Archive for January, 2012


Friday, January 27th, 2012

Swansea City earned a great victory over Arsenal two weeks ago, but I wanted to  await the outcome of last week’s fixture away to Sunderland before making comment. It was no suprise they lost 0-2 to the Black Cats. Swans manager Brendan Rodgers was stunned by the result claiming his team had the lion’s share of the possession while playing delightful football.

I believe Rodgers was drinking  the cool aid and basking in the plaudits showered on his team by the national media, not least of all the Daily Telegraph, following their win over Arsenal. The Swans passing style has often been compared to Champion League holders Barcelona. Total football aka the Dutch national side of the seventies has also been thrown around sports desks.

They create passing triangles around the field which admittedly assists retention of the ball and frustrates the hell out of the opposition. However the team does not have a cutting edge in the final third of the field. Passing triangles encourage passing back to the goalkeeper whereas a defense splitting pass seldom materializes from the geometric shape. If we must make silly comparison with Barcelona let’s absorb this statistic: following completion of 17 games in their respective leagues the Swans had scored a meager 18 goals compared to Barcelona’s 50. Furthermore their defense records were almost identical.

Rodgers lamented that his side were beaten by two long range efforts from Sunderland. I’m sorry Brendan but isn’t the game primarily concerned with scoring goals and not weaving pretty patterns around the field? The Swans rarely attempt  a shot at goal beyond the 18 yard line which severely reduces their options for scoring.

The late great Danny Blanchflower, captain of Tottenham Hotspur’s league and cup double winning side in 1960-61, often reminded people that it only took a second to score a goal. Regrettably Swansea’s goalkeeper sees far more of the ball via back passes than their striker Danny Graham.

Don’t forget that for all their possession against Arsenal they only won the game 3-2 clinging on at the end with the crowd begging the referee to blow the final whistle. The two goals conceded were the result of a full back being exposed to a counter attack. Rangel and Taylor were constantly supporting the attack down the flanks only to regularly lose possession. They were left stranded out of position with no cover. Ashley Williams played like a maverick; one minute he was breaking up Arsenal attack’s and the next he was seen charging up the field leaving his partner Caulker having to perform a version of the boy sticking his finger in the leaking dyke to stem the flow of water.

I was never very good at geometry and perhaps the site of triangles remind me of having my knuckles rapped with a ruler in maths class by an odious teacher who was universally known as “Grunter.” Rodgers also need to be wary of the patronizing comments from fellow managers. “Oh, they play very attractive football and they are far too good to go down.” In other words, the Swans can take one of the relegation spots which gives their team a better chance of avoiding the drop.

By all means keep playing attractive football, but I just wish they would add a touch of steel in the shape of a cutlass at the back and one or two rapiers up front. As my son suggested the other day; if the football gods had offered me 13th place for the Swans at this stage of the season I would have bitten their hand off and gleefully accepted. All I’m suggesting is don’t get carried away with the hype. So come on you Swans!

Au Revoir to Tebow Time

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

In a recent poll undertaken across America, 43.7% of the recipients voted that Tim Tebow’s recent success could be attributed to divine intervention. Unfortunately God must have forgotten that the Denver Broncos were playing the New England Patriots on Saturday as opposed to the regular Sunday gig and they were pummeled unmercifully 45-10 with Tom Brady throwing a record equaling six touchdowns in the playoffs.

Tebow didn’t play badly, but the team was overwhelmed by the Patriots. New England’s coaching staff naturally watched the film of the Broncos win over Pittsburgh last week who allowed Tebow the luxury of throwing continually down the field which ultimately led to several touch downs and a shock win over a team boasting the best defense in the NFL.

Tebow was denied those channels against the Patriots and his triple option style of play was nullified by a superior team on the day. He completed just nine of 26 passing attempts for 136 yards, but none of the downfield throws that marked his heroics in that unforgettable thriller.

 Tebow commented after the game: “I’ve learned a lot. Every single game, including this one, was a learning opportunity,” he said. “When we have an opportunity to come back here, we can handle it differently.”

On a positive note he said he was looking forward to the offseason and he cited several areas he is targeting for improvement: consistency, footwork fundamentals, leadership skills, and reading defenses.

Tebow can take some consolation in the fact that he has some impressive company sitting on the losers’ bench alongside him. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers-two of the three so-called elite quarterbacks in the league (Tom Brady being the other) also lost on the weekend.

That leaves us with the New York Giants traveling to San Francisco to play for the NFC Championship, and New England hosting Baltimore in the AFC Championship for the right to play in the Super Bowl. On a brighter note for Tebow, the Broncos’ management confirmed that he will be their starting quarter back for next season.

