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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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Wizards-Bulls Game 2 Recap
by
Apr 23, 2014 -- 3:19am

An incredible Game 2 win in Chicago for the Wizards.  The good, bad, and more from the 101-99 OT win to take a 2-zip series lead. 

Good:

1.  4th-Qtr defense.  The Wizards trailed 87-77 with 6:59 left and held the Bulls to 4 total pts on 11 possessions the rest of the way in regulation.  The Bulls made 1 shot and 2 free throws during that stretch while the Wizards forced four turnovers.  Wittman's best move of the night was to put Ariza on Augustin.  He totally took Augustin out of the game offensively.  Wall had him on a few possessions and also locked him down.  Augustin's last points of the game came with 8:07 left.  In fact, he only took 4 shots over the final 13 minutes (8 min in regulation/5 in OT) and missed all of them.  Total lock-down on the Bulls one legit scoring threat.

2.  Never rattled.  After rallying from 13-down to win Game 1, the Wizards roared back from 10-down to win Game 2.  For a team most thought wasn't ready to win in the playoffs because the postseason was too new for too many of their players, they have shown poise, resilience, and a playoff-type competitive toughness that has been shockingly impressive.

3.  Another quick start.  The Wizards once again were ready to play right from the jump.  They shot a lights-out 57% from the floor in the 1st qtr and led by as many as 17 at 29-12.

4.  Wall and Beal.  Beal's game-high 26 included 11 over the final 7+ minutes of regulation while Wall had a spectacular first-half shooting the ball (6-10/14pts) while making outstanding decisions with the ball all night long.  Beal's two 3s down the stretch were massive while Wall's 7-pt explosion in the final minute of the first-half gave the Wizards a 7-pt lead at the break.

5.  Nene.  He scored the first 6 points of the OT giving the Wizards a lead they never lost.  Over a 6-minute stretch of the 4th Qtr into OT, he scored 8 of his 17 pts on 4-5 from the floor.  When they needed him, he delivered.

6.  The bench.  Booker, Webster, and Miller combined for 27 points on 10-15 shooting.  Throw in Booker's 8 rebounds and a key block in OT, Miller's 2 assists to go with his 8 pts in just 9 minutes, and Webster's huge 3 that started the comeback from down 10 in the 4th, and it was an impactful night for the bench.

Bad:

1.  Free Throw Shooting.  16-28 from the line and yet amazingly, they overcame it to win the game.  They went a painful 5-15 in the 2nd-half before OT. 

2.  Rebounding.  If you had told me before the game they were going to allow 17 Chicago offensive rebounds (along with missing 12 free throws) I would've bet the mortgage they would lose.   They haven't been able to keep Taj Gibson off the glass.  He had 9 offensive rebounds tonight....he's got 14 in 2 games.

3.  Final play-call in regulation.  As good as Beal was, I didn't like running a play where Butler and Noah were guarding the pick and roll.  With just 8 seconds left, that play-call worked in Chicago's favor.  I would've preferred a clear-out for Wall or an immediate dump into Nene with the floor spaced.  I thought Webster should've been on the floor in that spot instead of Booker too.

More:

1.  The game was as intense and high-level defensively as any I've seen so far in the playoffs.

2.  The officiating wasn't great and the Wizards got the short-end of the whistle for a big portion of the night but it evened out late when the Wizards got possession on a ball clearly knocked out of bounds by them with roughly 3 minutes left and then got the benefit of a "jump ball" call instead of what looked like a Bulls timeout with Gibson in possesssion of the ball with 10 seconds left.  I also thought Gibson got fouled on his dunk in OT and that wasn't called.  Then again, was Hinrich fouled by Nene at the end of OT??? Net, net....down the stretch of regulation and in OT, the Wizards got more of a good whistle than the bad one they got for the first 3 quarters.

3.  The Wizards have too many ways they can win against the Bulls.  Up 2-zip and coming home, this series should be over but you can count on the Bulls going down with a major fight.  It won't be easy for the Wizards to win both at home but it's clear through 2 games, the Wizards are the more talented and skilled team.



