Off to see the Wizard



Reportedly, Miami Dolphins management reached out to the Wizard of Oz after getting annihilated by Buffalo. But unfortunately, no hearts were available. The Wizard said, if you go kill Joe Philbin, the horrible coach of the South, I can then talk about giving your team a heart.

The hot pre-season Superbowl pick Baltimore Ravens are getting worse by the second. The Ravens have given up a staggering six passing touchdowns and 734 yards through the air the last two games to the Raiders and Bengals. Don’t get me wrong, the Bengals made every effort in typical Cincy fashion to give that game away in the fourth quarter, but the Ravens’ secondary is so inept that they let Cincy leave with a win and now trail the Bengals by three games in the standings, three games into the season. But fear not Baltimore, you are among good company with the Saints and Bears as the only other winless teams in the NFL.

The good news for Baltimore is that in four days they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers. The Roethlisberger injury sent shockwaves through the NFL, but Michael Vick won’t let the Steelers dog it in his absence. With Le’Veon Bell back and  Martavius Bryant returning from suspension after next week, the Steelers should be okay as long as Roethlisberger is only out the anticipated 4-6 weeks.

How about the 3-0 Atlanta Falcons? After the Falcons made Cowboys back Joseph Randle look like Emmitt Smith in the first half (two backs by the way that are/were highly reliant on their respective offensive lines to be successful) as opposed to natural skill), they battened down the hatches in the second half and rattled off 25 straight points to close out the game.

The Jets looked really tough after thumping Indy on Monday Night Football and winning two straight to start the season but today they went against a defense not named Cleveland or Indy. Ryan Fitzpatrick also came back down to earth throwing three picks. The real story though was that the Philadelphia Eagles came off an embarrassing effort and were being mocked nationally but responded with a critical road victory and are now within one game of the first place Romo-less Cowboys.

Watch out for Arizona. They destroyed San Francisco today and look dominant on both sides of the ball. Larry Fitzgerald has returned to vintage form and Carson Palmer looks better than ever. At one point in that game today, Colin Kapernick had five completions and four picks (two pick-6’s by the way). Maybe San Francisco shouldn’t have kept Alex Smith or Colin Kapernick.

If there was any doubt the Patriots are out for blood after last week, it was once again confirmed today after the Pats were aggressively trying to score through the air with a 44-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter against the innocent Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cam Newton is quietly been awesome to start the year and this is all the more impressive after he lost his number one weapon Kelvin Benjamin for the year in the pre-season.

I am sure Johnny Manziel could have lost just as easily to Oakland.

Not that NBA training camps are underway, time for some recycled boring storylines.

Carmelo Anthony feels like himself again. Does this mean no one will get a pass again this year from Anthony? He once again will fail to be a leader? What does feel like himself again actually mean?

Does anybody actually care if the Lakers monitor Kobe Bryant’s minutes? He’s not the story anymore, the development of back-to-back lottery picks Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell is though.

John Wall claims he will recruit Kevin Durant once he becomes a free agent, but he couldn’t even convince Paul Pierce to stay after the Wizards showed remarkable improvement.

Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper got in a fight after yet another Washington Nationals implosion. Papelbon’s act continues to wear thin wherever he plays while the definition of leadership continues to elude Harper.

The Nationals are arguably the biggest disappointment in the majors especially with that pitching staff.

As much as the wildcard play-in game has been mocked, the Cubs-Pirates game should be a classic and it is truly a shame that one of those teams will be out of the playoffs after one game. Kudos to Theo Epstein for building a nucleus that could deliver for the Cubs for years to come.

Minnesota, Anaheim and Houston are all within one game of each other for the right to travel to New York for a one-game playoff.

Still a lot of hope for the Red Sox. If the Twins, Angels and Houston lose all of their remaining games and the Sox go undefeated the rest of the way, the Sox will be eligible for a tiebreaker play-in game.

I take offense at the Baltimore Orioles getting shut out three games in a row.

The Phillies will lose 100 games.


“Revis”ionist History

So Darelle Revis is a New York Jet again. Is it really a surprise? Revis has never really disguised who he was and that was never more evident than before he signed with the Patriots last season.

Revis received credit for taking a discount affording him a chance to win a Superbowl, but the truth is, even last season he wanted the most money, to go to the city and home he loved most and to become a member of the Jets.  The first thing he did when he became a free agent was to have his agents reach out to…guess who… the New York Jets. Revis even commented last year prior to signing with the Patriots that he had a hard time envisioning playing for the Patriots after previously playing for the Jets. The Jets foolishly rebuffed his advances in an Idina Menzel – John Travolta kind of way and so Revis was left with Plan B. At that point, why not bet on yourself (two years removed from major surgery) and go to a Superbowl contender and build up your market value while proving you are the best or one of the best again. Both the Patriots and Revis used each other.

