Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ken Whisenhunt joins the Titans (Kline)

Just a few days ago, Chargers Offensive Coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt was named as the 17th Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans.  Whisenhunt comes in to Nashville after previous coach; Mike Munchak was shown the door on a 22-26 combined record in 3 seasons for the Titans.  Ever since Jeff Fisher was fired as HC in 2010, the Titans have struggled to find consistency in the team play and the coaching department, and Titans fans should feel confident in Whisenhunt’s coaching abilities as he comes over from San Diego. 

Whisenhunt passed on the Lions job with a solidified Quarterback in Matt Stafford, an elite wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, and a pretty good defense and now comes to Tennessee with some issues he needs to address pretty quickly.  Whisenhunt went 45-51 in 6 seasons as the HC of the Arizona Cardinals leading them to a Super Bowl Berth. 

Of course you have to start with the Quarterback situation.  Jake Locker has had major injury issues in his short NFL career, but has a ton of upside and potential in his 6’3”, 230 lb. body.  Locker is also a cheap option, only being paid around $4 million this upcoming season, so Whisenhunt would be wise to at least keep Locker on the roster next season, if not give him one more chance to succeed in this league.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is the back up who is being paid around $4.3 million, and played a lot last season with Locker’s injuries.  The beard threw 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and played decently with this Titans offense even though the team posted a 7-9 record in 2013.  The last Quarterback on the roster is Tyler Wilson, who the Titans signed off of the Raiders practice squad in December, who will be used as the 3rd string/practice squad quarterback as previous 3rd string quarterback, Rusty Smith will reach Free Agency this offseason. 

Whisenhunt has had success with big-time quarterbacks in his past.  With Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Kurt Warner at the end of his career in Arizona, and just this past season with Phillip Rivers in San Diego where he helped Rivers get back to the Pro Bowl and lead the league in completion percentage.  After Warner retired, Whisenhunt has trouble with his quarterbacks in Arizona, with names like Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, and Ryan Lindley led to his firing in Glendale. 

Most new Head Coaches like to draft their own quarterback and start their own regime.  The Titans currently hold the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, and are also without a 3rd round pick because of the draft-day trade that allowed the Titans to draft Justin Hunter.  I don’t think it would be wise to draft a QB with the 11th pick, because I think all of the primary QB’s will be taken in the top 10.  (Manziel, Bridgewater, Bortles).  There are more needs for the Titans at 11 than another QB on the roster.  If Whisenhunt wants to draft a QB later in the draft, somewhere around the 3rd-4th round range, then Ryan Fitzpatrick would likely be the odd man out in Tennessee.  The bottom line is that Jake Locker should be allowed one last chance in Tennessee with Ken. 

Chris Johnson is another big question mark for this team going forward that Whisenhunt needs to address soon.  CJ is due $10 million this upcoming season and its safe to say that the former 2000-yard rusher isn’t worth that money anymore.  He has lost his explosive play-making ability that gave him the nickname “CJ2K”.  The Titans should cut Johnson and look to draft a RB later in the draft especially knowing solid young running backs in the NFL that have been snatched up in the later rounds of the draft.  (Alfred Morris- 6th Round, Zac Stacy-5th Round).  With Shonn Greene due $3.23 million, you can assume that the former Jet is safe to make the roster, and have a decent chance to be the starting RB week 1. 

Defensively, Whisenhunt has said he plans on running a hybrid 4-3, 3-4 defense with the Titans.  I like the move… It adds variety and confuses offenses playing against them.  With the young core of Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Zach Brown, and if they can keep him, Alterraun Verner, this defense can only get better.  Verner though, is a big question mark.  The Pro-Bowl Corner is an unrestricted Free Agent and being a pro-bowler, he expects to be paid like one.  There is always the franchise tag for the Titans, but I don’t see them going this route for Verner.  They either sign him to a big contract or he walks in FA and signs with another team.  I think its absolutely key that the Titans HAVE TO RESIGN BERNARD POLLARD!!!  This is a must.  Pollard brought great defensive play to the Titans this season, but also great leadership in the locker room, which the team lacked in previous years.  With a new coach like Whisenhunt, Pollard is the perfect guy to be the leader in the locker room, and that’s what Whisenhunt needs.  Pollard was brought in after winning a super bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and came to Tennessee on a one-year deal.  He likes being in Tennessee, and therefore I think the Titans will be able to retain Pollard especially if he meets with Whisenhunt before Free Agency begins. 

