebuilding having a better draft slot certainly should help.
So while playoff fever will skip Phoenix this season, at least there is a consolation prize.
Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 9:29am
Let's, just for argument's sake, say that you are the head coach of a football team that just went 11-2. Your team is coming off a season in which they won the Rose Bowl by beating Oregon 26-17. You beat five 10-win teams this season. And you have most of your key starters coming back, including your quarterback. By the way you enter the next season as preseason #2, so you have a real legitimate shot at winning the National Championship.
Then some of your kids do something stupid. They sell memorabilia that is theirs to some guy who owns a tattoo parlor, which if the NCAA finds out about will deem it illegal and punish the kids and the university. You get a tip about what your players are doing in the form of an email from an attorney.
What you are supposed to do is to tell your athletic director and the school's compliance office about it. But you know that by doing so your quarterback and some of your players are going to be suspended. You have no idea how long they are going to be suspended for, but you know it's likely going to be several games.
Friday, March 4, 2011 @ 10:29am
I never saw the late Duke Snider play, but I knew all about him. Same for Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Al Kaline, Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg and so many of the all-time great baseball players.
I caught the tail end of Willie Mays' career when he was with the Mets and a shell of his former self. I remember watching Hank Aaron in his last few years as well. Same for Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Somehow I knew the entire Brooklyn Dodgers lineup of the mid 50's by heart, even though they left New York and Brooklyn 9 years before I was born. There was Gil Hodges at first base, Jackie Robinson at second, Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, Junior Gilliam at third and Roy Campanella behind the plate. The outfield was Sandy Amaros, Carl Furillo and Snider. Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Johnny Podres are the pitchers I can recall.
Why I still to this day remember that team is beyond me. But the passing of Snider this past week at the age of 84 brought back some great baseball memories of growing up in a baseball crazed state. I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn as a kid, but Dem Bums were long gone by then and the Mets of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack had taken over New York, especially after the 1969 World Series. Nonetheless, I still knew the Brooklyn lineup like the back of my hand. Maybe it was my visits to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe it was my grandfathers' love of baseball and him always taking me to games at Yankee and Shea Stadium when I was just a boy. Maybe it was baseball cards, which I collected frantically as a kid, mainly to scale them and flip them and sometimes to put them in the spokes of my Schwinn bicycle. I'm not really sure why, but knowing the history of baseball seemed like a necessity where I grew up. I wasn't alone mind you, all the kids I hung with knew baseball past and present.
I remember when playoff baseball games were in the daytime and my elementary school teachers put the radio on in class during the classic Yankee-Royals playoff series in the mid 70's so we could listen. Learning about math took a back seat to hearing Ron Guidry's strikeouts on the AM dial.
The main debate I remember as a kid was on who was better, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson or the Red Sox Carlton Fisk? Or on the National League side, who was a better pitcher, Seaver or Carlton? But when we talked baseball, we always referred to Willie, Mickey and the Duke and this was a few years before the "Talkin' Baseball song". Why couldn't Bobby Murcer carry on the tradition that passed down from Ruth to Gehrig to DiMaggio to Mantle? That was a classic conversation. And the old-timers would always tell us how special Willie, Mickey and the Duke were. They told us about a great time in baseball when three center fielders dominated the game and the back pages of the sports sections.
I guess in many ways not knowing about baseball's past back then would be like today's generation of kids not knowing about the Brew Crew's Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, the Wizard Ozzie Smith of the Cardinals, the Twins Kirby Puckett, the Red Sox Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, San Diego's Tony Gwynn, the Royals George Brett, Oakland's Rickey Henderson, the Phillies' Mike Schmidt, Cubs' Ryne Sandberg, or the Reds Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. Every teenage boy knows who those players are, don't they?
I think it is imperative for parents to teach their kids about the history of baseball. I think it's more imperative for baseball to put more games on in the day so kids can actually watch them, especially playoff games. I think baseball cards should go back to being .25 or even .50 cents a pack with a stale piece of gum in the middle, that way kids can collect them. I think players should sign autographs each and every chance they get. I think every kid should know how to play dice baseball at home and keep a scorecard at the game. I think every team should have a real yearbook that costs no more than $5 bucks. I think every ballpark should have hot dog guys that put sauerkraut on your dog. I think every team with a retractable roof should have it open on any day the temperature is less than 100 degrees.
And I think every young baseball fan should know 'em all from Boston to Dubuque. Especially Willie, Mickey and the Duke.
Friday, February 25, 2011 @ 8:37am
This is supposed to be a sports column. Something about the Suns trade, the upcoming NFL draft, the Coyotes recent win streak or the Diamondbacks upcoming season. But I don't want to write about sports. Over the weekend sports took a backseat to almost everything in my life. Even my kids soccer games on Saturday and Sunday meant little if anything to me. It's all kind of a blur now. I can barely recall the scores of the games even though I was there. And I'm not sure what exactly, if anything, I watched on television.
You see my life is so blessed in so many ways. I get a chance to entertain people every single day on the radio by talking about sports and life. I have done this now here in Arizona for 14 straight years. I love my job. I appreciate the listeners, the advertisers, the athletes I cover and I respect the people I work with who understand that while it seems like an easy job to turn on a microphone and talk about sports for four hours, it's really a lot more detailed than that. Not that I'm complaining, like I said I love my job.
One of the things I take great pride in is giving back to the community. Ash and I have raised roughly one million dollars over the years for the 100 Club of Arizona, benefiting the families of fallen and injured firefighters. Just this past October, I had a small part in helping to raise over $1 million dollars for the Phoenix Children's Hospital through our annual radiothon.
During the radiothon I had this amazing opportunity to deliver teddy bears to some of the children at the hospital thanks to the loyal support of our listeners who donated money. I got to walk the floors of the hospital with Larry Gaydos of News Talk 92.3 and we went around and met some amazing kids. There was something special about putting a smile on a kids face by giving them a teddy bear.
When I got home that night I told my family about this amazing 13-year old girl I met named Breanna Pena. I only spent five minutes with Breanna but she made some impression on me. She had leukemia and was having a tough day, going up and down to ICU with fevers. I showed my family pictures of her and the video the radio station made of the event that day. My wife and daughters were amazed at how beautiful she was. Now Breanna had no hair, but it didn't matter, her smile lit up the room and she was full of life.
My kids wanted to meet Breanna bad, real bad. So I called Steve Schnall, the Vice President of the Phoenix Children's Hospital, to set up a time we could go meet her. One of his assistants called me back and told me there were rules and regulations that prevented us from doing that. Something about not being able to visit only one child, we would have had to do the whole floor.
So we put it off for a few months and figured spring break would be a good time to go to the floor meet some of the kids and of course Breanna. My kids would be off from school then so it would be a perfect time to do it. And besides, Breanna made such an impression on me I just wanted to be a part of her life and watch as she beat cancer, got back to school and went to college to, as she said, "make a difference in the world"
Well, Breanna made a difference in the world all the way up until the day she lost her battle with cancer and died on Friday. I found out the news just minutes after my show ended and I cried the entire 40 minute ride home. I had to email my wife the information because I was too distraught to call her and tell her the news. I broke down telling my children that they were not going to get to meet Breanna, that the damn leukemia had won the battle and taken a life that had so much living still to do.
They say time heals all wounds but I am still hurting every time I think of Breanna. I only spent five minutes with her but it was an amazing five minutes that I will never forget. What I would give right now to have had my children meet her. She was special. I knew it from the second I met her.
I lost a sister once when I was a child and having gone through that I know there is no greater pain in the entire world than burying a child. But I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe there is a heaven and a hell. I believe Breanna is in heaven, I know she is.
I just wish heaven could have waited before Breanna became an angel. I will never forget you Breanna - NEVER.
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 9:44am
He was and always will be my favorite Suns player of all-time. Thursday night when he returned to the U.S. Airways Center, a place he once called home for nine years, it was a blast from the past. It brought back so many good memories for me of the man they called the Matrix. Granted, the Suns have had a slew of good players come and go over the years, but Shawn Marion ranked above them all for me.
