Thursday, January 10, 2008

Not Here to Talk About the Past

Carroll + Falcons = WTF?!

So USC coach Pete Carroll apparently talked to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Wednesday, with regards to the head coaching job left vacant by professional sleazeball Bobby Petrino.

Which leads me to wonder ... why?!

The Falcons are an organization in shambles right now, and that's not even taking into account the 3-13 record this past season. Petrino's cowardly departure was just another in a long line of embarrassments for the team this year, and let's not forget the little issue of the star, multi-million dollar quarterback in federal prison on dogfighting convictions.

Oh, and Bill Parcells thought he was going to be the team president before he changed his mind and went to the Dolphins. The Falcons were spurned at the expense of a team that won ONE game this season.


So naturally, the Falcons aren't a good job for Carroll right now. Carroll had moderate success his first go around in the NFL -- with the Jets and Patriots -- but the man is a virtual deity in SoCal, what with his NFL-caliber recruiting classes and being a year-in, year-out contender for the BCS national title. Hell, one might even suggest his Trojans could actually beat the Falcons right now, so why would Carroll want to coach them?

If Carroll were to return to the NFL, he'd want control over player personnel -- which Blank might give him. He'd also want a fat salary -- which, again, Blank would probably give him. But most importantly, Carroll would want a situation in which he could win fairly soon, and the Falcons don't provide that. Carroll would be better served going to Washington if that were the case.

Because let's face it, the Redskins actually have a quarterback.

Congress taking its time

If you set your TiVo is catch Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Brian McNamee squirm and bicker before Congress on Jan. 16, you might want to reset it. The committee overseeing the hearing has rescheduled the affair until Feb. 13 to give the committee time to coordinate its investigation with that of the Justice Department and to talk to the witnesses in private under oath before the public hearing.

Note the committee didn't do that the last time baseball had to face the government with regards to steroids. You know, when Mark McGwire refused to talk about the past and Sammy Sosa suddenly forgot how to speak English.

I'm no legal expert, but to me, this is Congress' way of saying it's serious this time. If they're interested in talking to Clemens and Pettitte and McNamee in private under oath first, there's no telling what juicy little nuggets might come out of that. But more importantly, such homework before the hearing should prevent said hearing from becomin a farce.

It's going to be a media circus regardless, but the more credibility Congress can add to the proceedings, the better. And I think that's just what this delay does.

Countdown to Daytona

Not that I'm looking forward to it or anything, but we are just 38 days away from the 50th running of the Daytona 500. NASCAR's biggest race is celebrating a milestone anniversary, but perhaps more interesting are the potential storylines coming into the 2008 season.

Will Jimmie Johnson -- who was fastest during testing this week -- become the only driver other than Cale Yarborough to win three straight Cup titles this season? Will teammate Jeff Gordon beat his protege and take his fifth career championship? Will new Hendrick golden boy Dale Earnhardt Jr. break into Victory Lane this year and contend for his first Spring Cup?

Or my personal favorite, how long until new teammates Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart try to kill each other? I've got the over/under at the first Martinsville race in March.

Do I know the answers to those questions? No, but I can't wait to find out. Just 38 more days ...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Here's the wind up ...

HOF voting issues?

Am I the only one who thinks it's strange letting sports writers vote for the various Halls of Fame? Particularly in light of yet another Baseball Hall of Fame ballot passing without Jim Rice's name on it?

It took Goose Gossage (the guy who's only third on the all-time saves list) far too long to break into Cooperstown, and the fact that Rice still hasn't been enshrined is ridiculous.

"But he wasn't friendly with the media," some have said. Well, so what? Who cares if he wasn't all sunshine and lollipops when the recorder-and-notepad brigade shuffled up to his locker? Rice, a career .298 hitter, was an eight-time All Star and the American League MVP in 1978 for the Boston Red Sox. With 382 career home runs (he led the AL in homers three times -- 1977, 1978, 1983), Rice was one of the game's best power hitter ... BEFORE the Steroid Era.

And we're gonna leave him out because he was prickly with a few writers?

Just fuels my argument that sports writers have no business voting for such matters as a sport's Hall of Fame. Who should? I'm not sure, but the writers -- who apparently hold grudges like this -- aren't it.

Same goes for you, Pro Football Hall voters. How Michael Irvin is in, but Art Monk isn't is beyond me.

Snyder faces key hire

With Joe Gibbs' announcement Tuesday that he's retiring as coach and team president of the Washington Redskins, the organization sits at a crossroads.

As does its owner, Daniel Snyder.

Snyder's had five coaches in his tenure in Washington, and at first had a George Steinbrenner-like approach of signing expensive, high-profile free agentswhile eshewing and even ignoring the draft. But with Gibbs at the helm, that attitude cooled some, and Snyder would be well served to continue his level head now that Gibbs is out the door.

And the first move that could show us which Snyder takes over will be the hire of Gibbs' replacement. Does Snyder go for the big splash and try to lure Bill Cowher out of the CBS studios, or does he undergo an exhaustive search that'll likelt end with him hiring an assistant, possibly even one of his own?

