Archive for January, 2008

The wait is almost over
January 28, 2008

It seems more and more likely, imminent even, that the Orioles will send Erik Bedard to the Mariners for a host of prospects headlined by Adam Jones.

Losing your best pitcher, the only home grown ace on staff since Mike Mussina, can’t help but sting for everyone that works for or roots for the Orioles. Especially since we only saw the tip of his likely greatness. A two month stretch last season in which he dominated more than any other pitcher in baseball. The Canadian Kid tossed a freaking 2-hit shut out in which he faced the minimum.

But what else can Andy MacPhail do? He has no depth on the major league roster, and little in the minors. The Orioles are a player or two or eight away. They need a total makeover franchise edition. This is how its done.

It will hurt. The next two years might actually see fewer wins than the embarrassing total of 69 from 2007.

The Bedard trade will unclog the traffic jam out of Baltimore. Brian Roberts will be next to go. And if anyone will have them, expect to see Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and maybe even Kevin Millar ride out of town too.

After the carnage is complete, we may then start the judging. Can Andy MacPhail accomplish what he did in Minnesota? I can barely fathom how far down this franchise will plummet if so. Because yes, it can get worse. Just take a look at Kansas City.

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Right for Once?
January 24, 2008

I like to make predictions. I also like to sing, play poker, and practice internet sarcasm. Glad my parents at least have the latter about which to be proud.

To prove the point, how about this take on the the Patriots trading for Randy Moss.

Whoops.

Anyway, every once in a while the sun shines in my direction, witness some preseason thoughts on the Terps Men’s Basketball Team. Granted, the progress comes a month early, but it is here.

Oh, they went through some rough patches all right. After back to back home losses to Ohio and American I nearly wept at my ineptitude to see a team’s potential (or maybe it was my two year old twins using my stomach as a trampoline). Regardless, the chances for a dramatic turnaround looked grim.

Then it happened. A few bright spots to start January followed by the biggest upset of the entire college basketball season to date: knocking off top ranked and undefeated North Carolina at home.

As for big picture relevance, the victory might mean little. The Terps still have an RPI rating in the 80’s and enough bad losses to make the NCAA Tourney selection committee get all Simon Cowell on Gary’s Gang.

But winning on Tobacco Road provides an amazing boost in confidence, not just for the gaggle of freshmen that earn plenty of playing time, but more importantly this season, for the veterans.

James Gist had to have a game like that. The senior forward is too talented, too experienced to throw up some of the clunkers amassed this season. He reminded everyone in college basketball why he earned a few comparisons to Len Bias as a freshman.

Same for Bumbale Osby and Greivis Vasquez. They hadn’t executed that well against a quality opponent since the win at Duke last February.

And the impact on the freshmen? Titanic. When you get that first nationally relevant win that lands the cover of ESPN.com for 24 hours, it validates choosing Maryland in the first place. How much simpler is it for Gary Williams to preach in practice when he can point out “See? It works”.

The chances for a repeat performance Sunday against Duke though seem slim. The Blue Devils pose very different problems than did the Tar Heels. They shoot the ball so much better and play at a slower pace. When Carolina continued to run all game long it demonstrated a refusal to recognize that simply fed the Terps game plan.

Another knock for Sunday, no chance Mike Krzyzewski allows Duke to look past the Terps as did their neighbors to the west. The Blue Devils come to Comcast Center fully prised of the Terps abilities and confidence.

No matter though. The groundwork for expectations has now been laid with more than preseason suppositions. The Terps have a real win under their belts and take the court Sunday with a chance for another.

The Harbaughs come to town
January 19, 2008

John Harbaugh is the Ravens head coach, but it feels like Steve Bisciotti hired the whole Harbaugh family.

His dad Jack coached for 41 years in the college ranks, winning a national title with Western Kentucky.

His brother Jim is the best known with a 15 year career in the NFL and now as head coach at Stanford. His first year with the Cardinal saw upsets over USC and Cal.