It's hard to believe that three years have passed since the trade that sent Marion to Miami along with Marcus Banks for what was supposed to be the final piece -- Shaquille O'Neal. It was hard to see Marion go at the time because I had so much respect for him as a person and as a player. But he had grown tired of hearing his name in trade rumors over the years and even admitted just before the deadline that it was time for him to go. There had been talks of him going to Boston, Los Angeles and even Utah. But in the end after some deep soul searching by then General Manager Steve Kerr and with the blessing of then head coach Mike D'Antoni, the trade to Miami went down.
Phoenix had no interest in giving Marion the 3-year, $60 million extension he wanted. And they desperately wanted to rid themselves of Marcus Banks' ridiculous contract. Shaq was struggling in Miami, not playing much because of injuries, and some even thought he was tanking it. But the Suns thought a change of scenery would motivate him, which to a certain extent it did. But the trade didn't bring a championship to Phoenix and Marion's time in Miami was short lived, as he played parts of two seasons with the Heat before being traded to Toronto for half a season and eventually ending up with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent in a sign and trade deal following the 2008-09 season.
In Phoenix Marion was a four time All-Star and easily the most versatile player the Suns had. He could guard anyone -- point guard, small forwards, power forwards, shooting guards and sometimes even centers. He could guard Baron Davis one night and Dirk Nowitzki the next. He was a great defender, a great rebounder, shot blocker and he came up with a lot of steals with those quick hands and anticipation. He could shoot the three-pointer, run the fast break and score in transition. Sure he had that ugly shot and you never really knew how that jump shot went in, but it did.
In nine years with the Suns the Matrix averaged 18.4 points, 10 rebounds, 1.89 steals, 1.35 blocks. He shot 48.1% from the floor, 34.2% from 3-point range and 82.4% from the free-throw line. When he left he was among the Suns all-time leaders in almost every statistical category -- second in minutes played, 3-pointers made, rebounds and steals, third in blocks and fourth in points.
He was a 6-foot-7, 228 pound, jumping machine. My radio partner Mark Asher called him the best re-jumper he had ever seen. Not that re-jumper is a real word, but the Matrix could get up and down and then back up again faster than anyone. Somehow it made sense.
There was always a knock on him that he disappeared in the playoffs which I never bought. Marion had to exert so much energy guarding the opposing team's best player that he sacrificed some of his offense for his defense. At that time he was really the only Suns player who could play defense so there was a lot on his shoulders. Nonetheless he averaged 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds in his 65 postseason games with Phoenix.
What he did on the court wasn't the only reason I was his biggest fan. Marion got my respect by always being at his locker after every game, win or lose. He spoke to the media about the good and the bad. He never once turned down an interview request from me to come on our show. Marion wasn't the best interview on the team and, at times he struggled with getting his point across, but he never let that hold him back. He wanted to be liked and respected in Phoenix and at the end he wasn't getting the attention he craved. Some players need it and others don't, the Matrix was a player that wanted it.
He never felt like ownership and management gave him the credit he deserved and felt more like the third wheel on the team, which in some ways he was behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. But Marion did all the dirty work those players couldn't do. Phoenix was paying him on a six-year maximum contract, which made him the highest paid Suns player. So in many ways that should have been a sign of respect to him. But he wanted that extension and at the age of 29 he wasn't going to get it.
The Suns have missed on a lot of draft picks over the years, but they hit the jackpot in 1999 when they made Marion the 9th overall pick in the draft. His career is winding down but I'm glad to see him doing well in Dallas and still playing the game he loves. Some day I hope the Suns organization recognizes him for what he meant to the team.
There is no doubt that Nash and Stoudemire will end up in the ring of honor. It would be a shame if Marion isn't there with them. He put nine years of his heart and soul into this organization and I for one will never forget what he meant to the team. He was one of a kind. He was my all-time favorite Sun.
Friday, February 11, 2011 @ 10:26am
John Lennon once wrote "Give Peace a Chance." That was in 1969. Now, 42 years later, I write give Babby and Blanks a chance.
I'm not sure how the lyrics would go if I turned it into a song. Maybe something like 'Everybody's talking about Gortat, Dowdell, Dudley, Orlando's first-round pick and all we are saying is give Babby and Blanks a chance'.
OK, maybe I'm no song writer and I am clearly stealing lines from the Beatles. In all honesty not many people are talking about those guys but the message should still get through. Lon Babby is the Suns President of Basketball Operations and Lance Blanks is the General Manager. The duo came to the Suns organization after the Suns let Amare Stoudemire walk, signed Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and pulled off a trade for Hedo Turkoglu. So whatever issues anyone has with those moves don't take it up with Babby and Blanks. They had nothing to do with them.
The moves that they did orchestrate were the re-signing of the do everything small forward Jared Dudley to a cost effective 5-year, $22.5 million dollar deal. That move locked up the popular Suns role player at a very reasonable price. They also pulled off the trade that sent Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to Orlando for Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, Vince Carter and Orlando's first-round pick, which right now would be the 22nd pick in the draft. That move is proving to be a very good trade as Gortat is a quality young center who is only 27-years-old and is signed through 2013-14 at a very reasonable salary that averages around $7 million a season. The Suns also saved some money long term as Gortat is making roughly $4 million less per season than Turkoglu is making giving the Suns some financial flexibility moving forward.
Zabian Dowdell was signed for the rest of this season and has done a nice job filling in for the injured Goran Dragic at the backup point guard spot. Dowdell has impressed the Suns thus far and very well could be the backup point guard next season pushing Dragic for the job.
There have been three moves made thus far by Babby and Blanks and all three have been solid. The duo is expected to resist any temptation of getting 50-cents on the dollar for Steve Nash and Grant Hill and will likely do very little at the trade deadline in two weeks. The Suns have two first-round picks this year and after next season, barring doing something stupid, will have only $28 million committed for the 2012-13 season making them a player in free agency and trades.
After the February 24th trade deadline passes the next big test for Babby and Blanks will be the draft. This year's draft is not considered a great one, with no one player considered a lock to be a star. But it is deep at point guard and power forward, two areas the Suns expect to address. Unlike the last two years, Phoenix absolutely must come out with something to show for in this draft.
What Babby and Blanks have is a game plan. What they need is time to execute it. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will a championship team in Phoenix.
The Suns era of '7-seconds or less' is over. The Suns run of success over the last six years is finished. They are no longer a contender for an NBA championship. What they are is a good team that will battle for a seven or eight playoff seed and talented enough to make a deep run if they do get in. The transition period is under way and what the two LB's should be judged on is what they do over the next 2 to 3 years to get Phoenix back to contending for a title.
Blanks is determined to build a more conventional team with a true center, Gortat, and power forward. He knows the end is near for Nash and Hill and how the Suns transition from their two stars will ultimately decide the success or failure of the Suns new men in charge. Ultimately what the goal needs to be is to somehow, someway, get a star player in his prime to Phoenix.
Without a star player there will be no championship. Gortat and Dudley are nice complimentary pieces but unless there is a star here to follow Nash, mediocrity is likely.
The three ways to get a star are No.1 hit the jackpot in the draft. No.2 clear enough salary cap space and convince one to sign here. No.3 pull off a trade for a disgruntled star who wants out of his current situation. It's not easy to find superstars in this league. They don't grow on trees and it's not easy to find them in the draft. To some extent first-round picks are overrated. See last year's NBA draft.
While the Suns have given the fans a ton of enjoyment over these last 6 years, the reality is that there could be, and I expect there to be, a few lean years ahead. The Suns could find themselves in the draft lottery the next couple of years, including this one, as they rebuild. What Babby and Blanks don't want to do is mortgage the future to try and stay competitive now. If they can stay competitive over the next few years while rebuilding great, but don't sacrifice any part of the future to settle for mediocrity.
It's no fun being the 7th or 8th seed. They can't panic to appease the fan base that is used to winning and contending. That includes the Suns owner who wants to win very badly and hates to lose.
Robert Sarver is not cheap. You can certainly question how he spends his money but you can not question the fact that he spends it. So getting him to buy into a 2-3 year plan may be difficult to do, but it is necessary.
Babby and Blanks will ultimately be judged by what they do over the next few years. Can they rebuild the roster and turn it back into a contender? Only time will tell. But they need the time to do it and they may have to take a step backwards before taking two steps forward.
So far you have to like the moves they have made, while not earth shattering, they are good moves. What they accomplish more than anything is proving to the owner, the organization and its fan base that they have an eye for talent and the ability to change over the roster.