Titan fans should be very happy with Whisenhunt especially since people expected him to go to Detroit and not Tennessee.  It helps that he has a track record with great quarterbacks and Jake Locker needs to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from a guy like Whisenhunt and help him maximize his potential because this could very well be his last chance to be the starting QB in Nashville.  Is this team a playoff team with Whis?  It’s too early to tell right now.  Ask me again during training camp, after the draft, after free agency, after Ken hires and Offensive and Defensive Coordinator to really make a solid decision about this team.  But the future looks bright for Tennessee with Ken Whisenhunt at the helm.   

Be sure to tune into Sports Sunday this Sunday (1/19) as we go over our predictions for the AFC & NFC Championship games!!!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another New Year= New NBA Superstars (Stamos)

As I have said on Sports Sunday numerous times, I believe that the NBA is still under the reign of the King, yet this NBA season has brought new challengers. The past three Miami Heat teams have never dominated entire seasons—there has always been bumps and bridges across the way. Last year we saw the emergence of a conference foe that could rival the Heat: the Pacers.
            The Pacers are the top team in the Eastern Conference as the Heat tread water until playoff time.  Fast-forwarding time will surely include a Pacers vs. Heat square-off somewhere in the playoffs. A new generation of superstars has shown it’s potential through the first thirty-some odd games this season.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG: I start with the only rookie on this list because he does play for one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers (11-21). However, this Syracuse product’s play cannot be ignored. As a long 22-year-old point-guard, Carter-Williams brings hope to a franchise that planned on tanking this season. Carter-Williams, and possibly Evan Turner (if the 76ers can retain his this offseason) represent leadership of the future team. MCW is averaging over 17ppg and was surely the most exciting rookie to watch at the end of 2013.

Isaiah Thomas, PG: When the Sacramento Kings sent Grevis Vasquez in a deal to acquire Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors, more pressure was put onto Isaiah Thomas’s shoulders. No, not the hall of fame Pistons point, and former Knicks coach, the 24-year-old Sacramento Kings point guard. The former Washington Huskies standout has come onto the scene this season as the leader of the Kings. Standing at only 5 ft. 9in. Thomas is developing into the NBA’S next-great small point-guard. Coach Mike Malone recently stated that Thomas is the future at point-guard and is the definite starter moving forward.

Jeff Teague, PG: Teague has long been touted as top point-guard by the Atlanta Hawks front office—this season he has been proving that. During his first four years, Teague played a smaller role behind, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. Many, including myself, felt like the Hawks would struggle without Smith this season. Paul Millsap’s coming to Atlanta has made the loss of Smith unnoticed, and it has allowed Teague to create more plays for himself. Teague is averaged career highs in points-per-game (17) and assists-per-game (8.2). Atlanta hold the number, 3 seating in the Eastern Conference and Teague could look to expose the usually solid defense of George Hill, and Mario Chalmers come playoff time.

Eric Bledsoe, PG: One of the biggest surprises this season has been the Phoenix Suns. Expected to be at the top of the draft-lottery board, fans of the had little to no reason to believe in the Suns pre-season. But the genius behind uniting the Morris-brothers in Phoenix has given the Suns an aggressive-defensive personality to rely upon. The undisputed puppet-master, of the team on the court, is Eric Bledsoe. For years the Clippers coveted Bledsoe in trade negotiations, now he is doing exactly what the Clippers feared he would be doing: lighting it up. Bledsoe’s athleticism has helped lead the Suns into playoff contention, and above several teams that were expected to compete for the playoffs pre-season (Lakers, Nuggets, Grizzlies).