Redskins 2014 "Mock" Schedule
by
Apr 21, 2014 -- 2:03pm

The NFL schedule will be released this week.  Here's my annual "Skins' Mock Schedule".

Mock Redskins' 2014 Schedule

Sept. 7--                      at Arizona                     4:25pm   FOX

Sept. 14--                    St. Louis                       1:00pm   FOX

Sept. 22(MON)--        Dallas                           8:30pm   ESPN

Sept. 28--                    at Houston                   1:00pm   FOX

Oct. 5--                       at NY Giants                  4:25pm   FOX   

Oct. 9(THUR)--           Tampa Bay                   8:30pm   NFL Network

Oct. 19--                     at San Francisco           4:25pm   FOX

Oct. 26--                     ***BYE***

Nov. 2--                      at Philadelphia               8:30pm   NBC

Nov. 9--                      Tennessee                      1:00pm   CBS

Nov. 16--                    Seattle                              4:25pm   FOX

Nov. 24(MON)--        at Indianapolis                8:30pm   ESPN

Nov. 30--                    NY Giants                        1:00pm   FOX

Dec. 7--                       Jacksonville                   1:00pm  CBS

Dec. 14--                     at Dallas                         1:00pm  FOX   

Dec. 21--                     at Minnesota                  1:00pm  FOX

Dec. 28--                     Philadelphia                   1:00pm   FOX



Wizards-Bulls Game 1 Recap
by
Apr 20, 2014 -- 10:33pm

The Wizards won a Game 1in a 7-game playoff series for the first time since the 1979 NBA Finals.  The good, bad, and more from the 102-93 win in Chicago.

Good:

1.  Nene.  He made it a point with a backcourt of playoff newcomers to be the aggressor early and often, taking the pressure off of Wall and Beal early.  His offense was spectacular and efficient the entire game but his defense was as important as anything he did all night.  He made it so difficult for Noah to facilitate Chicago's offense from the high post and/or via the pick and roll.  At least in this game, he was better than Noah and that as much as anything else determined who's team won the game.

2.  Down-the-stretch defense.  The Wizards held Chicago to 2-11 from the floor over the final 5 minutes with 3 blocked shots.  One of the made shots was a Noah tip-in which should have been waived off for offensive goaltending.  Nene was the major defensive force but Ariza, Wall, Gortat, and Beal all got it done on the defensive end where it mattered the most down the stretch.

3.  Andre Miller.  His 10 points on 5-7 shooting over a 7-minute stretch spanning late 3rd into the early 4th was huge.  Wittman had a tough decision in that 4th quarter about pulling Miller for Wall's normal 4th quarter minutes.  Miller played 14 minutes tonight....I'd be suprised if he doesn't get more as the series goes on.  He's a great option when they need good halfcourt basketball with a good low-post mismatch for him to take advantage of.  Augustin couldn't guard him.  

4.  2nd-half free throw shooting & rebounding.  After allowing 9 offensive rebounds while shooting just 12-21 from the free throw line in the first half, the Wizards bounced back by going a perfect 14-14 from the line while allowing just 4 Chicago offensive rebounds in the 2nd-half. 

5.  Interior passing.  Nene and Gortat are excellent passers and regardless of whether their passes lead directly to a bucket, they almost always make the right play.

6.  Leadership from Nene yes, but Ariza too.  Nene was clearly the Wizards MVP in Game 1 but Trevor Ariza hit some huge shots when they fell behind by 12 early in the 3rd and really seemed to be the other vocal leader all night long.

Bad:

1.  1st-half free throw shooting and rebounding.  Missing 9 free throws while allowing 9 offensive Chicago rebounds was the reason they were down 6 at the half.  Noah and Gibson were toying with the Wizards in that 2nd qtr.  Booker in particular struggled during that stretch.  Rebounding may be the key stat in this series.

2.  Rough shooting night for Wall & Beal.  They combined to go 7-25 from the floor although they did go 15-17 from the line.  Beal missed some really good looks especially late.  I didn't think Wall took too many bad shots either but he missed badly on a few of em.  The encouraging news...they won a game on an off-night for both.