Revis could have received more money this year if he was willing to entertain offers from the Raiders or other downtrodden teams, but ultimately, the fully guaranteed money, his ego and the new challenge dictated the decision. This was about the Jets commitment to fully guaranteeing 39 million where apparently the Pats wouldn’t do the full guarantee or match the  money according to a Boston Globe report. It was about going back to New York and being the face of the franchise, the savior and avail himself to the loads of endorsement opportunites to boot.

And lastly, I believe it was about the challenge of dethroning the big fish or champion. Many athletes want to join a team that is on the verge of a championship but for some, it is very enticing to knock the king off the mountain. Revis now has the opportunity to be an icon in New York and dethrone the very team that gave him his only Superbowl ring even if it conceivably will take a few years to accomplish. As much as I don’t like to give LeBron James credit, when he opted to return to Cleveland, he accepted the challenge in a city that hasn’t won a championship since 1964 and really had the option to go anywhere.

As for the Patriots and the fan base, I am baffled by the blind faith and loyalty to Bill Belichick and “The Patriots Way”. This notion that regardless of what decision the Patriots make, it has to be right because Belichick knows best is naïve and troubling. By the way, I happen to like Belichick, feel fortunate that he is the coach for the team I root for, and think he might be the best of all time. With that said, any great leader makes mistakes and bad decisions at times and Belichick frankly has a laundry list of them especially on the GM side of his job. But those bad decisions are always discounted because the Patriots are always in the hunt for a Superbowl.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating the Patriots and their decision:

A questionable personnel decision last season. How about signing Darelle Revis last year instead of Aqib Talib? Talib was signed for six years but only three years and 27 million not fully guaranteed. Byron Maxwell, a decent cornerback from Seattle was just signed for six years but three years and 25 million not fully guaranteed. Talib was tremendous for Denver this past year and stayed healthy. Do the Patriots not win a Superbowl if they had Talib over Revis this past season? More important, how would the Patriots be sitting the next two years with Talib on the roster and owed 15 million and being an elite corner versus Kyle Arrington being your number one corner right now? Is Revis seven million per year in cap space and 12 million more in guaranteed money better than Talib? Not quite sure about that. Would you trade Revis for Talib and a player that earns seven million annually in the NFL? I think you would. The Pats knew the risk and what they were getting into when they signed a guy like Revis and the second year of the contract he signed last year shouted that.

All four Superbowls the Patriots have won, they have had a great secondary with Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Rodney Harrison and Revis anchoring those teams. Without dominant secondary play, zero Superbowls.

There are certain positions/people that can be irreplaceable in sports. In baseball, ace pitchers and leadoff hitters are difficult to come by (see Jon Lester) and (see Jacoby Ellsbury) although I agree with both decisions to not re-sign them. In football, you have quarterback and cornerback. In basketball, you have point guard and more likely the center position. In hockey, you have goalie or a six foot nine defenseman named Zdeno Chara.

When juggling salary caps and personnel decisions, the cost of replacement, available alternatives and intangible team value just can’t be ignored. Revis for example impacted the whole defense by covering up shortcomings in certain areas. How much is that worth to a football team? I would say significantly more than market value. In this case, the Pats look to have no available alternatives, didn’t effectively evaluate the cost of replacement all to stick with a rigid and stubborn approach to negotiating contracts and stubborn management. Part of me thinks that the reason the Patriots didn’t fully guarantee the money or go above 35 million is out of ego and pride because they feel that to have the “privilege” of playing for the Patriots, one should have to take a discount. I get not setting precedents and how it impacts the rest of your roster, but Revis was a rare breed. 

When I evaluate elite level players and coaches, I often envision them in different situations or environments and predict how successful they would be. For example, when comparing Brady and Peyton Manning  over the years, I ask myself if they switched teams, how would each have fared? If Brady was the quarterback of the Colts and Broncos and had Manning’s  weapons at his disposal, there is no doubt he would have won more than one Superbowl and Manning never would have won four with the Pats. I look at Pat Riley who has proven to be a championship coach with the Lakers and then recreated his success as an executive with the Miami Heat. Lastly, I look at Phil Jackson who had the ridiculously good fortune to work with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Eleven championships are hard to debate, however, he has had the two most dominant tandems to coach in this generation. Now Jackson is an executive for the New York Knicks and it has only been one year, but I think we can all attest to how that’s going so far. By the way, isn’t it great how far I can stretch in a blog to put down the Knicks.

That leaves us with Belichick. When we look back at Belichick’s legacy, how much of it is due to having Tom Brady at his disposal? Could Belichick’s personnel moves and coaching strategy succeed anywhere? He wasn’t successful in Cleveland and he will probably finish his coaching career in New England so I don’t think we will ever see a third opportunity for him.

One thing is for certain however with Revis gone, the Pats are now on an island by themselves.