Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The beauty of where you are is the ability to look back and see where you were. Only two seasons ago the Cowboys were one Dez Bryant catch away from possibly going to the Super Bowl. One season later they decided against bringing back one-third of their formidable trio of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Bryant when they chose not to re-sign the aforementioned Murray. A decision which may or may not have come back to haunt them in the form of Romo's left shoulder injury suffered in Week 2, on a play which could have involved the sorely missed running back by the possibility of Murray making a block on the defender who subsequently injured Romo, after a botched blocking assignment by Murray's replacement Joseph Randle, or even the remote possibility that if Murray was there that day that they Cowboys call a running play for him, thus avoiding the Romo injury altogether, and although this is pure speculation and conjecture, it still stands as a possible outcome had Murray still been there.

However everything happens for a reason, and the reason stands in this case that although last year may have seemingly been a lost season (for various reasons as previously discussed), it may have provided the answer for the problem that last season created (and for the forseeable future): the need for a quality, starting-caliber quarterback. Romo's absence and his understudies own version of absence, even while competing on the field, point to a glaring weakness which can be strengthened immediately in this spring's NFL Draft. Whether it be any of the two outstanding prospects currently seated at the top tier of the NFL wish list for teams without quarterbacks, Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the Cowboys must seriously consider taking one of the two with the pick they currently own at the fourth spot.

Considering their abysmal 1-11 record during Romo's absence, defense and special teams notwithstanding, this was the season of the absent and missed quarterback for the Cowboys. That said, the Cowboys ought not be absent of mind and miss out on the opportunity to draft their next Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman. Heck even, their next Tony Romo. Romo like his idol Favre, could tutor another Cal stud in Goff, similar to the way Favre did for Aaron Rodgers, and we all know how that worked out. The Cowboys owe it to themselves to get the most important position on the field filled. A position which showed and proved to them to be the flash-point for everything they did (and did not do) last season. If the Cowboys are looking forward to something in this year's draft, they need only to look backward at last season.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


A bit disappointed about the recent remarks expressed by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the topic of Dirk Nowitzki's career. Abdul-Jabbar went on record the other night at a function at George Mason University when asked if there was another NBA player who may have had a shot in their repertoire as indefensible as the sky-hook shot that he employed on his way to establishing himself as the greatest scorer in NBA history, and possibly the most accomplished basketball player of all-time on every level (high school and college included, although Bill Russell could make an argument). "You asked about Dirk Nowitzki," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Dirk Nowitzki's shot is very hard to block, but I don't think that he was able to have a dominant career because he couldn't do other things. If he could have shot like that and rebounded and played defense and blocked shots, then he would have been all-around, and he would have gotten more credit. He was like a one-trick pony."

It seems Abdul-Jabbar gave a response which included more than assessment of Nowitzki's difficult to defend shot, his patented one-legged fadeaway, which a reporter suggested in comparison to Abdul-Jabbar's sky-hook. And that's okay. If you know anything about the man who has owned two names throughout one lifetime, distinguished in their own right to the point they hold their own weight respectively, Alcindor and Jabbar, then you are not shocked by this comprehensive reply, but rather his opinion of a player who many consider as one of the greatest of all time. A player who in my estimation was the greatest mismatch in the Association anytime he stepped on the court. It's not that I have a problem with Abdul-Jabbar critiquing Nowitzki's game, and taking it to task for that matter. Rather it is the notion that he seems to not appreciate the approach that the 2nd greatest international player (behind Tim Duncan) and the greatest European player of all time (behind no one) took to land just five spots behind him on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Nowitzki admittedly offers that he could never compare, and for that matter, should never be compared to the player most consider to be the greatest player of all time.

But that is not what this is about, as far as Abdul-Jabbar's criticism in concerned. Nor is it about the court of public opinion possibly misconstruing or taking out of context exactly what Abdul-Jabbar's comments where intended to incite, whether positive or negative, whether truthful or untrue, and whether fair or unfair. This is to clarify the distinction between a "one trick pony" and the man who holds claim to all the accolades mentioned in support of his stellar career. Never forget that Nowitzki was often the focal point on many a 50-win Dallas Mavericks team, throughout his 17 year NBA career. Ok, check that, he has always been his team's focal point during his heyday (which seemingly appears to be ending more painlessly than Kobe Bryant's 19 year career), especially when Steve Nash took his budding MVP-type talents to Phoenix. He led his Mavericks to a championship in 2011 over the Miami Heat, besting the newly minted "Big Three" triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, a team who many a team lay prostrate before until their defeat at the hands of Nowitzki, and his own "Big Three", Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Terry. They may have been more like the posse of The Three Musketeers with a D'Artagnan of their own to lead the way, but they knew how to get the ball in his hands of Nowitzki in Game 4 of those same 2011 NBA Finals, when he led them to a series-tying victory that led the Mavericks out of the jaws of a 3-1 deficit they surely would have found difficult to surmount. Clutch would not begin to describe the assortment of highlights in this man's canon.