More:

1.  There were 13 players in the game that finished in double figures.  Chicago had 7, the Wizards 6. 

2.  Chicago's 54 points in the first half were a ton for them but they got those points on just 5 assists.  Their offensive rebounding was the key.

3.  Wall had some sloppy turnovers and didn't look totally comfortable with the ball at times when he came back in for Miller in the 4th.  Still, his defense was solid and he didn't force much which usually for him means even more turnovers.

4.  The Wizards have a size and skill advantage down low with Nene and Gortat.  Noah is an incredible defender but Nene appears to be one of the few that can match if not exceed Noah's strength. 

5.  Wittman's sub pattern a little different than the regular season.  The rotation was essentially down to 8 players with Harrington and Gooden getting just 5 minutes combined.

 



Pay College Athletes...With What?
by
Apr 10, 2014 -- 8:54pm

Oklahoma State's football team has finished in the top 10 in 3 of the last five seasons.  Its basketball team has been pretty good too.  The Cowboys have made the NCAA Tournament the last two years. 

Thanks mostly to the success of its football and basketball teams over the last few years; Oklahoma State's athletic department generated $87,270,598 in total revenue in 2013.  Not too bad.  It's the kind of money that has so many people screaming "pay the players"! 

Paying the players is a cute theoretical sentiment if not battle-cry but it's not real-world practical.  See, Oklahoma State's athletic department expenses in 2013 totaled $96,782,619.  Let me do the math for you.  Oak State lost $9,512,021 in 2013. 

Now, fortunately for the athletes in Stillwater, the athletic department received $6,234,934 in subsidies to keep it close to afloat.  Subsidies in college sports usually mean some student fees, government funds, and lots of borrowing from the academic side of campus.  That's right.  The hard work and commitment of the student-only students (with the help of their parents) help fuel chartered flights and purchase new basketballs and football helmets.

Truth is, most major college sports programs lose money.  It ruins the myth doesn't it.  According to data in USA Today from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, only eight programs at public universities broke even or had net operating income from athletics each year from 2005-2009.  Over the last five years, there are a few more than those eight that make money but roughly 90% either break even or lose. 

Sure college football and basketball generates gobs of cash thanks to ticket sales, donations, marketing fees, sponsorships, bowl and tournament revenue, concessions/merchandise, and distributions from lucrative television contracts. 

But the college sports business model doesn't end with the "gross revenue" line.  This is the part the theoretical white-board drawing screamers always miss.  College sports are a low-margin business.  Supermarkets generate lots of cash too but expenses are high therefore profit margins are low.  Same goes for college sports. 

The costs are high.  Equipment (and there's a lot of it), travel, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, training facilities, doctors, special dining halls, specialty food, ticket sales staffs,  marketing and merchandising staffs, and the list keeps going.  It's pricey to run a college sports program. 

One of the biggest direct cost line items is "other sports".  You know the story.  Football and mens basketball pays the freight for everybody else.  The swim team, track team, lacrosse team, and womens' basketball team don't compete without football and mens hoops.   

Now, can Oklahoma State's athletic department spend less?  Yes, but nowhere near enough to give the players a better deal than the one they currently have.

All of the above addresses why most college football and basketball teams can't pay players but it doesn't address how much the players already get for free.

Currently, a college football player at South Carolina gets a scholarship that roughly equates to $30,000 a year for tuition, room/board, books, and meals.  That's an average of the in-state vs. out-of-state costs for that public university. 

That same player also receives free access to a training facility, a personal trainer, a personal dietician, a personal medical staff including internist and orthopedist, and oh by the way, free coaching.  No small thing.  Try not playing at Duke and hiring Uncle Phil instead of Coach K to work on your pick and roll defense.  If not for this little thing called an athletic scholarship, the player or more likely the players' parents or guardians would have to write a few checks totaling an estimated $30,000 a year for just those services alone. 

Oh and by the way.  For those that think Texas A&M made a ton of money off Johnny Manziel so "pay him", would anybody have any idea who Johnny Manziel was if he had just shown up at a Houston Texans open-tryout in the Woodlands instead of playing in the SEC in front of the "12th man"?  Texas A&M, the SEC, college football on ESPN and ABC and Fox....that was Johnny Manziel's personal marketing platform and it didn't cost him anything.  Without A&M, the SEC, and college football, "Johnny Football" would still be available to be trademarked.