Now all they need is for everyone to give them a chance.
Friday, February 4, 2011 @ 8:56am
News moves fast in the social media world. It didn't take long after I mentioned on air Thursday that I thought Ben Roethlisberger was a better quarterback than Kurt Warner before Warner himself was getting tweets about it and responding on Twitter that he wants a chance to come on the show and defend himself. Within five minutes of him sending out his tweet and after getting my text message telling him to call in, a fantastic debate on the greatness of two quarterbacks erupted on the show.
Now, before you condemn me and sentence me to be put under the first train out of town, understand that I said Kurt Warner was a great quarterback, top 5 in our era. I just thought that, in my opinion and I am certainly entitled to it, that Roethlisberger was better.
For argument sake I am considering this era post-Aikman. Meaning after Troy Aikman retired and in the last 10 years. It's easy to figure out who the top two quarterbacks in the era are - Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I gave the nod to Brett Favre, which I think most people would agree. Now came the hard part. Who is the fourth best quarterback of this era? Warner? Roethlisberger? Brees?
I went with Roethlisberger. Now again, hear me out before taking the homer approach. You all love Warner and so do I. He was a sensational quarterback who is headed to the Hall of Fame and the Cardinals are finding it impossible to replace him. The same way Pittsburgh had a hard time replacing Terry Bradshaw, Miami replacing Dan Marino, San Diego replacing Dan Fouts and Denver with John Elway.
Now let's be realistic here, my choice on Roethlisberger has nothing to do with his behavior off the field. Just like when he gets a chance to go to the Hall of Fame five years after he retires nothing he did off the field is taken into consideration, only what he did on the field.
Friday, January 28, 2011 @ 7:28am
Interesting article on ProFootballTalk.com Thursday in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers playing a game in Ireland next season.
Interesting because it says the Arizona Cardinals could be a prime candidate to sacrifice a home game and be the Steelers opponent. The article even says the Cardinals "are in a down cycle and who could be destined for a blackout or two in 2011."
Memo to Pro Football Talk, a Steelers home game in Arizona would be a sellout not a blackout. Granted the Cardinals may have a blackout or two next year, but it certainly wouldn't be the Steelers game.
And memo to Michael Bidwill, don't you even think about it, no matter how many millions may end up in your pocket.
It would be absolutely absurd for the Cardinals to give up a home game against the potential Super Bowl champion Steelers and travel to Ireland to take them on. What kind of message would that send to the fans?
"Hey Cardinal fans, thanks for selling out every one of our games since we moved into the new building, we hope you don't mind us taking the biggest game of the year on our schedule away from you so we can find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in Dublin."
I'm sorry but Cardinals fans don't deserve that. The Steelers will be the best game on the 2011 schedule. No amount of money should entice the Bidwill's to agree to send that game to Ireland. And I hope that if and when the worst Commissioner in professional sports (Roger Bad-dell) calls the Cardinals to inquire about it, he is told to go find some other sucker to do it.
In fact, to take it a step further there is really no reason to have a game in Ireland anyway.
What because Steelers chairman Dan Rooney is the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland he has obligations to bring an NFL game there?
Tell Rooney to send them a bag of Idaho potatoes some Lucky Charms and an autographed photo from Lou Holtz and we can call it even.
The National Football League is our game, there is no reason any city should lose a home game to Ireland, Germany, France, England or any other country in Europe. Someone please tell Bad-dell that we have been there and done that, it was called the World League, NFL Europe and NFL Europa, and it failed!
This bozo Commissioner has even talked in the past about hosting a Super Bowl in London.
Yes, we have had some regular season games played at Wembley Stadium for the last few years, but why? There is just no reason. Is the NFL's popularity in this country not enough? Is selling some more merchandise really worth taking a home game away from the fans in this country who support the product and only get eight home games a year anyway?
Nothing against the Irish, they make a mean stew, but the fans of the Cardinals prefer Glendale to Dublin for a home game.
Friday, January 21, 2011 @ 8:36am
What's that old saying? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I think that's it. That is truly the motto that the Arizona Cardinals should take when it comes to the 2011 draft.
Sure, drafting Matt Leinart 10th overall in 2006 didn't work out. He didn't become the franchise quarterback that they expected him to become after they paid him roughly $18 million dollars and before releasing him this season. Nonetheless, that is no reason not to draft a quarterback high in this upcoming draft.
After the debacle that was Anderson-Hall-Skelton this year, it is imperative that Arizona brings in a franchise quarterback and develops him. They can go the free agency, stop-gap route, but that rarely ever works.
Outside of Drew Brees and Kurt Warner most free agent quarterbacks end up being a waste of time and money. For one, NFL teams are smart enough to know when they have a good quarterback and wise enough to keep them. Especially in this day and age when there aren't that many good quarterbacks in the league. If a team has a good one they usually keep him. So just remember there is a reason a quarterback is a free agent - his previous team didn't' want him.
Let's take a look at recent Cardinals free agent quarterbacks - Derek Anderson, Shaun King, Jeff Blake, Dave Brown, Kent Graham, Boomer Esiason, and Dave Krieg. What do all of these quarterbacks have in common from their time in Arizona?
They all sucked. The only one that worked was Warner. The Cardinals caught lightning in a bottle with him because everyone and their mother thought he was finished after some miserable performances with the New York Giants.
This year there is the possibility of trading for a quarterback such as Vince Young, Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, and Donovan McNabb. Clearly this is a much better option than free agency, but it still comes with some reservations.
Young is a troubled player. Kolb is young, inexperienced, and the jury is still out on him. Orton is a good quarterback but not a great one and McNabb will be on his third team in three years and appears finished.
The best and most proven way to get a quarterback is in the draft. Three of the four teams remaining in the playoffs got their quarterback by drafting him in the first round and developing him. The Jets with Mark Sanchez, the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and the Packers with Aaron Rodgers. Chicago traded for their quarterback Jay Cutler.
Take it a step further and look at the teams that were knocked out last week. New England drafted Tom Brady, Atlanta drafted Matt Ryan in the first round, same goes for Baltimore with Joe Flacco and Hasselback was traded to Seattle. See any free agent quarterbacks on these lists?
The best young quarterbacks in the game today were all drafted first round - Sam Bradford, Flacco, Ryan, Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford. Some of the old guard not mentioned previously were also drafted in the first round - Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning.
The moral of the story is that the Cardinals need to fix the quarterback position first and foremost. With the fifth pick in the first and second rounds they better think long and hard about drafting a signal caller. While I am in favor of finding a way to get Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, there is also Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton and Jake Locker to be had.
So memo to Arizona, bypass free agency and trading for a quarterback and do it the old fashioned way - draft one!
Thursday, January 13, 2011 @ 6:10pm
It's easy to suggest the Phoenix Suns trade Steve Nash. He is a two-time MVP, still plays the game at a high level and only has one year left on his contract. But the player Phoenix should seriously consider trading is Grant Hill.
Both Nash and Hill are veteran players who could help a contending team. The difference is that the options for trading Nash are limited. Many of the playoff bound teams like Boston, Chicago, San Antonio and Dallas do not need a point guard; but every team in the league could use Hill. He is a very good defensive player, can start or come off the bench, still knocks down the mid-range jump shot, runs the floor well and he has tremendous leadership skills.
Hill could be a difference maker for a contender; he averages 14.5 points and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He only makes $3.3 million this season and is in the last year of his contract, so there is no real financial commitment to acquiring him. From the Suns' perspective, if they could get an expiring contract for him and a decent draft pick it would be well worth moving him. And let's not forget that moving Hill would give Jared Dudley the opportunity to start, and Dudley has been playing so well that there would be no drop off. In back to back starts in late December Dudley scored 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting vs San Antonio and tallied 33 points and 12 rebounds against Miami.
Clearly the Suns would love to move the contracts of Josh Childress (5/$33 million) and Hakim Warrick (3/$12 million), but those may prove difficult to do as neither player has established himself in Phoenix. Childress and Warrick were both signed in the aftermath of losing Amare Stoudemire and now the Suns are regretting both signings. The Suns would have takers for Channing Frye, who signed a 5/$30 million contract in the offseason, but Phoenix seems inclined to keep him.