On a local level the Atlanta Falcons announced the hire of Dirk Koetter as their new offensive coordinator. Judging by comments from the local fish rapper Atlanta fans are not enamored by his appointment. He served as OC at Jacksonville for the last four years where he admittedly didn’t have much to work with.

It’s also no coincidence that Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith was defensive coordinator in Koetter’s first season at Jacksonville. It does reek of the old boys’ network, but I’m prepared to give Coach Smith the benefit of the doubt for now.



In This Life

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

In writing this blog for nearly two years I have attracted many comments; some very complementary and others not so kind. That is very acceptable since the purpose of a blog is to produce my opinion which hopefully may or may not generate lively discussion in responses.

 Unfortunately the blog does attract  some misguided individuals who want to write the blog for me (for a fee naturally) or wish I would include videos or graphics to “spice it up a little.”

Forgive me but I enjoy the freedom of writing whatever I like and when I like without interference from a meddling editor. Furthermore, a blog is not intended to be a comic or a glossy magazine, so I will  not be changing the style and format any time soon.

Moving on, the New Year may very well be in its infancy but it has already attracted its fair share of bizarre stories:

In metro Atlanta, Gwinnett County parents and activists have blasted the school district’s response following reports that students at a Norcross elementary school received a math worksheet that used examples of slavery in word problems

“Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” and “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”

The most recent accountability report for the school, which has an enrollment of about 1,200 students, shows that 62 percent of the students are Hispanic or Latino, 24 percent are black or African-American, and 5 percent are white, with 87 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

Maybe the poor teacher who wrote the worksheet was caught up in preparing the free lunches for 87% of the students and envisioned herself as a slave to her students. She also had a boyfriend called Frederick who regularly beat her and she was facing her own demons through work. I am at a loss in explaining the oranges.

At a breakfast event in Nashua, Republican candidate Mitt Romney told an audience that his health care plan would allow them to dismiss insurers and health care providers. “If you don’t like what they do, you can fire them,” he said. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”  Is Mitt his real name or is he trying to be hip to belie his boring and stiff personality? In fact his name is Willard Mitt Romney. So there!

Is Atlanta’s rainbow fading? The Advocate magazine’s annual ranking of gayest cities in America is out and Atlanta has been knocked down to No. 9 from 2010’s No 1 Ranking. America’s new gay Mecca? Salt Lake City, Utah. Should we heterosexuals in Atlanta be relieved that our city has lost its No.1 status as the gayest city in America or should we bemoan the passing of a tourist attraction?

Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow and the biblical verse John 3:16 have long been entwined. It appears that the evangelical Christian– whose dramatic sideline praying on one knee has spawned the phrase “tebowing” — churned out some timely 3-16s in his team’s big playoff win over Pittsburgh last Sunday night.

Most notable, Tebow threw for a season-high 316 yards and set an NFL record with 31.6 yards per completion. The QB, who sent fans into a frenzy after he capped off his work on the Lord’s day by tossing the winning TD on the first play in overtime, routinely wrote the numbers “3:16” in black under his eyes during his collegiate years. The NFL, however, banned the practice of daubing such personal messages.

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses from the Bible: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The poor guy has been pilloried in the media for having the audacity of publicly displaying his Christian beliefs. Yet nothing is ever said about hundreds of other sports stars routinely crossing themselves when they score a goal or hit a home run or merely run onto the field. I wonder if Tebow would have received this vitriol if he was a Muslim.

If I was Arthur Blank…….

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Arthur Blank was the co-founder and owner of Home Depot which made him a billionaire. He sold the franchise to some jerk who proceeded to downgrade a successful proven product and allow Lowe’s to make serious inroads into their market. By this time Arthur had moved on and decided to plough his hard earned billions into buying the Atlanta Falcons.

During his tenure he fired incumbent head coach Dan Reeves and hired three successive head coaches: Jim Mora, Bobby Petrino and Mike Smith. Mora was the king of BS and was out the door after two seasons. Petrino proved to be a weasel and fled the team following an unsuccessful tenure comprising 13 games, and returned to the College ranks in Arkansas (hog heaven which seemed appropriate.) Smith was a surprise hire since his previous coaching experience was confined to defensive co-coordinator at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Thomas Dimitroff was also hired as general manager and he brought with him excellent credentials as head of recruiting for the New England Patriots. They drafted Matt Ryan as their franchise quarter back, and together they compiled four successive winning seasons with an appearance in the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. But here comes the rub; they have yet to win a playoff game and today proved to be no exception. The New York Giants won in a canter by 24-2, and they are a very mediocre team. Their 9-7 record in the regular season proves my point.

