Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dez, Tebow, TJ and Chucky

On the whole I like the draft on Thursday night. In the end it worked for me. I had some doubts about how it was going to go, but it went really well. There was good energy in the room both in the crowd and on the set.

First off, I think the highlight of the draft was John Gruden. He did a tremendous job all night and after Mel had his say though the first 10 picks or so, Gruden took over. He was first to talk most of the time after a pick and his analysis was very good. He left Kiper waiting to talk and I can’t remember when the last time that happened.

Kiper was his usual self-serving self early on. It is the kind of stuff I think makes everyone roll their eyes when he talks. Gruden was the one who realized it, and took over the show. Had he not, it would have been disaster for ESPN. Chris Berman was off all night. Did Steve Young add anything to the show? And then there was Tom Jackson.

What an embarrassment for ESPN. He made a total jackass of himself, even before the Tim Tebow pick. When Denver took Demaryius Thomas at No. 22, he clearly didn’t like the pick. He was agitated when Ed Werder said the Bronco brass thought he reminded them of Brandon Marshall. His posture was slumping and he clearly needed to step away for a bit.

Unfortunately for ESPN, Denver traded back up and took Tim Tebow. Jackson show his true colors at that point. He was pissed and it showed. He didn’t speak more than two words for the next hour. I have to think ESPN is going to take a hard look at his behavior tonight and think about his future with the network.

As for Tebow, I am glad he was taken in the first round. He may or may not ever be a regular quarterback in the NFL, but I think he is a hell of a football player. The guy broke Emmitt Smith’s career TD rushing record at Florida and Hershel Walker’s rushing touchdown record in the SEC. Think about that for a little bit and let it soak in. He did so much at Florida, I think those two accomplishments have gotten lost in the shuffle.

I got agitated at times when all you heard about from ESPN was Tim Tebow, but I don’t think he deserved all the criticism he has been getting leading up to the draft. I think it has been proven time and time again that nobody knows what makes a good NFL quarterback, so why have so many people been so quick to write Tebow off? There have been a lot of can’t miss guys who have failed miserably. I think he is the type of guy who will be able to step on the field right now in some capacity and help his team win.

As for the Cowboys pick, I love it. Dez Bryant is a guy I talked about in September hoping the Cowboys would have a chance to get. But at the time Bryant looked like a top 10 pick and I certainly hoped Dallas wouldn’t be drafting anywhere near that. I am not at all concerned about “off-field” issues around him. I never agreed with the suspension from the NCAA to begin with.

Bryant has the potential to be a great receiver for a long time in Dallas. Hopefully this spells the beginning of the end for Roy Williams. It just got so hard watching him drop balls left and right. Bryant can step in right now and be a great compliment to Miles Austin (not the other way around Steve Young.)

I had hoped the Cowboys would go safety, but when the opportunity was there to get Bryant, I am glad they did. The best thing is, Taylor Mays is still on the board going to round 2. Dallas picks 27th on Friday, so Mays probably won’t falls to them, but with two fourths, they might be able to make another move to go up and get him. If Dallas could pull Bryant and Mays in this draft, it wouldn’t matter what else happen, it would be a hell of a three days for Dallas.

Edit - 11:38 p.m.

One last thing on the first round. Are the Rams now kicking themselves seeing they could have Clausen to start the second round? I don't think there is a huge difference between Bradford and Clausen. They chose Bradford who I don;t think was a No. 1 pick. Looking at it now, they could have had a guy like Suh and Clausen. You have to think there is some second guessing going on tonight as they prepare for day 2.

The 2010 NFL Draft

I'll be blogging during the draft throughout the night tonight. Probably won't be going pick-by-pick, but just posting some general thoughts as the draft goes prime time for the first time.

I had mixed feelings about the first round moving to Thursday night. I really kind of like getting up and watching on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But then I remembered for the last five years I have always worked on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and can't remember the last time I was able to watch the draft. So maybe this is a pretty good deal. I'll at least get to watch the first round before having to work on Friday and Saturday.

The Rams are now on the clock:

6:40 No. 1 pick - Rams
So Sam Bradford goes No. 1 overall. No real surprise. I don't think I get why the Rams took him No. 1. I was never sold on Sam Bradford. That is a lot to put on a guy who really doesn't have a lot of experience. He seems like a good guy. Just don't know if he is THE guy.

6:43 No. 2 pick - Lions
Suh to the Lions. Congrats. We won't hear from you again until free agency in four years.

6:52 No. 3 pick - Bucs
McCoy to Tampa Bay. He looks very happy about this pick. Good to see a guy who doesn't expect everything coming his way. I think he will do good in Tampa. Can't believe the Bucs were last in the league against the run. They have fallen off hard.