Virtually every big splash Snyder has made as Redskins owner has failed -- Steve Spurrier, anyone? So I'm inclined to say avoid the big name, avoid the big news maker. Take your time, do your homework and hire the person you feel best serves the team you put on the field every Sunday.

The Reskins have the potential to be a playoff team again next year, but the wrong hire at head coach could set the organization back another couple years.

Playoffs?! Playoffs?

University of Georgia president Michael Adams claimed Tuesday that college football needs a playoff system and proposed an eight-team format. Adams, a chairman of the NCAA executive committee, has long been an opponent of a playoff system, but said Tuesday the current BCS system is "undercutting the sportsmanship and integrity of the game."

Well, of course Adams would feel that way, since Georgia was one of the teams said to have been left out of the national championship picture this year. Funny how the whole BCS thing looks when the computer numbers don't fall in your school's favor.

Not that I oppose a playoff system -- I actuall endorse it. But for Georgia's president to be the one to step up and complain about the inadequacies of the BCS ... I'm sorry, but that smacks of sour grapes to me.

Memo to Georgia: You played some good ball at the end of the year, and who knows what you would've done if a playoff had been in place. But you didn't win your conference -- hell, you didn't even win your division. I'm of the mindset that if you don't win your conference, you shouldn't have a shot at a national championship. In my mind, that's the only thing the current formula gets right -- even if it is an unwritten rule.

You didn't win the SEC, so shut up and enjoy your Sugar Bowl win over Hawaii. Pipe down and try again next year. Let those of us who weren't screwed over by the BCS gripe about the lack of a playoff. You just go run your school.

Around the Horn ...

... now Marriotti-free!

LSU college football champs -- allegedly

LSU beat Ohio State 38-24 Monday night in the BCS Championship Game, which -- apparently -- means the Tigers are national champions.

Well, if you believe the computers and the polls and money-grubbing conference commissioners.

I didn't watch the game -- or any bowl game -- because I refuse to give ratings (and, by extension, money) to a system so fraudulent that the only undefeated team in the country doesn't even get a shot at being the last one standing when all's said and done. What message does that send to Hawaii? "Congratulations on going 12-0 this year ... how about the Sugar Bowl? Sorry, but you're not good enough to contend for the national title."

More like "You can't make us the money that Ohio State or LSU can."

Unless and until the BCS goes the way of the Clerks television series, I will have no part of major college football. How a system can just arbitrarily pick the nation's two best teams and then make them take nearly two months off before playing for the title is beyond me. Simply put, the BCS makes a ton of cash, so it's staying.

Which means I'm staying away.

Gibbs stepping down

Joe Gibbs announced Tuesday that he would be resigning as head coach and team president of the Washington Redskins, following a year that saw the team lose one of its emotional leaders and rally into the playoffs.

Gibbs was 31-36 in his second tour with the Redskins, though he did manage two trips to the postseason, including a win over Tampa Bay in 2006. Washington had to win its last four games this season to get in, a remarkable run following Sean Taylor's death and a coaching gaff from Gibbs against Buffalo, in which he inexplicably called back-to-back timeouts.

No doubt Gibbs has found success in his life -- three Super Bowl rings and three championships in NASCAR's top series. And given his age (67), I don't blame Gibbs for stepping down. I'd imagine this past season wore on him, particularly the last six weeks or so. Keeping a team together following a loss like the one the Redskins had to endure can be draining for anyone, and Gibbs' Hall of Fame credentials have already been stamped.

Who will owner Daniel Snyder hire as the sixth head coach in his tenure? I'm not sure -- some insiders say assistants Al Saunders and Gregg Williams are candidates -- but Snyder will be hard-pressed to find someone with Gibbs' demeanor.

Can You Hear Me Now?

We hear you loud and clear, Roger Clemens ... I'm just not sure I believe you.

You swear up and down former trainer Brian McNamee never injected you with steroids and HGH -- despite his assertions otherwise in the voluminous Mitchell Report a month earlier. And yet ... nothing you tell us or show us is that convincing.

If nothing else, that taped conversation between you and McNamee raises more questions. Why didn't you tell him to tell the truth? Why didn't he contradict you when you told him you never juiced? Why are you bothering with niceties with a guy who apparently has told a horrible lie about you? If it were me, I would've torn him a new one (and no, a defamation lawsuit a month after the fact doesn't count).

And do you really expect me to believe you had no knowledge of Andy Pettitte's HGH use? Please ... you two were best friends, you shared the same trainer and you worked out together. How could you not know?

Unless that mythical third ear grew somewhere other than your forehead.

Such vewhement denials sound nice -- and provide fodder for your most adamant supporters -- but to anyone screaming that Clemens is innocent, I pose the question: what other athletes have offered stern, take-no-prisoners denials with regards to performance-enhancing drug use?

Rafael Palmeiro and Marion Jones. I rest my case.