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Let’s take a second to asses the Browns roster as we head into the draft. Recently I wrote an article on the importance of building a more complete team before attempting to develop a rookie quarterback. I am not inherently opposed to taking Johnny Manziel at #4. I am concerned, however, that no matter how much upside he may have, if the Browns are still a bad team then Manziel or any quarterback will more likely than not be a bust. There has been a tremendous amount of talk about Manziel, both good and bad. My question is not whether Manziel is the future of the Browns, my question is whether or not the Browns’ roster is at a place where drafting a quarterback at #4 will lead to success.
Read the Rest over at DPN
In a recent interview Browns’ Head Coach Mike Pettine was talking about the quarterback situation in Cleveland as we get ready for the upcoming draft.
“If you don’t have the guy that you feel like is that guy or the top 2 or 3 in the league, you have to model it differently and if you looked at how the Super Bowl was won this year where Seattle didn’t have a guy that was drafted in the top 5 at quarterback. They built their team where they were I think 3rd in rushing and number 1 by a lot in defense, and that minimizes the impact of that position. I think football is the ultimate team game and too much is put on the quarterback.”
This statement, like just about every public statement, simultaneously shocks and offends some, while making others immensely happy. “How can we win without a future Hall of Fame QB?!?!” “Farve! Manning! Brady!!! C’mon!” Did you ever stop to think that maybe most of the great quarterbacks were very talented, but their legendary status might actually be the product of their team and coaching staff?
Read the rest over at DPN
Wisconsin’s Magical Season
Wisconsin achieved a 30-7 record despite one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Wisconsin is a #2 seed in a Final Four with a #7 seed and a #8 seed. They have one of the best big men, Frank Kaminsky and the scrappiest team in the tournament. Wisconsin has made an astounding 16 straight NCAA Tournament appearances under Coach Bo Ryan. Ryan is one of the most consistently successful coaches in the game who created an offensive system that is fundamentally sound, giving up the fewest turnovers in the nation this season and creates matchup nightmares for opponents, allowing Wisconsin to score a school record 2,720 total points this season. Wisconsin by any measure has played impressively this season.
The Dance Is Over?
Irrespective of this success, the entire world seems to believe that Wisconsin is this year’s Cinderella story whose magical journey is about to be ruthlessly cut short by #8 seed Kentucky on Saturday. Mostly everyone, including Vegas is predicting a Wisconsin loss on Saturday. The only real debate seems to be how badly. Vegas odds puts the game close, but other experts seem to think this one will be over much earlier. Those same experts picked Wisconsin to lose to Arizona as well so take the “expert” advice with a grain or two of salt.
Cinderella Dances with the Titans
Despite the Badgers’ success this season there are many reasons they are underdogs in this Final Four. The first being that while Bo Ryan and the Badgers have been a model of consistency, this is Coach Ryan’s first Final Four appearance ever. Conversely, UCONN, Kentucky, and Florida have all won championships in the last 8 years. In Fact, it is has been 73 years since Wisconsin’s last and only national championship in 1941. On paper Wisconsin can compete and beat all 3 of the remaining teams, in fact they did beat Florida earlier in the season. The Wisconsin basketball brand is not exactly known for being a traditional basketball powerhouse but they do find themselves in a Final Four with 3 other titans of College Basketball.
The Team You Never Knew You Loved:
Wisconsin also has an amazing, heartwarming story involving Coach Bo Ryan and his father. Bo Ryan’s father was also a college basketball coach who never made it to the Final Four. Consequently Bo and his father agreed to go to the Final Four every year together. Sadly Coach Ryan’s father passed away this season. Now that Bo has finally made it to the Final Four himself, his father will not be able to see his son coach. If that doesn’t want to make you a Wisconsin fan this weekend then nothing will.
Free Booze for Badgers
Wisconsin fans are fired up about their Final Four appearance. One Wisconsin alum in particular is really showing his school spirit. NBA star and former Wisconsin player Michael Finley is covering the drinks on Saturday for anyone who shows a Wisconsin student ID. All the students have to do is meet him at the Cool River Café in Irving, Texas on Saturday before the game, show Finley their ID and he will pick up the tab. Which also means you get to meet, and presumably get drunk with NBA star Michael Finley. Let’s see Kentucky alums Rajon Rondo and Tayshaun Prince do that!
[I originally posted this over at http://www.Dawgpoundnation.com where I frequently post. If you are a Browns fan you really should check out this site.]