Another resource for John in the family comes from Tom Crean, the head men’s basketball coach at Marquette. Crean has a Final Four under his belt.

All of that success at running teams has to be a big part of why Bisciotti would take a gamble on an unproven head coach. Bisciotti seemed to revel in hiring a guy that was off most everyone’s radar, claiming he’s made a pretty good living off hiring guys with thin resumes.

Do the Harbaugh coaches really make up for never having had to make real time game decisions? Doubtful, but John Harbaugh strikes as someone who’s smart, but not brilliant. He won’t get bogged down by the minutiae of every decision as we witness from Brian Billick over the years. You get eight seconds to make a decision, he’ll make it. Now we just have to wait and see if enough of the decisions prove correct.

The Harbaugh Era Begins Now
January 18, 2008

John Harbaugh was hired as the Ravens head coach at 5:35 this evening. Baltimore puts its faith in a nine year NFL assistant with no head coaching experience at any level. But Harbaugh is charismatic, enthusiastic, but no nonsense. I’ve been told he’s not the type to put up with any shenanigans.

Andy Reid was very enthusiastic about promoting Harbaugh for a job, and makes the same leap Reid made when hired by Philadelphia, from a position coach to head coach.

Harbaugh however has to deal with the fact he wasn’t the Ravens first choice. But judging by the way he’s handled everything else in his career, the former Miami of Ohio Redhawk won’t let that bother him.

Search Continues
January 18, 2008

The Ravens are meeting right now with Eagles assistant coach John Harbaugh. It’s the 2nd interview for Harbaugh with the Ravens, the first of which went very well. Harbaugh arrived at headquarters around 10:00 AM with the intererview expected to run through the afternoon.

Garrett’s Gaff
January 17, 2008

Jason Garrett turned down the Ravens to stay offensive coordinator in Dallas. That alone has to hurt the Ravens pride. But then to learn he likely only used your opening as leverage to stay with the Cowboys for more money, and the term seething comes to mind here in Owings Mills.

Garrett said in his press conference with the Dallas media today that he really made up his mind Monday while meeting with the Cowboys offense. For those keeping a time table, that’s the day before he travelled to Baltimore for a 2nd interview in which he “pondered” accepting the Ravens offer to coach.

Garrett used the Ravens plain and simple, and frankly the front office here should have seen it coming. He’s not a seasoned player in these kinds of games. Recognizing that Jerry Jones would do whatever he could to keep him (especially after Tony Sparano left for Miami) was a must for Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, and Ozzie Newsome.

That miscalculation sends the Ravens back to square one with no slam dunk candidate lying in wait as plan B. John Harbaugh has the charisma and charm they seek, but with not even coordinator experience he would be a huge risk. Brian Schottenheimer has more experience, but his resume of leading an offense ranked worse than the Ravens wouldn’t exactly thrill fans in Baltimore. “Yes, we got rid of Brian Billick for continued failure to score points, and replace him with someone who scored less. You got a problem with that?”

That leads us to Brian’s Dad. He has the resume and clout to change the things in a locker room that needs changing, but how long could you realistically expect Marty Schottenheimer to stick around? He’s 64 years old. Not to offend our AARP crowd, but a ten year run hardly seems likely.

So wow, what an indictment of Brian Billick. With his firing and the preceding coaching search that leaves nobody thinking a great answer can be found, the Ravens have made it clear. Their next coach needs just one quality. Don’t be Brian Billick.

How could we be so wrong?
January 14, 2008

e-mail Pete

Norv Turner? The Norv Turner? He’s 2-0 in the playoffs this season, riding an eight game win streak, with the same team that couldn’t win a playoff game despite the best record in the NFL last season? That Norv Turner?

The term Norvulous takes on a whole new meaning. How could a guy that struggled so badly as a head coach in two different stints turn into a clutch post season leader?

