Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Henry and Glenn Most Underrated Cornerbacks

ESPN’s “Football Scientist” KC Joyner (no relation) says that two Dallas Cowboys lead the list of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL.

One of the things I enjoy most is cutting through this kind of subjective analysis. It is in this frame of mind that I present my list of the five most overrated and underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. Keep in mind these are not necessarily the best or worst players at this position. These are simply the players whose reputations don’t match their performance level.


1. Anthony Henry, Dallas Cowboys — Henry’s reputation suffers from being lined up opposite Terence Newman, but his metrics are actually better than Newman’s (6.5 yards per attempt for Henry versus 7.8 for Newman). Henry’s metrics are even more impressive when you realize he is targeted nearly twice as often as Newman (75 pass attempts thrown at Henry to 44 for Newman).

Opposing teams have been testing Henry on deep passes of late, throwing 12 deep balls at him in the past five games, but he has allowed only four successful plays out of those 12 (two completions and two pass interference penalties).

2. Aaron Glenn, Dallas Cowboys — Glenn is the Cowboys’ nickel back, so he doesn’t have as many passes thrown to him as Henry or Newman, but his 5.3 YPA indicates he might be the best nickel back in the league. Bill Parcells says he has so much faith in Glenn he believes there would be no drop-off if Glenn had to fill in for either Henry or Newman.

As a Cowboys fan, I was frustrated earlier in the season when these guys were giving up big plays. Still, as has been pointed out recently, recent rules changes have all but ended the days of the shut-down corner. And, certainly, the combination of Newman, Henry, and Glenn is one of the league’s best.


Houstan Texans Look at Sprinter Justin Gatlin

Leaving no stone unturned in looking for potential talent, the Houstan Texas are taking a look a sprinter Justin Gatlin.

The Houston Texans worked out the world’s fastest man, Justin Gatlin, on Tuesday but that doesn’t mean he’s making a fast entrance into the NFL. The Texans didn’t make a big deal out of the Tuesday visit. They looked at Gatlin like they did with two other receivers — Kevin McMahan of Maine and Jovan Witherspoon of Central Michigan. NFL teams usually bring in players for Tuesday workouts while the 53 players on the regular roster take a day off.

The only difference in this workout was the name recognition of Gatlin, the 100-meter gold medal winner in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Gatlin holds the world record for running the 100 meters in 9.76 seconds. In April, he tested positive for the banned substance testosterone and accepted an eight-year ban from track and field.

Though the Texans wouldn’t be willing to sign him for this season, they are one of the first NFL teams to look at him for future contracts, which teams can start signing in late December.

The reason for the slow reaction by NFL teams to Gatlin’s availability is his lack of football experience. At the University of Tennessee he ran track instead of playing football. He hadn’t played football since 10th grade.

That’s likely to be a problem. That he’s a dirty cheater apparently is not. Still, they say you can’t coach speed.


Bama Taking Time in Coaching Search

While Alabama was in a hurry to fire Mike Shula, they’re apparently taking their time in finding his replacement.

The process of finding Alabama’s next football coach is in motion and school officials are setting sights on targets. That includes South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who is a viable candidate at this point, according to sources familiar with the search process. But sources are also stressing that the search will be a tedious process that will be conducted without close attention to the calendar. The emphasis is finding the right coach to replace Mike Shula – even it if takes perhaps as long as two weeks.

Bottom line, though, is that the early stages of the search hasn’t narrowed the field of candidates. Various sources said Tuesday that targets still include Spurrier, Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and possibly Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.


Spurrier and Saban, obviously, are the two most electrifying names on the list. Each has won a national championship – Spurrier at Florida in 1996, Saban at LSU in 2003 – and each has carved a reputation as being among the nation’s best coaches.

Spurrier is in his second season at South Carolina, where he has led the Gamecocks to back-to-back seven-win seasons. But he has expressed frustration at times with South Carolina fans, chastising fans after a 24-17 loss to Auburn for applauding the team’s effort in defeat. Fans should not be happy with a near-upset, Spurrier said at the time. One possible drawback to Spurrier may well be his age. He will be 62 by next season.


