Monday, December 31, 2007

Week 17: Redskins 27, Cowboys 6 (13-3)

I hate to say I knew this was coming, but I did. I may have only seen a 10 point Redskins win, but this was a formality. It happens. Teams can play half-inspired and get away with it from time to time. If they are home. If they are not playing a divisional rival. If they are not playing on the road at a divisional rival who must win to enter the playoffs, who may also be playing to honor a teammate who died early this month. Sorry, kids, but this one was doomed before the Cowboys hopped on the Airplane.

Which is why I am not overly concerned. Would I have loved 16 quality weeks of football in succession? Sure! But, the simple fact of the matter is this: they could not match the intensity of the desperate Washington Redskins yesterday, and therefore finished their season in a less-than-impressive fashion, with a 27-6 thrashing. But let us remember a few things. 13-3. #1 seed. And, what appeared to be a reasonable health situation heading into January 13th. In a few days, everyone will regain their perspective, and it will be time to prepare for the first playoff home game in Texas Stadium since Jake Plummer and the Cardinals rolled in here in 1998, and a chance to win a playoff game of any kind for the first time in 11years. Let’s all relax, and prepare for some random notes from a very forgettable day in Washington:

· The completion record? Are we honestly risking a wincing Tony Romo for a 2nd tier record like that? Who cares who has the completion record? Touchdowns is big. Yards isn’t bad. But nobody has ever cared about a completion. Think about it, whether it be a game, season, or career, when have you heard any talk about the completion numbers somebody put up? Who cares, Wade? Why you would even consider putting Romo back on the field after he appeared shaken heading to halftime is completely beyond me. But, now he has it. The 335th completion of 2007. Wonderful. The Cowboys are really lucky he didn’t get hurt. I just don’t understand the logic of this one.

· Mike Sellers is a quality FB. He blocks the way all of the classic FB’s did. I really like his game for Washington.

· I am not overly worried about Tony Romo. If Owens is back, Romo is fine. But, his last 3 games of the season, 22.2, 81.2, and 34.9 were his QB ratings. This after a 7 game streak of ratings over 100.0, and his season average fell below 100. He obviously isn’t crazy about entering the playoffs like that.

· It could be said that you wouldn’t be too desperate to play Washington in the playoffs. Whether we want to believe it or not, Todd Collins appears to have a real nice grasp of what the Redskins hope to do offensively. He knows Al Saunders’ strategy, and it shows. Then, they have a powerful tandem of Runners, and a few dangerous Wide Receivers. I still think I would rather play them than have to beat the New York Giants a 3rd time. That is my “I would like to avoid this team” request. Either way, for the 2nd straight year, the NFC East has put both wild card teams in the playoffs. It surely speaks to the strength of the division that the other three NFC divisions have not had a wildcard team since 2005.

· Roy Williams had another tough day. Was it his inability to cover Chris Cooley or his inability to tackle Clinton Portis that bothered you more?

· You knew the game was going to be odd when Marcus Spears got a sack on the first possession. Talk about Bizarro World. His 2nd sack helped him catch Tank Johnson and Jason Hatcher for 7th on the team in sacks. Not quite Harvey Martin.

· Joe Buck tells us that 6 of the last 8 #1 seeds have made the Super Bowl out of the NFC. How could we forget the 2002 Eagles and the 2003 Eagles, losing to Tampa Bay and Carolina in consecutive enjoyable Championship collapses for our friends in Philly? Otherwise, form has held. Sure seems like the table is set for the feast.

· I like my superstar QB not to wear gloves. Just a personal preference. And while I nit-pick, I also don’t care for my superstar QB to be wearing an I-pod in warm ups. Love you, Tony, but for a QB, those two things are like wearing sunglasses indoors and wearing your blue-tooth in a movie.

· Terry Glenn had a pretty rough 4 plays. LaRon Landry knocked him silly on a play where Glenn thought Landry was dirty and going for his knee. To me, it looks like Landry was just trying to avoid Fred Smoot on a wet field. Look below for yourself. Then he was beat to the slant by Shawn Springs on Romo’s interception. I am quite sure that is not what Dallas had in mind for Terry’s return.

