Posted on: July 21, 2012 11:12 am

NFL playoffs on the line for the Cowboys

Cowboy fans need to pay close attention to what happens in Lake Tahoe this weekend. More than OTAs (Organized Team Activity), training camp, or pre-season games, this weekend’s 54 holes of golf by quarterback Tony Romo will present a clear picture of how the Cowboys will fare come the fall.

In his four years of participation, Tony has what looks, at first glance, like an impressive resume. One third place and three runner-up finishes are nice, but they’re also just more disconcerting evidence of what Cowboy fans have grown tired of; the idea that Tony just can’t get to the next level.

Now, to be fair, two of those four years the winner of the tournament was Rick Rhoden, so you can’t really hold that against Tony. After all, Rhoden is an eight time winner and a very accomplished golfer. Rather, it’s the other two that give pause. In 2010, it was former quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver who took home the title, followed by actor Jack Wagner last year. No disrespect intended to either Billy Joe, a three time winner himself, or Jack, a two time winner, but Cowboy fans have to be wondering if Tony is the man that can lead the franchise back to a Super Bowl victory if he can’t go head to head in the prime of his athletic life and beat a retired quarterback or an aging actor. When you watch Romo on the driving range or follow him around the course, it is quite apparent how much talent he has. He is an obvious favorite heading into the event every year because he’s that good…yet he hasn’t won it.

The guess here is that this will be the year, but, if it isn’t, don’t look for the Cowboys when the NFL playoffs start in January. They’ll be on the golf course.

Category: NFL
Tags: Cowboys, Dallas, Romo
Posted on: November 20, 2011 12:30 pm

C'mon Hoge, throw the kid a bone!

There's nothing in the world as large as a professional athlete's ego. Honestly, have you ever heard anyone other than an athlete refer to himself in the third person? Maybe it's the ego that separates them from the rest of us "weekend warriors," but it sure can make them sound idiotic...which brings me to former Steeler/current ESPN "expert" Merril Hoge. On this morning's Gameday roundtable discussion on Tim Tebow, Hoge refused to take even one small step back from his trashing of the Broncos' quarterback. When former Broncos' linebacker Tom Jackson pointed out that Tebow has won four of his five starts and could have the Broncos in a first place tie by the end of the day, should the Raiders lose in Minnesota, Hoge actually said, "It's not about winning games, or winning the division. It's about winning the Super Bowl." Jackson pointed out that, at some point, Hoge had to give credit to Tebow for what he's done since taking over the starting job for a 1-4 team. Hoge wouldn't budge, pointing out that everyone was running the "Wildcat" a few years ago, asking, "Where is it now?"

Jackson followed up with, "Suppose the Broncos win the division, which is a distinct possibility, and host a playoff game?" Hoge repeated, "It's not about winning the division, or winning a playoff game. It's about winning the Super Bowl."

Winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal? Does Hoge think he's the only one who realizes that? Does even the most delusional Bronco fan believe that can happen this year? Of course not. So, it comes down to figuring out how to make your season as successful as it can be. Tebow is accomplishing that. He has made the Broncos relevant again, pulling them from the abyss that Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton had steered them into. I have been a Tebow doubter from the day he was drafted, but, unlike Hoge, I'm willing to acknowledge that, regardless of his completion percentage, delivery of the football, or lack of production for three and a half quarters, there is something about Tebow that is working. He's winning football games, which is, by all accounts other than Merril Hoge's, the measuring stick in professional sports.  
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 9, 2011 12:48 am

Can't Steve Williams just shut up?

There are two long standing axioms that come to mind in regard to Steve Williams' comment last week about Tiger Woods' "black arse." The first is that it is better to stay quiet and have people think you're an idiot, than to open you mouth and remove all doubt. Well, Steve just couldn't keep his mouth shut. 

After years of boorish behavior while toting Tiger's bag, Steve actually became a sympathetic figure after Tiger unceremoniously dumped him last summer. I count myself among those who thought Steve's loyalty to Tiger through the post-Thanksgiving debacle of the past two years deserved better treatment than to be fired via a phone call. However, after hooking up with Adam Scott, it looked like it was going to work out just fine for Williams...until Scott won and Steve decided he suddenly was in need of telling the world how important the win was TO HIM! He unraveled any sympathy he had accrued and went back to being the overbearing arrogant caddie who doesn't realize his place in the big scheme of things.

Mostly, I think Williams had had his moment of redemption, taking his shot at Tiger in the aftermath of Scott's victory. In the ensuing months nobody seemed too interested in how Tiger and Steve were doing in their personal (non)relationship. Of course that all changed at the caddie event last week.

