What’s the Plan Dave?

It was just two weeks ago that the Giants GM haughtily dismissed trade speculation surrounding OBJ and said, “We didn’t sign Odell to that contract to trade him.”  Yet, here we are, with nothing of note being reported and the most talented Giant since LT is headed to Cleveland.  What the hell just happened?

This being OBJ, who is somewhere between “mercurial” and “knucklehead” on the maintenance scale, something could have happened behind the scenes, but barring that, this is a huge kick to the teeth for the fans, and it casts serious doubts about what plan, if any, the GM is building here.

The Giants didn’t have to sign OBJ to that enormous deal a year ago. The new regime could have come in and traded him, pitching it as the first step in the rebuild, and the fan base probably would have swallowed hard, but given them the benefit of the doubt. But, they gave him the big deal, continually denied they were shopping him, and now they have pulled an incredible u-turn.

How can any fan feel like a real plan is being executed?  You don’t trade a franchise player for future assets if you aren’t rebuilding,  but you don’t rebuild with a 38-year old QB. Yet, that seems to be the current plan. Maybe the Giants draft their future QB this year, but it really looks like Eli is going to at least start the year under center. (Of course if the past 12 hours have taught us anything, we shouldn’t believe anything the GM says).

I hope someone for the Giants management stands up today and gives us some explanations for all of this. A little humility from the GM would go a long way in that department.  Because from my seat in the bleachers, it’s starting to look like the Giants are trying to emulate the Knicks a lot more than the Yankees.

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It’s Hopeless

When I last wrote about the Knicks, almost a year ago, it was to talk about the strange parallel between Porzingas and Bernard King. in that post, I mentioned how King only played six more games for then Knicks after his injury. According to ESPN, Porzingas may never play another game as a Knick as he wants to be traded.

Its hard to fault him. The Knicks are a disaster and have been since Jeff Van Grundy resigned in 2001. The last 18 years have seen them have a losing record 15 times and win only one playoff series. 11 different head coaches have presided over this dumpster fire and the team is currently on pace to win 16 games.

And as I write this, the news is breaking that they have traded Porzingas to Dallas for Dennis Smith, Jr and a whole bunch of cap space. So the plan is to try to sign two max free agents and hit the Zion lottery? Good grief.

Heres the official deal as announced by the Knicks.

The team has acquired guard Dennis Smith Jr., center DeAndre Jordan, guard/forward Wesley Matthews and two future first round draft picks from Dallas in exchange for forward Kristaps Porzingis, and guards Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee.

Jordan and Matthews are going to be traded or bought out and with THJ gone, the Knicks are really, really, going to stink. The problem is, the worst record in basketball only guarantees you a top-5 pick these days you don’t get any more ping pong balls than the second or third-worst teams.

NFL Follies

Sunday gave us two of the best, and most frustrating, football games you will ever see. The NFC Championship was marred by a double missed call of enormous importance. The AFC Championship showed us once again why the NFL has stupid overtime rules.

Let’s start in New Orleans where the referees missed two calls on the same play that would have left New Orleans in an almost no-lose situation. The problem is that there is no mechanism in replay for a review of a call that wasn’t made.  Now I don’t think we want the NFL to create a system where pass interference is reviewable if it hasn’t been called. That would create six hour games. But, there are two changes they could make.

First, similar to college football, allow reviews for targeting. In the play in question, the defender clearly made an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit. That’s a safety issue and something that should be reviewable even if it isn’t called.

Second, add another official during playoff games who utilizes the overhead cameras to look for missed penalties. The official can zoom in on certain area and make calls that officials on the field miss. MLB adds to extra umpires during the playoffs, why can’t football?

As for the AFC it was a wonderful game, but the NFL has to change the overtime rule. I’ve said it before, but championships should not be settled on a coin flip. Yes, just like two years ago, the Patriots executed when it mattered, but change the coin flip in those two games and we might have a Falcons Suoer Bowl victory and the Chiefs heading to one. That’s dumb.

I’m not suggesting the NFL change the rules for the regular season, unless they want to adopt the far-superior college rules, but in the playoffs both team should get the ball once. After that it becomes  sudden death game and whatever happens happens.

QB Roulette

While everyone says the Giants have to take a QB in the first round this year, they better be sure about the guy if they do. Consider these stats which apply to the years since the last time the Giants spent a first rounder on a QB (Philip Rivers in 2004)

40 QBs have been first round picks.

Those 40 QBs have produced 14 Pro Bowl seasons.

Those 40 QBs have produced 149 years as starters out of a possible 275.  (If you were drafted in 2018 you had 1 possibles start year, if 2017, you had 2, etc.).

So, we can say about 10% of the starting seasons for first round QBs have been Pro Bowl caliber.

Now consider the QBs take in the remaining rounds 2-7.