What the Suns need to do is be honest with the fans and themselves and admit that a rebuilding process is underway. No apologies needed. The Suns have had quite a run over the last six years, reaching the Western Conference Finals twice and being one of only four teams to post a winning record in each of the past six seasons, but now the time has come to go back to the drawing board. It would be foolish to think the Suns can turn this around in a year, that just doesn't happen without adding a superstar player. And the Suns cap situation makes that extremely difficult right now. Phoenix needs to clear space, acquire draft picks and put themselves in a position to land a star player either through free agency or in the draft lottery in the coming years. It will take a few years for Phoenix to be relevant again, but this is what needs to happen. And it all starts with moving Hill.
Thursday, January 6, 2011 @ 8:18pm
Just two weeks ago we sat down for the old Gambadoro family tradition of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" right before Christmas. At one point in the classic movie the bank has called the loan on the old Building and Loan, and after paying everything they have to the bank they have no money left. Word gets out and the people panic wanting their money. George Bailey tries to tell the customers that their money isn't in the bank its in each others' houses. Some people panic and run to Mr. Potter because he is giving 50 cents on the dollar for their shares.
When discussing a trade for Steve Nash the Phoenix Suns might as well hurry on over to Potter's because that is exactly what they will get if they deal their two-time MVP - 50 cents on the dollar - if that! Unfortunately, for the Suns trading Nash makes no sense. Only because you will not be getting back a young star player in return. Whatever teams are interested in trading for Nash are also interested in giving up their garbage, their role players. None of those teams are interested in trading star player for star player. And the Suns aren't pulling a top-10 draft pick out of a deal either, as the contending teams won't be picking until late in the draft.
Which is why the Suns would be wise to hold on to Nash, let his contract expire after next year and get some much needed salary cap space as they start over. If they had done that with Amare Stoudemire instead of spending the money on Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu and Hakeem Warrick they would have been better off. Now they are stuck with long-term contracts on Childress and Warrick, who barely play. Although they rid themselves of Turkoglu they are tied into Vince Carter's contract this year plus a buyout next year and Mikael Pietrus' contract next year should he pick up his option, which seems likely. Marcin Gortat is a keeper, but none of those players are stars and you don't win in this league with out stars.
The Suns have fielded calls for Nash in the past, mainly from Portland and Toronto. But Portland wasn't offering Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge and the Raptors weren't offering Chris Bosh. The Trail Blazers wanted to give up a draft pick and a combination of players consisting of Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless and Travis Outlaw. Toronto had centered their trade among giving up Jose Calderon.
So just think what you can get for Nash now. Remember Dallas, San Antonio, and Boston don't need a point guard. The Magic have nothing the Suns wants, the Lakers can offer up Andrew Bynum but he can't stay healthy so I would pass, the Knicks might give up Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City has James Harden, Houston has Aaron Brooks -- the shoot first point guard who doesn't pass -- or Kevin Martin, who just may be the worst defensive player in the NBA.
Look, this is simple, unless you are getting back a star young player or a top 5 pick, which I don't see happening, I have no interest in trading Steve Nash. I would much rather just enjoy watching him play for the next year and a half and then see Phoenix have some cap space when his contract expires. What Phoenix can't afford to do is to trade Nash to a contending team for a first-round pick in the mid to late 20's and two more role players who are under contract for a few years. I have a bad feeling that's all you would get for Nash.
So I will keep my money at the old Building and Loan rather than get 50 cents on the dollar from Potter.
Sunday, December 19, 2010 @ 10:36am
That didn't take long. Just 25 games into the season and the Phoenix Suns decided to scrap the game plan and start over. Yes the Suns clearly didn't like what they were and at 12-13 who could blame them. So they pull off a blockbuster six-player trade with the Orlando Magic that for all intent and purposes will make them bigger but not necessarily better.
There are clearly two ways to look at this trade. So let's start with the glass half empty. Clearly and without any debate the two best players in the trade are Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, both going to Orlando. And many times when you are dealing the best player or in this case two players you lose. Richardson and Turkoglu were also both guys who could make plays down the stretch. I for one wanted the Suns to resign Richardson and maybe after the new CBA comes into play they could have done it at a reasonable price. I also wonder if Richardson's expiring contract could have fetched more in a trade than what Phoenix brought back. The problem with Turkoglu is that he is actually a decent basketball player but he is not worth anywhere near the amount of money he is getting paid.
On the positive or in this case glass half full side, the Suns have always liked Marcin Gortat, heck they even drafted him in the second round before trading him to Orlando. They tried to get him back once before but came up short. Now he is back and he is a load, 6-11, 240 pounds and I believe a better center than Robin Lopez. So now the Suns are a better rebounding team but not as good offensively.
If we break the trade down player for player we can find the reasoning that Phoenix made this deal. If Richardson wasn't coming back under any circumstances than trading him for Vince Carter is a wash. Carter will show some flashes at age 33, some signs that he can still play. But at other times you will be completely frustrated by his inconsistencies. Richardson is a better player but Carter can give the Suns a lot of the scoring they will lose with JRich and they can pay him $4 million next year to go away.
Clark had no future with the team so moving him was expected. So let's look at Clark for Pietrus. Pietrus can shoot the three, plays good defense and is a high energy guy - kind of like Lou Amundson in that category. He is not a smart player, takes bad shots and wasn't really liked by his coaches in Golden State or Orlando. He has a player option for $5.3 million for next season and I expect him to pick that up if there is a season because I see no teams that would be willing to pay him that type of money. So slight edge to Phoenix here because they at least get a player who can contribute rather than one that just sits the bench. But he is another wing player and his addition will mean that someone will get less minutes
The key to the trade for Phoenix is Gortat for Turkoglu. Both players are under contract long term, Gortat signed through 2013. Carter is half a season and done in Phoenix and Pietrus a season and a half at most and possibly only half a season if he declines his option. So the only player who is part of the Suns future is Gortat. And the Suns decided that they would rather have Gortat, who is a serviceable big man, signed at $6.79 next year, $7.25 in 2012-13 and $7.72 in 2013-14 rather than Turkoglu at $10.6, $11.4 and $12.2 in his final year, which is only partially guaranteed.
The first round pick they got from Orlando is nice but that pick is not going to be good and this is not expected to be a good draft. But still you would rather have the pick than not have it and maybe it gives the Suns some flexibility when it comes to another trade.
In the end the Suns are likely not much better or worse after the trade than they were before it. Getting out from under Turkoglu's contract is a good thing and adding Gortat is not a bad thing, although clearly he is being paid more than he is worth as well.
And all of this leads us to the million dollar question of whether or not the Suns are going to trade Steve Nash. While I can't see Nash wanting to stay if things go south it just doesn't make much sense to move him because I think you are going to get 50 cents on the dollar in any trade. The problem is that you are not going to get a top 5 pick for Nash and likely won't even get a lottery pick. Any team trading for him is going to be picking late in the first round. And none of the true contenders has anything Phoenix will want roster wise, heck Miami doesn't have any picks, the Lakers can offer Andrew Bynum but he is a bust and can't stay healthy, Dallas doesn't need a point guard, neither does San Antonio, Utah, New Orleans, Oklahoma City or Boston. The Knicks might be willing to talk trade but the way Raymond Felton is playing Mike D'Antoni may be reluctant to trade a trending upward young point guard for an aging one. It will be extremely hard to get value for Nash so trading him may not be worth it.
That the Suns are trying to right the wrongs from this past off-season is at least a good sign. That they are not satisfied being a .500 team shows they are committed to winning. But don't expect this trade to put Phoenix over the top. It's just one of many moves that will need to be made before Suns are contenders again.
Sunday, November 21, 2010 @ 3:03pm
And with the 6th selection in the 2011 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select ----. We'll, it was fun while it lasted but all good things must come to an end. After three years of being relevant in this town and giving the fans competitive football, the Cardinals are back to what we remember the Cardinals being. Because in the end, "The Cardinals are who we thought they were." Or something like that.
Look, we will take it. After all of that misery since they came here in 1987 -- outside of one year with Jake Plummer in the late 90's -- to see this team go 8-8, 9-7 and 10-6 the last three years was a real treat. To watch them win four playoff games and get to a Super Bowl in the last two years will allow some Cardinals fans to die in peace. But it's over and we have to realize that.