In matters of public comment and the judging of whether or not the comments were racist, it really isn't that difficult. Whether a racist comment can be uttered by someone who, at their core, is not racist, is a much more slippery slope. There are many adjectives that could describe Tiger Woods in a negative way, which is clearly what Williams was trying to do. That he chose "black" rather than "cheating," "disloyal," or a host of other unflattering words can not be excused because Williams thought it was a private function and his comments would remain in the room. We all know the buzz words for different ethnicities, the ones that will immediately draw the response, "Them's fightin' words!" Williams deserved consequences for his comment, plain and simple.

After apologizing to Tiger, who says he's sure Williams isn't a racist, and being told by Adam Scott that there's no room for this kind of thing in his life, Williams appears to have rolled right through this latest controversey with nary a scratch. I'd like to implore PGA Tour Comissioner Tim Finchem to reconsider his lack of disciplining Williams. For all golf fans it would be a joy to have Williams sentenced to writing a thousand times that other long standing axiom I mentioned, the mantra of the caddie life: Show up, Keep up, and Shut up! 
Posted on: September 11, 2011 2:37 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 3:02 am

The Boise State search for respect begins again

Dennis Dodd, CBS columnist, wrote an article touting the strength and virtue of the Boise State football team after they beat what appears, after two weeks, to be an ordinary Georgia team last weekend. You can find the Dodd article if you want, but it essentially takes the side of the Boise brethren, that says, "We've beaten everyone the schedule says we have to play, so we should be invited to play for the championship!" I think it would be easy to feel that way if you are able to dominate your conference the way they have, along with mixing in an occasional victory against a BCS conference team. I do mean occasional, too, with the Georgia victory being only the third since 2008 to have come after visiting what Dodd called, "...the belly of the beast." Others among us still have our doubts that an undefeated record should carry more weight than, say, five or six victories against Top 20 teams, with a single loss mixed in. I've always figured that the kids on the teams knew what they were signing up for when they accepted their scholarships. If you sign with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, etc..., you were expecting to leave college with a National Championship, or a least a shot at one. If you signed with Boise State, however, that didn't factor in to your decision. Enough said.

Here's my reply to Dennis Dodd:

"I love playing early in the season in games like this," Boise State's Byron Hout said following Saturday's gouging of Georgia. "It sets the tone for the rest of the season. It's a taste of what a big bowl game can be like with this type of atmosphere. If you can do the right thing you can find yourself in another event like this at the end of the season."

This quote is the best defense AGAINST the Broncos in their never-ending quest for respect. Obviously Boise State's players knew that this was no ordinary week of football for the Broncos. A road game to Georgia these days is hardly a trip into the Lion's Den, yet Byron Hout compares it to a Bowl game victory. What would happen to Boise if they had to turn around this week and travel to LSU, with Florida waiting for them the week after that? Dodd even gives the number, three, of times Boise has gone into a BCS conference team's stadium since 2008 and come out with a win. Three wins in four years and were supposed to be convinced that Boise deserves to be considered equal with the SEC elite? Hout acknowledges in his quote that the rest of the season is basically a cakewalk, and that if they don't mess up by losing to any of the, mostly, patsies that Boise has played each year in their former conference games, " can find yourself in another event like this at the end of the season."

I've enjoyed watching Boise State football, mostly since their thriller with Oklahoma at the Fiesta Bowl. However, let's not forget what it was that night that started this whole debate...a disinterested Sooner squad that had dreamed of bigger things, showing up unprepared to face an upstart team known mostly for their hideous turf. They played that night as if their lives depended on the outcome of the game and still it took every trick in the Broncos' bag to come away with a victory.
Boise has done the right thing by moving up in conference class, but there will still be valid arguments about who deserves the title shot should Boise end up undefeated while there are several one-loss teams from vastly superior conferences. Sorry Dennis, but your condescending tone doesn't mean that you're correct.


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:27 pm

Laker reality check

It's long been a sports axiom that it is harder to stay on top than it is to get there. That the Lakers have been in three consecutive NBA Finals is a testament to their excellence. Many of us expected them to, almost routinely, return for their shot at a second three-peat under Phil Jackson's watch. Even while they struggled to beat a young, inexperienced New Orleans Hornets team in their opening round, we figured that once their backs were up against the wall, they'd respond with a win, like they have seemingly always done. 

