Archive for April, 2009

Pete Carroll Can’t Win for Winning

April 29, 2009

With fall feeling so far away and precious little else left to write about, “the media” are trying to mine every last nugget out of last weekend’s NFL draft. The dominant storyline emerging? An astounding number of Trojans taken–11 in all.

As documented by Inside USC’s Scott Wolf, ESPN’s draft coverage turned into a Trojan lovefest (he he), including a Homeric paean to Troy from analyst Herm Edwards. Similarly, Dr. Saturday interpreted the weekend’s goings-on as confirmation that Pete Carroll’s team stands above all as the “empirical recruiting monolith” of college football. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times also marveled at the migration from USC to the pros.

Yet, Dufresne, Wolf and the Doc also nodded to a more cynical view of the Trojan pipeline. Tom Dienhart of Rivals just comes write out and says it: USC’s whole has been less than its parts. ‘SC fans my find this assertion on Dienhart’s part pretty objectionable:

“USC’s Jimmys and Joes have been more desirable than any other school’s in the past five NFL drafts. Over the weekend, the Trojans paced all schools with 11 players selected in the NFL draft. Since the 2005 draft, the Trojans lead the nation with 43 players selected.

While that’s an amazing amount of talent, realize that over that five-season span, USC has won just one national championship – in 2004.”

Then, there’s this from Dienhart: “USC has dominated the Pac-10, winning a league-record seven consecutive conference crowns. But the Trojans could have won so much more, and have missed out on stamping themselves as the premier program in the nation this decade. Instead, that honor belongs to either Florida or Oklahoma.” (I love the Sooners, but it’s tough to argue at this point that OU should be ranked a rung above USC given this.)

Credit Dienhart for having the stones to challenge conventional wisdom regarding the Trojans. Like many other hardcore college football fans, Homerism tires of what seems to be excessive fawning over certain programs and personalities, such as Carroll and Tim Tebow. But, geez, Tom, what more do you want the Trojans to do?

Last I checked, USC has the best winning percentage of any D-I program during the last four years. During that period, the Trojans have won their conference every year and a slew of BCS bowl games. They’ve also obliterated every non-conference foe, save Texas, that has stood in their way.

Obviously, Carroll’s team has suffered some bad losses along the way, but who hasn’t? In case you haven’t heard, one loss is the new undefeated when it comes to crowning a national championship. If anything, when USC loses to Stanford or Oklahoma loses to Colorado or Florida drops one to Ole Miss, these games stand as testaments to just how hard it is to keep a team on point for an entire year.

None of this is to say that USC has gotten screwed at any point in time during the past three years. The Trojans have been subjected to the same nebulous BCS system that everyone else has. The results always have been justifiable.

Instead, take the USC phenomenon of “more talent, no championships” as evidence of just how hard it really is to win a national championship. There are just so many butterfly effect variables at play to determine who even gets a shot at the crown. So when you do win one, treasure it. For Pete Carroll and everyone else, tomorrow’s another day. All you can do is keep on keeping on.

Best of Luck

April 28, 2009

With next year’s NFL draft looking like a Sooner bonanza, it’s not too surprising that OU mainly turned out mid- to low-round picks this year. Here’s a rundown of where OU alums are headed and what kind of situation they are walking into. (By the way, if you follow Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column on, you’ll probably enjoy this rundown of his rundown of the draft.)

