Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Won’t Name Coach Until After Super Bowl

Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones is keeping us in suspense a little longer on the coaching search, saying he won’t announce a selection until after Sunday’s Super Bowl and hinting that he might continue to interview candidates.

DMN’s Calvin Watkins reports that “Jones said he hasn’t ruled out any of the eight candidates he’s interviewed for the position, vacated when Bill Parcells retired last week.”

“Bill’s leaving was a surprise,” Jones said in the lobby of the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters. “But as it should be, I have things in my desk drawer and things in my back pocket that should prepare you in case somebody gets hit by a car so to speak.”


“I’m very pleased with what we’ve done,” Jones said. “The work we’re doing, the time that I’m spending with these candidates is as it should be. We got a good football team and I’ve got to get this right. We’ve got to make a good decision when we select the next coach.”


“I feel very good,” Jones said of the process. “We spent a lot of time, and I know our fans expect me to. We spent a lot of time in each interview. I’ve been very thorough and they’ve been very thorough with me. I like good feed back when I’m talking to an individual about where he’s been and where he’s going.”

Speculation centers on Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, neither of whom would be available for interviews until after the big game.

Norv Turner, who is still considered by Dallas beat writers to be the odds-on favorite for the job, reportedly told Jones he would love to hire Rivera, whose contract is expiring, away from the Bears to serve as his coordinator. For his part, Rivera has openly acknowledged he would love to be considered for the Cowboys head coaching gig.

At this point, it makes sense for Jones to take a few days and explore his options. There are no other head coaching vacancies and the long delays have already led to the bolting of most of Bill Parcells’ assistants to other teams.


Austin Croshere – Scoring Machine

Poor Bob Hill. The Seattle Supersonics coach draws up a game plan that tries to contain Dirk, force Jason Terry into situations where is uncomfortable and hope that the Sonics could take advantage of Josh Howard’s absence from the team only to get beat by a bench warmer who had only played 27 minutes the entire month of January. I wonder if Austin Croshere, who clocked in nearly 24 minutes against Seattle on Tuesday night, was even mentioned in the pregame meetings.

Croshere, who normally doesn’t get off the bench enough to score more than a basket or maybe some free throws, scored a career high 34 points in an incredible display of scoring prowess. In his first seven minutes of play Croshere scored 11 points. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Croshere went on to have the second highest points-to-minute ratio in Mavericks history.


Cowboy Coaching Search

Brian Wilmer, one of the writers of the Writer’s Radio network and friend of OTB Sports, discussed in the live net cast of the radio show the Cowboys coach search. In particular Brian pointed to this article.

This year Jones interviewed Cowboys secondary coach Todd Bowles, an African-American, in what some are calling simply a cursory interview before talking to his favored candidates, Norv Turner and Wade Phillips. Pro Football Talk is speculating that the league could change the rule to force teams to interview at least one minority candidate from outside the organization.

Combine that with today’s report in The Dallas Morning News that the Cowboys have no African-Americans in their front office hierarchy, and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that this could become a significant problem for Jones. Of course, there’s one way he could put any controversy to rest: Hire Bowles as the Cowboys’ next head coach.

While no doubt Michael David Smith of AOL sports probably means well, his suggestion that the Cowboys should hire Todd Bowles on the basis of race is just as discriminatory as not hiring Todd Bowles on the basis of race. The comments section at least notes the inherent discrimination of Smith’s suggestion.

These writer’s who spend too much time dreaming up grievances are not doing their job. Their job is to cover sports. Not the hiring practices of various sports franchises. Are those legitimate lines of inquiry? Sure, for the news section, or the Op-Ed page. The Sports pages were once about the nature of the games not the nature of society. They should be again.


Baseball Hall of Fame Nonsense

Bob Ryan, the Dean of Boston scribes, is shocked, shocked, that some members of the BBWAA, the organization that votes for players to be included in the Baseball Hall of Fame would not consider Cal Ripken Jr., and Tony Gwynn as obvious members of the Hall of Fame.