What we've seen in the Dallas Maverick series is what the above axiom is all about. Do the Lakers want to three-peat? Of course they do. Has it looked like they want to? Not really, but there's a reason for that. The Mavericks, or more pointedly, Dirk Nowitzki, is looking for that elusive first title, and they think they've got the team that can finally win it. Dirk has repeatedly said that in his career, the one thing he covets most is a chance to return to the finals to make amends for failing to get it done his last trip. He's a great player, as are the Lakers' cast, but that little extra desire is what separates great professional athletes. It's how Buster Douglas can beat Mike Tyson, how the Yankees fell into a malaise after returning to their perch atop Major League Baseball a few years back, and, now, how the Lakers can be down 3-0 to a team they have annually beaten like a drum. It's microscopically apparent that the Mavs want it more, which has been the difference in the series thus far.

Rather than criticize the Lakers for their current troubles, maybe we should reflect on how amazing they've been to hold on to the torch for as long as they have. This series isn't over yet, mostly because it is the Lakers that we're talking about. Could they come back and win four straight? Unlikely, but not impossible for an organization that has accomplished just about everything except coming back from an 0-3 deficit. Stay tuned...
Category: NBA
Posted on: April 22, 2011 1:51 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 11:31 pm

Guilty in the (Mc)Court of public opinion

It's not that hard to own a baseball team, once you've acquired the fortune it takes to buy one. It can be done by following one simple edict: Try to win the World Series. Sounds simple, doesn't it? That's because it is. If every day you wake up and think, "How can we improve our chances of winning the World Series?" then you're going to be a great owner. George Steinbrenner may have had his warts, but Yankee fans never had to wonder whether winning mattered to their team's owner.

You see, owning a baseball team isn't like owning any other business in town. You aren't allowed to be in it for the money. The money comes when the product entrenches itself into the fabric of the community, which can only happen if the fan base believes that their support is part of the winning equation.

Frank McCourt has never understood this. He bought a beloved franchise that routinely sees over three million paying customers come through the turnstiles each year and tended to it as just another part of his financial portfolio. Players, both free agent as well as trading deadline posibilities, who could have tipped the scales and pushed the Dodgers over the top, were never seriously considered if there was significant cost involved. He appeared to believe that losing in the NLCS in back-to-back seasons was enough to keep the Dodgers' faithful happy. Rather than look for offseason ways to get those last missing links to a championship ballclub, he did less.

Well, Dodger fans aren't so easily fooled. Last season was a joke and this past offseason offered nothing in the way of hope for much better success this year. Seeing Bud Selig step in to change the course of action was a welcome relief for the fans of a franchise that appeared in nine World Series from 1958-1988, but hasn't been back in twenty-two years.
Perhaps it was all those years with the O'Malleys in charge, but there is an unmistakable sense of what being part of the Dodgers is all about. It's Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, an infield that plays together for almost a decade (Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey). Manny Mota. Not everyone can join the family. Kirk Gibson could, even if he was only here for a couple of years. Guys like Rupport Murdoch, Davey Johnson, and now Frank McCourt, just don't fit in with the Dodgers' tradition.

I'd love to own the Dodgers and bring that next World Series trophy to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I'm lagging behind on that acquiring the fortune part of the deal. Hopefully the guy who shows McCourt the door has the passion needed for winning. Is it possible Bud Selig has lobbed a phone call to Peter O'Malley? 


Category: MLB
Posted on: January 8, 2011 5:00 pm

Sudden death to old overtime rule

Wouldn't it be interesting to see how much more lucrative the NFL would be if it had some common sense? It's already an $8 billion dollar a year industry, even though it sometimes seems like the decision making process utilizes a Magic 8 ball.

The latest chapter of "Are you serious?" in regard to NFL policy starts today with the new overtime rule. We'll get to whether or not it is a better way to decide a playoff game, but let's start with the fact that the test run will occur at a time when the teams' seasons are on the line. Coaches have rarely needed to think about whether or not they want the ball to begin overtime. Certain instances, like weather, particularly wind, may have influenced the winner of the coin flip to kick-off rather than receive, but generally, if you won the flip, you wanted the ball and the chance to score. It didn't matter how, just that you were the first to score in overtime.

Now, if you haven't studied up on this, like the majority of the players who'll be on the field this weekend, here's a cheat sheet. If the team receiving the overtime kickoff goes down the field and scores a touchdown, the game is over and they win. If they only kick a field goal, they must then kick off to their opponent, who then has their own possession and a chance to win with a touchdown. Should they match field goals, they kick off again and things revert back to the old overtime rule, meaning the next team to score wins the game.

Are you still with me? There's only a little more.