Apart from a defensive effort in the first half, the Falcons were hapless, and made the Giants look like Super Bowl contenders which they are not! Michael Turner was a non-entity, Ryan dithered and dallied, Gonzalez and White were non-factors and the Dirt Bags (the offensive line) played like choir boys and were unceremoniously crushed.

The players were not helped by some inane coaching by Mike Smith who elected twice in the game to go for 4th down on inches using quarter back Ryan as a battering ram; only to fail miserably on both occasions. On the second attempt we were only trailing 10-2 and a field goal would have given us a great chance to come back and win. Instead, the Giants regained the momentum and quickly scored a touchdown winning the game without breaking stride.

In a pre-game newspaper interview, Arthur Blank admitted he was pleased with four successive winning seasons, but was well aware the franchise needed to take the next step and win a game in the playoffs. Well I’m sure he is very disappointed. So what does he need to do drag this team to the next level which is currently occupied by the Patriots, Steelers, Packers and Saints?

Personally, I don’t believe Coach Smith and Matt Ryan are capable of taking this franchise to a Super Bowl which has got to be the ultimate goal. Two failed attempts at the “quarterback sneak” revealed the ineptitude of Coach Smith for calling the play and Ryan for failing to execute. My knee jerk reaction would be to fire Smith and his coaching staff and trade Matt Ryan.

Unfortunately neither action is realistic since the drafting of Julio Jones for four future picks has nullified any quality acquisitions from that quarter. Neither does the salary cap  give us much latitude in signing free agents, so my recommended changes must be practical:

  • The offensive and defensive coordinators must be shown the door. The process has already begun with DC Brian VanGorder leaving to take a similar position with Auburn. It is imperative that OC Murlarkey is terminated because he is old school, unimaginative and negative.
  • The offensive line is a shambles. Center McClure is 35 years old and needs replacing. Left tackle Sam Baker (a former No1 draft pick) is a huge failure and has to go.  Clabo and Blaylock should be the only ones retained.
  • Expensive acquisitions Dunta Robinson (CB) and Ray Edwards (DE) signed in free agency have not performed commensurate with their over inflated salaries and need to be released.
  • The shelf life of a running back in the NFL is approximately 3-4 seasons. Michael Turner has played 3 seasons with the Falcons and is clearly on the decline. He needs to be replaced with fresh blood and new ideas.
  • A number of starters are free agents; most of whom should not be re-signed. Safety Thomas DeCould can’t tackle and hopefully will not return. Middle line backer Curtis Lofton is a good player but not a game changer and should be allowed to seek employment elsewhere. Defensive end John Abraham will be too expensive and it’s time for him to seek new pastures. Brent Grimes (CB) is a great athlete but too small to cover big tight ends and receivers. At 5′ 9” he can’t cover a Jimmy Graham at 6′ 6”.
  • Number 1 receiver Roddy White drops too many passes to be considered a franchise player and should be traded for a left tackle.
  • Tony Gonzalez is a great player but at 35 years old he is in the twilight of  his career, and it was a mistake to award him another contract for 1 year at $7 million.

The nuances of the salary cap are difficult to comprehend and I’m not sure if releasing Robinson, Edwards and Turner would free up their salaries to sign new players. Nevertheless the team needs fixing big time. Are you listening Mr. Blank?

Dirt Bags?????

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

On New Years Day, The Atlanta Falcons managed to slide into the NFL playoffs via a wild card with a 10-6 record on the season, and now have to travel to play the New York Giants in the first round on Sunday afternoon.

They finished the season on a high note by demolishing division rivals Tamp Bay Buccaneers 45-24. The Falcons were leading 42-0 with ten minutes left of the first half, and Coach Mike Smith brought a halt to proceedings by replacing many of his starters. Michael Turner, for example, rushed for 172 yards in the first half which was more yardage than in his previous three games combined. Before Falcon fans get carried away on a cloud of euphoria let us not forget the drubbing we suffered the previous Sunday at the hands of New Orleans who blew us away 48-16.

The question that springs to my mind is what team will show up in New York. Unfortunately, whenever the Falcons play a team with an elite quarter back in the shape of a Brady, Brees or Rodgers they give up a bunch of points. Falcons’ pass rush defense cannot prevent quality quarter backs from picking them apart.

New York’s quarterback Eli Manning is not quite in the elite group which included his elder brother Peyton until he suffered a neck injury preventing him from playing in the 2011 season. But on his day Eli is a very good pocket passer who can rely on two excellent wide receivers Smith and Cruz. The Giants are equally adept at stopping the opposing quarter back via two outstanding defensive ends Justin Tuck and Pierre –Paul. The Frenchman (he probably isn’t) ran up 16 sacks on the season so Matty Ice beware.