Rodriguez is another strong candidate, sources said Tuesday. Beyond Spurrier and Saban, he perhaps most closely meets Moore’s criteria of hiring a proven championship head coach. While Rodriguez has also received early feelers from Alabama, he is also expected to be contacted for more extensive talks. West Virginia ends its regular season Saturday against Rutgers.

Rodriguez has led the Mountaineers to three straight Big East Conference titles and had West Virginia in position for an at-large BCS invitation until last Saturday’s 24-19 upset loss to South Florida. Rodriguez is 93-60-2 as a head coach, including stops at Salem and Glenville State. As the coach at his alma mater West Virginia, Rodriguez is 47-24 and is considered an innovator in the spread offense. He led the Mountaineers to an 11-1 record last season, including a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.


Issuing statements of non-interest in the Alabama job on Tuesday were Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. Also considered possible candidates are Jim Grobe at Wake Forest and Paul Johnson at Navy.

This early in the process, two weeks is plenty of time. The only vacancy of comparable stature is Miami’s and there are plenty of great candidates out there.


No Offers for Glavine

David O’Brien reports that no offers have yet been made for the services of Tom Glavine, increasing the likelihood he’ll re-sign with the Mets.

Tom Glavine wants to rejoin the Braves and the Braves want the 40-year-old left-hander back in their starting rotation. But as of late Tuesday, a signing seemed far from imminent — in fact, there was reason to doubt if it would happen at all. First and foremost, the Braves still had not made an offer to Glavine. “There’s been a few very pleasant conversations with the Braves, who have expressed interest in having Tommy back,” agent Gregg Clifton said near midnight, “but as of now, no formal discussions about any terms that the Braves would be wiling to offer Tom for him to return.”

Clifton said there have been no offers made yet by either the Braves or the Mets, who are awaiting word from Glavine as to what he wants to do _ return to the Mets or go back to the Braves. Time is becoming a factor with Glavine, who assured the Mets he would give them an answer before the Dec. 4-7 winter meetings in Orlando, where the Mets would presumably begin an all-out push for Barry Zito and/or another marquee pitcher if Glavine, a former two-time Cy Young Award winner who has 290 career regular-season wins, doesn’t return to New York.


Despite his desire to return to the Braves and their desire to improve their pitching staff, it still seemed completely up in the air whether he would pitch for the Braves in 2007 or return for a fifth season with the New York Mets. He has said repeatedly it’ll be one or the other, which would eliminate the opportunity to create a bidding war by bringing in other teams.

The Mets haven’t made an offer because they’re waiting for Glavine to tell them whether he wants back with the Braves. I’d be surprised if the Mets offered him anything less than a two-year deal similar to the one Mike Mussina just got from Yanks ($23 mill for two years).

If the Braves don’t make a competitive offer, and soon, it may quickly become less likely he’ll be back with Atlanta.

Given their limited payroll, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Braves to pay that kind of money for a 41-year-old starting pitching. Still, it’d be nice to have Glavine back and, presumably, have him get his 300th win in a Braves uniform.


Should NBC Sports fire George O’Leary Johnny Miller?

If anyone doesn’t know who George O’Leary is, here is a reminder.

In 2001, O’Leary left Georgia Tech to take over as the head coach for the University of Notre Dame. Five days later, O’Leary resigned after he was discovered to have lied on his resume. On the resume, O’Leary claimed that he had earned a master’s degree from New York University when in actuality, he only attended the school but never graduated. He also claimed that he had earned three letters in football at the University of New Hampshire, when the school claimed he had not even played in one game.

O’Leary is still a Division I head football Coach. He is presently working at the University of Central Florida.

A few months ago I blogged about golfer and NBC announcer Johnny Miller and his recent book. Miller’s book ‘I call the shots’ is full of mistakes. Here’s a re-cap.