If the team receiving the overtime kickoff has the opportunity to be on offense, such as receiving an onside kick, and fails to recover the ball, they would lose if the team recovering the onside kick marches down and kicks a field goal. If they do recover the onside kick and fail to produce points, they will lose if their opponent subsequently kicks a field goal.

This may sound confusing, but it really isn't, unless you've never had a chance to decide how to proceed after the coin flip, while sixty to eighty thousand fans are screaming and your season hangs in the balance. Why didn't the NFL institute this change during the regular season? Because they couldn't get their act together at the owners' meetings held last year.

Coaches have been discussing the new rule this week, and they are all smart enough to have come up with a game plan if they find themselves headed to overtime this weekend. The players, however, will undoubtedly be confused. Athletes are creatures of habit, so without having experienced this rule change during the regular season, we can expect the following scenario to occur: 

Team "A" receives the overtime kickoff, drives 40-50 yards, kicks a field goal, leading to a massive player celebration around the kicker. The referees throw a flag, penalizing team "A" for excessive celebration, resulting in their ensuing kickoff, much to the surprise of the players, being moved back 15 yards. That extra 15 yards shortens the field for team "B" and they have no trouble either matching the field goal, or scoring a winning touchdown. Afterward, players from team "A" will, sheepishly, confess to not having known that the game wasn't over when they kicked their field goal. This is what the NFL has set up, and you know it's going to happen, don't you?

Finally, let's look at the fairness of overtime itself. Wouldn't it be simpler to just have the game continue from the point it's at if the fourth quarter ends and the game is tied. How many times have we seen one team score with 30 seconds left to tie the game. They kick off, watch the other team take a knee rather than risk a turnover, win the overtime coin-flip, and get the ball right back. Is that fair? Or, more often, a team trailing by three stops trying to score a touchdown in the final seconds, settling for the tie and the opportunity to get the ball right back in overtime. If they knew they were going to have to kick off in overtime, more teams would try to win the game in the fourth quarter with a touchdown. That makes for better football.

When baseball games go into extra innings, teams continues in their same batting order slot that ended the ninth inning. The visiting team hits first in the top of the tenth, always. In essence, the game continues until there is a winner. Football should take a page from baseball and just let the game continue until somebody scores in overtime, period. This new rule smells like the hockey shootout rule. Cut the gimmicks and quit making it complicated!

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 27, 2010 2:12 pm

Reflections on the Broncos' win

Having read a few of the threads about John Elway's comments regarding Andrew Luck, and having no interest in debating who is hanging from somebody else's jockstrap, here's what I saw yesterday:

- Tim Tebow played very well within the confines of a simple game plan that probably could have only succeeded against the woeful Houston Texans' defense. The Broncos ran a season's worth of screen plays that any quality defense would have adjusted to, and the Texans' defensive backs were absolutely abused by Brandon Lloyd. Credit Tebow for putting the ball into spots that allowed his guys to make plays, but don't fool yourself into thinking that yesterday could have happened against ANY playoff team.

- Tim Tebow took three shots yesterday that had me wondering if he was going to get up. He's tough, no question about it, but his willingness to take hits is terminal to having an extended NFL career. Steve Beurlein referenced it several times, and it really has to be a part of the organization's long term planning, that this is not the SEC anymore and Tebow cannot continue to absorb that kind of punishment.

- John Elway's statement about Andrew Luck is a no-brainer and should not be considered disrespectful toward Tebow. Teams' NFL success will continue to be dictated by the play of their quarterback, along with getting a reasonable amount of solid defense. A franchise quarterback is the only "must have" in the formula for winning a championship. Just because Tebow was over-valued by Josh McDaniels does not necessarily mean he is the answer for the long-term.

- Unfortunately, I would put my betting money on Tebow's career being cut short by concussions before I'd bet that he's going to develop into a polished NFL quarterback who can win a Super Bowl.

- Team defense is far more predicated on system and maintaining assignment discipline than it is on raw talent. There are only a handful of individuals who are game changers on the defensive side of the ball, like Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews. Bypassing talented offensive skill players in the draft to try and build a defense, when there is no defensive structure in place, is a mistake. The Patriots have shown that defensive success is attained by plugging role players into the system. Who would have ever built a defense around Tedy Bruschi? Or, years ago, the 49ers using "Hacksaw" Reynolds or Matt Millen? How about the Dolphins' "No-name" defense? These defenses won championships because they perfected their plan, not because they were bigger, faster, and stronger. The Broncos need a committment to a defensive coordinator and his plan, not just a bunch of high draft picks.

- When was the last time the Broncos and Chargers played a game that had zero bearing on the AFC playoff picture?
Category: NFL
Tags: Broncos
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or