If I were the NCAA, I'd deliver this message to the parents of athletes who think their sons should be paid.  "Sure we can pay your son Mrs. Johnson.  Not sure how much though.  The starting QB is likely going to get a lot more than the backup right guard but regardless what position your son plays or how much he earns here Mrs. Johnson, we'll need your address so we can send you our $30,000 annual tuition invoice and your son's W-2 tax form.  Also Mrs. Johnson, your son will have access to our wonderful trainers but they cost $100/hr.  Welcome to the U Mrs. Johnson...please sign here."



Jackson Deal Is A Worthwhile Risk
by
Apr 02, 2014 -- 11:52am

Like any business deal, the signing of an NFL player is a risk-reward proposition.  The risk-reward game in the NFL is tough because the league is designed for equality, not capitalism.  Each team is equal when it comes to spending limits on players so spending poorly or taking too much risk can cripple a team if the player busts.  There's no tax write-off ability.  See Albert Haynesworth as example #1 of too much risk.

DeSean Jackson is a Redskin this morning.  Was he worth it?

The potential upside reward seems obvious.  Add Jackson to an offense that already has Pierre Garcon, a healthy Jordan Reed, a hopefully maturing "franchise" QB in RG3, and a big-time back in Morris, and the offense could become a juggernaut.  Even with a questionable O-line in spots, the offense was top 10 the last two years.  Jackson's ability to truly stretch the field and defense unlike any player the Skins have had in 20+ years will allow Garcon, Reed, Roberts, and Morris to thrive without the need of tricky schemes.  Reed on a linebacker....laughable.  Garcon consistently on a team's #2 corner....please.  Morris vs. 7 in the box....5.8 yards per carry.  The reward is they could become the one of the best offenses in the NFL.

The risk in the NFL when signing a player is mostly about the "guaranteed" money.  How much are you "required" to pay the player and how much does he count against your future salary cap even if he's a bust is where most of the risk lies.  Sure, some of the risk is the possibility that the team is bringing in a locker room disruption or worse, a disruption to the community, but shelling out a ton of money and tying up a ton of future cap space for a guy that doesn't pan out equals roster disaster. 

Based on early reports, the Redskins will pay a guaranteed $16 million over 3 years.  I wouldn't be surprised if we find out at some point that the $16 million isn't "fully" guaranteed meaning that the Skins have some contractual protection for certain personal conduct situations. 

Bottom line, the deal is a bargain compared to the $30 million in guarantees the Dolphins shelled out last year for Mike Wallace.  It's much less than what Percy Harvin got in Seattle ($25 million guaranteed) and the 'Hawks had to give up picks to get Harvin.  Jackson got barely more than what Eric Decker got from the Jets and less than what Greg Jennings got from the Vikings last year.  He's better than all of the above.  A league-source told me earlier this morning that the deal is as "team-friendly as you can get" for a guy like Jackson.  The Skins got Jackson at a discount and keep in mind, the Redskins didn't lose one player or draft pick to get him.

Bruce Allen did well.  He's done well in this area since he got here.  The Skins aren't the place to come and get paid anymore.  They haven't been that place for several years.  This Jackson deal has Allen's fingerprints all over it.  Snyder/Cerrato would've traded two picks, torn up his contract, and given him a new deal worth $50 million with $30 million guaranteed.  And then of course, he wouldn't have shown up for mini-camp. 

Allen understands NFL risk-reward.  He clearly thinks that the risk/profit ratio on Jackson is worth it and he's right.  Jackson is in his prime, not past it.  He's the best playmaker the Skins have had at wide receiver in more than 20 years.  They have weapons like Garcon and Reed who have the talent to make teams pay for blanketing Jackson.  RG3's progress is still the most crucial offseason question needing an answer but Jackson might accelerate Griffin's improvement.  And the best part, unlike the past, even if Jackson blows up in a bad way, his contract won't ruin the roster.  If he blows up in a good way, it's one of the best deals the NFL has seen in years.  Sounds like low risk/high reward to me.