Now it's back to looking at Mel Kiper's draft board in November and trying to figure out who the Cardinals are going to take with their top-10 pick. And speaking of that they need help everywhere so concentrate on Quarterback, Running Back, Offensive Line, Tight End (stretch with first round pick), Linebacker and Safety (someone is getting old at that position and is a shell of his former self). They don't need a punter.
But back to the 3-year run. Wow was that fun! I mean the Cardinals winning Division titles, hosting playoff games, sending players to the Pro Bowl, 3 wideouts in one year having 1,000 yards receiving, having a player on the cover of Madden, having a quarterback earn his place in the Hall of Fame (you know he will, especially when the voters see what this team is like without him). Watching all of it in a brand spanking new stadium or watching it at home on your television because all of the games are sold out. It was a blast. Could we really have asked for more? Probably not.
Let's not forget that the two previous seasons before this run the Cardinals went 5-11 and 5-11. And I'm sure I don't' have to remind you about those seasons. You remember those seasons. Maybe you tried to block it out of your memory but you know what I'm talking about - 2003 when they went 4-12; 2000 when they went 3-13; 1991, 92, 95 and 97 when they went 4-12. Sorry to remind you, but sometimes you need the reminder to appreciate what you just had.
So you didn't get to marry the hot chick and live happily ever after. But you got to date her for a few weeks. Isn't that enough?
No you say! You greedy little #$$%$@. This is the Cardinals we are talking about. You want to demand a winner every year? You want a team that won't accept losing under any circumstance? You want people's heads to roll because of what is happening in this atrocious season? You want the Cardinals to draft better, sign better free agents and spend more money?
Now you're talking!
Monday, November 1, 2010 @ 9:57am
There are several words that can describe Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt when it comes to his decision to start Max Hall these last three games.
Arrogance, blind loyalty, defiant, cocky and stubborn are a few that come to mind.
While Whisenhunt gets a ton of credit, and rightfully so, for turning around this franchise and taking them places they had never been before, he clearly needs to take the blame for the current predicament the Cardinals are in right now.
Whisenhunt's unfounded faith in Hall may end up costing Arizona the NFC West title. The Cardinals have lost two games in the past two weeks that they very well could have won had the head coach not been so pigheaded.
How and why he chose the undrafted rookie signal caller to start on a veteran laden team that wants to and expects to win right now is beyond comprehension. While Derek Anderson is no prize and would be considered in the bottom third of quarterbacks in this league there is no debating that he gives Arizona the best chance to win now.
And shouldn't it be about that, winning now?
Let's get a few things clear here. Both Hall and Anderson are mistake prone, both will turn the ball over and make stupid decisions. But the difference between them is that Anderson will actually make a few plays down field and Hall won't. Anderson can drive the team down the field by using wide receivers where if Hall does it, he is hitting running backs and tight ends in the flat.
Anderson completed a 33-yard pass to Breaston on his first throw after replacing Hall. Hall's longest pass of the day to a wide receiver was 15 yards to Larry Fitzgerald. Anderson also connected on a 37-yard pass play to Breaston, a 25-yard strike to Early Doucet, a long 36-yard pass to Breaston and a 14-yarder to Breaston.
Again, while Anderson is not the long-term answer at quarterback for Arizona he is the best option right now. He can move the team down the field and keep receivers happy. His first interception was not his fault, LaRod Stephens-Howling got popped and the ball came out and was picked off. The second one was clearly his fault, an ill-advised throw to a clearly covered Fitzgerald.
That Whisenhunt has pulled the plug on Hall the last two games should not absolve him from the mistake of starting Hall in the first place. The kid is just not ready at this point to play at this level. Someday he may be or maybe he never will be. Nothing wrong with having Hall on the roster, but he needs to be sitting on the bench watching and learning from a veteran quarterback, not starting over one.
The NFC West is weak, so the Cardinals can still very well end up winning this division. But the team needs its head coach to understand that grooming a young quarterback for the future should be for teams that have no chance of making the playoffs.
Teams like Arizona that should and expect to be playoff bound cannot groom a quarterback. Tampa groomed Josh Freeman last season during a 3-win campaign. Now he is paying huge dividends for them. Bad teams groom young quarterbacks for the future. Arizona was in the Super Bowl two years ago and won a playoff game last year. They have veterans like Adrian Wilson, Gerald Hayes, Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes, Fitzgerald and Alan Faneca that want to win now.
I guess when you have a little success your ego can get in the way and you can have that "my way or the highway" mentality. Maybe you feel like you are somewhat invincible, that you can do no wrong. That everything you touch turns to gold. Heck, I would feel that way if I had taken this organization to the Super Bowl. But right now clearer heads need to prevail and someone on that staff needs to challenge the head coach regarding the quarterbacks.
It's time to put Anderson back where he belongs and to live and die with what he does. Mistakes happen and starting Hall was a big one. But better to admit your mistake and make changes then to try to prove you are right at the expense of the team.
Monday, October 25, 2010 @ 11:58am
I said it the day the decision to make Max Hall the starter was made and now I'll say it again. While Derek Anderson is an average to below average quarterback in this league and will have no future with this team beyond this season, he does give Arizona the best chance to win right now.
Making Hall the starter was a mistake and it may end up costing the Cardinals the NFC West. Sunday's game against a mediocre Seattle team was winnable and had head coach Ken Whisenhunt realized that Hall wasn't the answer at this point in his career the Cardinals may very well have won that game and would be standing alone in first place in the division.
I understand the flirtation with Hall, he showed tremendous promise for an undrafted rookie in the preseason. He was worth hanging on to for sure. But to make him the starter after four games was just plain absurd. He looks completely lost out there, unable to make the reads necessary to move the offense down the field and misfiring on most of his passes.
Hall may some day be a good quarterback in this league - but that time is not now. He needs to be groomed, he needs to watch and learn, he needs practice.
While he may have looked great in the preseason it was just the preseason, these games are for real, they count.
Anderson is no prize, I understand that. Whisenhunt wanted both Charlie Whitehurst and Marc Bulger over Anderson. But it's the former Browns QB he ended up with and for this season he is going to have to make due with that. Anderson is a veteran and while he makes plenty of mistakes himself he also, unlike Hall at this point, can make some plays.
You will take the good with the bad with DA. This is a veteran team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. To entrust an undrafted rookie to take this team to the playoffs was just plain dumb. If Arizona was a bad football team going nowhere this season then by all means run Hall out there and let him learn on the job. But this team is the best in the NFC West, not by much, but they are the best, and they can not afford to be grooming a kid while trying to win at the same time. And when you look around and realize how bad the NFC is this year then you understand that any team that gets to the playoffs will have a chance to do some damage.
Whisenhunt was right in going back to Anderson on Sunday in Seattle, his problem was that he never should have gone away from him in the first place.
If he wants to get Hall experience then get it for him in blowout games (San Diego, Atlanta) when the outcome has already been decided. But to give Hall the keys to a team that has won the last two NFC West division titles and expects to win it again is wrong.
Whisenhunt has done a lot of things right since coming to Arizona, this was his first big mistake. And for his sake he better hope that this game doesn't end up being the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. I expect in the next 24-48 hours that Whisenhunt will do what's best for the team and that's to admit he made a mistake and right his wrong by going back to Anderson as the starter for the remainder of the season.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010 @ 1:07pm
The baseball playoffs open today and all four matchups are expected to be hotly contested. No team has swept its way to a World Series title since the Cincinnati Reds did it in 1976 and no team will do it this year.
The Phillies come in as the hottest team having gone 45-19 to close and without question having the best rotation in baseball with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, who by the way went a combined 13-1 since September 1st.
The Reds are in the post-season for the first time in 15 years but they were the comeback kids this year, posting 45 come from behind victories, and they do have a dominant #1 in Edison Volquez who posted a 1.95 ERA in July. The Reds also have championship experience with Bronson Arroyo, the Game 2 starter, Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen. And with flame thrower Aroldis Chapman the Reds have a late-inning bullpen stud who can neutralize the Phillies left-handed bats. While I have been on this Reds bandwagon for two years now and love the talent they have, the dominant pitching of Philadelphia will be too much to overcome.
Take the Phillies in 4.
