Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Was Wrong. Norv Is Hired.

I got an email last night that reminded me what I said a few weeks ago about Norv Turner:

“So much for your theory that Jerry Jones is the only person dumb enough to hire Norv”.

Fair Enough. I guess I got it wrong. There is someone else (besides Hansen and Galloway) that would hire Norv. The San Diego Super Chargers.

Chargers get Norv, Ted Cottrell, and Ron Rivera! …Now that super-team interests me…If Ron is the head coach…

Hoping the third time will be a winner for Norv Turner, the San Diego Chargers on Monday hired the San Francisco offensive coordinator to succeed Marty Schottenheimer as head coach.

Longtime league assistant coach Ted Cottrell, whose experience with the 3-4 defense is extensive, has been hired as defensive coordinator for the Chargers.

Turner, 54, compiled a 58-82-1 record as head coach of the Washington Redskins (1994-2000) and the Oakland Raiders (2004-05). He served as the San Francisco offensive coordinator last season and was credited with the dramatic progress achieved by 49ers' second-year quarterback Alex Smith.

Contract details were not immediately available.

One of six known candidates interviewed by San Diego officials after Schottenheimer was dismissed, Turner was the lone man with primary expertise on the offensive side. Originally, it was believed the Chargers preferred that their new head coach have a background on the defensive side of the ball.

Elias Says

• Norv Turner is getting a third chance despite posting a 58-82-1 (.415) record in his first two head-coaching jobs, in Washington and Oakland. Only three coaches in NFL history had lower winning percentages than Turner at the time of their third hiring: Marion Campbell (.326 when he returned to Atlanta in 1987), Mike McCormack (.345 when he replaced Jack Patera in Seattle in 1982) and Roy Andrews (.406 when he joined the Cleveland Bulldogs as a player-coach in 1927).

• Turner is the third head coach in the Super Bowl era to inherit a team that had the best record in its league in the prior season.

Barry Switzer took over the Cowboys in 1994, after Dallas (under Jimmy Johnson) went 12-4 in 1993 (tied for the best record in the NFL) and won the Super Bowl; John Madden debuted as Raiders' head coach in 1969 after Oakland went 12-2 (under John Rauch) in 1968 (tied for the AFL's best record that year) and lost the AFL Championship Game to the Jets.

Prior to the Chargers, the last team with the outright best record in its league to change head coaches for the next season was the 1960 Eagles. Buck Shaw led that team to a 10-2 record and an NFL Championship Game victory over the Packers (the only postseason loss of Vince Lombardi's career). Shaw then retired and was replaced by Nick Skorich for the 1961 season.

ESPN Steals credit for another story


Okay, now that ESPN has opted to clear Michael Irvin off of the television side of the operation, we think it's high time for the boys in Bristol to turn a scrutinizing eye toward certain portions of its dot-com operation, which continues to (from time to time) claim credit for stories that it simply didn't break.
Regarding the report that the Chargers have hired Norv Turner, the news officially was broken by Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com. And we posted a story on the Glazer report well before ESPN.com had anything published on the issue.

But, lo and behold, ESPN.com now has an item in which Len Pasquarelli claims credit for reporting that Turner is getting the job.

And the underhandedness apparently isn't confined to the Internet side of the business. Says a member of PFT Planet: "At exactly 12:27 p.m. (I checked my watch), ESPN changed its ticker on the SportsCenter rerun to note the BREAKING NEWS reported by Len Pasquarelli that Norv was San Diego bound. My question is, did he learn it from FOX, from PFT citing FOX, or the ESPNNews ticker, which had the info in its news box for the prior half hour?"

When Dan Patrick politely chastised on his radio show those (including us) who posted the "Terry Bradshaw might be dead" rumors, he candidly admitted that ESPN is guilty at times of attempting to take credit for reports originating elsewhere, often by using the subtle code words "ESPN has confirmed" in order to get around the inconvenient reality that someone else had it first.

In this case, Pasquarelli doesn't even use the word "confirmed". He sells the thing as his own work product, even though it clearly is not. Here's the screen shot, in the event they do the right thing and change it.

Isn't that the kind of stuff "real" journalists get fired for?

