I want to hate Aaron Rodgers. I really do. As a Bears fan, it’s actually my duty, but for whatever reason, I can never muster the requisite anger. Even when I get a chance, like when Greg Jennings was busy filling his Rodgers burn book this summer, I somehow always side with Rodgers. It’s problematic, and quotes like this one don’t help:
“It was never about revenge. It was about reckoning,” Rodgers said. “That’s a Tombstone line right there, people. It was never about revenge.”
That’s Rodgers from Wednesday, talking about whether the 49ers — who passed on Rodgers with the no. 1 overall pick in 2005 — was still a “revenge” game. I’m all for bringing up Tombstone whenever possible, mostly for the peak Kurt Russell mustachery and peak Val Kilmer everything. But here, Rodgers’s words are particularly apt — not only for his situation but for Week 1 across the NFL.
In case you were busy being ready for some football, some Wednesday-night football, Wednesday-night football that is never going to come, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Darrelle Revis has said he's "happy to spill the beans," in advance of the Bucs' matchup with his former team, the New York Jets. "It was a nice offer," said Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, "but it's just beans." When asked to clarify Schiano added, "Seriously, their whole playbook is just a box of supposedly magic beans. Apparently they traded their old defensive playbook, which was quite good, with some sort of evil space wizard wearing a sleeveless hooded cloak, and ended up with a box of beans." Schiano, a New Jersey native shrugged and said, "I wouldn't believe it, but, you know Jets."
An all-Italian quarterfinal at the U.S. Open yielded the day's biggest upset as Flavia Pennetta beat out no. 10 seed Roberta Vinci, 6-4, 6-1. Vinci was sanguine despite her loss, saying, "I have no regrets, I came, I saw, I Vinci." Meanwhile, despite advancing to her first career Grand Slam singles semifinal, Pennetta was less pleased with her tournament experience, saying, "I have many regrets; I came, I saw, I was detained at LaGuardia Airport after an idiotic mix-up involving former CIA director Leon Panetta. I did not conquer."
When Barnwell and I decided to start this project — going team by team for our NFL preview — we knew there would be a few spots that got a little rough. This might be hard to believe, but neither of us is too high on the Raiders. But among all 32 NFL teams, I don’t think there’s one that we’re collectively higher on than the Bucs. From the return of last year’s pair of injured star guards (18:54), my never-ending love for the Tampa Bay run defense (22:50), and our joint love for the Darrelle Revis trade (26:00), it's safe to say we like the 2013 Bucs.
Before we get there, though, we spend the first 15 minutes or so on the Saints, touching on everything from their historically bad pass defense (1:47), Sean Payton’s actual value (3:00), the switch to a 3-4 defense (3:57), the terribleness of Mark Ingram (6:54), and Drew Brees’s effect on the team’s (well-developed) offensive line (8:58).
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
For the same reason it lacks stars, the NFL typically lacks villains. In an 11-per-side, helmeted-and-padded game, personality rarely shines through, and that means the objects of our loathing become the men roaming the sideline, or the helmets themselves. There are occasions when a brash wide receiver or a stomping can get our attention, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. And that’s why Richard Sherman’s continuing efforts to go full wrestling heel have been wonderful.
After calling White an “easy matchup,” Sherman furthered his criticism on NFL Network’s Around the Leaguejust a few days later. “His strengths are in their system, within their system," Sherman said. "His strengths aren't his own.”
The NFL draft is here, and Ephraim Salaam and I decided to celebrate the occasion with a special edition of the Trenches. We started off with some talk about the Darrelle Revis and Percy Harvin trades, but from there it was all draft all the time. We discussed some of the top tackles available, how their draft spots might affect the rest of the first round, when teams would start talking themselves into this year's group of quarterbacks, and what sort of dynamic offensive players have become coveted throughout the league. And as a bonus, there's video!
With the NFL offseason trudging along, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The Mike Tannenbaum era for the New York Jets will, justly, be remembered for two things. The first is the freewheeling 2008 offseason that saw the Jets bring in a massive free-agent class designed to retool a team that went 4-12 a season earlier. Before ascending to his role as general manager, Tannenbaum had earned a reputation as a cap master, and the complications that come with several huge veteran contracts seemed to be ones he was leaving to Future Mike. Well, putting his franchise against the cap with a bunch of misplaced free-agency money was enough to ensure that we never actually got to Future Mike, and instead, it was new GM John Idzik who inherited a roster more than $20 million over the limit.