· DeMarcus Ware vs. Chris Samuels was quite a battle. Both guys looked good at times, but in a matchup like that, Samuels has to be perfect or his QB gets blind-sided, and Ware is sure getting good at the sack and strip. I am not sure anyone can match his ferocity right now. But, for what it is worth, at LT, I enjoy Chris Samuels and his quality.

· Witten was in the game in the 4th Quarter. Please explain that. Once again, 100 catches would have been nice, but let’s accomplish our accomplishments in the context of the season, and not risk players that cannot be risked.

· Where was the running game yesterday? 8 running plays in the 1st half? I expected the ground and pound, and it did not happen at all. Of course, when they were running with such horrendous results, I do understand Jason Garrett looking elsewhere in the playbook.

· How is Terrell Owens feeling? Say your prayers.

· Let’s not get carried away. This is not the end of the world. 13-3 is a very good year. It can’t be a great year, though, until we see what they do in January. Stay tuned….

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back in Lewisville

Arnold Sturm and Bob Sturm as cold as either have ever been.

Brett Favre as cold as he has ever been prepares to throw an interception

I would like to welcome you back to Bob’s Blog, as we open up 2008 a few days early. First up, here is a bonus picture of Dad and me at Soldier Field on Sunday in what might have been the most miserable weather conditions of my life. Say nothing about the horrendous play of the Green Bay Packers, when the wind chill is 19 below zero, and wind gusts to 45 mph, you at least hope the team you wanted to see at least shows up. Sadly, mine did not. But that is good news for the Cowboys fans, so one’s loss is your gain.

Meanwhile, the always entertaining Holiday Bowl gave us a Longhorns 10 win season

Texas' football team became the poster child for tough love Thursday night.

After weeks of tough 6 a.m. practices, the No. 17 Longhorns came out a new, more intense team and rolled through No. 12 Arizona State 52-34 in the 30th annual Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in Qualcomm Stadium.

The Longhorns (10-3) scored 21 points in the first quarter against Arizona State (10-3) and rode the early momentum to their fourth consecutive bowl victory. Texas has won at least 10 games the past seven seasons, the longest such streak in the nation and a mark that has become a Texas standard in the Mack Brown coaching era.

Derek Lokey got the scoring started with his first career touchdown on Texas' first score just 1:21 after kickoff. The defensive tackle slipped out of his fullback position in Texas' jumbo package and quarterback Colt McCoy's fifth completion of the drive put Texas up 7-0 after Ryan Bailey's point-after.

The touchdown drive, which was aided by a short kickoff and a tough return by Lamarr Houston to the Arizona State 49, was the fastest in Holiday Bowl history, topping SMU's opening score against BYU in 1980.

With two more TDs, Texas broke another record from that game.

The 21 points for the Longhorns in the first quarter set a Holiday Bowl record, the most Texas scored in an opening quarter this year and the most Arizona State gave up in the first 15 minutes.
Early on, Texas' defense was also stouter than it had been all season, and Arizona State relied heavily on Texas mistakes to get on the board.

Chris Jessie, a name now forever in Horns’ lore

It wasn't quite Tommy Lewis coming off the bench for Alabama to tackle Rice's Dicky Maegle in the 18th Cotton Bowl in 1954. But it was close.

Mack Brown's stepson, Chris Jessie, a member of Brown's football operations staff, briefly became the focal point of the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against Arizona State on Thursday night in one of the most bizarre plays in Longhorns' history.

Texas appeared to have the ball at the Arizona State 44 with 12:40 left in the second quarter after a fumble by ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter. But just before UT defensive end Aaron Lewis picked up the loose ball near the Texas sideline, Jessie was ruled to have bent over and touched the ball while it was still live on the field.