Jason Tuck referred to the Falcons’ offensive line as “dirt bags” because they have a habit of playing through the referee’s whistle. I know what he meant if you don’t, but more importantly it provided a cute little title for this blog. The Giants’ defense doesn’t have very impressive numbers, but Tuck missed a major portion of the regular season and is now back to his tongue-lashing best.

You may well ask why the Falcons should bother to show up if the Giants hold all the aces. They finished the season with a 9-7 record proving to Falcon fans that the Giants can be beaten, and their Achilles heel is failure to prevent the opposing team’s running game.  On his day Michael Turner could be Atlanta’s trump card. He has not been as effective as the previous two seasons but there could be reasons for his apparent decline. Firstly he has played the past few games with a nagging groin injury; secondly he has missed the injured full back Ovie Mughelli who was so adept at blasting holes in the opposition’s defenses for Turner to run through.

Turner showed encouraging signs against Tampa that he may be back to full fitness and the Falcons also made a tactical switch electing to play second string running back Jason Snelling at full back at Turner’s request. We shouldn’t get too carried away, but Turner’s 172 yards against Tampa was pretty impressive notwithstanding the hapless Buccaneers waving the white flag after five minutes of play.

The Giants’ running backs are not too shabby either and they rely on a useful tandem in the shape of Bradshaw and Jacobs. Falcons’ wider receivers White and Jones will present a serious threat to New York magnificently supported by future hall of famer Tony Gonzalez at tight end. One thing worries me about Gonzalez however. He went AWOL against the Packers in last season’s playoff game and I believe he owes us (the fans) redemption.

The Falcons are making an appearance in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons, but have yet to win a playoff game. In contrast, the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008 by defeating the previously unbeaten New England Patriots which on paper gives them the edge on their post season record. Furthermore one could argue that home field advantage will favor the Giants. The Falcons are a dome team having to play outdoors in New York in January, and the traditional blustery conditions can play havoc with a quarter back’s throwing technique.

At the end of the day (terrible cliché I know) the team with the least number of turnovers will win the football game, and I’m sure Ryan has recurring nightmares of his attempted pass being intercepted by a Packers safety which led to a game winning touchdown in last season’s dramatic loss.

Allow to me conclude with some boring statistics which should satisfy NFL nerds around the world: New York is ranked 32nd in rushing (89.2ypg.)Atlanta is No.6 versus the run (97.0 ypg.) Manning passed for 4,933 yards and 29 TDs. Falcons pass defense ranked 20th. Giants pass defense ranked 29th while Falcons QB Matt Ryan passed for a franchise record 4,177 yards and 29 TD. Giants coach Coughlin is 8-7 in the playoffs. Falcons coach is 0-2.

A season’s statistics can sometimes be misleading since they don’t factor in injuries to key players. The post season is all about the form and fitness of players now. Atlanta’s running back is fit and raring to go, but so is New York’s Justin Tuck which will improve their defense immensely as illustrated against the Dallas Cowboys.

I do hope I’m wrong but I’m taking the Giants to win a close game in the fourth quarter leaning heavily on Eli Manning’s post season success and experience.

In the other playoff games, New Orleans should just hold off Detroit in a game which promises to be shoot out between quarter backs Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford both of whom threw for over 5000 yards in the regular season.

In the AFC, Cincinnati could upset Houston in a battle between two rookie quarter backs Andy Dalton and T.J. Yates; providing Dalton has recovered from a bout of flu.

Denver and Pittsburgh appears to be a mismatch between Tim Tebow who has lost his last three starts and two time Super Bowl winner Ben Rothlisburger. However big Ben has a high ankle sprain and will be hobbling around the field. The Steelers will play a rookie running back, but they have the best defense in the league which should seem them through in a low scoring encounter.

The following is a breakdown of the playoff field.

Team           vs.W   vs.L vs.E  Overall
Green Bay      5-0    5-1   5-0    15-1
New Orleans    6-1    6-2   1-0    13-3
Baltimore      6-1    4-2   2-1    12-4
San Francisco  4-1    7-0   2-2    13-3
Houston        4-3    6-2   0-1    10-6
Pittsburgh     5-4    7-0   0-0    12-4
Falcons        2-4    7-1   1-1    10-6
N.Y. Giants    1-3    3-3   5-1    9-7
Denver         1-4    3-2   4-2    8-8
Cincinnati     1-6    7-0   1-1    9-7
New England    0-2    7-1   6-0    13-3
Detroit        0-5    5-0   5-1    10-6


Does it make me feel a little better about the Falcons’ chances?