Football Outsiders all over Norv

Turner's supporters point out that he often takes over terrible offenses, so his ability to take them from 32nd to 16th in the league is an accomplishment. I'd like to introduce those supporters to my friend Mr. Central Tendency. Mr. Tendency makes bad teams mediocre with the help of friends like Mr. Law of Averages and Mr. High Draft Choice. Once these misters have done their business, Turner doesn't have to do much to make a middling offense. His efforts with the Niners last season were typical. He took over a team that ranked dead last in offensive DVOA. Their rookie quarterback became a second-year quarterback, they spent a high draft choice on a tight end, they signed a veteran All Pro offensive guard, and Frank Gore emerged as a featured back. Thanks to all this and a little bit of Turner brilliance, the Niners climbed all the way to 24th in DVOA. Way to go Norv!

Of course, if a team climbed from 32nd to 24th to 12th to third on Turner's watch, that would be a sign of competence. But Turner never hangs around that long. If Turner were a business executive, he would take companies that were $20 million in debt, cut the debt to $12 million, and claim success. Then, after he left, the debt would go back to $20 million. Have you seen the Dolphins or Raiders offenses lately? That's the extent of Turner's post-Cowboys resume: he takes crappy teams, makes them slightly less crappy, then leaves before anyone notices that he hasn't coached a good offense since 1999. Then, the crappiness returns. Turner Boosters claim that the return to crappiness is a sign of Norv's genius: see, that was a 4-12 team before and after Turner, and only he could make them 7-9. You would think that such a great coach and developer of talent (more on that in a minute) would leave teams better off than they were when he arrived.

Oh yeah, the Cowboys. Turner made his name with Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys, of course, and those teams posted some impressive offensive totals. The trouble is that my mom could have coached that team into the Super Bowl. "Here, Troy, here's a football. Give it to Emmit a lot, throw it Michael a lot. Remember that the offensive line will only give you a minute or two to make your decision on most plays, so choose wisely."

Turner has milked every drop of mojo he could from his stint with the Cowboys. In fact, you will probably read an article by Troy Aikman on the main FOX site in the next few days praising Turner. I don't want to knock Aikman. Aikman's toenail clippings contain more football knowledge than is lodged in my entire cranium. But Aikman just isn't impartial when it comes to his former coach. Aikman will often say that Turner made him into a great player, but Aikman was always destined to be a great player. He has it backwards: Aikman turned Turner into a viable coaching candidate. Chargers fans will pay the price over the next few years.

Offensive stats tell just part of the story. Compared to Turner the Motivator, Turner the Offensive Guru is a genius. Turner lets the boys be boys, with predictable results. His teams generally fade down the stretch and descend into squabbling while he sends out applications for his next gig. His Redskins underachieved. His Raiders underachieved. The Chargers, coming off a 14-2 season, have plenty of room for underachievement.

And yet Turner keeps getting hired, thanks in part to the old boy network and in part to the Turner Boosters who incomprehensible excuse and rationalize his failings. Turner is a great developer of young talent … you've heard that, right? In addition to Aikman and Irvin, he developed Trent Green, Terry Allen, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, Frank Gore, and more. Actually, that's about it, and it’s a list that includes lots of players who would have been superstars unless a coach told them to bulk up to 400 pounds or cut out their ACLs in their sleep. Turner Boosters give their man credit for "developing" any player who ever did well on any of the teams he coached. The list looks pretty good because Turner coached all over the place and therefore rubbed shoulders with all sorts of top prospects.

Alex Smith is Norv's latest success story: Smith went from an awful rookie to a pretty mediocre soph (35th in the league in DPAR) in what looks like the standard career arc for a young quarterback. If Smith is an All Pro in two years, you can bet that Turner Boosters will put the feather in their man's cap.

Norv Turner is a lousy coach. He might be effective as a receivers or quarterbacks coach, where he can teach footwork and arm motion and never make a game-affecting decision. But he's awful as a coordinator and poison as a head coach. The Chargers made a stupid decision. He'll take them to 10-6 this season, miss the playoffs, and claim success. Broncos and Chiefs fans have reason to celebrate, and even Raiders fans can feel like the smart kids for a few weeks.

So Brandon McCarthy’s Career record is 7-9 …don’t worry about it…

The Rangers say don't be fooled by something as minor as a career record. They believe the 23-year-old right-hander is special, and they were willing to part with Danks, the brightest prospect in the organization, to prove it.

"When you trade minor league pitchers for major league pitchers, you know what you're getting, for the most part," said Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor. "You don't know what you're giving up. The jury's still out on John Danks. What's he going to become? What's Nick Masset going to become?