"I thought it was a forward pass and thought the play was over," Jessie said. "I backed up once I realized the play was still alive and didn't touch the ball. But I felt horrible. Mack told me, 'We'll pull it out, and it won't matter.' I just hoped the momentum wouldn't swing too much."

After the game, Brown said, "Our family wanted to win the game so badly, he thought he'd help."

Walking off the field at halftime, Brown told ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters he didn't know who on his staff was flagged for touching the ball. Salters said it appeared to be his stepson, and Brown acknowledged it was Jessie, adding, "He wants to crawl under a rock."

It was Brown who ran onto the field and yanked Jessie away from the ball. Brown's director of football operations, Cleve Bryant, was also on the field when Jessie was flagged. UT had already received a warning from officials for failing to stand behind the sideline.

Replays failed to show conclusively if Jessie touched the ball, but Texas was called for illegal touching, giving Arizona State the ball back. It was not a personal foul, so ASU was not given an automatic first down.

Charles claims he is staying put

Texas running back Jamaal Charles said late Thursday he plans on returning for his senior season.

Charles said after Texas’ 52-34 victory: “Right now, I’m probably coming back. I didn’t think I did that good in the game. Next year maybe I’ll be up for the Heisman. I will come back.”

Charles gained 161 yards on 27 carries. He scored two touchdowns.

A Yell Leader incites Penn State???? …wow. We will have the audio on the show today…

Texas A&M officials have apologized to Penn State leaders over an Aggie yell leader's references to needing a "casket" for coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno last week turned 81.

Penn State faces A&M on Saturday night in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

One A&M yell leader, during a pep rally Thursday night, told the crowd that Paterno was "on his death bed" and "someone needs to find him a casket."

The remarks drew boos from the crowd.

Some A&M and Penn State fans said the remarks were offensive and inappropriate.
A&M spokesman Alan Cannon says interim president Eddie Davis and athletic director Bill Byrne later apologized to their Penn State counterparts.

Paterno, a 42-year head-coaching veteran, is about to enter the last year of a four-year contract that expires following the 2008 season.

Crayton stays; Barber next?

The Cowboys agreed to a four-year contract with wide receiver and DeSoto native Patrick Crayton on Thursday night, just days away from the regular-season finale in one of the best seasons in team history.

The contract, expected to be signed today, can be worth as much as $14 million. Crayton received a $6 million signing bonus.

Dallas valued Crayton more this season after he replaced an injured Terry Glenn as the No. 2 receiver in the lineup.

Crayton, in his fourth season, has career-highs in catches (48), yards (689) and touchdowns (seven) this season. The new deal keeps Crayton from becoming an unrestricted free agent after the season, which could have gotten him a bigger contract.

But the receiver had no interest in going anywhere else.

"This is exactly where I want to be," Crayton said before the Cowboys practiced Thursday.

"My client is very happy," said Crayton's agent, Fred Lyles. "He didn't consider the money. He considered his family for making his decision. His wife, son and mother are very important to him because they live in Dallas.

"He's a family person, and it means a lot to him."

Crayton will have a $1 million base salary in 2008 and $1.5 million in 2009. He receives a base salary of $2 million in 2010 and $2.5 million in 2011. In the final year of his contract, he can earn an additional $1 million if he reaches certain incentives.

This season, Dallas has re-signed quarterback Tony Romo and nose tackle Jay Ratliff to long-term contracts and reworked outside linebacker Greg Ellis' deal to give him financial security.

With Crayton out of the way, Dallas can work on reaching long-term deals with two restricted free agents – running back Marion Barber and defensive end Chris Canty. The Cowboys can also work to keep some key unrestricted free agents such as left tackle Flozell Adams, safety and special teams ace Keith Davis and running back Julius Jones.

Dallas is roughly $3.8 million under the salary cap.

By the way, I know I am supposed to pick the Cowboys game every Friday, but this one is really odd given the circumstances. But, I think you have to take the team that HAS to win, so Redskins 27, Cowboys 17. Stay healthy and classy, Dallas.