I am currently carrying card No. 151 in the Baseball Writers Association of America. Yes, I voted in the most recent Hall of Fame election. And, yes, I am deeply ashamed because, once again, two obvious candidates were denied the honor of being a unanimous choice of the voting body to receive baseball’s highest honor. What if someone actually thought I were one of the eight who didn’t deem Cal a legit Hall of Famer or the 13 who didn’t think Gwynn had done enough to get in? I may not leave the house without a bag over my head.

Ryan acknowledges the fault in the balloting system, and shines a bright light on the biggest issue facing Baseball’s shrine of legends. It’s not Pete Rose. It’s not Mark McGwire and the players of the so-called steroid era. It is the method of selecting Hall of Famers, and the poisoned pens that use the ballot not to elect players to the Hall, but instead to make a point about this that or the other thing that is right, wrong or needs to be fixed in baseball. As written previously, the pretensions of sports writers reflect a moral preening that is as ridiculous as it is phony.

Sports writers work in the press boxes and the clubhouses. They have sources who tell them things that teams and players don’t want to come out. A number of them are equal in the complicity of the steroids scandal. As are the television networks Fox and ESPN, who paid baseball billions to broadcast the games. When sports writers and television pundits say that “baseball” turned a blind eye to the growing steroids scandal, they are in fact talking about themselves as well.

Ryan continues in discussing the lack of a unanimous first ballot Hall of Famer

[S]ome members of the voting body have a personal policy not to vote for someone the first year he is eligible. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of such idiocy. I fear a few of these Neanderthals are still entrusted with a vote, and it’s their intellectual company I do not wish to keep.

A good question to ask is whether Ryan wants to keep company with the voting bloc that declares they are the moral arbiters of the Hall of Fame. Largely the sports writers have never played the game, they have only watched it year after year after year. And in addition to watching the game, they have dealt with players in the course of doing their jobs. They need interviews. Players can either be accommodating or difficult. When they are difficult, hard feelings happen.

Will Manny Ramirez, who is building a solid case for Hall of Fame inclusion, be a first ballot Hall of Famer? Probably not, because he is a paint o try to get an interview from. If his performance on the field merits inclusion, then what justification can be used by the writers who vote against it? Here comes the tired line: “He’s not a first-ballot Hall of Famer.” And on that basis, voters continue to impose their narrow minded baseball view on fans. Either someone is a Hall of Famer or he isn’t.

Whenever an institution gets head scratching comments from the audience it seeks to woo, the institution needs to rethink its policies. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is not about the players. It’s not about the writers. It’s not about the game. It’s about the fans. The history of the game of baseball is only interesting if there are people who love the game. Whether a guy belongs in the Hall is a question not just for the writers and even the Veterans Committee. A better solution incorporates current and retired players, writers, baseball historians, and of course fans.

The initial phase will be the nomination process. Fans, players, both active and retired, and historians will submit nominees to a panel composed of players and historians appointed by the Hall of Fame. The panel will winnow the field to a ballot of 10-20 players, primarily the recently retired, but also deserving players who were overlooked in their initial balloting. (Think Alan Trammell and other players who did not get enough votes to stay on the ballot, but posted career numbers worthy of inclusion) The ballot will be submitted to the writers who will vote in the customary fashion, with the 75% threshold in effect. After the announcement of the writer’s vote, the remaining players on the ballot are voted on by the fans, at major and minor league games, as well as with an internet vote. Voting will last for a total of ten weeks and players who are named on 75% of all ballots will be enshrined. And in both sets of voting, blank ballots will be discarded.

This is hardly a perfect system, but neither is the system that currently exists. The baseball community needs to move more in the direction of improving a system that is growing more and more flawed. That starts with the Hall of Fame itself and its commitment to the history and heritage of the game.

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Major Applewhite Wunderkind Coach

Ian Rapoport has a longish feature on why Major Applewhite, hired by Nick Saban to fill a yet-undefined offensive role on his staff, is considered the Next Big Thing in college coaching.