*Phil Loadholt, OT (2nd Round, Vikings)
Fellow Sooner Adrian Peterson will welcome Loadholt to Minnesota with open arms, as he can use all the help he can get to keep the Vikes’ offense moving. Loadholt should challenge for the starting spot at right tackle right away.
*Juaquin Iglesias, WR (3rd Round, Bears)
God knows new QB Jay Cutler could use some more receivers to throw to in the Windy City. Iglesias definitely has a chance to step in and play immediately. He probably won’t be a star, but he could make a solid third receiver.
*Nic Harris, S/OLB (5th Round, Bills)
Homerism consulted esteemed colleague and Bills fanatic Dr. Buffalo Wild Wang for some insight on this pick. “I think he has a tough time even making the roster,” I said, recalling Harris’ under-publicized struggles during his senior year and in the build-up to the draft, which had him contemplating a move from safety to linebacker. “Don’t underestimate just how shitty the Bills’ secondary is,” Wang replied. “And Donte Whitner may be headed for the big house.” I’ll defer to Dr. Wang’s diagnosis, but my prognosis for the Bills’ season is pretty dire if Harris is seeing much action.
*Duke Robinson, OG (5th Round, Panthers)
Big Duke played the OG position throughout his career at OU like an O.G., running up a number of numb-skulled personal foul penalties, both before and after the whistle. Then, there are the murky off-the-field problems. Apparently his attitude didn’t wow the scouts during interviews. Couple all that with Robinson’s struggles in the national championship game versus Florida, and his precipitous drop makes some sense. Homerism suspects Robinson just doesn’t have the discipline to play on the pro level.
*Manuel Johnson, WR (7th Round, Cowboys)
Manny was a Sooner soulja during his four years in Norman. A Cowboy he is not.

Draft Review

April 26, 2009

Obviously it’s tough to say right away who the winners and losers of a draft are–except when it comes to the Raiders. Still, I particularly liked what a few teams did. Others, not so much.

Drafts Homerism Liked
Michael Crabtree is the best player in this draft, and San Fran got him at 10. If only he had someone to throw to him. (Unfortuantley, Nate Davis, drafted in the fourth round, probably won’t be that guy.) As I mentioned yesterday, Glen Coffee and Scott McKillop look like great day two picks. Ricky Jean-Francois has tons of potential.
Houston’s defense got much better this weekend. Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing should give defensive coordinator Dom Capers two utility men to use in a variety of ways, particularly on passing downs. Picking two tight ends seems curious, but seeing as one of them is Rice’s James Casey, it works for me.
The fact that the Pack nabbed the best defensive tackle in the draft and possibly the best linebacker, Clay Matthews, make for one supremely successful draft in Homerism’s book.
Drafts Homerism Didn’t Like
Moving on…
Trading up to take Josh Freeman struck me as a colossal mistake. I get it–he’s big. What did Freeman show at Kansas State that makes anyone think he can win in the NFL? Roy Miller may offer some depth on the defensive line. The rest? Blah.
Let’s see. The ‘Skins got a good defensive end prospect and a likely nickel cornerback. The rest is a whole lot of nada. In the process, they made a well-publicized play for Mark Sanchez without having the ammo or willingness to make the deal. Think Jason Campbell made a call to Jay Cutler this weekend for moral support? This could be the dawning of the Colt Brennan Era in D.C.

NFL Draft: Day 2 Steals

April 26, 2009

Watch out for these five guys in rounds three through seven. Homerism thinks these guys could be diamonds in the rough.

*Scott McKillop, LB, Pittsburgh
McKillop’s production under defensive guru Dave Wannestedt at Pitt provides a better indication of what kind of player he is than his “stiff hips” and “adequate height.”
*Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama
Homerism wrote early this week that Johnson should be picked in the first round. I stand by that assessment.

*James Casey, TE, Rice
This super smart tight end spent a few years in the White Sox farm system before returning to college. Casey has the toughness and athleticism to stick around in the league for a good while. He can even play a little “Wildcat” quarterback.

*Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama
The Crimson Tide are going to miss this guy more than they realize. Coffee won’t blow anyone away on film, but he’s a meat-and-potatoes guy who gets it done. Should make a good backup running back.
*Quentin Chaney, WR, Oklahoma
For the non-OU fans, this one probably comes way out of left field. The Booker T. Washington (Tulsa) grad could end up being a solid third receiver. He stands nearly 6’5″, so he’s a nice jump ball target in the red zone. He’s got decent speed, too, so Chaney might make for a good downfield receiver.

Deja Vu: Leinart, Part Deux?

April 26, 2009

Spring of 2003: USC names redshirt sophomore Matt Leinart as its starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Leinart beats out highly touted redshirt junior Matt Cassell and freshman early enrollee John David Booty.