Now, on to “events I am excited about that might not make the Dallas Morning News”:

New Years Day gives the Hockey world a treat, outdoor hockey Sabres – Penguins

The recent history of the Outdoor Hockey Game

And, the main event of my weekend, UFC 79

*Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva

---History: This is the fight every MMA fan has been wanting to see. It was supposed to happen in the finals of the PRIDE 2003 Grand Prix but Quinton Jackson didn't get that memo. It was supposed to happen late in 2006 but things fall apart between PRIDE and UFC. It was supposed to happen in September or November of this year but UFC wanted Chuck on the September card and Wanderlei wouldn't be ready by September. It then couldn't happen in November because Chuck wouldn't have enough time to party before getting back to training. It was supposed to happen after Chuck knocked out Keith Jardine at UFC 76, Keith Jardine didn't get that memo. At the UFC 76 post-event press conference, Dana White said, "Liddell vs. Silva just wasn't meant to happen."

Here we are months later and this Saturday, Liddell vs. Silva happens. It's no longer a fight to determine the best Light Heavyweight in the world, it's a fight to determine who still has it and who may want to think retirement. Wanderlei Silva is coming off back-to-back losses to Mirko Cro Cop and Dan Henderson. Chuck Liddell is coming off back-to-back losses to Quinton Jackson and Keith Jardine. Even though they were facing top-level guys, no one in this sport can afford to drop three straight fights.

Silva is only 31 but three straight losses and questions about just how good he is in America (you know, where they test for performance enhancing drugs) could cut his career short. I'm not saying Silva will retire if he losses because I don't think he will but a loss to Liddell would derail his career even further.

Liddell on the other hand is 38 going on 50 thanks to all the partying he's done over the years. People questioned his lifestyle going into the fight against Jackson and people questioned his desire going into the fight against Jardine. If Liddell loses this fight by knockout, I say he retires. It's probably not the ideal way he would want to go but 3 straight losses and a loss of focus is a lot to overcome.

---Why Wanderlei Silva Will Win: Wanderlei, like most people in MMA, has a punches chance. This is a guy who never stops moving forward and lets his hands go. Chuck was knocked down and out against Jackson and knocked down against Jardine. His iron chin is no longer iron and Silva has the power to finish him if they get into slugfest, unlike Ortiz and Sobral. Some of Silva's weapons are gone though. He can no longer knee and kick guys after he knocks him down and that could play a factor. Silva also loves to use the clinch and leg kicks, something that could give Chuck trouble and something that did give Chuck trouble against Jardine. Silva has never been one for gameplans but he's been training at Xtreme Couture, home of ‘Mr. Gameplan' Randy Couture. We might just see a different Silva in this fight, one no one, not even Liddell, expected to see. That element of surprise could lead to victory for Silva.

---Why Chuck Liddell Will Win: Chuck's gameplan ranges from, "I'm gonna knock him out in the first round" to "I'm going to punch him until he falls." So I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say Chuck wants to stand and bang. Chuck is a counter-puncher who could easily catch the over-aggressive Silva with a, "crazy looping punch from a weird angle." Chuck isn't fancy with his striking but it works. Chuck is one of those rare fighters who has power while he's backpeddling. Just like at the second fight with Renato Sobral. He caught him with a very good uppercut while he was trying to avoid the strikes and takedowns of Sobral. Silva will move forward and Chuck has the power to knock him down while he's moving away from Silva. Although I don't think Silva will try and take Chuck down, he would have to get past the LEGENDARY SPRAWL~! first. Chuck has been wanting this fight for years and that hunger could drive him to a victory.

---How It Will Happen: They'll take the center of the octagon and they will bang it out. I think Silva will sprinkle some kicks in with his punches and I think Chuck will check them better than he did against Jardine. After some stalling and back up punches, Wandy will let his hands go, Chuck will avoid, and Chuck will knock him down and out. Chuck will do his usual celebration, talk to Joe Rogan, plug the after-party, and go get drunk.

*Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre for the Interim Welterweight Title

---History: At UFC 50, Matt Hughes defeated Georges St. Pierre via armbar just as the first round ended to capture the vacant Welterweight Title. After Hughes won 4 straight fights and St. Pierre won 5 straight fights, they met again at UFC 65. There, St. Pierre went on to destroy Hughes in two rounds to capture the UFC Welterweight Title. Hughes defeated Chris Lytle at UFC 68 to earn a title shot and St. Pierre lost the title to Matt Serra at UFC 69. It was announced that Matt Hughes and Matt Serra would be coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 6 and that they would meet for the Welterweight Title at UFC 79.

As The Ultimate Fighter 6 drew to a close and UFC 79 become closer, Matt Serra herniated a disc in his back and was forced to withdraw from the fight. After considering Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves as replacements for Hughes, St. Pierre stepped up. UFC made it official just days later: Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre for the Interim Welterweight Title.

Hughes has not fought since UFC 68 and has been training for months for a fight. St. Pierre defeated Josh Koscheck at UFC 74 in August and is taking this fight on just over a months notice. Hughes is obviously better prepared and in his mind, this fight will go differently than the fight at UFC 65.

---Why Matt Hughes Will Win: Hughes will win this fight if he can take the fight to the ground and neutralize GSP. Hughes' dream is to knock someone out but that's tough to do when you've never been known as a good striker with any type of power. Matt Serra proved that GSP has a suspect chin though so maybe Hughes will get his knockout but I wouldn't bet on it.. We all know that Hughes is going to try and use his strength to takedown GSP and then pound on him or work a submission from there. He can't afford to stand on his feet with GSP because GSP will likely pick him apart much like he did at UFC 65. Hughes has an advantage in training as well since he's been preparing for a fight for months now while GSP probably let himself go a bit after his fight with Koscheck. I'm sure GSP stays in good shape year round but there's a difference between in-shape and fighting shape. Hughes may want to test the cardio of GSP, knowing he didn't get a full training camp in. If Hughes can push this to the later rounds, he has a very good chance to steal the rounds and either win the decision or finish him.

---Why Georges St. Pierre Will Win: St. Pierre is a much better striker than Hughes and he showed great takedown defense in his second fight with Hughes and against Koscheck. If St. Pierre can keep this fight standing, we'll likely see a repeat of UFC 65. GSP didn't let his hands go against Koscheck and rather took him down, which could tell someone that he's afraid to get hit after the Serra fight. Still, GSP is a much better striker than Hughes and hold the advantage on the feet. Even if it goes to the ground with Hughes on top, GSP is no slouch. He could easily catch Hughes in a submission and end it. GSP could also turn the tables on Hughes and put him on his back, where no wrestler wants to be. The worry with GSP will be his mental state and his training. Will the fact that he knows Hughes had a full training camp get into his mind and make him push the action, thinking he has to end it early because he won't be all there conditioning wise late? Little things like that have bugged GSP in the past so it could easily play a factor this Saturday.

---How It Will Happen: Despite both guys saying this fight will be different than the second one, I just don't see it. Hughes will try to take GSP down and he'll fail because St. Pierre's wrestling ability is outstanding. On the feet, GSP will likely pick apart Hughes. I think Hughes will survive one round longer this time out though and that at some point, the fight will hit the ground. Still, before the third round ends, GSP will be going for the backflip, likely landing on his knees, and Dana will put the Interim Welterweight Title around his waist.

There you have it folks, AN IN-DEPTH LOOK~! at the two big fights on Saturday. For a quick preview and predictions from myself and the rest of the staff on every fight at UFC 79, make sure to check out the roundtable.

Personally, I think Lidell and GSP win. I love Matt Hughes, but if you saw the 2nd fight between these two, you cannot pick Hughes with a clear conscience...

UFC 79

Lost is returning soon!

Lost details

ABC made headlines last year by moving its sophomore hit “Grey’s Anatomy” to Thursday, opposite CBS’ heavy-hitter drama “CSI.”