The second is actually the more telling, and also what’s made the past 24 hours a sign of a new start in New York. In the 2009 draft, the Jets picked three times. Their first selection was the fifth overall, a pick they’d gotten by trading first- and second-round picks to Cleveland in an effort to secure USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. That Sanchez hasn’t worked out — and that the Jets compounded that problem by giving him heaps of guaranteed money anyway — matters, but it isn’t the point here. Now with no picks left in the top 75, the Jets sent third- and fourth-round choices to Detroit in exchange for the first pick in the third round. That pick was Shonn Greene. Finally, the Jets picked in the sixth round, where they took Nebraska guard Matt Slauson — the best player of the three, and also one who was allowed to leave town this offseason to sign for close to the minimum in Chicago.
"Did they get a fair price for Rickey Henderson? It's kind of like if you're an art collector and you have the Mona Lisa, what's a fair price for it? The idea in building a championship team is to acquire players like Rickey Henderson. It's a sad day when you have to give one away."
Bill James wrote that about the Oakland A's after they traded Henderson to the Yankees before the 1985 season. As the Jets and Buccaneers negotiated terms for a possible Darrelle Revis deal for weeks (almost entirely through leaks from "unnamed sources" in New York newspapers), I kept coming back to that paragraph from James. I don't know whether this trade will end up being what any of the parties involved hope it will be. I just know that it's depressing to have something as wonderful as Darrelle Revis and then give it away for some unknown quantity. It's just too difficult to get another Darrelle Revis.
In case you were busy devising an elaborate fake game show so you could injure otherwise forgotten celebrities, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
LeBron James flirted with, but fell two assists shy of, a triple-double as his Miami Heat throttled the Milwaukee Bucks, 110-87, to begin their NBA title defense. "Yeah, I saw her across the court," James said of the triple-double. "And you know I was interested, so I said, 'What's up,' bought her a vodka soda, asked the triple-double about her interests. Stuff like that. I mean, there was some chemistry. We had some stuff in common: She's associated with three statistics; I have three MVPs. Stuff like that, you know? But some nights it's not about the triple-double. You aren't generous enough to get her, and that's OK. You learn from that. Triple-doubles aren't objects. Triple-doubles are unique snowflakes, and sometimes, they aren't yours to possess. I mean, we aren't all Oscar Robertson. He once said he had 10,000 triple-doubles. That number's probably too high, but we all know the guy was a player."
The San Antonio Spurs took care of business with a 91-79 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. The Spurs overcame the Lakers' perceived advantage inside, which exists because people forget how good Tim Duncan is. "Dwight should be dominating this game. What's going on?" asked self-described medium-core NBA fan Paul Witten of Dallas. "Wait, Tim Duncan's PER was over 24? That's like, really good, yeah? Does everyone know that Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan? Oh, man, this is what I get for tuning out the regular season when the Mavs went in the tank."
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The most fitting game of the 2012 Buccaneers season came in Week 2. Tampa Bay was visiting MetLife Stadium, where the Eli-era Giants have been known to give one or two away over the years, and it looked to be happening again. Early in the second half, the Bucs’ lead grew to 14 with a Connor Barth field goal, and the margin stayed that way until the final minute of the third quarter. That’s about when the wheels came off.
Eli Manning put together 21 unanswered points in less than 12 minutes, and when Tampa Bay did manage to tie things back up late, it took him less than 90 seconds to reclaim the lead and seal the win. There were games further down the schedule that better showed the promise for many of the young Bucs (Doug Martin had only 66 yards against New York), but none was a better way to understand their biggest shortcoming. Tampa Bay’s pass defense was a horror show.
When the news came out last week that the New York Jets might explore a trade for Darrelle Revis, it was easy to dismiss the idea as typical new-regime fodder. Whenever a new coach or GM steps in, there’s an obligation to let everyone know that “all parts of our football team” are being evaluated. It’s a reminder to both the media and fans that there’s a reason someone was just fired, and that they shouldn’t worry — change is coming. But that change doesn’t usually include trading one of the 10 best players in football.
