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.

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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.

How I Feel About The Super Bowl Explained

What A Mess

The Islanders are moving back to Nassau County, but it is going to be a messy process until they get there. The Barclays Center wants them out and soon, threatening to terminate their lease after next season if they won’t play at least half their home games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders have apparently agreed to play at least a third of their games there.  That probably means that for at least the next three years, you will have to really, really check the schedule before buying Islanders tickets or you may be in for a big surprise. And I have no idea what happens to season ticket holders under this situation.

I was trying to think of a parallel to this situation and drew a blank. The Packers used to play a couple of games in Milwaukee and the Bills did the same with Toronto, but football is a bad comparable. There are only eight home games. The Islanders have 41 home nights a year, this will be a logistical nightmare.

And, as usual, the reason comes to greed. The NHL doesn’t want any games played at the new Nassau Coliseum because it would be the smallest arena in the league with very few corporate suites. (I suspect that they are also worried that if the Islanders start playing there and people love it, support for building the new arena will crumble.). How does this end?  It will end with ticket-buying fans getting hosed once again.

Pat Shurmur

The Giants have hired their new coach, giving a five year job to the former Browns Head Coach and current Vikings Offensive Coordinator. It’s a solid move in my mind.

The knock on Shurmur is his time in Cleveland, but the thing is everyone fails in Cleveland. That team has averaged 3.8 wins per season since 2007. So, Shurmur’s nine wins in two seasons look good in that light.

He is unquestioned in his ability to develop quarterbacks and that is a critical skill for the Giants right now. With the second overall pick in the draft, they will almost certainly take a QB. If they choose right and develop him correctly, the Giants could go from 15 seasons of Eli to 15 seasons of the next guy. Few teams have ever had that.

But the real test of Shurmur will be changing the culture of the locker room which went completely off the rails this year. That may require some tough choices like cutting some big players and demanding accountability for others, but it has to be done.

The harsh reality is that coaching hires in the NFL is a crapshoot at best. Consider the seven coaches hired two years ago, a group which included Ben McAdoo. Three have been fired already and only one, of the remaining four, Doug Pederson, has a winning record.

Insanity

ESPN ran a story yesterday that the New England triumvirate of Kraft, Belichick, and Brady is about to fall apart over internal strife. Today the New York papers are suggesting that Belichick will come and coach the Giants as a result of that.

Let’s start with the ESPN report. It makes Tom Brady look like an egotistical athlete who cant handle getting older.  Does that sound familiar?  That’s what almost every star athlete wrestles with at the end of their career. How that would break up the Patriots is beyond me. But let’s just play along, let’s say Belichick is at the end of his rope and wants out. What happens then?

Sure, the Giants make sense. He fondly remembers his time here and he even owned a brownstone in Park Slope up until a few years ago, but beyond that think of all the obstacles that would remain.

First, Belichick would need to be willing to put his legacy on the line. This is not a small point. Right now, he is probably considered the greatest coach in NFL history. He is considered a football genius. Now, he very well may be both of those things, but he also might be one of the luckiest guys ever because Tom Brady is the greatest QB ever and Belichick got lucky with the 199th pick in the draft. This is all debatable, but right now not worth discussing. Now if Belichcik left New England and flopped here in New York, that would put a major dent in his legacy. And if he came here and won, would it really do more for his legacy?  In short, what’s the upside to coming back here?

Second, even if he did want to take the risk, the Patriots are not going to just let him walk out the door. Their initial demand will include the #2pick in this year’s draft plus a lot more picks in future drafts. The Giants can’t pay that price and expect to be able to rebuild successfully.

Third, the timing won’t work. Unless Belichick is so disgusted with everything in New England that he would take the unprecedented move of leaving his job before the Patriots played their playoff game, this cant happen. The Giants need to hire a coach in the next week or so, waiting for the Patriots to compete their playoff run to take a chance that Belichick would become their coach is crazy. All the good candidates would be gone by then and the Giants would be in the worst position possible-forced to pay whatever price New England wants for Belichick because there would be no plan B at that point.

So count me out on the whole idea. Unless Bill steps to a podium in New England in the next few days with a cocktail napkin that says, “I resign as HC of NE” Then things would get ineteresting.

Here’s to 2018!

2017 gave us some great sports moments from an amazing Super Bowl comeback, to a fantastic World Series. What will 2018 bring?  Here are my predictions.

January

Oklahoma survives a nail biter against Alabama to win the National Championship.

In the pro game Pittsburgh edges New England on a last minuet field goal to face Minnesota in the Super Bowl

Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame along with Chipper Jones

February

The Vikings win the Super Bowl

MLB hands down five 50-Game suspensions for sexual misconduct by its players

Vince McMahon announces the return of the XFL

March

Michigan State, Duke, Wichita State and Arizona State get number one seeds in March Madness

The MLB season opens to weather-related chaos

April

Michigan State cuts down the nets with a win over Duke

Tiger Woods plays in the Masters, but doesn’t factor as Jordan Spieth runs away with it

The Knicks make the playoffs and lose in the first round, the Rangers don’t

May

The expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights make history by advancing to the Finals in their first year where they face Tampa.

The Celtics return to the Finals against Golden State.

June

Tampa wins the Stanley Cup while Golden State cuts the nets down again

July

The Yankees are mired in mediocrity at the break three games under .500 and ten games behind Boston.  Minnesota has the best record in baseball

August

After running off a bunch of wins, the Yankees trade for Zach Grienke to fortify a shaky rotation

Jordan Spieth falls just short of the grand slam finishing sixth in the PGA

September

The Giants open the season with Eli Manning under center

Boston, Minnesota, and Houston win their divisions in the AL.  Washington, Chicago, and Colorado in the NL  Cleveland and New York are the wild card in the AL with Atlanta and LA in the NL

October

Houston meets Washington in the World Series with Washington winning it all.

The Giants finish October with a winning record, San Francisco is undefeated.

November

The Rangers fire Vigneault.

The Giants go into a tailspin and bench Eli for their number one pick, Josh Rosen

December

Five teams finish the NCAA football season with perfect records throw ing the playoffs into chaos.  Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Ohio State make it while USC doesn’t.

San Francisco and Jacksonville clinch the number 1 seeds in the playoffs

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better in 2019

Happy New Year!