"At this point in time, we felt this guy could step into the rotation and be a solid starter for us, instead of guessing what Danks could do and what Masset could do."
The Rangers are obviously confident that the statistics are not reflective of what they are getting in McCarthy. Last season, for the first time in his pitching
career, he was primarily a reliever. He made 53 appearances for the White Sox and
only two starts.

"Being in the bullpen was tough for me," McCarthy said. "I've made it more than
clear that I want to start. That's where I'm the most comfortable. To have the opportunity and have someone say, 'Here's your spot' and have faith in you -- it's a good feeling."

McCarthy has imposing size. At 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, he is a giant on the mound. He is not an overpowering pitcher, but he has excellent command. In 151 2/3 innings, he has struck out 117 while giving up only 50 walks, including nine intentional passes.
He's also pitched three times at Ameriquest Field, where he is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. Rangers batters have hit only .157 against him in Arlington.

"He's a great addition to our rotation," Connor said. "He's got a good fastball, curveball, changeup. He doesn't walk people. I like his delivery. He's a strike thrower, and he throws it down in the strike zone for the most part."

McCarthy, who was rated the No. 3 prospect in the White Sox organization by Baseball America last season, said he hasn't thought about being traded for Danks, who has never made a major league appearance but still was a fan favorite because of his potential.

"No offense to Danks," McCarthy said, "but I'm not worried about replacing him in the eyes of fans. I'm just worried about what I can do to contribute to us winning. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will work out as a trade that was good for both sides."

Hey look! We can all go on with our lives! Padilla is talking now! ….

Vicente Padilla abandoned his yearlong boycott of the media Monday. Perhaps much to the chagrin of AL batters, he does not, however, plan to abandon his habit of throwing inside.

"I like to pitch inside; it's my strength," Padilla said through an
interpreter. "I'm going to keep doing it as long as batters don't back off the plate. If I don't do that, then I'm the one who is going to get hit with base hits and trouble."

The Rangers, who in December invested $34 million in Padilla over the next three years, are happy with his statements on a pair of fronts. First, deciding to break his silence suggests continued growth, maturity and comfort. He said he stopped talking to reporters after being misquoted at his previous stop, Philadelphia.
Second, the Rangers like his willingness to back hitters off the plate.
"He's going to pitch the way he pitches," said pitching coach Mark Connor. "I'm not going to deter him."

The only question that hitters may have, though, is whether Padilla is merely backing them off the plate or throwing at them.

Padilla led the majors with 66 hit batters over the last five seasons. Last year, in his first season in the AL, he led the league with a career high of 17. It led to some accusations from opposing managers, most notably Chicago's Ozzie Guillen, and to an ejection from a game against the Los Angeles Angels in mid-August. That ejection led to a five-game suspension and preceded by a day a bench-clearing brawl between the teams.

It should also be noted, however, that the hit batsmen apparently had the intended effect. He faced Chicago twice more after hitting a pair of White Sox in June, raising Guillen's ire. He held the White Sox to one earned run in 15 innings after twice hitting A.J. Pierzynski in June. He faced the Angels once after the August run-in and held them scoreless for seven innings.

Arod speaks about Jeter

For years, Rodriguez has encouraged speculation by pretending he and Jeter were still close. Earlier this month, at a book signing in Manhattan, he insisted they were great friends and said, “Things couldn’t be better.” On Monday, Rodriguez tried a new approach: honesty.

“Let’s make a contract,” Rodriguez told reporters. “You don’t ask about Derek anymore, and I promise I’ll stop lying to you.”

Rodriguez went on to admit that he and Jeter were not the buddies they once were, while stressing that they function well as teammates.

“We were best of friends about 10, 13 or 14 years ago, and we still get along well,” Rodriguez said. “We have a good working relationship. I cheer very hard for him, and he cheers hard for me, and, more importantly, we’re both trying to win a world championship. We’ll leave it right there.”

Asked why he decided to make that admission, Rodriguez said it was time to be truthful. Covering up the obvious, he said, made people suspicious.
“People are just assuming that things are a lot worse than what they are,” Rodriguez said. “They’re not. But obviously, it’s not as good as it used to be, when we were blood brothers.”