Hungry Teams Don’t Get Fed
A curious piece of information NFL draft experts love to mention when discussing their First Round draft predictions is the “Team Needs” list of the top 3-5 positions where the organization is most deficient. While interesting, these lists are not entirely useful on their own. Good teams do not draft based on need. Good teams draft based on value. Positional needs are only one data point in calculating the value of any draft selection. Teams that draft based on need are rarely successful in the draft. The Browns have historically drafted based on need and wound up with Couch, Weeden, Quinn, and others. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, or the Patriots make their draft decisions based on value and wound up with Super Bowls. Granted, the Patriots have not had many glaring needs in quite some time unlike the Browns who have been chasing their needs since the organization returned and have little success to show for it. It is precisely because the Patriots have not drafted based solely on team needs that they have an abundance of talent and success. Why? Because the Patriots seek to maximize the value of every draft selection they make and no one draft pick will ever make or break the team.
There Is No Silver Bullet
It takes far too many players to win even one Super Bowl, let alone several. No one player can turn around a franchise. This is the opposite of the NBA where just drafting Lebron James transformed the Cavaliers from one of the worst franchises in the league to a perennial title contender (and subsequently back to the worst after he left). A team needs far too many pieces for any one person to have that great of an impact. The Vikings have the best Running Back in the game, but little else, unsurprisingly, the Vikings struggle to find success. Peyton Manning made a huge impact upon his arrival in Denver, but the Broncos already had several other pieces in place. Manning filled one glaring hole for the Broncos but he alone did not carry the team to the Super Bowl. Stop thinking in terms of drafting the best player available at the position the organization is most deficient, in other words the Silver Bullet Approach. While this method of thinking seems logical, it paradoxically tends to yield the worst results, particularly for teams that have a great many needs.
Salt and Pepper Can Fix a Bad Steak, but a Cherry on Top Can’t Fix a Bad Sundae
A silver Bullet approach will not work for a team that needs to rebuild. No matter how great a player may be, he can only be as good as the other players around him. Manning still needs great protection and receivers to break records and win championships. Adrian Peterson still needs holes to run through, and vertical threats to keep the defense from stacking the box. Even if the Browns select an amazing talent with the #4 pick, he can still only be as great as the rest of the team around him, and currently that team around him is a 4-12 squad.
If you keep maximizing value with each draft pick then you increase the chances of addressing all, or at least most, of the team’s needs rather than just the top 3-5. Drafting for value also helps insulate an organization from draft day busts. Each individual bust is less costly to the organization; think Ryan Leaf not panning out vs Ryan Mallet not panning out. You also get the opportunity to build depth. Depth is crucial to succeeding in the long, arduous, and injury-laden NFL season.
On the other hand, if you approach drafting the best player available at the position of greatest need you are essentially hoping to win the lottery on each and every draft pick. That is a proposition that few teams, if any, actually succeed at because you will spend all of your resources chasing Peyton Manning but more often than not getting Ryan Leaf. Conversely, if you maximize value you can take a small risk on a guy like Russell Wilson in the 3rd round and increase the chances that he pans out because you have been acquiring all of the necessary talent around him to be successful.
If you are drafting for need, however, you end up trading multiple picks chasing Quinn or Weeden or say trading multiple picks chasing Johnny Manziel and praying one of them pans out. In fact, you should almost never trade up in the draft, but that is a rant for another day. Sure, these moves make for exciting draft days, and makes the Front Office appear “serious about winning now!” but in the long run, with a few notable exceptions, these moves usually fail.
Teams like the Patriots and the Seahawks are not inherently better at assessing talent and finding hidden gems in the draft. They are, however, vastly better at maximizing the value of each of their draft picks which increases the chances of finding a Tom Brady or a Russell Wilson in the later rounds while at the same time acquiring the great many pieces a team needs to win a championship.
Keep in mind maximizing draft value is not the only reason teams like the Patriots are successful, nor does maximizing the value of each draft pick guarantee success. Maximizing draft value does, however, increase the chances of success over the long-term.
Play the Long Game:
Maximizing value rarely leads to sexy or exciting draft picks. This causes distress in a fan base who are hungry for victory and desperate to find a game changer who can turn the organization’s fortunes around. If you are starving though, and you only have $50 in your pocket then you go to the grocery store and buy ingredients for several meals rather than buying one steak dinner.
In all likelihood that one steak dinner will be more delicious and provide more short-term satisfaction than anything you can make yourself, but after that steak dinner you will eventually be hungry again but you will have to wait until you have more money (or draft picks) in your pocket before you can eat again and you are left starving for quite some time.