And don’t forget, his Chargers started the season 1-3 making him less popular in Southern California than wildfires and mud slides, just ahead of earthquakes.

One more who’d a thunk it. His quarterback has the maturity of a trust fund teenager planning her 16th birthday party with an MTV production crew in tow.

Yet here they are, the Chargers, in the AFC Title game

I have no insight as to how they turned things around with a coach sporting a 71-87-1 record (greatly improved by a 13-5 mark this season). I just can’t believe it.

Speaking of can’t believe.

I’m torn between thinking Terrell Owens should have gotten one of those Golden Globes and wondering if there’s a true imbalance. But what was not on the youtube clip, a follow up question about his relationship with Tony Romo, is it the best he’s ever had with a quarterback. That’s when Owens responded that he’s had great relationships with all his quarterbacks, that he always had their backs.

Somewhere Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia are still snorting milk out of their noses.

Ravens and Terps, nothing in common right now except this post
January 11, 2008

e-mail Pete

Nearly two weeks into the Ravens search to replace Brian Billick and we know as much as we did two weeks ago. The list of candidates really hasn’t changed and no real front runner has emerged, at least not publicly.

That’s how the Ravens operate. We aren’t going to know who they like or don’t until Steve Bisciotti stands at the podium introducing his new coach. I’d only get concerned if we’ve hit mid-February and the Ravens P.R. staff sends out an e-mail saying the process continues as several new candidates are set for interviews. Then we line up with pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.

We ventured to College Park earlier this week for a routine press meeting with Gary Williams and a few of his players. With the Terps coming off a nearly blown victory at Charlotte, combined with losses to American and Ohio universities already, I was beyond curious to gauge the mood of Coach Williams. He’s been known to bite the heads off of reporters during ten game win streaks, so this had the potential for something interesting.

What I found was a relaxed, upbeat, engaging Gary Williams. He didn’t mind discussing what had gone wrong this season and never got defensive. His only mini-diatribe came against CBS. He feels the network promotes March Madness so early and exclusively that it ignores a great regular season.

I’m not sure what to make of an anti-surly Gary but why not hazard a guess huh? I think he knows his team has talent, but too much of the depth comes from kids that just aren’t ready for prime time. He believes the future is great and so suffering through a tough season won’t matter in the big picture. He also has very likeable, pleasant, hard working kids. After a five year run in which his group of core players tested the patience of anyone that had anything to do with Terps basketball, the current kids are worth the wait.

That said, an RPI rating 65 spots below that of UMBC doesn’t sit well with anyone connected to College Park.

Because 2007 needed just one more story
January 1, 2008

Brian Billick won 18 more games than he lost over nine seasons with the Ravens, did so with character, flair, arrogance and integrity..

We always like to paint people and things as good or bad, but rarely is anything so black and white. Brian Billick did a lot better than most, like explain even the most ridiculous play call in a way that makes sense. Few have that ability.

Every Monday he stood there resolute to the task of winning the next game no matter how bleak the season. I was continually amazed at how he could stand there believing his team had a chance when we knew it had none.

Who’s fault was that? Steve Bisciotti believed it was Brian’s and that’s all that matters. He fired the coach today saying that now they begin the process of finding somebody new.

Of course, they already have a plan we just don’t know what it is. Credit the franchise, they tend not to make rash decisions without accounting for the future. Rex Ryan will get an interview, but it would be tough to see him promoted here. The players love him, but as their coordinator. It’s a whole different world as head coach and tends to work better when you walk in without the relationships already intact.

Personally, I’ll miss Brian. He was a stand up guy that gave the same amount of time to someone like me that he barely knew as a long time beat writer. If you asked a stupid question he acknowledged it, sometimes in brutal fashion. But ultimately he never shied away from backing his decisions, and he did not throw players under the bus.

It’s a little ironic that one of criticisms of Billick over the years was that he took it too easy on players, when it seems the players dissatisfaction with the coach helped show him the door.