1- Lee Janzen won the 1993 US Open not 1994
2- Sevriano Ballesteros won 6 not 3 US PGA Tour titles.
3- Ed Fiori did not beat Tiger Woods in a playoff at the 1996 Quad Cities tournament. Woods finished fourth.
4- Valderama has NOT hosted ’several’ Ryder Cups. It hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup only.
5- Tiger Woods is said to have shot 16 under for the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. Woods shot 12 under, its even stated he did so on the previous page!
6- Ernie Els bogeied the first hole of the 1994 US Open Playoff, not make a par. Miller compounds this mistake by saying Els who got a drop on that hole may have been helped by this ‘par’.
7- Annika Sorenstam was tied for the lead not one shot back when teeing off 18 at the 2003 US Open.
8- Craig Stadler’s disqualification for kneeling on a towel in a San Diego tournament happened in 1987 not 1983.
9- Ray Floyd lost the 1990 not 1989 Masters in a playoff to Nick Faldo.
10- Gary Player’s first major championship was the 1959 British Open not the 1959 Masters.
11- Tom Watson won five British Opens(75,77,80, 82, 83) not six
12- Jack Nicklaus started the final round of 1986 Masters 4 back, not 6 back.
13- Tom Watson did not win 2 AT&T championships at Pebble Beach. The tournament was the Bing Crosby Pro-am and not sponsored by AT&T when Watson won there in 1977 and 1978.

Since writing that I’ve found six more mistakes in the book. The worst of which is on page 224 where Miller writes-

“I also won the San Francisco City Championship, the biggest local amateur tournament there was.”

Unfortunately history says otherwise.

1956 Ken Venturi
1957 Tal Smith
1958 Bill McCool Angie Vote
1959 Bob Sylvestri Dorothy Stamps
1960 Bob Sylvestri Linda Collins
1961 Verne Callison Jane Thomas
1962 Tom Dixon Jan Ferraris
1963 George Archer Jan Ferraris
1964 Ken Towns Jan Ferraris
1965 Walt Gilliam Jan Ferraris
1966 Larry Anderson Marie Strand
1967 Bob E. Smith Linda Collins Maurer

So in addition to Miller putting his name on a journalistic fraud, he is now a liar too. George O’Leary got fired at Notre Dame for doing much the same thing. Does Johnny Miller deserve the same fate?


Brett Favre’s Consecutive Starts Streak

Rick Gosselin, writing before this weekend’s games, noted how impressive Brett Favre’s consistency has been:

Since Sept. 27, 1992, the Green Bay Packers have posted the best record in the NFL at 143-88. That was the day Brett Favre made his first NFL start at quarterback – and Favre has started all 230 of the Packers’ games since then.


Let’s put Favre’s 15 years of perfect attendance in perspective. Chicago has started 20 quarterbacks since September 1992. Houston has started the second-fewest – three – but the Texans have only been around since 2002.

Here’s a complete list (again, this was posted Saturday, before the Sunday and Monday games):

The number of quarterbacks each team has started in its last 231 games:

Team QBs
Chicago 20
Arizona 17
Washington 17
New Orleans 16
Cleveland 15
Cowboys 15
Detroit 15
Baltimore 14
Miami 14
NY Jets 14
Oakland 14
St. Louis 14
Atlanta 13
San Diego 13
Cincinnati 12
Denver 12
Philadelphia 12
Seattle 12
Tennessee 12
Minnesota 11
Tampa Bay 11
San Francisco 10
Buffalo 9
Indianapolis 9
Jacksonville 9
NY Giants 9
Pittsburgh 9
Carolina 8
Kansas City 8
New England 7
Houston 3
Green Bay 1
Total 375


Pirates Pursuing Jeff Suppan – Wait, WHAT? The PIRATES?!?

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports:

The Pirates are among a dozen teams pursuing free agent Jeff Suppan, the St. Louis Cardinals’ best pitcher during their run to the World Series.

“There are a lot of teams reaching out, a tremendous amount of interest in Jeff,” Suppan’s agent, Scott Leventhal, said yesterday. “And Pittsburgh is one of those teams.”