Going to the grocery store on the other hand could have fed you for several weeks until your next paycheck arrived. Sure the meals were not as tasty, but they were likely healthier for you and they also met all of your basic needs with a little money left over. Drafting for value is like going to the grocery store, drafting for need is spending all your money on a lovely steak dinner.
Right now I am recalling fondly the massive grief I took from Michigan fans on Twitter during the Notre Dame Michigan game because I had the audacity to suggest that Devin Gardner was having accuracy issues. More than a few people suggested I was drunk, or an idiot.
After the game everyone in the media was raving about how AMAZING Devin Gardner was. The mere suggestion that Jeremy Gallon was the actual reason for Michigan’s success against Notre Dame was deemed blasphemous. Even though he accounted for almost half of Michigan’s total offense that game, and was a huge matchup problem for the Irish.
The next week Michigan beat the lowly Akron Zips by a meager 4 yards and a pass interference penalty that was never called. Everyone, all the experts said this was just a hangover game for Michigan and that they would return to normal. I suggested that it wasn’t. Akron was able to better limit Jeremy Gallon’s impact by keeping him to just 6 catches for 66 yards that game. Consequently the Michigan offense was abysmal and they almost lost.
As the UConn game approached everyone clung to the “hangover game” narrative and assumed the Wolverine offensive juggernaut that put up 41 points on Notre Dame would keep chugging along and steamroll a lousy UCONN team that lost to Townson. How could they not? They lost to Townson for god sakes! Be honest, without doing a google search do you even know where Townson is? Are they even a D1 school? Certainly Michigan would roll.
Brady Hoke did his team no favors by suggesting he just did not prepare his team well for the Akron game, and that headed into the UCONN his team would be more than prepared. There was just one problem with all that extra preparation. Against UCONN Michigan looked even worse. Thanks Coach!
The problem is not with the preparation, or the coaching staff. The problem, and here comes the part where everyone gets enraged, is that Devin Gardner is just not that good of a quarterback. Much like Denard Robinson before him he is a hell of an athlete, and he can make plays. Devin Gardner is usually a lot of fun to watch. But a quarterback needs to make good decisions and accurate throws very quickly. Devin Gardner does not do these things.
The Notre Dame game was an aberration for Devin Gardner, not the standard. He made inaccurate throws, and quite frankly did not have to make very many decisions. His decision making process for that game was simple: Just snap the ball and get it as close to Jeremy Gallon as you can, and he’ll do the rest. And to Gallon’s credit, he did.
Against Akron and UCONN, the Jeremy Gallon plan was no longer a viable option and it showed. Without the Gallon first and ask questions later plan, Devin Gardner is throwing interceptions and getting sacked all over the place. Devin Gardner has to get better as a quarterback, and not just be an impressive athlete. Otherwise you could see Michigan have yet another season where they start off with another solid record to begin the season and then rack up 4-6 loses to close the year out. Included in those 4-6 losses will be one unholy ass-whuppin’ by Ohio State.
IT IS GAME WEEK!!! For the first time in 8 months we started this week with college football games to look forward to. Now we are just about 48 hours away from the opening kickoff and there are some outstanding games to watch. I have compiled a list of games to watch and what to watch for Thursday night.
Here now in chronological order is what you should be watching and what to look for on Thursday August 29:
6:00pm on ESPN:
North Carolina @ #6 South Carolina: On paper we really are not going to learn anything new here, or at least we shouldn’t. South Carolina should have an easy time dispatching UNC, but let’s be honest here, we are really only watching this game for 2 reasons. The first is that it is the first game of the season, and after 8 months some of us will watch just about anything right now. The second, and far more important reason is Jadeveon Clowney. There are few players that have been more hyped going into a season. ESPN, sadly has him at the top of their expert (we’re using that word loosely here) Preseason Heisman Watch List. And I say sadly, because usually a kid this hyped, no matter their on-field performance, will be a let-down because no one can deliver on this kind of hype. This is especially true if the entirety of this kid’s hype is based off of one play, because his stats for the season last year where just not that great.
And before you shout at your computer screen as though I can hear you, I know you will counter something with: “Lackluster stats are hardly the only measure of a defensive player’s impact!! Because he has to be blocked by 2 or even 3 guys and because he shuts down one side of the field which puts the offense at a disadvantage by having to alter their game plan to adjust for him” Ok, so I polished the language a bit because what you actually said was probably “F%*K YOU!! GO COCKS!! SPURRIER NUMBER 1 WOOOO, BALL COACH!!”