The other National League matchup is bound to feature low-scoring games. Neither San Francisco or Atlanta have much offense. Atlanta is without Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. San Francisco pitching has a 1.91 ERA since September 1st and in 12 games vs. the Giants this year Atlanta scored 37 runs. The Giants offense is not much better hitting just .197 vs. Atlanta this year. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants have the better starting rotation and the Braves #1 Tim Hudson isn't pitching until Game 3. Big advantage San Francisco.
So take San Francisco in 4 games.
In the American League the best matchup is Tampa Bay vs. Texas. Both have dominant left-handed aces in David Price and Cliff Lee. Texas has never won a post-season series. The Rangers have MVP candidate Josh Hamilton back in the lineup, a dominant bullpen that led the American League in ERA, features three lefthanders and a bunch of hard throwers. After Lee Texas has C.J. Wilson, who won 15 games this year and Colby Lewis. Tampa follows Price with James Shields, who has gone 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA since the start of September and then Matt Garza, who went 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his last five starts. Tampa's best offensive player Evan Longoria has also missed the last 10 games with a quad injury. And Tampa is prone to not getting hits, being no-hit twice this year and one-hit once and their .247 team average ranked second to last.
From the Texas perspective, Lee was the most dominant pitcher in the postseason last year but this year he went 0-3 vs. Tampa Bay. This one goes five and although the Rangers are awful on the road I like their bullpen enough to give them the edge - Texas in 5.
The defending World Series Champs lost out on home-field advantage in the AL by losing their last two games to the Red Sox but it may be a blessing in disguise. Instead of facing Texas they get a Minnesota team that they swept last year in the playoffs. But New York has never won a post-season series as a wild card. Minnesota crawled to the finish line this year as its pitching fell a part and the best pitcher in this series is CC Sabathia. Minnesota has a solid bullpen, especially with the additions of Caps and Fuentes but the Yankees have Mariano Rivera and the addition of Kerry Wood has been huge for them. The Yankees bullpen will play a factor because Andy Pettitte hasn't looked dominant in his three starts since returning to the lineup and Phil Hughes may be running on fumes.
With that being said take the Yankees in 4.
Monday, October 4, 2010 @ 8:42am
Maybe Cris Collinsworth will be right after all.
Maybe two years ago when he said the Arizona Cardinals were the worst playoff team of all time it was just a premonition.
Maybe he was predicting what would actually happen in 2011.
Right now you would have to believe that if these Cardinals make the playoffs coming out of this awful NFC West then they very well could be the worst team to ever make the playoffs. After another shellacking Sunday the Cardinals stand at 2-2, tied atop the NFC West with the St. Louis Rams, a team that won one game last year.
The problem with these Cardinals, outside of being blown out by a combined score of 82-17 in their two losses, is that this team has absolutely, unequivocally lost its identity. This team has no clue who it is or what it should be. The thought was that Arizona would transform into a power-running team behind Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. That clearly isn't the case as Arizona passed the ball 41 times vs the Rams to only 21 runs, threw the ball 31 times vs 13 rushes against Atlanta, had a balanced attack vs Oakland with 26 rushes and passes and then had 28 passes to just 14 rushes in the loss to San Diego.
Granted the team fell behind big against Atlanta and San Diego, but this team is not a smash-mouth power football team, not with this offensive line that can't run block, pass protect, or get out of each others way.
There was also a thought that Arizona could keep the passing attack that was so successful under Kurt Warner alive even with Anquan Boldin having Baltimore as his new residence. And that is clearly not the case as Arizona's main offensive weapon, Larry Fitzgerald, has yet to register a 100-yard receiving game and is averaging just 52 yards receiving per game.
Injuries have played a factor at wideout for sure, but not seeing Fitzgerald dominate games is a surprise. And let's not forget that with the additions of Kerry Rhodes and Joey Porter plus drafting Dan Williams and Darryl Washington with their first two picks, the defense was talked about as being the strong suit of this football team.
So far after four games fans are asking "what defense".
Arizona has allowed 100-yard rushing games in its last three games as Jason Snelling, Darren McFadden and Mike Tolbert each have ran the ball right down the Red Birds throats. Things aren't much better in stopping the pass as Mark Clayton torched them for 10 catches and 119 yards, Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes against them, Louis Murphy registered five catches for 119 yards and Antonio Gates went for seven receptions, 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona is a mediocre at best football team that could actually make the playoffs at 8-8 because their division is just that bad. Now, I hate to be the I told you so guy but I told you so time and time again.
To quote myself I said that if Matt Leinart is not the starting quarterback of this football team then this team is in trouble. And it wasn't because I thought Leinart was the be all end all.
It was because Leinart not winning this job meant that Arizona no longer had an option for a franchise quarterback. I still believe Leinart got a raw deal, that he should have been given this year to at least see if he could have got the job done. But head coach Ken Whisenhunt just never believed in him and never trusted him with his offense.
But back to my point on this team being in trouble. Look, good quarterbacks don't become available in free agency very often. Only on the very rare occasion can a team find a franchise quarterback as a free agent. Most of the time the collection of garbage that is available is just that, garbage. Smart teams lock up franchise quarterbacks and never let them hit free agency. To win in this league you need to draft and develop quarterbacks or be lucky enough to pull off a really good trade for a young quarterback backing up a proven veteran franchise quarterback.
There is a reason that Mike Holmgren got to Cleveland and said bye bye to Derek Anderson.
Anderson is a stop-gap quarterback at best here, nothing more. Part of the problem was that Coach Whisenhunt did such a phenomenal job in turning around this organization that the fans and media had a "In Whiz we trust" mantra.
Coach Whisenhunt could do no wrong. And he earned that respect and benefit of the doubt by taking the Cardinals to back-to-back playoff appearances and a Super Bowl. But Whisenhunt clearly miscalculated here.
In an effort to not lose either of the rookie signal callers, Max Hall or John Skeleton, who was a fifth round draft pick, he chose to release Leinart and go into the season with two unproven rookie quarterbacks.
And as you can clearly see now that Max Hall is not going up against opponents third string defenses, the kid is just not ready to contribute at this time. He has some great potential and there is every reason to like him and to want to keep him on your roster but to not have a veteran experienced signal caller to replace Anderson off the bench on a veteran-laden team that wants and expects to win now is inexcusable.
Arizona should have either kept four quarterbacks or let one of the rookies go. Now if this season got away from Arizona and they had no chance of making the playoffs then playing Hall would make sense. But that is not going to happen. Arizona is going to be in this until the end and will probably win this division.
The difficult part for Whisenhunt is that he needs to come to the realization that one game may be the difference between winning the NFC West and going to the playoffs or going home.
So what happens when Whisenhunt wants to pull Anderson in a close game instead of a blowout? A game that if you had a decent backup quarterback you could win?
He may not be able to do that now. Around the league this year backups are getting time -- Michael Vick has come off the bench and helped Philly win a couple of games, Shaun Hill has replaced an injured Matthew Stafford and given Detroit chances to win, Bruce Gradkowski replaced Jason Campbell and led Oakland to one win and should have won last week in Arizona; Seneca Wallace beat Cincinnati Sunday; Kerry Collins has replaced Vince Young this year in a game.
You see there aren't that many good quarterbacks in the league. And the difference between some starters and their backups isn't much. So unless you know you have a franchise quarterback and there aren't many teams that do, you absolutely must have an experienced backup because chances are he is going to play. And right now Arizona doesn't and that could prove to be a huge problem.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 @ 7:58am
In 2005 when the Arizona Diamondbacks named Josh Byrnes as the general manager to replace the departing Joe Garagiola, the runner-up for the job was Kevin Towers.
At the time Towers was the general manager of the San Diego Padres, but he felt so strongly about the Diamondbacks job that he asked for permission to interview in Arizona and was granted it by San Diego owner John Moores.
Now, five years later with Towers no longer needing to ask for permission to interview, he has the job that he coveted back in 2005 as he edged out interim GM Jerry DiPoto for the general manager job. Towers will sign a two-year deal with the Diamondbacks holding a two-year option on Wednesday.
Towers' experience in building a roster, constructing a bullpen, evaluating talent, scouting, networking, trades and his reputation as a tireless worker and relationships in the industry were too much for the Diamondbacks to pass over this time around.
