Thursday, June 4, 2009

A few thoughts

It's Thursday and I don't have too much work to do. Time for a random collection of sports (or not) thoughts.

Tony Dungy is one of the best people to ever be associated with football. Not only was he a talented player, but he also was one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. A man who turned the Buccaneers from the most pathetic professional sports franchise ever to a perennial contender, Dungy became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl ever with the Colts after the 2006 season. In addition, Tony Dungy is one of the most genuinely sincere and pleasant folks to be around. So all this being said, when Tony Dungy says that the Jay Cutler trade was a risk, folks should take a listen. Here's the thing: Cutler isn't a great QB. Is he good? Yes. Perhaps even very good. Can you win a championship with Cutler at the helm? I think so. Worse QBs have done so. But was Jay Cutler worth all the offseason drama? Not a chance. Culter, in his 2 and a half year career as a starter has put up some impressive stats. His 62.5 completion percentage is good as are the 54 TDs he's thrown in that time. However, his 87.1 QB rating is nothing special. And perhaps most importantly, Culter hasn't won. A quarterback's job is to run the offense so that his team is in a position to win. The NFL has proven, time and again, that the teams with the best QBs are the ones who often make the playoffs (with some obvious exceptions, namely teams with overwhelming defenses). In 2008, Culter was 8-8 and the Broncos collapsed down the stretch to allow the chronically under-achieving Chargers to earn the AFC West playoff bid despite at one point being 5-8. The previous season, 7-9. The season before that, Cutler was 2-3 after taking over for Jake Plummer, who had led the Broncos to a 7-4 record. That puts Cutler's record as a starter at 17-20, hardly world beating, especially while playing in a division where you get to play the Chiefs and Raiders, two of the worst teams in the NFL, twice a year. As a point of comparison, Jason Campbell of my Washington Redskins is 15-19 as a starter. Almost exactly the same, except that Campbell plays in either the best or second best division in football and has played in a predominantly run-based attack, rather than the Broncos' offense, which has been tailored for Culter since they drafted him. In addition, Campbell has never had the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive seasons. Now here's the question: If Jason Campbell had bitched and moaned like Cutler and asked to be traded, would any team out there, any team at all, have given the Redskins a league-average starting QB (Kyle Orton), two first round draft picks and a third rounder? If Cutler isn't the second coming of Johnny Unitas, the Bears royally screwed up this one.

The Atlanta Braves have made a bit of noise the last few days. Three moves to examine: the acquisition of Nate McClouth, the call-up of Tommy Hanson, and the release of Tom Glavine. The Braves picked up McClouth from the comically inept Pittsburgh Pirates. McClouth was the Pirates All-Star last season. He had the best season of his career last year with a .276 avg, 26 HRs, 94 RBI, 23 SBs, and an .853 OPS. However, McClouth is not a particularly patient hitter and, despite his good speed and tremendous athleticism, he takes terrible routes in the outfield. Still, he does present an immediate upgrade for the Braves in the outfield, an area that hasn't done anything for a team that thinks it can contend either now or quite soon. In addition, McClouth is under contract at a reasonable rate until 2011 with an option for 2012. The Braves did give up quite a bit however in pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, and one of their system's top prospects in Gorkys Hernandez. In all, the Pirates probably got the better end of the deal. Both pitchers could be servicable big leaguers and Hernandez has the potential to be a star. Tommy Hanson was considered by many to be the top pitching prospect in baseball after David Price at the start of the season, and so far he has justified that claim. At 6'6" and 220 lbs, Hanson has big frame that generates mid-90s heat. He also possesses a awesome curveball and a pretty good changeup. In addition, his delivery is near-flawless, so Hanson is essentially as much of a sure-thing as you can have amongst pitching prospects, especially if he can further develop his work-in-progress slider. The release of Glavine leaves me torn. On the one hand, I've always been of the school of thought that you always do what's best for your team's record, keeping a mind toward the future. As such, it would be foolish to give Glavine any playing time. That being said, it's Tom Glavine. Outside of Randy Johnson, one would be hard pressed to find a better lefty in baseball than Glavine since the start of the 90s. Always a consummate professional, Glavine was often overshadowed by the legendary Greg Maddux or the flame-thrower John Smoltz, but was every bit as important to the incredible success of the Braves during the 90s, especially after years of terrible-ness. If this is the last we've seen of Glavine (and I believe it is, unless he signs a contract for the rest of the season with some very desparate team), then baseball will say good bye to one of the finest pitchers of his generation, a man I believe is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

In a bit of sad news, actor David Carradine passed away. Carradine was best know for his roles in the TV show Kung Fu, where he was Bruce Lee before Bruce Lee was cool (though not nearly on the same level of martial arts skill as Lee) and as the titular character of the Kill Bill movies. It should be noted that Carradine passed in a hotel room in Bangkok. Seems fitting.

The NHL's Lord Stanley's Cup finals are under way with the Detroit Red Wings leading the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in a rematch of last years series. I don't have much commentary other than my strong Michigan ties and the fact that, as a Caps fan, I hate the Penguins, and, as a hockey fan, I hate Sidney Crosby, who, while supremely talented, is a whiny bitch, mean that I'm cheering for the Red Wings all the way. I'd be surprised if the extremely deep and talented and experienced boys from Hockey Town, USA don't lift the best trophy in the history of trophies. Hockey is awesome.

The NBA Finals start tonight. To be sure, I'm more surprised than just about anyone that it is the Magic instead of the Cavaliers who are playing the Lakers for basketball supremacy. I was completely wrong about the Fightin' LeBrons. Kudos to the Magic for stepping up their game immensely. I fully expect the Lakers to win, but if the Magic keep shooting as well as they have been (a tall order, but not completely ridiculous), Orlando has the athleticism to out-play Los Angeles. This series should be interesting because of what it means to the stars of both teams. Dwight Howard has gone from a physical freak who was either wildly overrated or wildly underrated depending on whom you asked to a true superstar this playoffs. If he can dominate this series, he will officially have taken the torch from the Big Shaqtus as the NBA's resident hilarious big man who happens to be completely better than you in every way. On the flip side, Kobe Bryant can finally lift the notion that he needed Shaq to win all his rings. (Shaq is somehow involved in both plots, proving once again how genuinely awesome at life he is) If Kobe does win, he'll have established himself as one of the finest to ever play the 2 position.

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