That might surprise some, given that Suppan should command an annual salary in the range of $8 million-$9 million over a span of three or four years. But the Pirates have roughly $14 million to spend this off season, a figure that would rise to $17 million if they sever ties with Shawn Chacon, another right-handed starter.

Yes, that DOES surprise me. This is the first good free agent I’ve heard the Pirates name associated with in YEARS. Pittsburgh just hasn’t gone after any big names at all: the only money they have spent has been on some of their home grown talent (i.e. Jason Bay). However, this may signal a good change in the front office – the willingness to spend money to make the team better. A good farm system is vital, but that needs to be augmented with a good free agent on occasion – you just aren’t going to develop everything you will need.

Is this a sign that the Pirates are finally developing a team to be competitive? I sure hope so.


Jerome Bettis’ Father Johnie Dies of Heart Attack

Via Yahoo News:

Johnnie Bettis, the father of retired NFL running back Jerome Bettis, died Tuesday at a suburban Detroit hospital of an apparent heart attack, police said.

Johnnie Bettis, 61, of Detroit, was stricken while driving in a suburb north of the city around noon, police Lt. Carl Fuhs said.

“He apparently felt it coming on,” Fuhs said. “He was able to pull his vehicle off to the side of the road and stop it, which probably saved injury if not another person’s death. That’s a very busy two-lane road.”

Sad – he brought up a good kid. Shame he won’t be around to see Bettis make the Hall of Fame.

I particularly like this detail about the Bettis family:

When their son offered to buy them a new home, the Bettises spurned the suburbs and moved about six miles to a house on the city’s west side, trying to lead a normal life.

“When Jerome found out we were going to the laundromat, he said that wasn’t acceptable and told us to go get a new washer and dryer,” Johnnie Bettis said a few days before the Super Bowl. “But I kind of liked the laundromat because you get to meet so many interesting people.”

I love these down to earth types of people. With a father like that, you can see why Jerome Bettis was among the better guys in the NFL.


College Football Coach Job Application

DJ Gallo has written a quiz to weed out potentially bad college football coaches for ESPN’s Page 2. Some sample questions:

Are you available to work on Saturdays?
Yes / No (circle one)


Have you ever been convicted of a felony, associated with known felons or coached at Miami?
Yes / No (circle one)


What is your expected annual salary?
a) Approximately double the budget of the university’s arts program
b) I am flexible, but it must have at least six zeroes in it
c) I’m so good you can’t afford me. Or can you? I suppose the ball is in your court.


A bad hire says “what”?
What / I’m not a bad hire (circle one)

Job-Specific Questions

Imagine an official has mistakenly called holding on your team. Use the space below to tell him he was wrong in less than 50 words, but at least 35 of the words must be profanities.


You make a visit to the home of a highly touted recruit. The first question the recruit asks you is about the quality of your school’s academics. How would you respond?
a) Tell him the school’s academics are among the best in the nation
b) Immediately cross the recruit off of your list because he obviously has his priorities way out of whack
c) All of the above

A high school All-American you have signed is arrested on several felony charges. How would you respond?
a) Immediately withdraw his scholarship offer
b) Say that his arrest is simply proof that he desperately needs the structure and support of your program
c) Say that you will place him on a tight “three felonies and you’re out” leash during his freshman year
d) Both b and c

Same question — but the arrested player is a marginal, low-level recruit instead of a high school All-American. How would you respond?
a) Withdraw his scholarship and say your program cannot put up with such behavior
b) Say your program cannot put up with such behavior and withdraw his scholarship

You see a player from a poor background driving around campus in a $50,000 SUV while wearing thousands of dollars of jewelry. How would you respond?
a) Immediately launch an internal investigation of your program to determine who is giving money to your players
b) Do nothing and try to convince yourself that the player simply must have learned some creative legal and ethical ways to make money in his Economics 101 class

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
a) trying to save my job by getting fan and alumni support for a second five-year plan
b) parlaying any success I’ve had here into a higher-paying job with a more prestigious program
c) being in over my head as an NFL head coach

What will be your first task as head coach if you are hired — outside of the obvious one of immediately purchasing the Web domain www.Fire[yourname].com so fans can’t start up an anti-you Web site?