Jeter left Legends Field before reporters could get his reaction. The topic is uncomfortable for Jeter, who has insisted he could not have stopped Yankee fans from booing Rodriguez by showing more support for him last season. Rodriguez agrees with that notion.

“I’m a big boy,” he said. “I’m 31 years old now. So I should be able to help myself out there.”

3 Braves take on Tiger Woods in golf

John Smoltz, Jeff Francoeur and Adam LaRoche teamed up to face Tiger Woods on the golf course Saturday. It wasn't even close.

LaRoche forgot his clubs, and things went downhill from there.

"We got crushed," Francoeur said Sunday, a day after Woods beat the trio's best ball on 16 of 18 holes. "But it was the best time I ever had getting my butt kicked."
Smoltz, Francoeur and LaRoche, the former Braves first baseman, played Smoltz's pal Woods at Isleworth Country Club, where the PGA star has a home.

Smoltz and Woods play a round of golf together each year during Braves spring training. This was the first time Francoeur and LaRoche were part of it.
"We could not have played worse," Smoltz said. "But it was such a blast."
Smoltz is a scratch golfer who might play on the PGA Champions Tour someday. Francoeur and LaRoche are also long hitters and good golfers, by most standards.
But the PGA tours in general, and Woods in particular, are a different level.
"We're not used to being [golf] teammates," Smoltz said, offering a half-hearted excuse for his trio's performance. "We like playing against each other."
The tone for the day was set when LaRoche showed up at the Braves' clubhouse at Disney's Wide World of Sports in jeans, unaware of their approaching tee time. The Braves waited for him to change into khakis.

When they got to the country club, LaRoche asked where Chipper Jones was. Told the third baseman wasn't playing, LaRoche had a troubled look and informed the group he had left his clubs in Jones' car Friday. Jones met him halfway to deliver the clubs.
After making Woods wait, the Braves watched him tee off first and blast his tee shot over a stand of trees the others would never try to clear.

Woods shot a "66 or 67," according to Francoeur, or 68, according to Smoltz.
The others? "I shot probably 77," Smoltz said. "[Francoeur] had one of his worst rounds." LaRoche? "I shot about 84," Francoeur said, "and I can truly say Rochy was worse than I was."

Before Saturday, Francoeur said he played golf with Woods — on PlayStation.
"I told him, 'I've actually played you quite a lot,' " the young right fielder said. "He had no idea [what Francoeur was talking about]."

Bob Knight against new NBA age policy

The new rule that says players must be at least one year removed from high school before entering the NBA is "the worst thing that's happened to college basketball since I've been coaching," says Texas Tech coach Bob Knight.

In the Big 12, it might be called the Kevin Durant rule after the Longhorn freshman who leads the conference in scoring and rebounding. Instituted last year by the NBA, it means that talented players must wait at least a year rather than jumping into the pros right out of high school.

Many coaches have said this new approach is a blessing for the college game, because it lets NCAA schools showcase their abilities for at least one season. But Knight, the winningest college coach of all time, said he dislikes it.

"Because now you can have a kid come to school for a year and play basketball and he doesn't even have to go to class," Knight said Monday. "He certainly doesn't have to go to class the second semester. I'm not exactly positive about the first semester. But he would not have to attend a single class the second semester to play through the whole second semester of basketball.

"That, I think, has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports."

Hey Kids, want to play in the NHL? Learn to fight

Krys Barch saw the writing on the wall: More checks could bring a bigger check.
Barch was in the East Coast Hockey League in 2004-05 when he began noticing the statistics. He was surprised to see which players were making the most checks, and therefore being called up to the American Hockey League.

"Of the five guys with fighting majors, three were getting called up. When you looked at the 25 leading scorers, there were only two getting checks," Barch said. "That pretty much did it."

Barch might not have always been the feisty player he has been with the Stars, but he learned that style as fast as he could - and he has been reaping the rewards since.

When the Stars lost Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott and Matthew Barnaby, they lost three of their most physical players - scrappers who don't back down from a fight. Dallas has been saved by the arrival of the 26-year-old Barch, who has not had a problem filling the role.

"You get to a certain point where you want to play so bad, you start doing things you have to do to reach that dream," said Barch, who was sporting a shiner from Sunday's fight with San Jose's Kyle McLaren.

"You have to find your niche," said Stars coach Dave Tippett, who went through a similar metamorphosis during his playing days. "He just had to keep plugging away at it, and, now, he's reaping some of the rewards of that."