Here’s the deal, yes, he is good, but he is, in fact. NOT the Jesus H. Christ of Defensive Ends as ESPN and the people who cannot have an original or critical thought on the subject would have you believe. Barring a truly remarkable chain of events he will not win the Heisman. What will likely happen is that over the course of a few weeks he will likely have solid production against double teams, and will help his team win a lot of football games. But the hype surrounding him has left people believing that he will be averaging 17 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns per game. After his first few games when he is actually only average 1-2 sacks and 3-5 tackles per game the hype train will disappear, and people will sadly forget all about Clowney. Having said that I like the guy, he handles himself well, and I wish nothing but the best for him. I hope he proves me wrong.
I would expect a heavy dose of Clowney discussions during this game from the Announcers, even when The Gamecocks Offense is on the field. Unless UNC does something to surprise us, or Clowney is as dominant in this game as his hype suggestions then I would expect to be bored with this game by halftime.
7:00pm ET on ESPNU
Tulsa @ Bowling Green: Say what?! Look, if you are not into teams outside the big 5 and a half conferences then I’m not going to pretend like this game is for you. But if you are interested in a couple of exiting teams fighting it out with potential, though as of now unlikely, BCS busting implications then this is the game for you. Even if you are entirely unconcerned about the outcome of this game it will probably be far more entertaining to watch than the Clowney Circus that starts an hour earlier. Flip over to this game once you are tired of the commentators filling time by talking about every intimate detail of Jadeveon Clowney’s life while the Gamecocks nurse a 2-3 score lead.
8:00pm ET on Fox Sports 1
Utah State @ Utah: Ok, there really is no credible reason to watch this game, unless you A: Need to be reminded just how truly awful the Fox Network is at covering football. (I could write a book about the awfulness of Fox but I think it would be too painful to even read, much less write), or B: Need to remind yourself that Utah is in fact still a member of the Union. That’s about it.
9:15pm ET on ESPN
Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt: This is a competition between 2 solid teams on the rise that could probably compete for conference championships in other conferences but are second tier teams in the SEC. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, in addition to being a comic book villain in his spare time, took a 2-10 team and went 7-6 in the SEC in his first year and had an absurdly great recruiting class. There is nothing but potential for this Ole Miss team. Ole Miss also has to play Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU so there are not a lot of easy wins on this schedule. Ole Miss is going to need to win this game if they hope to improve on their 7-6 record from a year ago.
Vanderbilt has a lot of promise as well coming off a 9 win season. There were some off the field issues that could be a distraction. Vanderbilt also has a difficult schedule with games against Georgia at home and Texas A&M, South Carolina and Florida all on the road. Though in fairness, Vanderbilt’s schedule is only ranked as the 11th toughest schedule in the SEC. If Vanderbilt is going to improve their record from last season they are going to need to beat Ole Miss.
11:00pm ET on CBS Sports Network
USC @ Hawaii: Not a lot of people are going to stay up and watch this game unless you are a Trojan fan, live on the West Coast, like me, or don’t have a real job to report to on Friday, sadly also like me. As far as the game itself, this probably is not going to be much of a competition. Still there are several things to keep an eye on while USC likely cruises to victory. I say likely because USC football is a bit of a mess right now. For starters the Trojans are coming off of an epic collapse last season by losing 5 of their last 6 games including an embarrassing pre New Year’s Day bowl game loss to Georgia Tech. Right now, USC just needs to win a game. Their last win on the road was on Oct 13th 2012 against the Washington Huskies. I know it is only Hawaii, but right now USC needs a win.
Also, despite what Pat Haden may say, Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat. USC not only needs to beat teams on their schedule like Hawaii, struggling or winning ugly may be almost as bad. Kiffin needs to take this opportunity to not only beat Hawaii, but to have his team look impressive while doing it to show the world that the Trojans are back on track and everyone can put down the pitchforks.
This game may start off ugly given that USC has not 1 but 2 new quarterbacks this year with both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler seeing playing time in this game. Using 2 quarterbacks may make it difficult for the offense to get into rhythm and adjust. It also may be the case that the USC offense will just have vastly superior offensive talent that it will not matter. This is a much needed tune-up game for USC, but it is still just the first game, and likely will not answer many questions for us. Unless of course they lose, which in addition to being hilarious, would also tell us that this could be an awful season for the Trojans and that more than a few coaches should make sure their agent has Pat Haden’s number on speed dial.
As for Friday, yes there are games, but none really worth watching, unless you are a fan of one of the teams competing that night. It would be better rest up (or in some cases sleep off your hangover), and get ready for a ton of great games on Saturday.