Dallas had a field day against the Bucs through the air in week 1. Romo went for 353. They need some more work I guess.

6:59 No. 4 pick - Redskins
Trent Williams will have the task of pretecting McNabb (which I still think is a good trade). When are teams allowed to start drafting players from other conferences?

7:10 No. 5 pick - Chiefs
Eric Berry is good. Real good. He was a guy I wouldn't have minded the Cowboys jumping up and getting.

7:15 No. 6 pick - Seahawks
Okung from Oklahome State. Again, not a big surprise here. The Cheifs must have thought when Berry told them he played for UT, he was a Longhorn in college. Aren't we just taking Big 12 players tonight?

7:21 p.m.
Does Todd McShay need a step ladder to reach ESPN's fancy new touch screen?

7:23 No. 7 pick - Browns
Joe Haden corner from Florida. How many guys are left in the Green Room. I am ready for some suspense. Every time they cut to a guy on the phone crying, it just takes a little bit out of the commish going to the podium and making an announcement.

7:29 No. 8 pick - Raiders
Ahhh, the Raiders. Nothing like getting a curve from the Raiders in the draft. I guess this started the run on SEC players.

7:31 No. 9 pick - Bills
Spiller. Very nice pick. Bills must have been thinking, no way he falls to us. They wasted no time with that pick. I will have him high on my fantasy board since we get return yards as well.

7:37 No. 10 pick - Jaguars
Alualu to the Jags. I love how just because Mel didn't have a player high on his board, it is a huge reach and a surprising pick. Get over yourself. "Most people had him going at the end of the first." Come on Mel, who else do you listen to other than youself. Don't try to sell us on the fact the Jags were the ONLY team who liked Alualu. If they thought they could have gotten him lower, they would have. Mel is going to make this a long night. I'm begining to rethink prime time is a good deal.

7:46 No. 11 pick - 49ers
Now the draft is about to get interesting. This could be the first of several trades for the next few picks. I just wonder who on the desk at ESPN will be able to keep track of who is now drafting where.

7:57 No. 13 pick - Eagles
Brandon Graham taken to Philly. How long till a Philly fan pukes on him?

8:01 p.m.
News producer to rookie camera man. "We don't think Tim Tebow will get drafted tonight, but we are going to need you to set up across the street from his house and just see what he is doing all night. Welcome to television kid."

8:06 p.m. No. 14 pick - Seahawks
Earl Thomas. I kind of thought he might go a little higher. Another guy I was hoping the Cowboys. Does Taylor Mays fall to 27? For some reason I am locked in on a safety this year.

8:13 No. 15 pick - Giants
Pierre-Paul from South Carolina. Great, another pass rusher for the Giants. Doesn't bother me any. We have been blocking them for years.

All of these linemen are boring me. Time for some sizzle. We haven't seen what Tebow is doing lately. Can I get a cut to his house? Are there even any receivers available this year? The NFL should have waited until there were a few more playmakers before going primetime for the first time.

8:37 No. 20 pick - Houston
Jackson from Alabama. Texans need a good strong corner, this guy might be that. They need someone to stop Manning. The offense seems to be taken care of. Texans need to stop teams.

Finally the quarterback updates. What took so long??? Now I see why Clausen stayed home tonight. He gets to spend draft night with Erin Andrews. Screw New York. I'd take that as well.

8:41 No. 21 pick - Bengals
A tight end goes. The first pass catcher is Gresham, a tight end, not a receiver. When was the last time that happened? Kyle Brady in 1995?

I do have to give credit to ESPN tonight. They have managed to go three hours without mentioning Rothlisberger.

8:46 No. 22 pick - Broncos
Thomas from Georgia Tech. Finally a receiver is gone. If Bryant keeps falling, I am changing my tune on a safety to Dallas.

Is Tom Jackson a Bronco? I can't tell. His is pissed. Dude needs to step off the set for a bit, get a drink and calm down.

8:59 No. 24 pick - Cowboys
Yessssssss. I wanted Safety, but I didn't think Bryant would fall. I love this pick.

9:06 No. 25 pick - Broncos
Tebow. Glad he went in the first round. I think he is going to be a very good NFL player at whatever position he steps on the field in. He had a Bronco hat on pretty quick. I want to know how many different hats he had at his house. I am assuming the NFL game them all to him, because they were the "new draft day hat"

9:31 No. 28 pick - Dolphins
Odrick to the fins. A Penn State guy goes in the first round. Nice to see after seeing all the Penn State first round busts the other day. Hopefull Odrick doesn't fall into that.

The set is starting to get a little heated. Tom Jackson is hard to watch. They need to take him off the set. He has not been part of the show for the last hour

9:55 No. 31 pick - Colts
Hughes from TCU. And we all get reminded of those hideous helmets the Horned Frogs wore. I knew they were going to come back and huant us.