Dirk Nowitzki deserves better than to be mentioned as the one trick pony that most who follow the NBA would find misleading a moniker. He may not have been as multi-dimensional as the person who called him that or even some others whom he looms above on the career-scoring list. Lesser players have been called worse, and they should, however, this is not a statement that should be associated with this player, much less his body of work.


Leading up to Super Bowl 50, there was an innocuous stat which related something to the fact that the team wearing the white version of their uniform had won an alarming percentage of the games versus the team wearing colored uniforms in the last dozen or so Super Bowls. There also was the awareness that if Peyton Manning won this championship battle against the mighty Carolina Panthers he would then have the right to claim the sole spot at the top of the heap as the quarterback with the most wins of all time. An even 200 on the left side of the ledger. The ultimate referendum for his case as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. Oh, and by the way, he would also be the first quarterback, ever, to win a Super Bowl for two different teams. It's not that those things mattered. It's just that they were some things to consider, heading into the big game.

Kobe Bryant had a throwback game for the ages the other night, scoring a game high 38, at the feeble age of 38, to lead his Los Angeles Lakers to a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He, like Manning, is approaching almost two decades playing the respective sport in which they have  dominated. He, like Manning, is on the precipice of calling it a career, with Manning yet to officially sign-off on the notion the he is all but washed up. It brought to mind a certain sentiment entering Super Bowl 50. Could Manning, at the geriatric age of 39, win one for his own personal Gipper? Could he dig in deep to that bag of tools and find the right piece for the job one more time for one more game? Could we see a rendition of a renaissance similar to the one Bryant had drawn only days earlier? The odds seemed unlikely, and judging by the sub-200 yards of total offense that the Denver Broncos generated (the lowest ever for a Super Bowl winning team mind you) for the entire game, that moment most certainly never came to pass. 

It didn't need to. And most importantly it didn't have to. Manning has spent the better part of his career being the focal point of his team's attack. Even in Indianapolis, during the heyday of the Colt's version of the Dallas Cowboys Triplets, it was he who took the brunt of the blame when a team he had once again positioned to get into the playoffs faltered, whether by his efforts or lack thereof. Throughout his career he was the quarterback every scout, coach, and fan knew he could and would be coming out of the University of  Tennessee: the ultimate franchise quarterback. The guy who could win three or four games in a season on his own, for the same team he was guiding perennially to ten-plus wins in a season every year, when it was just part of the expectations that were placed upon him. His naysayers would always mention that he could not even compare to his brother Eli, because he had won two Super Bowls with the Giants. Now that Peyton has won two Super Bowls, for two different teams and won 200 games, the first quarterback ever to hold this distinction (he can now cross those two things off of his NFL bucket list), there is no way (as of right now) that you can compare baby brother to big bro. This was never Eli's cross to bear, rather it was Peyton's really. It became his reality. Every season. And, most often, he would fulfill those expectations. Not that this is a referendum on the middlingness of one Eli Manning, although he has won two Super Bowls he has also anchored teams that have missed the playoffs entirely in multiple seasons. A disparaging remark which could never be made about Peyton (at least when he was healthy). Much is made about the futile efforts of Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills in their four forays into the "big game." However, not enough credit and appreciation is given for the sustained success of taking care of business in the regular season, and giving one's team a shot at contending for a title almost every year of one's career. This, as of now, is the definition of the difference between Peyton Manning and Eli Manning's respective careers. But this is not that time, nor that place...

So then, it was not necessary for Peyton to have a stellar game. The type of game that he's produced before. He has had those types of games before and still his teams would let him down. This victory in Super Bowl 50, which may have brought an end to this particular part of his career arc, would prove, just as the pitcher who pitches great and loses, or better yet, pitches poorly and wins, that which we all knew. That he has justly deserved a 2nd Super Bowl win for some time now. So it was that he relied on the strength of this 2015 version of the Denver Broncos. A team who, just two Super Bowls ago, fell prey to the type of defense they employed against the Panthers on Sunday night. The type of defense that makes you feel their hits. Years, even eras, later.