Next month, the network will attempt a similar maneuver—only now the deck is stacked more in its favor.

Starting Jan. 31, ABC has scheduled the highly anticipated fourth season of "Lost" for Thursdays at 9 p.m., the slot currently occupied by “Grey’s.”

Such a move normally would be much riskier, since “Grey’s” is higher-rated than “Lost” and any show in its slot has to face “CSI” and NBC’s “The Office.”

But with “Grey’s” and “CSI” going into repeats due to the writers strike, and “The Office” being replaced with the less ratings-certain “Celebrity Apprentice,” ABC can afford to put “Lost” into the slot on a guest visa.

The only major schedule play that hasn’t worked out for ABC was slating a 13-week hiatus for “Lost” last year, a move that happened to coincide with the show hitting a creative nadir.

The network had planned to bring back the serialized drama after the first of the year and run the entire season straight through, a la “24.” But the writers strike left ABC with a partial season and a Catch-22 dilemma: Bring back “Lost” for another brief stint and then a hiatus like last year, or make fans wait more than a year for it to return next fall.

With “24,” Fox opted to wait until the writers strike is resolved. With “Lost,” ABC decided to move forward—despite objections in the press from the show’s executive producers.

Mr. Bader said the network always intended for “Lost” to return. “We were never discussing not having those episodes air,” he said.

Sidney Crosby Fights!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Week 16: Cowboys 20, Panthers 13 (13-2)

A win is a win is a win, right? When you have 13 wins in an NFL season, they will certainly not all be painted by Picasso, and this one certainly was not. But, after a 20-13 win over the Carolina Panthers took the Cowboys to 13-2, you quite simply hop back on the plane and enjoy your Merry Christmas with the second best record in professional football.

One stat about Tony Romo that doesn't get enough play if you ask me is the fact that this guy never loses on the road. Or at least when he does, it is the flukiest of situations (at Washington 2006 and at Seattle 2006 playoffs). Think about it, those 2 endings are the only times in his career he has lost a road start. In 13 games! He is 7-0 in 2007, and 4-1 in 2006's regular schedule. The guy has somehow managed to avoid what no QB has ever been able to avoid; the "it's just not his day" road blowout. Those happen to everyone - especially those guys who have had careers this brief. And, if he can take his career regular season road record to 12-1 next Sunday, then he will not play another road game until September of 2008. A nice little truism of the NFL - win on the road, and then you don't have to play on the road in the playoffs.

Surely, the most disconcerting element of last night was the injury to Terrell Owens. I have said a number of times in this campaign that the difference between a team like Dallas and a team like the Green Bay Packers is simply this; You have Owens, and they don't. Otherwise, the teams might be too close to call. If you take that "difference maker" away, then it becomes difficult to project a winner in the NFC playoffs. The good news, of course, is that the playoff opener sits at least 20 days away (and 28 days from a potential rematch with the Packers). So, barring a catostrophic diagnosis that almost nobody anticipates (from their quotes, at least) he should be back on the field by then. I think we have seen how fast he heals. So, with these little tidbits in mind, let's get to the random observations from the win in Charlotte:

* Marion Barber is a joy to watch. He is in some ways the DeMarcus Ware of the offense. Not a quote machine, not a guy that the networks will focus on as they force in another Jessica Simpson thought, but just the heart of his unit. The offense is not nearly as potent with Julius Jones in there. I do find it comical when my buddy Mickey Spagnola still argues with me about Jones being the proper choice as the starter and then cites all of this data that supposedly backs up his case. I just think that if you don't have a horse in this race and let your eyes guide you, it is a shocking difference between the two. Jones seems to seldom-if-ever break tackles, and then we must wonder if his offensive line let him down when he fell for a loss. Then Barber, who seems to make something out of nothing as well as any RB since Emmitt, breaks another tackle and twists for an extra few yards. I understand the whole premise of not fixing something that isn't broken, but you wouldn't think of leaving Greg Ellis on the sideline because the team was 3-0 with Anthony Spencer starting and therefore "wasn't broke", right? This is a different team with Barber getting the ball, and while I am not comfortable saying that he has 360 carries in him next year, I am demanding that he gets 80-90% of all meaningful playoff carries.

