Former Patriot Mangini busts Pats cheating scheme …
Armed with counter-intelligence from Eric Mangini, the Jets apparently have succeeded in busting the Patriots' spy ring.
A former assistant under Bill Belichick, Mangini arrived in New York last year with an insider's knowledge of the Patriots' sign-stealing surveillance tactics and he shared the dirty little secret with members of the Jets' organization, a person with knowledge of the matter informed the Daily News yesterday.
It wasn't until the fifth Mangini-Belichick showdown - last Sunday - that the Jets were able to catch the Patriots. Tipped off by Jets security, an NFL security official confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots employee at the Meadowlands, and the evidence is believed to be damning.
Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't made a final decision, according to a high-level source, but he wants to resolve the issue ASAP. A league spokesman refuted an ESPN report last night that said Goodell already has determined that the Patriots violated league rules.
An announcement could be made by the end of the week. The Patriots, who will have a chance to present their side to Goodell by Friday, could be stripped of multiple draft choices and/or fined heavily.
Matt Estrella, 26, a Patriots video assistant, was nabbed just before halftime of the Jets' 38-14 loss on opening day. He allegedly videotaped hand signals from the Jets' defensive coaches on the sideline, defying an edict from Goodell, who warned teams before the season that he wouldn't tolerate cheating. Several teams have suspected the Patriots of stealing signs. So did the Jets, thanks to Mangini.
"(The Jets) knew they did it," the person with knowledge of the situation said in an e-mail to the Daily News. "They caught the guy a year ago, but couldn't do anything about it. When Eric came, he said that's what they used to do. Bill is going to be (ticked) at Eric. He kissed and told."
So what does the NFL do with the cheats? …
The National Football League has determined that the Patriots violated league rules Sunday when they videotaped the New York Jets' coaches sending signals to players on the field during New England's 38-14 victory at Giants Stadium, ESPN and the NFL Network reported last night.
Before the league issues any sanctions - which could be severe, including suspensions, fines, and the loss of draft picks - Patriots coach Bill Belichick will present his team's explanation to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, likely by the end of the week over the telephone.
"There has been no decision rendered," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello last night.
Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella was stationed on the New England sideline when he was approached by league security officials and had his camera and videotape seized in the middle of the first quarter Sunday. A native of New Bedford, Estrella is in his fourth season with the Patriots and his third year as a full-time video assistant. He helps edit game and practice tapes for use by team coaches, scouts, and players.
The official NFL rule regarding coaching video states, "No video record ing devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game."
The league's head of football operations, Ray Anderson, sent a memo to head coaches and general managers last September reiterating the policy and stating that "video taping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."
Because a quarterback has an audio receiver in his helmet that allows coaches to communicate with him, a team potentially could gain an advantage by knowing defensive signals.
Because the camera and tape were seized in the first quarter Sunday, the taping most likely did not play a major factor in the outcome, a 38-14 victory.
This is not the first time the Patriots have been questioned relating to coaching video.
During a 35-0 victory over the Packers last Nov. 19, a security official removed Estrella from the sideline when it was determined that his credential did not allow him access to the area in which he was standing with a camera. However, Estrella's camera was not seized.
Mark Cuban to dive into MMA …I know we have heard about his crazy and wild ideas in the past (compete with the NFL?) but this one makes tons of sense…People don’t tune into MMA to see governing bodies, they tune in to see fighters….And all he has to do is sign a stable of fighters that we all want to see (Fedor is a nice start, but who from the UFC?) and suddenly the fans will follow. And all he needs to do that is a pile of money, which I suspect he still has…Dana White cannot be pleased…
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban always puts up a good fight in his cutting-edge business endeavors.
Now, he's going to put on a good fight.
Lots of them, in fact, as his newest sports venture, HDNet Fights, will showcase the craze that is mixed-martial arts competitions. Cuban says the first event will be Oct. 13 at American Airlines Center. Details of the project will be provided at a news conference today.
The one certainty, however, is that HDNet Fights will be a cornerstone to Cuban's HDNet, the high-definition network he launched in 2001.
"I was a casual fan, but over the last 18 months, I've really gotten into MMA," Cuban says. "HDNet was the reason I started watching. I started watching and got hooked. As we did more and more, our numbers went through the roof. So getting this heavily involved is both the result of being a fan and a business move.
"It's going to be great programming for HDNet."
Cuban's involvement with the fast-growing sport, whose primary name brand is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), will be far-reaching. He has hired a talent guru, Guy Mezger, and has visions of owning a stable of fighters.
"[It] works just like the NBA," Cuban said. "We have scouts around the world looking for talent, just as we do here in Dallas. Guy is our Donnie Nelson."