A potentially useful tool.


Candidates for Alabama Football Coach has compiled a list of leading candidates to replace Mike Shula as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

Frank Beamer Name – Frank Beamer
Age – 60
Current position – Virgina Tech 1987-present
Overall record – 146-79-2
Career highlights – 9 coach of the year awards / 4 conf titles

Jim Grobe Name – Jim Grobe
Age – 54
Current position – Wake Forest 2001-present
Overall record – 34-33

Career highlights – 1 acc title game

Paul Johnson Name – Paul Johnson

Age – 49
Current position – Navy 2002-present

Overall record – 28-21
Career highlights – 3 bowl games / coach of the year

Houston Nutt Name – Houston Nutt

Age – 49

Current position – Arkansas 1998-present
Overall record – 63-47
Career highlights – 1998 coach of the year / 6 bowl games / 2 sec divison titles

Bobby Petrino Name – Bobby Petrino

Age – 45
Current position – Louisville 2003-present
Overall record – 39-9
Career highlights – 1 bowl win / Conference USA title / highest ranking in school history

Rich Rodriguez Name – Rich Rodriguez
Age – 43
Current position – West Virgina 2001-present
Overall record – 45-22

Career highlights – 3 shares of Big East title / BCS bowl / Highest rank in school history

Nick Saban Name – Nick Saban
Age – 55
Current position – Miami Dolphins 2005-present

Overall record (college) 91-40-1
Career highlights – 9 bowls / 1 national title

Greg Schiano Name – Greg Schiano
Age – 40

Current position – Rutgers 2000-present
Overall record – 19-39
Career highlights – 1 bowl game / Highest rank in school history

Steve Spurrier Name – Steve Spurrier

Age – 61
Current position – South Carolina 2005-present
Overall record – 156-52-2
Career highlights – 1 national title / 7 conf titles

Jeff Tedford Name – Jeff Tedford

Age – 45
Current position – California 2002-present
Overall record – 33-17

Career highlights – 3 bowl games / pac 10 coach of the year

I think we can safely rule out Saban–this would be a step down for him–and it’s also pretty unlikely Spurrier would be interested. Both have publicly denied any interest in the job:

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who won a national championship at LSU in 2003, would fit that criteria. But he flatly denied any interest in the Crimson Tide job while speaking to reporters in Miami following Monday’s practice. “No, I haven’t,” Saban said when asked if he had been contacted by Alabama. “I don’t care to be. I don’t want to be. I have a job to do here. My focus is on our players, this team, us getting better and us playing good, winning football here.

“I had a good college job, so why would I have left that if I would be interested in another college job?”

In fact, Saban said Alabama should not have dismissed Shula, who was 26-23 in four seasons at Alabama. “I’m not interested in any other circumstances or situations anyplace else,” Saban said. “Mike Shula is a good guy. He’s a friend. I hate to see anybody not be able to maintain. I think he’s done a good job there and should have been given an opportunity to stay there.”

Another popular candidate with fans, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, issued a Saban-like statement Monday distancing himself from the Tide search. The statement was released by the USC sports information office, which also said Spurrier was on a recruiting trip in Florida. “I have no intention of leaving South Carolina,” said Spurrier, who guided Florida to the 1996 national championship. “It’s always flattering when a South Carolina coach is rumored for these big-time programs. This one will die down in two or three days, too.”

Beyond Saban and Spurrier, possible candidates include Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Navy coach Paul Johnson, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

I can’t imagine Beamer would be interested, either. Virginia Tech has been a more successful program than Alabama of late and he has built a legacy there.

Petrino and Johnson, especially, seem like good possibilities. They’re young guys, proven winners, and Alabama would be a legitimate step up the ladder.


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