There have been 128 of them.

They have produced 16 Pro Bowl Seasons

They have 89 start years ( I didn’t calculate the possible years because that would be intense).

So, there have actually been more Pro Bowl seasons from the QBs drafted after the first round from 2005 on than the ones drafted in the first round. Now granted, there are/were some pretty good QBs who were first round picks that weren’t in this sample like Peyton, Eli, Big Ben, and Philip Rivers. But, that is balanced by the fact that both Brady and Brees weren’t drafted in the first round and they have 26 Pro Bowls between them that aren’t included for that group.

To me, this proves one thing. You absolutely need a QB, but reaching for that QB can have fateful consequences. You have to trust the GM to make the right call in the draft. If he thinks there is a potential franchise QB, take him in round 1, if not, take someone else and maybe you can find that QB later.

Here’s to 2019!

Last year predicted the Vegas Knights to make the Stanley Cup and Golden State to win the Finals. I also predicted the Twins and 49rs to be good, so you’ve been warned. Here’s how I see 2019 unfolding.

January

Mariano Rivera comes three votes away from being the first unaimous Hall of Famer. Rivera is inducted along withEdgar Martinez and Ray Holliday.

Clemson beats Alabama to tie their playoff series at 2.

Kansas City and Dallas advance to the Super Bowl.

Manny Machado joins the Phillies on an eight-year/ $320-million deal. Bryce Harper shocks the baseball world by signing with the White Sox for ten years and $350-million. The Yankees respond by bringing back Robertson and Britton and signing Troy Tulowitzki to a minimum contract.

February

Kansas City wins the Super Bowl

The Rangers extend Kevin Hayes and name him captain

Close to 100 free agents remain unsigned as pitchers and catchers report.

March

The number 1 seeds are Duke, UVA, Tennessee, and Nevada. And Nevada follows in UVAs footsteps and loses in the first round.

Plenty of free agents are still available as the MLB season starts  in response, the players stage a symbolic strike on the day after Opening Day

April

Tiger Woods almost wins the Masters, but blows a lead on the last day.

Duke cuts down the nets after beating UVA

The Knicks miss the playoffs since they might already be eliminated while the Rangers only get eliminated in the final week of the season

May

The NHL and NBA playoffs have a Canadian feel as Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary make the hockey final four while the Raptors do so in the NBA.  But, Milwaukee beats Toronto to adavance to the NBA Finals and face Oklahoma City, who outlasted Golden State.  The Leafs lose to Washington, while Winnipeg makes the Cup

The Giants don’t draft a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft

The Knicks win the NBA draft lottery

June

Milwaukee and Winnipeg win their respective championships.

After 81 games Stanton has 36 homers and Judge has 35. The Yankees are also cruising to them AL East title.

Zion Williamson is the Knicks pick.

July

The Yankees enter the break up ten on the division, but the Brewers have the best record in baseball.

August

The Red Sox cut the Yankee lead to two games after sweeping them at the Stadium

September

Eli Manning is the starting QB for the Giants opener.

The Yankees, Twins, A’s, Phillies, Brewers and Dodgers win their divisions. Boston, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago are wild cards.

The Yankees break their own home record as a team with 281 powered by 58 from Judge and 55 from Stanton.

October

The Dodgers win the World Series over the Yankees.

November

The Knicks have a winning record at the end of the month

December

Alabama, Clemson, Texas, and Michigan make the CFP playoffs

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better next year

Happy New Year!

 

This Could Be Ugly

The most damning statistic that sums up the Jerry Reese era is this- the Giants roster has only ten players he drafted or signed left on it. That’s right, after one offseason, the Giants have gotten rid of almost every remnant of Reese’s tenure.

Which is why cutting Davis Webb wasn’t a huge shock. Clearly Reese didn’t do a great job of evaluating talent and the new brass correctly decided that developing two QBs made zero sense and cut the one they felt had less upside. And if he isn’t the future solution, the odds are still pretty good that the Giants will have a top draft pick in the next draft.

Thats because the talent is not very deep and the schedule is very tough, second-hardest by most measurements. Consider the first eight games- Jax, @Dal, @Hou, Saints, @Car, Phi, @Atl, Washington. The Giants will be definite underdogs in the first seven and possibly all of them. Getting through that at 4-4 would be a huge achievement.

And one that seems impossible. The offensive line is completely new, but there are huge questions on the right side. The skill positions on offense should be really good, but will Manning have time to get the ball out?

Its a new defense harkining back to the glory days of Parcells and the 3-4, but without the dominant linebackers which is a huge problem. The defensive line should be good, but other than Jenkins and Collins, the secondary doesn’t look good at all.

I think the Giants end up better than last year (not a bold prediction) but still pretty bad, six wins tops. But that’s ok because you want them to have the high draft pick and a shot at their next franchise QB. Rebuilds take time and we will have our patience sorely tested this season.

