April 28, 2011

Why I Like Blaine Gabbert Even More Now Than I Did Before

     Chad Pennington.  Philip Rivers.  Aaron Rodgers.  What do these three QB's have in common?  They all understand the value of patience.  Specifically, they're the only three first-round QB's since 2000 to not start in their first two NFL seasons.  Each of them has turned out to be a solid or great quarterback because of that learning experience.

     So where does Blaine Gabbert fit into this?  Well, he was just drafted at #10 to the Jaguars, where David Garrard has been a good starting QB for the last few years.  I understand that Garrard is not Vinny Testaverde, Drew Brees, or Brett Favre, but if Garrard can play well enough to keep his starting job while mentoring Gabbert, it could mean great things for Jacksonville.  Gabbert is pretty much what Aaron Rodgers was as a rookie:  a smart player with a great arm and underrated athleticism.  Give him two years of learning under a veteran QB and he just might become what Rodgers is now:  one of the game's elite passers.

     The problem is that the Jaguars are not a good team.  They have a terrible fan base.  Which means if the team starts off 4-6, a reasonable scenario, then Jacksonville will be under pressure to pull Garrard in favor of Gabbert even if the quarterback position isn't the problem.  I don't think they'll be able to keep the kind of stability at QB that I want them to.

April 27, 2011

Why The Miami Heat Should Remind You Of The Green Bay Packers (Yes, The 2010 Version)

     The general consensus is that the Miami Heat are a very good team.  Not good enough to win the NBA Finals or even get there, but a team that will be in the playoffs for a while.  The general consensus in my mind, however, is that the Heat are the favorites to win the title.  Don't believe they have a chance?  Maybe these eerie similarities to the latest Super Bowl champions will convince you:

-Both teams were among the favorites before the season started.
-The Heat started out 9-8.  The Packers started out 3-3.
-The Heat were 2-8 in games decided by 3 points or less.  The Packers were 1-5 in games decided by 3 points or less.
-The Heat were 1st in the NBA in net points, but 3rd in the overall standings.  The Packers were 2nd in net points, but tied for 8th in the overall standings.

The last one is the most important in my opinion.  Net points are a great indicator of how good a team is.  Points directly affect whether or not a team wins a game, but the points themselves occur pretty randomly and that can alter a team's record over the course of a season.  However, if you're getting more points and/or giving up fewer points than your opponents, you are more likely to win no matter what the records say.

For example, in two games my team scores 220 points and allows 170.  I could win one 130-75 and lose the other 95-90.  I could win each one 110-85.  The records would be different but the team was just as good in each series.

I'm not saying the Heat are guaranteed to win the Finals.  I'm not saying the Packers were the best team in 2010.  Winning in the playoffs takes a lot of luck.  What I am saying is that the Heat have a better chance than anyone else to win the championship.  Miami has underperformed so far this year, but there's no reason to think they can't finally live up to hype when it matters most.

How To Solve The NFL Labor Dispute: "Paper Slip Mediation"

     After a month and a half of lockout time, the NFL and the Players Association haven't come close to designing a new CBA.  It's been a half-hearted effort on both sides.  They are willing to compromise, but not so much that they really are giving up anything.  Compromise has to happen but it looks like it needs to be forced.  That's why Judge Nelson should break out what I call "Paper Slip Mediation".  Here's how it works:

     First, a list of the original requests from each side must be compiled.  Then, every issue the two parties are arguing on would be written on a slip of paper and placed in a hat.  (Or football helmet, if you prefer.)  The sides would take turns picking a paper slip out of the hat/helmet (without peeking, of course) until all of them were gone.  Whatever's written on a side's paper slips are the rules they have the power to set, and they can choose anything between the original request of the players and the original request of the owners.

     Here's where it gets interesting.  The parties would be allowed to trade slips, or they could agree to meet halfway on one slip from each side, give them back to the mediator, and effectively cancel them out.  Say DeMaurice Smith picked "Revenue Split" and Jeff Pash picked "Season Length".  If the NFLPA is more worried more about an 18-game season than the extra billion going to the owners, the players can offer to trade their "Revenue Split" for the owners' "Season Length".  If neither side wants to risk losing one of those issues completely, they can agree on a 17-game season and a 50% revenue split, and give the two paper slips back to the judge.  Maybe Smith would package "Revenue Split" with "Restricted Free Agency" in order to get "Season Length".  The possibilities are endless.  Once the owners and the NFLPA are finished trading/compromising, the CBA is created based on what was agreed upon in mediation.

     This method would get both sides more focused on the actual issues rather than trying to gain power over each other, win the court of public opinion, or win in actual court.  Plus, it would be really fun to see Adam Schefter tell us about how the owners really wanted "Rookie Wage Scale" but weren't willing to give up "Healthcare for Retired Players" to get it.