DiPoto, who pulled off four successful trades at the deadline to add young pitching talent while shedding some $47 million in salary off of the D-backs payroll, was seriously considered and the Diamondbacks are hoping that he may stick around in some capacity because they have high regard for him and value what he did for the team in the wake of the Josh Byrnes firing.
But make no mistake about this, all decisions going forward, including who will be the manager, will be made by Towers. He will have the authority to reshape the Diamondbacks franchise in the image he sees fit. Towers will spend the next few weeks evaluating the staff and interim manager Kirk Gibson. The Diamondbacks brass likes Gibson and have spoken highly of him to Towers, but it will be Towers sole decision on if Gibson stays or is let go.
A name that could be considered if Gibson is let go is current Padres first base coach Rich Renteria. Towers, who took over as San Diego General Manager in 1995, led the Padres to four National League West Division titles and to the 1998 World Series. He was let go in 2009.
Arizona is threatening to lose 100 games this season and in the process, shattering the record for most strikeouts in a season. After losing 92 games last year, the Diamondbacks desperately wanted to make a splash with the GM hire and wanted someone who could make a difference and pay immediate dividends. Towers did a nice job with the Padres bullpen, pulling off trades for Heath Bell, whom he stole from the Mets for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins in 2006 and Luke Gregerson in 2009 whom he got from St. Louis for disappointing Khalil Greene.
Let's also remember he stole Adrian Gonazlez and Chris Young from the Texas Rangers in 2005 for Adam Eaton, Billy Killian and Akimori Otsuka. And more recently he and made a very nice value deal in sending Jake Peavy to the White Sox for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter.
Towers has a nice track record on making quality trades and finding low-end pitchers with something to prove. Having a pitchers park like Petco definitely helped and Chase Field is anything but a pitchers park so Towers will have his work cut out for him in fixing this bullpen, but based on track record he should be able to do it.
Towers shortcomings and the only real scar on his resume are his drafts, in which he overall has failed miserably. First round busts under Towers include -- 1995, Matt Halloran, 1996 Kevin Nicholson, 1999 San Diego had six first round picks, Vince Faison, Gerik Baxter, Omar Ortiz, Casey Burns, Mike Bynum and Nick Trzesniak. Baxter died killed in a car crash. Bynum was the only one to make it to the majors and he went 7-12; 2000 Mark Phillips, 2001 Jake Gautreau, 2004 Matt Bush, 2006 Cesar Carillo and Cesar Ramos, 2007 another six first-round picks (Nick Schmidt, Kellen Kulbacki, Drew Cumberland, Mitch Canham, Cory Luebke and Danny Payne), 2008 Allan Dykstra. Towers will need to do a better job here and will have an opportunity to do it right away because Arizona will have two first-round draft picks in 2011.
All in all the D-backs couldn't have gone wrong with either Towers or DiPoto, both quality baseball guys with a passion for what they do. DiPoto will be a general manager someday and that will be sooner rather than later. In the meantime Towers can get to work on some of the tough decisions he will face this offseason.
To keep Mark Reynolds or trade him. To pick up Adam LaRoche's option or let him walk. To allow Brandon Allen to play everyday at first base or left field. To find a veteran leader to play where Allen doesn't. To add another quality starter to the rotation to replace Rodrigo Lopez. And to find a setup guy and a closer at the back end of the bullpen. Lots of work to be done, but if anyone can do it it's Towers.
Monday, September 20, 2010 @ 11:58am
The most difficult question following the Cardinals embarrassing 41-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was which was worse, the offense or the defense?
You can make a case for either one but I'll go with the defense here as it allowed the Falcons rush for 221 yards and pass for 225. A truly pathetic performance.
What sticks out more than anything is the amount of big plays the Falcons had on offense. If you consider a big running play anything of five or more yards and a big pass play anything of 10 or more yards, the Cardinals gave up a whopping 28 big plays.
Atlanta had 17 runs of five or more yards, including six of 10 or more yards. And they had 11 pass plays of 10 or more yards.
I guess you can say Atlanta was pretty balanced in beating the Cardinals to a pulp. By the way this was the same Atlanta team that could not run the ball against the Steelers last week, totaling 58 yards rushing.
But who can run against that Pittsburgh Defense? See Chris Johnson this week.
What was surprising was how easily Atlanta controlled the line of scrimmage. Darnell Dockett was a non-factor being controlled by right tackle Tyson Clabo.
In the secondary, shutdown corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in coverage vs Roddy White (7 receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown). That Jason Snelling, a relative unknown, rushed for 129 yards and two scores, is not that surprising when you see how many holes were opened by the offensive line and how hard he hit them. Snelling is a power runner and when Michael Turner went out in the first half not to return it was Snelling who carried the load. While not a household name, Snelling did have 147 yards rushing against Tampa Bay in the season finale last year so its not like this performance came out of nowhere.
What was most embarrassing for Arizona was the 11 play, 78-yard drive that culminated in Snelling's 7-yard touchdown run and put Atlanta up 41-7 in the fourth quarter. That drive featured the Falcons running the ball on all 11 plays all the way down the field taking up almost seven minutes. It was typical in your face smash-mouth football and Arizona couldn't stop it. On their final possession Atlanta took over at the Arizona 5-yard line with 2:25 left in the game and preceded to take a knee four straight times only to give the ball back to Arizona with 31 seconds left. How often have you ever seen a team beat an opponent so badly that they took a knee only to give the ball back. That rarely if ever happens. So while there is a lot of blame to go around for this debacle I say we start with the defense or in this case lack of it.
Friday, September 17, 2010 @ 5:50pm
The Arizona Cardinals take to the road to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and for many Cardinals players it will bring back great memories. Just 21 months ago the Cardinals faced the Falcons in a first-round playoff game in front of a sold-out home crowd and came away with a 30-24 victory that propelled them to a Super Bowl appearance.
Now if you remember, back then Cardinals weren't supposed to win that game against Atlanta. They weren't favored to win that game and heading into the contest CBS analyst Cris Collinsworth called Arizona the "worst playoff team of all time."
Arizona had little - if any - respect back then, as if it was so long ago. The Cardinals were coming off a 9-7 season and had been shellacked by the Jets 56-35, the Eagles 48-20, the Vikings 35-14 and the Patriots 47-7. Atlanta came into the game with the eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year in quarterback Matt Ryan, a running back that had tallied 1,699 yards in Michael Turner, and a wide receiver in Roddy White who had 1,382 receiving yards.
So it's easy to understand why there were so many doubters going into that game. Arizona hadn't won a playoff game since 1998 and hadn't hosted a playoff game since 1947.
But Arizona did win the game. They shut down Turner (18 carries for 42 yards), forced Ryan into two interceptions, got a 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Antrel Rolle and held on for the win.
Looking back now we can point to that victory for the turning point in the Cardinals organization. Who knows what would have happened had they lost that game. But they didn't. That win over the Falcons legitimized the Arizona Cardinals. It made them relevant. It made believers of people who were doubters.
Arizona went on to beat Carolina and Philadelphia in the playoffs before losing to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, it was the win over the Falcons that turned around the fortunes of a franchise that up to that point had no respect. It made believers of not only fans and media, but it made believers of the players themselves.
Just something to ponder as you get ready to watch the Cardinals and Falcons go at it again on Sunday.
Thursday, August 26, 2010 @ 3:04pm
Let's get one thing straight on this quarterback change for Saturday's pre-season game against the Chicago Bears.
This is not about trying to light a fire under Matt Leinart's rear end.
This has nothing to do with trying to motivate Leinart or making him mad or challenging him.
Simply put - Matt Leinart is just not Ken Whisenhunt's guy.
Never has been. Never will be.
How else can you explain how Leinart only got nine reps vs. the Tennessee Titans Monday of which three were runs that each resulted in negative yards. Let's also remember that Leinart didn't have Larry Fitzgerald or Early Doucet in the lineup and it was Tim Hightower running, not Beanie Wells when he was in the game.
Now granted, Leinart hasn't played great, but has he really been given the opportunity too?
And has Derek Anderson showed anything in his two games that warrants him getting the start Saturday?
The answer to both of those questions is NO.
Look, there is a reason that Mike Holmgren, quarterback guru that he is, got to Cleveland and immediately dumped Anderson and Brady Quinn. And that's because neither of them could play.
I have been saying for quite some time now that if Leinart is not the starting quarterback on this team and Anderson is then the Cardinals are in trouble.