“He’s a very analytical young man,” said Greg Davis, the Longhorns’ offensive coordinator who coached Applewhite. “And he tries to break things down to not only simple terms, but also common sense terms. I think the quarterbacks will fall in love with him, and he’ll do a great job.”


While Saban’s staff includes some noteworthy names, the hiring of Applewhite is perhaps the most intriguing. Not just because he grew up a hard-core fan of the Crimson Tide. Not just because, as Rice University’s offensive coordinator last season, his spread offense helped the Owls to their first bowl game since 1961. Not just because his often heroic collegiate career captured the interest of a nation. It’s because of what Applewhite, with his sharp understanding of the game, can do for the Crimson Tide.

“He thinks of plays off the top of his head like no man I’ve ever been around,” said Rice sophomore receiver Jarett Dillard, a Biletnikoff Award finalist. “He’s a mastermind.”

In leading Rice to its most prolific offensive season in its history, the thinking man’s style of Applewhite was contagious. “I was able to learn so much about the game, offensive philosophy, what a defense is doing, why things are the way they are,” recalled Rice quarterback Chase Clement. “He elevated my mental game more than anything.”


Despite splitting time with NFL-bound Chris Simms, Applewhite had a 22-8 record as a starter at Texas, finishing as the school’s all-time leader in several categories, including passing yards (8,353) and touchdown passes (60). It had storybook moments, including his comeback win over Washington in the 2001 Holiday Bowl.

Applewhite worked at Texas for two years as a graduate assistant, at Syracuse for one year as quarterback coach, then in one year as Rice’s offensive coordinator. But it was his playing career that gave him instant credibility. “Most of us saw the way he played on the field, and we kind of allowed him to take the leadership role,” Clement said. “We all believed in him.”


Colleagues say he has no set scheme. He does not try to force a system onto his players. Quite the opposite. And he constantly reacts based on what the defense gives him. “He’s going to adjust whatever he has to adjust to get the ball to guys to make plays,” Dillard said. “At Rice, we were a one-back, quick-tempo, coming-at-you-fast kind of thing. If the defense runs this, we’re giving you that. If you want to play 10 yards off the ball, we’ll run a hitch all day. We’re taking whatever you give us.”

The bad thing about having The Next Big Thing on your coaching staff is that you’ll almost certainly lose him. My guess is Saban will be with the Tide for years to come, since he’s learned he doesn’t want to be in the NFL and it’s hard to imagine that there’s a better college job out there for him. Still, it’ll be nice to have the phenom teaching Alabama quarterbacks and calling the plays while it lasts.


Alabama Football Off Probation

Alabama’s football program has quietly ended its five year NCAA probation. Paul Gattis reflects on what it all means.

Mostly, it means that new coach Nick Saban has a great opportunity to restore the program to national glory quickly. He’s already having a banner recruiting season, despite coming to the game quite late. Alabama will never have the kind of success it did under Bear Bryant–that’s just not possible in the current environment–but it’s now able to compete again on a level playing field with the full advantage of a big name coach and a big name program.


Swan Song- Yankee Stadium to host the 2008 All-Star game

The house that Ruth built will play host to the mid-summer classic one last time.

NEW YORK – Yankee Stadium is going out with an All-Star salute. The beloved old ballpark will host the All-Star game in 2008, the final season before the
New York Yankees move into a new stadium being built across the street in the Bronx.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were on hand Wednesday at City Hall for the announcement, which had been expected.

It will be the fourth All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, which underwent an extensive renovation in the mid-1970s. The most recent summer showcase in The House That Ruth Built was in 1977, when the National League won 7-5 for the sixth of 11 consecutive victories over the AL.


Yankee Stadium also was the site of All-Star games in 1939 and 1960.

I got a question. Why didn’t Shea Stadium get the all-star game? Shea only played host to the game once, in 1964, and is also planned to be replaced by Citi Field in 2009. There have been parks that have hosted the game twice since 1964.

Shea Stadium, the Rodney Dangerfield of MLB. No respect I tell you.

Note- I grew up on Long Island and been a lifetime Met fan. The first time I attended a game at Shea was in 1967.