Spring of 2009: USC names redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp as its starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Corps beats out highly touted redshirt junior Mitch Mustain and freshman early enrollee Matt Barkley.

Zombie Scouting

April 26, 2009

Umair Haque, the fascinating founder of two innovation consultancy shops and a blogger for Harvard Business Publishing, recently has written a number of compelling articles about what he has dubbed our national “zombieconomy.” To Haque, the U.S. entrepreneurial system is now populated with “brain-dead organizations who are about as intelligently responsive as Homer Simpson.” In other words, modern-day institutions lack the ability to react and respond to developments in the world surrounding them.

In the midst of the NFL draft, Haque’s zombieconomy offers an interesting lens through which we can view the growing chorus of complaints from pro scouts about the rise of the spread offense in college football, such as thisĀ item from Mike Tanier posted on The Fifth Down, The New York Times pro football blog. (For now, let’s side aside the fact that the “spread” is almost completely worthless as a classification/descriptor of offensive systems.)
Generally, the arguments from pro personnel gurus range from the contention that the spread doesn’t prepare players for the pro game to a more nuanced view that the spread prevents them from fully evaluating their NFL-level skills. The latter take rests on the notion that, essentially, offenses like the one run by Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators offer almost no information on how players will translate to the pro game. That applies to both offensive and defensive prospects, who supposedly use different skill sets to stop the spread schemes than a traditional pro-style attack. (Let’s also put a pin in the debate over whether or not scouts are that good at what they do in the first place.)
If recruits with NFL stars in their eyes start to buy into the argument that the spread doesn’t prepare them for the next level, the spread could have a dire future. After all, if the top talent shuns college programs that run the spread and amass at schools that use a pro scheme, it could put the spread teams at a disadvantage on the playing field. Ergo, coaches would have an incentive to implement the pro style or face the risk of fading into oblivion.
However, recruits also like winning, and there’s a reason why the spread is all the rage at the moment. Having witnessed the success of teams like Florida, Oklahoma and LSU, programs have copy-catted in droves. Let’s assume, then, that the spread in all its iterations is here to stay.
NFL teams and scouts now face a crossroads: deny the spread or embrace this brave new world.
For the deniers, when it comes to evaluating talent, this would mean avoiding players who have played in–or primarily against–spread-centric spread offenses. Alternatively, pro scouts could keep trying to squeeze blood from the turnips of traditional evaluation techniques, such as the 40-yard dash, 250-pound bench presses and the broad jump. Use small swaths of game film in which spread players do pro-like tasks. Interview prospects and ask them to deconstruct passing trees and talk about their childhoods.
The non-zombie scouts, on the other hand, might take a look at the college paradigm shift and recognize something of an opportunity.
The zombie way looks at a player’s game film and asks: Relative to what NFL quarterbacks/safeties/running backs are asked to do, how well does this college quarterback/safety/running back do those things? The traditional approach to scouting tries to figure out how prospects “fit” into the pro game or an NFL team’s style. Rather than shoehorning players into a specific mold, why not use the scouting process to determine what players have to offer?

Draft Musings

April 25, 2009

Exams prevented Homerism from finishing off the draft preview. For posterity’s sake, here are a few more picks, based on the original draft order:

Baltimore–Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State
Tennessee–Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Arizona–Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