Nelson is the president of basketball operations for the Mavericks.
Numerous reports have linked Cuban to Fedor Emelianenko, widely considered to be the Shaquille O'Neal of UFC and is essentially a free agent.
Cuban also said he hopes to sign some local fighters to HDNet Fights, perhaps including Alex Andrade.
UFC events in Dallas have been met with mixed reaction. An "Art of War" event on Sept. 1 at AAC drew an announced crowd of under 8,000, meaning the arena was less than half full.
But interest in the burgeoning sport has grown dramatically in the last year.
"It's still early for MMA in Dallas," Cuban says. "There have been some good events. As more happen at the AAC, the crowds will grow. Our event Oct. 13 has a great card, and we plan on having more after that."
JJT says Aggies need to throw to win …I agree…
A&M is a solid program that's ranked 25th in the AP poll, but it's nowhere close to elite programs such as Oklahoma and Texas. That pains the Aggie faithful, but it's true.
Texas and OU have recently won national championships. Coach Fran is still looking for a Big 12 South title.
You can't argue the point.
Not when Coach Fran is 2-12 against Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Nebraska, the teams that matter in the Big 12. He is 1-9 against Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska
Trust me, that's not going to change until the Aggies start successfully throwing the football.
If UT and OU, two programs that once dominated college football with the wishbone, can evolve over the years, then surely A&M can join them. After all, UT invented the wishbone.
If not, then the Aggies' proud alumni won't have to worry about Coach Fran after 2008, though his contract doesn't expire until 2012. Unless there's a total meltdown, he's not getting fired after this season.
The Aggies run the ball well enough with Michael Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane that coach Fran doesn't have to run a scheme like Texas Tech's to succeed. The Aggies average 289.5 yards per game and 5.6 rushing yards per carry, so the Aggies just need to throw the ball a little.
The running game will take care of the rest.
It's hard to believe Stephen McGee, a prolific passer in high school – even if it was a small school – has forgotten how to throw the ball. If he has, then Coach Fran has some really tough decisions to make, because McGee is everything you want in quarterback.
He's tough, smart and athletic. And he's a leader.
That's why the Aggies made a poor decision Tuesday, when they didn't let him speak to the media like he usually does.
Shielding McGee from criticism isn't going to make the legitimate questions about the Aggies' passing game disappear. McGee, a religious, thoughtful adult by all accounts, can handle whatever questions the media has about his ability to throw the football.
McGee has completed 23 of 44 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown this season. The Aggies rank 115th nationally in passing yards per game with 104.0.
That's just not good enough to win with a schedule that includes difficult road games against Miami, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri remaining.
So here's a suggestion: Use this week's game against Louisiana-Monroe (0-2) as a scrimmage. Louisiana-Monroe has allowed 626 passing yards in its first two games, which means they should be easy pickings – even for A&M.
Fran after 50 games …
How did it come to a triple-overtime game against a smaller program that finished 4-8 last season? The Aggies, however, did double up on Franchione's oft-stated goal of simply scoring one more point than their opponent.
Asked Tuesday if he was happy with his program's progress, Franchione responded, "We're 2-0. I'll take any ugly 2-0 there is in the nation. We're never completely happy. We're always trying to get better."
The No. 25 Aggies had better progress in a hurry, however, if they're to compete for their first Big 12 title in nearly a decade. A&M is lucky Bulldogs receiver Marlon Moore tried sticking the ball out for a touchdown — resulting in a fumble — during Saturday's first overtime.
Otherwise, the Aggies would be 1-1, and Franchione might've had a tough time holding on to his gig — during the season.
A road game at Miami looms Sept. 20, with contests later in the season at Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri, comprising A&M's rockiest schedule since the league started play in 1996.
The above games are supposed to be tough. Fresno State wasn't.
"There are obviously some things we need to work on," offensive coordinator Les Koenning said.
Franchione is a mediocre 27-23 through 50 games at A&M, but this was supposed to be the season that his veteran squad finally emerged as a true threat in the league.
Instead, all of the old questions about A&M's direction are bubbling to the surface. As one frustrated A&M graduate put it, Franchione was hired to close the gap with Texas and OU, not Baylor and Iowa State.
A&M has struggled particularly in its passing game, where it ranks 115th nationally (out of 119 teams).
"I thought we would be throwing the ball a little better like you guys have said, but we've played a lot better teams than we did at this time last year," Franchione said. "I was disappointed we didn't drive the spike on Saturday, but we still came up with more points than they did."
Franchione, 56, already owns the worst overall loss and the two worst bowl losses in school history over his previous four seasons.