Damon Lillard, PG: As awesome as those other point-guards have been to be watch, let’s be honest here. One point-guard has risen quicker than the rest of this field and is proving to be the best at the position, across the entire NBA. With Rondo and Derrick Rose out, it’s hard to say who is the best in the league. Standard rationalization would say, easy: CP3. I would argue that this season, Lillard has been more dominating. Lillard is younger and more physical. Also the last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year is more consistent from behind the 3-point line, Lillard leads the NBA in most 3-points made (108). Lillard has guided the Trailblazers to the NBA’s tope record, so far, and is no doubt an MVP candidate.

Paul George, SF: The only non-point guard on the list, George, is the most immediate threat to dethrone King James because of the strength of the team around him. George plays with arguably the best big-man in the game, Hibbert, and one of the deepest benches behind a solid starting unit. The former Fresno State bulldog has proved that he can almost as explosive as LeBron James. George plays the same position and if he can slow down the king during the playoffs, it should be a legendary matchup to watch. Enough can’t be said about what George brings to the Pacers, his emergence levels the advantage of the Heat and puts the Eastern Conference title up for grabs.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ideal Replacements for Black Monday Casualties- Stamos

Houston Texans: Gary Kubiak was let go during the season after Super Bowl aspirations turned into a nightmare season in Houston. Wade Phillips filled into a familiar role for him, interim head coach. Yet, Phillips did little to secure the position long term. The entire roster is suited to Kubiak’s zone-read scheme and Phillip’s 3-4 defense, management faces a tough decision whether or not to go in a new direction.
            Dominant pass-rushers don’t come along all that often in the NFL: Lawrence Taylor, Julius Peppers, Mario Williams. This year we have one of those prospects: Jadeveon Clowney. Houston should play to the strength of their best player (JJ Watt) and team him up with a freakish athlete like Clowney. This would entail switching to a 4-3 defense, something that the Lovie Smith ran for nine seasons in Chicago. Smith has Texas roots being born in Gladewater, and could be the coach to steer the Texans back into the right direction. NFL Success starts with elite line-play and teaming up Watt and Clowney would certainly bring that to Houston.

Cleveland Browns: Rob Chudzinski was let go after one season, to the dismay of many of his players. Rumors are swirling that General Manager Michael Lombardi will target, New England Patriots offensive coordinator and former Denver Broncos Coach, Josh McDaniels. However, both of their previous two-head coaches (Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur) have come from the offensive coordinator ranks and those experiments got the franchise nowhere.
            I say move in a new direction and play to this teams strengths—defense. Ray Horton was a head-coaching candidate in several openings last offseason, but landed in Cleveland as defensive coordinator. Promoting Horton to head coach would rally players support and continue to grow some of the talent collected on the Brown’s defense. Consistency is key in the NFL, and firing an entire coaching staff after one season, completely disrupts any progression from happening. Keeping offensive coordinator Norv Turner, in his current role, will help mentor whomever is behind center. In the AFC North Defense is king, and getting the Browns to a dominant defensive level is more important than hiring another offensive guru.

Washington Redskins: After a miraculous rookie campaign from RG3, expectations were threw the roof in Washington this year. Shannahan and RG3 never seemed like a natural fit. Shannahan’s stubborn offensive approach held back Griffin’s development, and combining that with a terrible defense led to a disastrous season in D.C.
            They need at least two sets of fresh eyes to look at this roster. One, to reimagine the offense and play more to Griffin’s strengths. And two, to take over the defense and get the Redskins competitive again. I think offense is more important in this circumstance. The Eagles and Cowboys are going to be able to put up points next season, if Washington wants to compete they must be able to keep pace with them. One coach who has helped developed Cam Newton’s game this season is Mike Shula. Shula is the son of an NFL legend and has been a head coach before (Alabama 2003-206). Bringing in a QB minded coach, with a modern, passing, offense is the only hope that Daniel Snyder and the Redskins have, and Shula could be that guy.