Studio 60 R.I.P.

As Aaron Sorkin sits at the long table for the head writers of his show within a show, it might be a scene from some future episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The press comes calling, and the vaunted show-runner defends himself.

Except that there may not be any future episodes. NBC yanked the series after last night's airing (an outcome that was not expected at the time of this interview).
Sorkin looks very much at home at a table littered with magazines, paper clips, water bottles, and the detritus of coaxing creativity from writers.

It's at the edge of what is a large, multistory set seen in the NBC drama - a late-night network sketch show that looks like Saturday Night Live, but as if shot in an old theater on the West Coast.

"It's served us really well," Sorkin says of the set.

Well, sort of well.

After being hailed as the most promising new show of the new season by a number of publications, Studio 60 hasn't attracted the numbers or attention of his last project, The West Wing, or even Heroes, the comic-book-style show that preceded Studio.

"I'm not sophisticated when it comes to crunching the numbers and analyzing the audience," Sorkin says. "But I can tell you this: Our audience is 10 percent bigger than you think it is."

It's the kind of brash phrase you'd imagine his counterpart, Matt Albie (Matthew Perry), would say in Studio 60. But Sorkin persists.

"We're the No. 1 time-shifted show on television," he says. "When you add the number of people who are recording the show and watching later in the week, the audience grows by over 10 percent - 10.9 percent."

Even so, the whole numbers thing has to be taken in context.

"When I compare the size of the Studio 60 audience to the size of the Sports Night audience, I'm delighted," Sorkin says, referring to his late-'90s series.
"Would we like to have more people watching it?" he says. "Of course we would. But we're really happy with the audience that is watching it."

He reels off the numbers (just as Albie had earlier in the season about his show), about how upscale the audience is.

But there is a downside to such riches, Sorkin says. "Because it is a high-end audience, they all own TiVos."

Hence, the hidden 10 percent.

Last Night’s 24

Jack Bauer Kill Count

Last Night’s Heroes

Click here to hear Skin talk Oscars

Bob Knight for the Marines LANGUAGE ALERT

To Catch a Predator?


MrSimic said...

Too bad San Diego isn't on the schedule next year. Let them have Norv, though; I'm content with Bum, Jr.

cracker1743 said...

Finally, a little baseball talk. Makes my sports pants happy.

Bob Knight actually cares that his players go to class? You could've knocked me over with a feather...

Brandon said...

* ESPN is the anti-Christ.

* I really don't care what Bob Knight has to say about anything. He is an A-hole and a very overrated head coach whose done nothing in games that really matter (i.e. the NCAA Tournament), just like his buddy Parcells in the NFL Playoffs.

Andy Douthitt said...

Let's take a left turn...

Now we have had mid-season Mavs talk, its time for mid-season Ticket talk and the rankings are back.

Best Show on the Ticket:
Last year (BAD Radio)
This year:
BAD Radio; good guests, great relevant topics, good mix of talent that knows how to fit in.

Worst Show on the Ticket:
Last year (Hardline)
This year:
Norm; steroids, Buck, boring topics etc. have put you where your at now. I love Norm but cmon man. Failing

Most underrated personality on the Ticket:
Last year (Gordon Keith)
This year:
Rich Phillips; ticket-ticker legend, homer calls in both football and basketball, Nascar show on Sat. now, mixes well with people since his best buddy bolted for Austin (KScott). Rich Phillips is just plain solid and pretty funny.

Best producer:
Last year (Gribble)
This year:
Gribble (again). no matter what you think of Aggy, he is nice to callers, books quality guests, and his annoying habits make for good radio.

The person you always want to hear even though he is not paid to talk:

Michael Gruber (grubes)

has there ever been a character that is just playing himself that is more funny? Drops, his appearance, drops, his voice, drops, and knowing when to mix in on BAD and the hardline makes Grubes money.

Worst producer:
Last year (Danny Ballis)
This year:
Mike Fernandez (Fernando)
Does not care about P1's, rude on the phone to callers, doesn't really care about the Ticket as a whole, just a stick in the ass and I hate his voice.

Party on from a listener since year 1.


Bitterwhiteguy said...

I enjoy Bob Knight trying to pretend like he wouldn't recruit Durant if Durant even sneezed in Lubbock's direction. It's almost as hilarious as it is ludicrous.