What Are The Giants Doing?

The Giants are an enigma at this point. They’ve added players in free agency who,will certainly improve the team, but seem odd choices for a club that is rebuilding. Today they traded their best pass rusher for essentially a third round pick which is odd for a team that is trying to contend. So what gives?

I suspect the additions are about laying the foundation of a new culture. It’s hard to figure out exactly what happened last year, but clearly the culture of the club went off the rails. There were suspensions, open instances of insubordination, a complete mess. What’s the connection between the three biggest-named additions so far- Ogletree, Solder, and Stewart?  They are all “character”guys with great reputations for leading. I’m not saying they won’t make the club better, they will, but there were other choices that could have been made if that was the only consideration.

And that’s why the JPP trade makes sense.  The Giants are looking to the future and this trade helps them in two important ways. First, they net another draft pick.  Second, they clear JPP’s money off the cap which will let them do things like extend OBJ and Collins, probably their two most important long-term pieces at this point.

And that brings us to the draft and the impending decision the Giants have. To me this is simple. If you believe your franchise QB is in this draft, you grab him, no matter what. If you don’t see that available, explore every option. The Jets just paid a fortune to move up to #3, surrendering the #6 pick, two second rounders this year, and another next year. If a team isn’t interested in making a trade like that, the Giants would be stupid not to listen.

The Madness Arrives!

I love college basketball, so this is a special time of year for me. I think Thursday and Friday should be national holidays and here are my predictions.

East Region- I can’t find a reason that Villanova won’t advance to the Final Four. First, they are a really good team. Second, geography really helps them. The East Regional is in Boston, and Villanova is the only school within 500 miles. And it is a simple drive, or ride on Amtrak to get there. Expect a big Nova crowd at the Shawmut Center and that propels them to San Antonio.

Midwest Region- This is the hardest reason to handicap because it is stacked with great teams.  But, I really think it boils down to two teams Duke and Michigan State.  I don’t believe in Kansas at all, in fact I think they could be the first number one to lose to a sixteen, and Auburn seems out of its weight class here. Duke has already beaten Michigan State this year and I expect them to do so again as they head to the Final Four.

East Region- Virginia is a great team that is really not fun to watch. Arizona is a great team under a dark, dark, cloud of scandal.  I think Arizona wins that matchup, but the team no one is talking about, Cincinatti takes the region.  Don’t be surprised if Kentucky loses in the first round, Davidson has shown us a few things before.

West Region- This is the anti-East with none of the schools remotely close to the regional site. Gonzaga is the closest, and I think that powers them to the Elite Eight, where the fall to North Carolina again. UNC has been up and down this year, but they are 2-1 vs. Duke and lead the country in Quadrent 1 wins.  They’ve already dispatched Michigan and they will do so again in their matchup.

Give me a UNC-Villanova rematch with UNC being smart enough to guard the inbounds this time.  Joel Berry and Theo Pinson graduate with three Finak Fours in their four years and two titles.

 

Getting Uglier

Back in October we got the initial details of a big scandal in college basketball. Now, right before the best time of year for the sport, we are getting even more details and they are really bad.

Start with the fact that the FBI has the head coach of Arizona on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 to his star freshman. Arizona is a top-20 team, and the player in question, Deandre Ayton, is one of the best players in the game right now.

But it goes much deeper than that.  Michigan State and Duke, two of the best teams in the country have current players accused of taking money.  Assuming that is true, those programs might have to vacate wins or championships because they used inelligble players. And, they have to decide right now if they want to sit those potentially ineligible players to try to head off those penalties

Kansas, Kentucky, and UNC are also implicated in this as they have former players who show up on the expense report of the rogue agent at the center of this scandal.  It isn’t hyperbole to say that this could fundamentally change the way the sport works

But for now we will be left with more questions than answers.  The FBI is still investigating and they are not going to answer questions in the middle of that process.  Maybe more charges get filed that bring some answers, but it is also quite likely that March Madness gets played this year under this enormous cloud of uncertainty.  What a mess.

 

 

 

Deja Vu

It was a season that started with promise.  It saw an ascendant player turn in amazing performance and become and All-Star, and then everything came crashing down when his knee blew out as the season slipped away.

That season was actually 33-years ago and it immediately came into my head when I saw Kristaps Porzingas crumpled on the floor. In 1985, it was Bernard King, one of the most talented players in Knicks history and last night it was a guy of similar talents.

Bernard King missed the entire 85-86 season and almost all of the following one. In fact he only played six more games in a Knicks uniform. The only salvation for the Knicks was that they won the draft lottery and got Patrick Ewing a few months after that awful night.

Maybe history will repeat and the Knicks will get to draft another franchise player this June. Probably won’t, but at this point we have nothing to do but hope.