Another San Diego Charger is arrested

Apparently Mr. Kiel has difficulty finding a rest room.

SAN DIEGO – Chargers strong safety Terrence Kiel was cited for urinating in public last month, his second run-in with the law in less than three months and the eighth by a San Diego player since April.

Maria Velasquez, spokeswoman for City Attorney Mike Aguirre, confirmed that Kiel was cited and released by police outside a nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter at 1:50 a.m. on Dec. 18. The case is being reviewed and no charges have been filed yet, Velasquez said. Kiel is scheduled to make a court appearance on Feb. 20.

“It’s very disappointing when you hear of things like this,” Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said.

Kiel faces five felony drug charges stemming from his arrest in late September by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The DEA said Kiel admitted to shipping at least two parcels of prescription cough syrup to Texas, apparently to be mixed with soft drinks to make a concoction known as “lean.”

Urinating in public, and mailing boxes full of cough syrup. Does Terrence Kiel sound very intelligent to you?


Theo Epstein is a Married Man

A Mazel Tov is in order for the Red Sox General Manager

Epstein’s father, Leslie, who heads the creative writing department at Boston University, confirmed last night that his son and Whitney were married in New York.

“We’re very happy for them, of course, but we can’t say much more other than Marie has some strong childhood memories of Coney Island,” Leslie Epstein wrote in an e-mail last night, “and that’s why we all went down to watch the orthodox rabbi who married them at Nathan’s Famous [hot dog stand, the original, built in 1916]. It’s amazing the grip that nostalgia has on people.

“I hope there’s much happiness for them and for all Sox fans . . . this season.”

I am happy for Theo, and I am even happier that he was able to do it his way. This is likely the reason that the JD Drew deal too so long to complete.


Super Bowl post of Lists

Of the 80 teams that have competed in the Super Bowl since its inception which has been best; which worst? ESPN has the answer. All 80 teams are ranked here ( or in detail starting at 61-80).

From my youth I remember the excitement of the Colts beating the Cowboys in Super Bowl V. But here’s what ESPN writes about that Colts team.

The least memorable Super Bowl champ of all time, the Colts earned that distinction: They lost four fumbles and threw three interceptions and still won the game. Of course, the Cowboys tossed three picks of their own and committed 10 penalties (seriously, these Super Bowls from the early ’70s are unwatchable when you see them pop up on TV).

As I recall the MVP of that game was actually a Cowboy.

As far as relevance to this year’s Super Bowl, you might be interested in knowing that the 1985 Chicago Bears were #2.

The Super Bowl website ranks the top 10 Super Bowls of all time. Is it significant that two of them were won in the final seconds on kicks by Adam Vinatieri? The only appearance of the Colts on this list is the loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III that was ranked as the fourth best of all time.

And what about indivicual performances? Well ESPN ranked those too. The only two names on the list of the top 10 performers that aren’t so well known are Timmy Smith and Rod Martin. (OK those are the names I’m least familiar with.) Maybe it’s a hometown bias but it’s disappointing that Ray Lewis’s performance in Super Bowl XXXV only ranked an honorable mention.

But did you know that half of the Super Bowl audience actually cares more about the commercials than about the game? At least that’s what Dave Durian said this morning. So what would a list of lists be without one ranking the best Super Bowl commercials? How about two lists of the best commercials?

ESPN has a list of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time. And it notes that the famous Mean Joe Green Coke commercial did not originally air during the Super Bowl so it doesn’t count. Bummer.

But who wants a list of a mere 10 commercials? How about a lists of every single Super Bowl commercial going back until 1998? And the ability to view them? Including the greatest ones of all time? (In this case including the Mean Joe Green commercial.) Well if you’d rather watch commercial than the Super Bowl then is the site for you. The site is filled with videos of the commercials as well as relevant news items. The commercials are arranged by year. Watch. Enjoy.

UPDATE: MSNBC has the 10 worst Super Bowl Commercials and why they failed. And their own 10 best and why the worked.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.


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