Not because of Anderson, but because it will mean that the Cardinals first-round pick, 10th overall in 2006, the supposed franchise quarterback, didn't pan out.
Good quarterbacks very, very, very rarely become available in free agency. These NFL teams know what they are doing and when they have a good quarterback they lock him up, they don't send him into the market.
Good quarterbacks are drafted and developed and that was supposed to be the case with Leinart. But the left-handed signal caller was drafted by Denny Green, not Whisenhunt. And therein lies the problem.
Leinart desperately wants his coach to believe in him, have confidence in him, and treat him like a man and maybe had Whisenhunt tried that approach it may have worked out.
Instead Whisenhunt has continually played mind games with Leinart, never fully embracing him as the starter and always having him look over his shoulder.
You can't help but think that Whisenhunt having Leinart start the first two pre-season games was simply to appease the organization's hierarchy who have invested millions in the former USC star and want to see him succeed.
But can Whisenhunt really say that Leinart has been given ample opportunity to gel with the offense, work through situations and get in a rhythm?
The answer is a resounding no.
Maybe it's because deep down Whisenhunt just doesn't have the confidence in Leinart and he truly believes that long-term the Cardinals are better off with someone else behind center.
And if that's the case then the Cardinals should cut Leinart now. No reason to have him stick around as the backup when there is no chance he is coming back next year. Let him go find a new team and Arizona can either keep the two rookies, Max Hall and John Skelton, or go sign a veteran backup to be the backup to Anderson.
Either way Arizona will be in search of a franchise quarterback in next year's draft.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 @ 5:48pm
The Arizona Cardinals have never had a real rival.
Not when they were in the NFC East with New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, and not when they moved to the NFC West in 2002. Arizona has been without a true rival - until now.
For the first time in a long time Arizona has a team to hate and a team that hates them just as much. And these teams need no introduction. The San Francisco 49ers and the Cardinals are the cream of the crop in the NFC West and they clearly despise each other.
The main leaders in fueling the rivalry are team leaders Darnell Dockett from Arizona and Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Takeo Spikes from the 49ers. Willis signed an ESPN Chris Mortenson bus "NFC West Champs," Spikes told Dockett at the ESPYs that it's about time the 49ers win the division. Davis said Cards safety Adrian Wilson can't guard him and also said the Cardinals better get 24 (Wilson's number) some help.
Dockett has been motivated by the 49ers' self-proclaimed ascension up the NFC West ladder and takes a lot of pride in taking shots at them. Here are a few of his recent tweets:
Ahhhhh hell naw Brian westbrook one of my best friends !! This is BS! Oh well I hope he know its not personal! but fu%^ it! #MNF #HITSTICK
Dear: Glen Coffee, don't retire just yet! just wait till after the MNF game then you will have a legit reason to retire!! #EVL
Last time I checked we are the NFC WEST CHAMPS back to back! And it aint over till WE say its over! We will see when that time comes #52
To understand what makes a great rivalry one must be able to decipher between dislike and hate. Great rivalries are fueled by hate. The Cardinals hate that the 49ers beat them both times they played last season. The 49ers hate that they beat Arizona twice last year yet still lost out on the NFC West title to them. The games are physical - extremely physical - as both teams try to impose their will on their opponent.
Steve Breaston joined the Gambo and Ash show on Tuesday and said "I'm not dumb, I know there is a feud going on." Linebacker Daryl Washington joined the program and the rookie said that if his teammates hate the 49ers he does as well.
With predictions already coming in that has San Francisco winning the division, Arizona is doing everything it can to maintain its dominance in the NFC West and keep San Francisco down, even using the new-found medial love for Mike Singletary's group as motivation. This year the rivalry will only get better and those two games between the rivals will become must see TV.
Monday, August 16, 2010 @ 1:30pm
It's only one preseason game, but it's hard not to come away impressed with some of the young players on the Arizona Cardinals roster.
Clearly, second-round pick Daryl Washington was the best player on the field with his 13 tackles, pressure hits on the quarterback and fumble recovery, and he could make a huge impact this season. Arizona is likely to keep four inside linebackers and with Paris Lenon, Washington and Gerald Hayes locks there will be a nice battle between veterans Monty Beisel and Pago Togafau.
Togafau, who was signed August 4th after the Cardinals released Ali Highsmith, was very impressive Saturday night, making 6 tackles and grabbing the early edge on Beisel.
On offense how could you not like the two grabs made by Stanford tight end Jim Dray (2 receptions, 26 yards) and the 34-yard sideline pull down by Idaho wide receiver Max Komar. The two rookies are likely headed to the practice squad, but clearly gave head coach Ken Whisenhunt what he wanted -- competition. Arizona is either going to carry six wide receivers and three tight ends or five wide receivers and four tight ends. Either way, Dray and Komar are on the outside looking in. Right now the Cardinals have five locks at wide receiver -- Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Stephen Williams and Andre Roberts. If Arizona keeps a sixth receiver Onrea Jones right now would have the inside track for the position.
As for tight end there are two locks -- Ben Patrick and Anthony Becht. Stephen Spach is close to a lock as well. And, if they carry four tight ends, Dominique Byrd would have edge for the job. Both Dray and Komar showed something and clearly will have the coaching staff paying more attention to them.
Quarterback John Skelton, a fifth-round pick out of Fordham, showed nice touch on his deep ball, including the pass to Komar and a 23-yarder to Williams, and I'm looking forward to seeing some more of him in these preseason games.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 @ 1:10pm
Just got done watching the morning practice outside in Flagstaff today.
Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton all had some good and bad moments. Anderson was the only QB to lob one into the garbage can, a game each quarterback partakes in where they line up about 25 yards from a gray garbage can and take turns lobbing balls towards it.
Anderson hit Early Doucet three times and threaded the needle on a nice pass to Dominique Byrd. Leinart's best pass of the day went to Byrd, who was covered tight by Trumaine McBride. Leinart was intercepted by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and McBride. Hall was picked off on a duck but made a nice touchdown pass to Andre Roberts, and Skelton found Darren Mougey for a score late in practice.
Strange to look at Hall, who is listed at 6-1 but looks more 5-11, surrounded by Anderson who is 6-6, Leinart who is 6-5 and Skelton who is 6-6. Funny moment today was head coach Ken Whisenhunt scrambling to get out of the way during punt coverage when Max Komar, Rashad Johnson and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie broke up the middle where Whiz was standing. Former Cardinal Bertrand Berry was at camp working for Fox and many of the players greeted their former teammate with smiles and hugs as they came off the field.
One of the biggest battles of camp will be the job of punt returner. The Cardinals would love for third-round pick Roberts to win the job, but he has some stiff competition in Justin Miller, A.J. Jefferson and undrafted free agent Marshay Green. The kickoff duties will likely remain in the hands of LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 @ 8:32am
The Arizona Cardinals biggest concerns in training camp are the lack
of depth at inside linebacker and cornerback, two areas that may be
addressed with veteran players that are cut from other teams.
Arizona tried to sign Keith Bullock to man the inside linebacker spot
vacated by Karlos Dansby's departure to Miami. But Bullock signed with the
New York Giants. With Gerald Hayes' back injury expected to keep him out
a few weeks, Arizona has Paris Lenon, a 9th year player, and Monty Beisel,
a 10-year vet currently starting at the two inside linebacker spots.
Reggie Walker a second-year player out of Kansas State and rookie Daryl
Washington from TCU are the backups.
At cornerback Coach Ken Whisenhunt would like to see Greg Toler earn the
starting spot across from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but he will have
to beat out Trumaine McBride in camp for that honor. The backups are
Michael Adams and Justin Miller. General Manager Rod Graves will be active
in scouring the wires when cuts begin to see if any talent slips through the
cracks enabling Arizona to find a veteran corner that could challenge for
Another area to look at in camp will be pass rush. Arizona brought vetean
sack master Joey Porter in and are expecting him to be an everydown
outside linebacker. They also like the veteran Clark Haggans. The jury is
still out on Will Davis and Cody Brown, the backups. Brown was a second-
round pick last season but missed the entire year due to injury. Brown is
making the transition from defensive end to linebacker inthe 3-4 system
so all eyes will be on him and how he progresses during camp and how
quickly he can pick things up.