Over the weekend, the idea of Revis leaving town went from exploratory to seemingly imminent. Because Revis has a clause in his contract prohibiting New York from using the franchise tag on him when his deal is up at the end of this season, the hope is that the Jets can get something for their star cornerback rather than watching him walk away. For a team living life near the top of the cap and void of young talent on both sides of the ball, it’s a notion that might seem crazy but is actually worth exploring. One question that comes with this possibility isn’t whether Revis should be traded, but if he is, where he would fall among the best players ever dealt.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda, became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and the Giants roughed up Justin Verlander to take Game 1 8-3. Tigers manager Jim Leyland was upset at his ace. "We told Justin that even though he may look soft and cuddly — especially when he's curled up around a bamboo shoot — he's a very dangerous creature when approached," Leyland said. "He didn't listen. There have been over 15 incidents of Kung Fu Panda home run violence this year alone, and most of them could have been avoided with a little pitcher caution."
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
The Consequences of Free Football
Within a span of eight minutes, three games — Dolphins-Jets, Titans-Lions, and Saints-Chiefs — featuring six middling contenders briefly turned bad football into balletic anarchy. And in one of those special, even DirecTV’s–Sunday Ticket–package–is–useless moments, three games that seemed, on their faces, to be less than important quickly unraveled a rare combination of overtime results. To convey what happened in the fourth quarter in Tennessee would require a dry-erase board, a fully loaded Sharpie, and a mastery of the dark arts. It was a ludicrous game, one of the most exciting you’ll ever see while also trying to watch seven other games. In the end, the Titans got a win-win: a victory in the standings; an encouraging performance in OT after Detroit stormed back behind Shaun “LOL” Hill; and a brief affirmation that Jake “The Quake” Locker is their quarterback of the present and future. Until next week.
In New Orleans, the Saints completed some sort competence inversion master class. They lost after the no-good, very-bad Chiefs sloooowly overcame an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. Jamaal Charles ran all the way to Vaughan’s Lounge and back, Ryan Succop kicked all of the field goals, and the Saints felt a true pain. Theirs was a loss-loss. It’s clear that they are weak and 0-3 and officially praying for a secret package from Sean Payton this week. It will contain either a redesigned playbook and in-depth tape analysis, or 53 cyanide capsules.
There are many people who feel as if the much-publicized quarterback situation in New York has been exacerbated by the much-publicized lack of offensive talent in New York. In fact, we can now count the Jets’ best player among them. Asked yesterday whether the Jets had put enough around Mark Sanchez for him to even have a chance to develop into a top-tier quarterback, Revis was less than enthusiastic.
“I don't know," Revis told Newsday while reportedly shaking his head. "I don't know."
As the long, hot summer drags on, we here at The Triangle figured we’d provide a steady stream of NFL goodness as a reminder of the light at the end of the baseball-lined tunnel.
There are very few exciting Darrelle Revis highlights on the Internet. This is a good thing. Revis is a nightmare for the directors of NFL broadcasts — he’s a big star, a bold-faced name on a team with a high profile. Many consider him the very best cornerback in football — one of three or four true “shutdown” CBs in the game. Which is why nothing interesting happens in his vicinity. In five seasons, he has just 18 interceptions, only three returned for touchdowns. He has one sack. He rarely makes acrobatic, life-threatening plays. He does not talk trash exceptionally. He isn’t big, he isn’t mean, and he doesn’t scare anyone. He basically does one thing: Stop dudes from catching the ball.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic advanced to the Australian Open final with a five-set victory over Andy Murray. On Sunday, he'll face Rafael Nadal in a battle of the top two seeds. Meanwhile, Andy Murray remains confident that he'll eventually win a major. "Hey, does anybody know the number of the guy who stabbed Monica Seles right before Graf started dominating?" he asked a room full of reporters. "A friend wanted to know."
At a Joe Paterno tribute, Nike CEO Phil Knight criticized the process by which Paterno was fired. "If there's a villain in this tragedy," he said, "it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno's response." Later in his speech, Knight said that if there's a comic relief character in this tragedy, it's probably Crazy Scott Paterno, the protaganist's son.