10:04 No. 32 pick - Saints
Drew Brees just plugged Madden. I wonder if the NFL knew he was just going to get free advertising for EA Sports?

First round done in 3 1/2 hours. Going to miss the rest of the draft. Glad I got to see this.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Opening Day to remember

I love college football. Dallas Cowboys dominate Sunday’s in the fall. There is nothing more thrilling than the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. When asked what my favorite sport is, my response is usually ‘what season is it?’

But there is just something a little extra special about Opening Day. No matter what age and what level of baseball, Opening Day always had a special feeling to it. In Little League it was the one game everyone was introduced and ran out on the baselines just like the pros. One year we had Milo Hamilton come out and speak to us on Opening Day.

High school and college baseball all get started in early February. Little League gets going sometime in March and Major League Baseball usually gets going that first week in April. Each celebrates the first day of the season.

In college I made a point to get down to the Dome on Opening Day. If the Astros weren’t home, then I went to the home opener (we also always made it out a day or two later for magnetic calendar night -- very important). The tradition was always the same. It didn’t matter where I was sitting down for the first MLB game of the year, I always had a dog. Sometimes it was a “Dome Dog,” sometimes it was a dog cooked in my kitchen and for the last five years it has been a hot dog at “Fat Boys.”

For 14 years, opening day was also the start of what was to be another championship season for the Atlanta Braves. From 1992 to 2006, the Braves opened the season the same way, by unveiling the championship banner from the previous season. It became old hat. You started to take it for granted.

Opening day was always a great day for the Royals, Orioles, Pirates and Cubs fans, because there was the optimism. “Maybe this is going to be the year.” Opening Day for me was always me laughing at the experts who were predicting this was going to be the year a different team won the East. I knew they were going to be wrong. That was one of the joys of Opening Day. While most people’s season was going to be over by late July, I knew I was going to be rolling strong well into October.

The last few years have been a different story. Things have changed a bit in baseball and the Braves have not been part of the postseason. As a result, Opening Day didn’t have that same luster as in the past. There was no banner being hung at Turner Field. The question being asked now has been, are the Braves going to get back to the playoffs. As good as the Phillies (and Mets to an extent) have been, it was easy to see the answer was probably "no."

Monday however was a little different. No banner was being hung at Turner Field and the Phillies are pretty much considered the best team in the National League. So why did I feel an extra sense of excitement going into Monday? The Braves have had a good spring, but they usually do. No real big free agents came in during the offseason (Billy Wagner is a nice addition, but nothing to get overly excited about). Chipper is coming off a season where his batting average had dropped 100 points from the season before.

But I was really looking forward to the game against the Cubs. It didn’t take long to figure out why I was so excited. It was the arrival of Jason Heyward. He has been the story of the spring for the Braves. The can’t miss prospect who had played just 50 games above the Class A level. While I liked everything I had read about him, it was something that happened on August 7 of last year that had me excited about this season. I was at Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville, Ala. watching my third AA game in three nights. The Mississippi Braves were in town and we were sitting behind home plate. I had a great view of an absolute mammoth shot by Heyward. He hit a ball that I think landed sometime last week. He was just 19 at the time, but you could tell he was going to be a special player.

Heyward isn’t the reason I was watching the Monday afternoon game. I would have been watching because it was Opening Day. Heyward might be the reason I left work at 2 p.m. on Monday to be home by 3 so I could watch the game on my TV sitting on my couch.

When the lineup was announced, I was a little upset when I saw he was hitting in the seven-hole. Unless the Braves had a good first inning I was going to have to wait until the second to see him make his Major League debut. Well the Braves did have a good first inning, and Heyward got that chance to hit in the first. I think because the Braves scored three in the opening frame before his at bat, was actually good for him. He didn’t have time to think about the moment. He just stepped in the box and on the third pitch took a hack.

I had the windows open in the house and I think I could hear the Turner Field crowd roar from 800 miles away. At the very least, I know my neighbors could hear me. Replays where you could hear the fans chanting “Let’s go Heyward” just moments before connecting on a three-run bomb, gave me chills. I wrote one time about “the noise.” A moment in a game that gets the crowd and atmosphere in general to create a noise that "might swim in your ear canals and rustle your soul and electrify your skin and maybe even prolong your life." This was one of those moments.

Yes, there are still 161 more games to go, and the Braves are probably an outside shot at making the playoffs. But this season already seems to have a little more energy, a little more life. I am not going to go Cub fan on you and say that this is our year, but if the rest of the team can feed off the youthful exuberance of a 20-year old in the clubhouse who performed like a seasoned vet on opening day … maybe.