Another general sentiment amongst this scribe leading up to this game was the possibility that this current version of Orange Crush could be one for the ages. Would we be talking about them in the same manner that we do championship winning defenses like the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens? Judging by the expression on the up-till-that-point seemingly invincible Cam Newton's face it was definitely a defense for the ages. One of the Panthers players, okay it was Brandon Marshall, was overheard in winning locker room after the game saying something to the effect of how proud he was to play for the team that had the "best defense ever" to win a Super Bowl, with a face so serious Mike Singletary might have blinked. And for a moment the statement deserved some serious consideration. Yes, they may not be the '85 Bears, or even the '00 Ravens for the matter, but who they are are the 2016 Super Bowl champion Broncos, a team with a defense who's arguably had to deal with the most complex and explosive offenses the NFL has seen to date. And that is not even including the team that they recently defeated in the Panthers, who, although they may have been the highest scoring team in the NFL, with the greatest point differential; admittedly the benefactor of a solid defense and special teams who did much to aid the offense through scores off turnovers and favorable field position for the offense to capitalize upon, but rather the victories over the vanquished potent attacks of offenses led by the multiple-championship winning talents of Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in their run through the playoffs just to have the opportunity to play in the big game and do all that has been described. So yes, in an era where quarterbacks and offenses are having their way week in week out during the course of an NFL season, we may just have to consider their place in the pantheon of all-time greatest defenses.

Peyton's got his place, and the 2016 Bronco's defense does too. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Treading Warriors

Sunday night's blase mid-season contest between the walking in place New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors, who play at pace which no one would confuse with the word slow, a seemingly innocuous pummeling by the team on the left (coast that is) to the team on the right, is continuing to provide on a nightly basis evidence for which, just how much the mercury needs to travel in the opposite direction for teams competing (and much less hoping to compete) with the championship-defending Warriors.

On their way to another of the routine patented "plus-fifteen" beatings they've been handing to the rest of The Association (Yes San Antonio Spurs that includes you, Tim Duncan or not), a 116-95 systematic dismantling of the recently revamped Knicks machine of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and company, a mundane 1st quarter, was followed up by the kind of quarter you would expect from a team which has taught us to forget about the kinds of things you should expect, at least when it comes to a basketball team. The Warriors converted 14 of the 17 field goals they attempted, for a whopping 82% for the quarter. They attempted four 3-point shots, and were flawless in that area as well as they missed not one. The only area of the court in which they had a minor hiccup with during that period was the charity stripe as they went 5-7, for a modest 71%. Maybe the most telling stat of the quarter would probably have to be Stephen Curry "only" playing seven minutes, with the Warriors relying on the four-headed monster of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Harrison Barnes for the bulk of the minutes. Just for thought: Usually a team's "one-two punch" are it's leading two scorers, however the Warriors third scorer may actually be the "two" in the aforementioned punch. A luxury no championship-level team that I can think of in recent memory employs. Numbers and percentages don't tell you the whole story when it comes to this team. They really do not.

The question was asked of Knicks head coach Derek Fisher immediately following the game during the press conference held in the bowels of the World Greatest Arena, an arena whose world's greatest fans had just witnessed the world's greatest team, how a game like this one highlights their need for a second scorer. "Tonight [as opposed to other nights?]" or something to that degree was the reply. A thinly-veiled incredulous response to a reporter's misguided query to a game he obviously may not have really been paying  attention to.

And it happens; to the best of us even. You witness this efficient of an offensive machine every bit as productive as the greatest teams of all time: the 1927 Yankees, the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s, and you begin to forget the fuel which creates the fire currently burning up the hardwood at an arena near you. Defense. This was not a game that was going to be decided upon whether Anthony would find help from another source, whether expected or unexpected. Rather, and Fisher painfully knows this is the reason, it was a game decided by which team would play the better defense, generally speaking the recipe for success in the NBA and in most sports for that matter.

And don't get it fooled. Despite the ability to put up iconic second quarter numbers the Warriors know how to defend. On a championship level. But more importantly. As it pertains to a team such as the Golden State Warriors, their adversary better have the wherewithal to sum up the funds to pay for the kind(s) of defense it takes to stop this team. For they come at you in waves. Yes, basketball is a game of runs, which, are waves in and of itself. The kind of waves that come at you when you play the Warriors however are the waves of a different sort. They are the type of waves a team, any team, much less a team like the Knicks, who are still finding their way, drown in. The Association could use a lifeboat right about now. Alot of arenas are underwater.