Skins Playing in Shallow End
by
Mar 13, 2014 -- 9:49am

So far, it's been the shallow end for the Skins in free agency.  Armed with a ton of cap space and roster holes galore, Bruce Allen has dipped his toes instead of diving in for a real swim.  The possible reasons for it are numerous.  Here are a few.

1.  Allen likes his 3-13 roster more than most.  Of the eight "free agency" moves made so far, five have been decisions to bring back part of last year.  Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Baker, Perry Riley, and Santana Moss are back off a 3-13 team.  Did anyone think two days ago that the new Redskins additions thus far would be Roberts, Hayward, and Lauvao?  Maybe Allen has been cautious because he believes a guy like David Amerson is a star in the making while guys like Josh LeRibus, Phillip Thomas, Keenan Robinson, Adam Gettis, Richard Crawford, Chris Thompson, Bacarri Rambo will shine when they finally get their chance.

2.  Allen is counting on the return of "2012 RG3".  If RG3 returns to 2012 form, he'll mask a lot of deficiencies as he did during that 10-6 playoff season.  Allen may believe that a healthy, happy, and braceless RG3 makes spending gobs of money on everyone else pointless. 

3.  The Orakpo deal was too big of a hit to the budget.  Allen put a ton of his 2014 eggs into the Brian Orakpo basket. Orakpo's deal for now eats up $11.455 million of next year's cap.  While it's a lot, truth is if the Skins had wanted to spend big on someone like Byrd or even less on someone like Mitchell, they could've easily made it work.

4.  Allen blames 2013 on Special Teams more than anything else.  Perhaps he thinks the horrific Special Teams' performance was the runaway #1 reason for the 3-13 season.  He wouldn't be that far off with that thinking.  Maybe his top offseason priority was to upgrade a unit that was historically bad.  Remember, Allen comes from Special Teams stock.  He must have been sick at times last year thinking about what his father would say about the Skins' punt coverage unit.  Maybe adding Hayward and Roberts while keeping Riley and Moss is just the beginning of a free agency plan to add the best Special Teamers he can find.

5.  Allen is cheap.  I don't think there's any doubt that Allen is a cost-conscience administrator.  I applaud the work he and Mike Shanahan did over the last four years restoring order to a culture that took pride in paying 15-20% above retail for everything.  With that said, this was the first year in the last four where teams could afford to splurge a bit, particularly if an exceptional player met an exceptional need.  There were exceptional corners and safeties in this free agency class and the Skins had needs at both spots.  With the cap space they had combined with the expected huge increases to the cap moving forward, the play should've been to forego frugal and pay the price for at least one impact defensive player.

6.  Players weren't interested in the Redskins.  There was a time when the Skins got what they wanted.  That was a result of money, irrational enthusiasm for aging players, and good recruitment.  Let's be honest.  Snyder-Gibbs and Snyder-Shanahan are likely better sales-duos than Allen-Jay Gruden.  Gibbs and Shanahan were big names with huge reputations.  Shanahan was one of the more respected coaches in the game outside of this town which is part of the reason players like Garcon and Cofield came here and guys like Hall re-upped for a discount.  The Redskins don't have a compelling pitch right now.  Many of you will hate the thought of this but Mike Mitchell and Corey Graham might be Redskins right now if Shanahan were still here.

7.  Allen didn't like what he saw.  The answer for the Redskins relative inactivity at the high-end of free agency may be a simple one.  Despite all of their needs, maybe Allen and his staff just didn't love any of the players who were available.  Perhaps he viewed Talib, Byrd, Ward, Ware, etc. as guys that weren't worth the money.

8.  Allen likes the draft better.  Allen may believe that he can better fill his needs in the draft.  Even without a first, this is a perceived deep draft and who knows, they may end up with a few more picks if they decide to move Cousins.

Whatever the reasons for not making a big free agency splash, this offseason was the first legitimate "clean-slate" offseason the Skins have had in several years.  They had few obstacles in their effort to improve the roster.  There's plenty of time to do more but the time for doing something really big has pretty much passed.  Only time will tell us if the shallow end was the right end for Allen and the Redskins.



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