Minnesota Vikings: Leslie Frazier enjoyed a moderate level of success in Minnesota, yet it seems that Christian Ponder’s lack of development may have sunk this ship. Their defense was supposedly strength, but regressed this season. With a new stadium on the way, I think it is time for a complete overhaul in Minnesota. Frazier’s schemes never really changed much from Brad Childress’s, and the Vikings approach seemed un-dynamic and predictable.
            Bringing in a fresh coach, new to the NFL, could be a way for the Vikings to get back into playoff contention. One such coach, with experience as an NFL assistant, is James Franklin of Vanderbilt. Franklin has been able to turn around the Commodores program, something that very few coaches have ever been able to do. He also has connections to one QB already on the Viking’s, Josh Freeman whom he coached at Kansas State. Franklin’s named has surface for many big name jobs (USC, Texas) his name may never be hotter and should take the leap into the NFL.

Detroit Lions: The Lions choked away their best chance at an NFC North championship this season, losing 6 of the last 7 games. Jim Shwartz’s defense proved to be one of the weaknesses of this unit, which resulted in his dismissal.
            Looking forward, I believe that the Lions should play to their team’s biggest asset: the passing game. Megatron is in his prime, and the window of his domination could be quickly closing. Pettigrew, Fauria, and Durham emerged as huge targets this season. Stafford needs an aggressive pass-first offense to out-throw Cutler and Rodgers in the NFC North. One coach who could bring that to Detroit is Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Gase took over for Mike McCoy, and in his first season calling plays led Peyton Manning to break the single season record for yards and touchdowns. No situation is more ideal for Gase’s approach than the Detroit Lions. If the Lions can take their passing game from the explosive level, to the dominant level, the sky is the limit for Mathew Stafford in the Motor-City.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Schiano’s stint in Tampa was short-lived, however he was able to bring a franchise-type QB into fold: Mike Glennon. Players did not react well to Schiano’s dictatorial approach, but Glennon threw 19 tds opposed to only 9 interceptions and proved that he can perform under pressure, so the season was not a total failure.

            Schiano did not work out, neither did Raheem Morris; fans in Tampa are dying for management to bring back Jon Gruden. Gruden seems content with his position at ESPN, but there is a candidate out there who bears a strong resemblance to Jon—his brother Jay Gruden. Jay has done wonders in Andy Datlon’s progression in the NFL, as well as has won six-championships in the Arena Football League. Jay Gruden would give fans, and players alike the most confidence in the Buccaneers moving forward. Teaming up Glennon with Gruden could be the best way to progress the young QB into a winning leader.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back (Stamos)

It was not all bad news in the Bronx this week. Following the horrific train accident of this past weekend, an early Christmas Present greeted New Yorkers on Tuesday. World Series Champion Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to leave the Boston Red Sox and join the dark side.
            In the past decade, the Red Sox own three World Series Rings and the Yankees only one ring. For anyone with the surname Steinbrenner this is not an acceptable outcome. For the past few years General Manager Brian Cashman has sworn the Yankees goal was to decrease payroll under $189-million—after the Red Sox won the World Series this notion was punted into the Harlem River.
            Its back to inflated blockbuster contracts this winter for Cashman and crew. Since giving Alex Rodriguez the largest contract in sports history in 2008, the Yankees financial options have been crippled. Other injuries to expensive players have kept the Yankees from winning a championship the last four years.
            The Yankees had no choice but to open up their pockets and load the wagon. Signing seven-time All Star Brian McCann gives the Yankees a power-hitting catcher that they haven’t had since the Jorge Posada days. McCann should also help keep the pitching staff under control and give them more consistency than the unreliable trio of Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli.
            Going to back to the pitching staff, Girardi may be having headaches similar to Mike Scioscia in Anaheim last season if Cashman continues to ignore the holes in the rotation. Behind C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova, the Bronx Bombers are completely defunct of prove pitchers. It is not out of the realm of possibility that a prospect such as Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, or Vidal Nuno could develop into contributors, but management should consider some veteran pitching insurance.
            Returning to the Ellsbury contract, it is interesting the figures 7-years 153-million dollars for a 30-year-old centerfielder. By the final year of Ellsbury’s contract he will be 37 and collecting an upwards of 20-million dollars per year. Cashman continues to overpay for veterans. The McCann deal was warranted because of the vacancy at the position, but the Yankees already had outfielders. A-Rod, Jeter, and Teixeira’s injuries have clogged payroll, Ellsbury and McCann have both had injuries in their careers and could fall into the overpaid, damaged veterans category.
            Johnny Damon was the last Red Sox centerfielder to leave the Red Sox for the Yankees, and it worked out fairly successfully for both parties. If Ellsbury stays healthy, and gets on base he could be a game-changing spark for the Yankees. Should the Yankees implode like last season, Cashman needs to held accountable for passing out these monstrous contracts to old veterans. The only way to justify signing McCann and Ellsbury is giving New York a 28th World Series Championship.

            Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington surely has a plan to defend his World Series Title, as the Sox prepare to face Ellsbury and the Yankees. Red Sox have added wily veteran A.J. Pierzynski to a low-risk high-reward contract, in a move, which mirrors some of their transactions of last offseason. It is only December, yet I can’t wait to see the clash of styles this year as the bottomless pocketed Yankees attempt to run down the gritty bearded Red Sox.

Monday, December 2, 2013

USC hires Steve Sarkisian as their new Head Football Coach (Kline)

Welcome everyone.  This is the first blog I’ve ever done. I decided to do this so I could react to some of the bigger news in sports more timely than just discussing it during our weekly radio show.  So lets go down to business.

Earlier today, University of Southern California Athletic Director, Pat Haden hired former Washington Huskies head coach, Steve Sarkisian as their new head football coach.  Prior to Sarkisian being the head coach of the Trojans, he was previously with USC as a quarterbacks coach from 2001-2003, then again from 2005-2006, and then as Offensive Coordinator/ Quarterbacks coach from 2007-2008 before accepting the head coaching job from the University of Washington (34-29 overall record,  1-2 in bowl games).  Sarkisian has worked with quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, and most recently at Washington, Keith Price.  Sarkisian was with a list of head coaching candidates for the head coaching job with the likes of Interim Head Coach of the Trojans, Ed Orgeron, Boise State's Chris Petersen, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, and Vanderbilt's James Franklin.  

Now what do I think of the hire?  This is USC's Athletic Director, Pat Haden's first head football coaching hire in his tenure with the Trojans.  He needed to make a splash with this hire, not only for the players of the football team, but also for the fans.  He did NOT do this with Steve Sarkisian.  And the only way Sarkisian can prove himself worthy of the fans of the Trojans, is only if Sarkisian has instant success in his first season.  The fans wanted Coach O, and they did not get him, so there are very high expectations for Sarkisian in his first season next year. The fans will expect a National Championship in his first year, which really isn’t fair, but that’s what happens when your named the Head Coach of a College Football team with a very storied past.  Overall, I don't like the hire; I think they should have went with their former interim coach.  

And speaking of Coach O, what is to happen with Ed?  Orgeron was outraged when he was not offered the head-coaching job, and instead was offered a raise to be the assistant coach of the Trojans.  I honestly can't blame the guy.  The Trojans went 6-2 under Orgeron, with key wins upsetting at the time #5 Stanford 20-17.  His 2 losses came against Notre Dame and UCLA who were both ranked at the time.  The fans loved him, and more importantly the players.  Which is going to be really interesting to see how recruiting will work with Sarkisian being named the HC.  Orgeron deserves to be the Head Coach at a D1 program somewhere.  I mean  Washington now doesn't have a head coach.  How ironic would that be if Orgeron was hired to be the Huskies HC?  That would one hell of a game next year when Washington and USC meet if that were to happen.  

I’m not sure how many times per week I’ll post up a blog, but I’ll let you guys know on some of the various social media networks.

Twitter: @dkline44, @stamosalexander
Instagram:  @sportssunday