All of that, however, was alleged to be in the past. This year, veteran quarterback Stephen McGee and a veteran offensive line were to form the foundation for one of the league's most potent attacks — one that propelled the Aggies into the thick of the Big 12 race.
TCU plummets in the Polls …
TCU coach Gary Patterson thought he was just following the Top 25 syllabus.
Instead, he got a lesson in college football physics.
As Patterson and the Horned Frogs learned Sunday, not all ranked objects fall at the same speed. After losing at No. 7-ranked Texas Saturday, TCU fell like a brick in The Associated Press poll.
Ranked 19th before climbing into the ring against the Longhorns, the Frogs plunged into the Others Receiving Votes nether regions. And Patterson was left publicly scratching his head.
"The disappointment for me," the coach lamented at his weekly media luncheon, "is that everybody across the country is upset that in the preseason, nobody plays any ranked teams. So we go down and play the No. 7 team in the country, a team that's something like 49-5 at their place over the last 10 years, and we fall out of the top 20."
Patterson wasn't angry, he was quick to say. Just "disappointed in the system."
TCU lost. A superior Texas team won. No one can argue that.
But a top 10-quality defensive effort -- on the road, and with little discernible help from the TCU offense -- was sabotaged by the final score. And when the jaded electorate filled out its ballots Sunday, all most of them apparently saw was Texas 34, TCU 13.
"An assortment of things happened in that second half," Patterson admitted. "I've never made excuses, and I'm not going to now.
"But do I think the game was closer than 34-13? I do. And if you talk to Mack Brown or their fans, I think they'd say the same thing."
Where is Brent this week? …
Tennessee @ Florida (CBS, 3:30) - Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson
Notre Dame @ Michigan (ABC, 3:30) - Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire, Bonnie Bernstein
USC @ Nebraska (ABC, 8:00) - Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters
News on Season 5 of the Wire! …thanks to the great Off Wing Opinion for this …
And finally, some news about season five. Sadly, instead of 12 or 13 episodes, the final season of the show will only consist of 10 episodes. The shooting of the final episode wrapped on September 1 and the season will premiere on Jan 6, 2008 (both facts courtesy of a Washington Post article about the end of the show). The season 4 DVD should be out a month or two before that. Two actors from Homicide: Life on the Street (based on a book by, you guessed it, David Simon) will appear in the final season: Clark Johnson (who also directed the final episode) and Richard Belzer, who will reprise his Homicide role as Detective John Munch.
Washington Post Looks at the End of the Wire …
After five seasons, and this final episode, they would be done.
"It's time," said Clarke Peters, who plays Detective Lester Freamon, "to pull the plug on 'The Wire.' "
It is the actor's lot to say goodbye again and again, to bond with cast and crew, only to be sent scattering after the wrap. But this, everyone insisted, would be a particularly sorrowful parting: This morning, they buried one of their own, the daughter of a crew member who died of breast cancer. Tonight, they were putting "The Wire" to rest.
"I was a wreck," said Deirdre Lovejoy, who plays Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman on the show. "But there was a funeral and that put everything in perspective." She looked around the room at everyone guzzling champagne, slapping backs and engulfing each other in hearty bear hugs. " This is a happy death."
Simon, who once covered cops for the Baltimore Sun, always knew that "The Wire" would end at exactly this point. From the beginning when the show debuted in 2002, he saw it as a visual novel, with each season a distinct chapter exploring an aspect of inner-city life: The first season examined the drug trade; the second focused on Baltimore's longshoremen; the third grappled with politics and the notion of reform;
the fourth dug into education and the lives of the city's children. This season, which begins airing Jan. 6, explores the media, featuring a morally challenged reporter played by Tom McCarthy, who wrote and directed the indie film "The Station Agent."
"The Wire" has always struggled in the ratings; last season it averaged 1.6 million viewers per episode. But it's always enjoyed the admiration of critics, who praised it as being the "most authentic epic ever on television." Notwithstanding the giant soundstage, a good 50 percent of the show was shot on location in Baltimore, with real-life characters frequently sprinkled in with the fictional ones. Like former drug kingpin Melvin Williams, whom co-producer and writer Ed Burns, an ex-Baltimore cop, once arrested in a big takedown. Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, who did time as a teenager for killing a 16-year-old girl, made her acting debut last season, playing an assassin. Even Robert Ehrlich, when he was Maryland governor, made a cameo -- as a state trooper in the governor's office last season.
Chat with Marlo! …
Sean Bass is with you Thursday and maybe Friday. I am taking a long weekend starting tonight, but back in time for Sunday with the Cowboys-Dolphins...