*Obviously, my opinion of Stafford differs significantly from that of the NFL scouts. We’re actually not that far off.
I agree that Stafford’s “tools” make him an outstanding prospect. Clearly, he has what it takes between the ears to make it in the NFL, too.
But there was just something about Stafford’s demeanor while at Georgia that I detested. On the sidelines, do you ever remember seeing him doing anything to fire up his teammates? Heck, do you remember ever even seeing him talking to any of them? Most of the time, I remember him sitting by himself on the bench with his head down.
From a personality standpoint, Homerism gets the impression that Stafford is either a lone wolf or just not personable or aloof or something else. Whatever it is, I really wonder about that ineffable quality of “leadership” when it comes to Stafford. He seemed more interested in winning a game on his own or showing what a great NFL quarterback he’d be. Either way, he just strikes me as a paycheck player.
So why even draft him at all? Well, that talents is tough to pass up. Tennessee just seems like the perfect place for him to get his start. The Titans have a mature veteran under center in Kerry Collins who can show Stafford the ropes. Most importantly, he may be able to teach Stafford how to lead a team.
Vince Young may be a lost cause, but there’s still plenty of reason to be hopeful about Stafford. Let him watch Collins for a year and then possibly take over.
*The Raiders dealt a pick in the second round, so Al Davis must understand that trading picks is allowed.
*OK, so all three USC linebackers didn’t go in the first round. Does that mean they’re not the unit in college football history? I bring this up not to dog the three players, but to point out that it’s stupid to judge a college player’s career based on where he’s drafted. Green Bay got a steal in Clay Matthews, by the way.
*Homerism caught the opening of ESPN’s draft coverage during a break in his class today. The opening sequence looked like one of those pump-up-the-jam intros before the NBA Finals, except starring Chris Berman and Mel Kiper in place of Kobe and LeBron. I half-expected Mort to shake-and-bake the cameraman before throwing a no-look alley-oop to Trey Wingo.
*Michael Crabtree is the best prospect in this draft, but that’s a horrible situation in San Francisco.

Draft Preview: Atlanta Falcons

April 25, 2009

Pick 24: Atlanta Falcons

Strengths: Offensive skills
Weaknesses: Depth, secondary
The Pick: Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama

Man, talk about a team on the rise. With the move to pick up Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, this team is in great shape offensively.
The defense is solid, if lacking stars. Johnson, a former walk-on, probably will never a star, either. He will, however, be a productive safety with the potential to be a long-term fixture at free safety in the Atlanta secondary.
Note that Johnson really began to blossom under the tutelage of Nick Saban. Slick Nick has proven to be an outstanding evaluator of talent to go along with his skills as a teacher of defense. That should get a scout’s attention when it comes to Johnson.

Draft Preview: New England Patriots

April 25, 2009

Pick 23: New England Patriots

Strengths: The system
Weaknesses: What’s the score with Brady?
The Pick: Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut

Now the fun starts. No one in the NFL is better at working the draft than New England’s maestro, Bill Belichick. In fact, Homerism knows nothing about Butler, but the word is Belichick likes him. Who am I to question that?

Instead, let’s talk for a minute about what Loverboy‘s draft picks and free agency acquisitions all share in common. It’s hard to explain, but they strike Homerism as “football players” in the truest sense of the term–Oklahoma City’s own Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel, Troy Brown, etc. Primarily, they’re tough and they can do a number of things well. I think of it like playing pickup games. Even if they’re not the most talented guys out there, they always seem to be on the winning team.

If the Pats move up, the always astute Peter King says it will be for an offensive player. But it’s just a hunch. If you’re a regular follower of Monday Morning Quarterback, you know what that’s worth.

Draft Preview: Minnesota Vikings

April 24, 2009

Pick 22: Minnesota Vikings
Strengths: Running back, defensive line when suspensions aren’t a factor
Weaknesses: Pass offense
The Pick: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

We’re in the home stretch of the first round, reaching AD‘s Vikings at 22. Speaking of which, Minny’s biggest problem is that it has no offensive threats aside from the best running back in football. Enter Jeremy Maclin. Truth be told, though, Homerism doesn’t share most scouts’ enthusiasm for this Mizzou burner.

To be clear, it’s not that I don’t like Maclin’s potential in the NFL. I just don’t like him as a top-10 pick. If you watched Maclin closely during the past couple seasons, you might have noticed that he was the consumate “spread” receiver in the Missouri offense: he ran a number of short patterns designed for him to catch the ball on the run and make moves against less-skilled defenders in space. For example, he did a lot of damage on bubble screens. He rarely had to make catches in situations where he was closely defended, and he had a tendency to put the ball on the ground when he did. Compare that to Michael Crabtree, for instance, who played in a spread system but made a far higher number of difficult grabs in traffic or against the sideline.

Still, Maclin is fast and shifty in the open field. The Vikes desperately need some speed and big play ability on the outside to keep defenses honest. At this point in the draft, Maclin seems to be a pretty good option.