* You certainly hate to give too much praise to the Cowboys defense considering that they will seldom play against a more docile offense than what Carolina rolls out there these days, but twice in that 2nd half the Panthers had the ball inside the Cowboys 10 and twice had to settle for 3. If they punch it in both times, they likely win, and this was the point in each drive where Dallas found its pass rush. One way of playing redzone defense is sacking the QB, and Ware, Ratliff, Ellis, and even Tank Johnson performed those honors. And yes, Tank gets to keep his sack even though he hit Matt Moore high.

* No offense to the Carolina Panthers, but who are these guys? Dante Rosario? Should I be familiar? Incidentally, if you think the Cowboys have a maddening situation at RB, how about the Panthers? DeShaun Foster has nearly twice the carries of DeAngelo Williams? I think John Fox may have to break that down for me.

* Drew Rosenhaus may be a great agent, but just his appearing on my screen is annoying. It may not be fair, but I think I have him slotted. It seems like the same situation of the high-profile wife of some of these players (David Beckham anyone?) where if you want him, you get his wife. If you want Terrell Owens, you better be ready for a huge dose of Rosenhaus.

* Terence Newman has had quite a long year. He and his wheels didn't look right early in the year, then he looked right for a while, now after his injury last night, he didn't look right when he returned.

* Tony Romo got away with a few poor decisions last night. Kind of amazing given the fact that he could have eaten a ham sandwich in the pocket as there was almost no pressure on him. Julius Peppers might have made things slightly more interesting if he had played, but his year has been a huge disappointment in Carolina anyway. Speaking of Romo, his 18th interception of the season last night places him in sole possession of 1st place in the INT race for 2007 for a few hours, with Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Jon Kitna all at 17, he should be caught sometime today. But, those three could not dream of catching Romo's 36 Touchdowns. As I have often said of Brett Favre, it isn't the total number of INT's, it is the TD/INT ratio. As long as Romo is around 2 TDs for every INT, he can throw as many picks as he wants. He more than makes up for it.

* Roy Williams was missed, I think.

* Matt Moore looked like a young QB should look. Erratic throws, confusion, and a few flashes of promise. Steve Smith must be going crazy this year with the inability of the Panthers to get him the rock. He is so dangerous. And pound for pound, he may be every bit the game changer Owens is.

* By the way, that Steve Smith ruling on the Hamlin hit, where the refs concluded and replay confirmed a non-catch, still confuses me. It sure looked like a clear catch to me. That and the Reeves apparent pass interference that wasn't called continue to mount evidence that it may in fact be the Cowboys year.

* How quickly injuries change everything in the NFL. Willie Parker on Thursday likely removed Pittsburgh from any chance at a deep run in the AFC, as who knows what Owens might do to the NFC. This is why no one exhales until the end of the Super Bowl in this league. Your next nightmare may be one snap away.

* If you are a Cowboys fan, today is a great day to become a Chicago Bears fan. It is supposed to be horribly cold and windy in Chicago today, and a Green Bay win is certainly not a sure thing against those Bears in any weather. You wouldn't to depend on winning in Washington next week without Owens if you can avoid it. Next week will be a great chance to see more from Witten, Crayton, and Hurd. Terry Glenn, anyone?

We (Bob and Dan) are back Thursday at 5:30 am, and back 12-3 starting on Friday. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Week 15: Eagles 10, Cowboys 6 (12-2)

When the Philadelphia Eagles come to Dallas with a 5-8 record, and play a team who is 12-1 on a game the only means anything to the Cowboys, THIS should not happen. I didn’t see it coming, that is for darn sure.

But, guess what? THIS did happen. And now some are reaching for the panic button. I think that is highly premature. But, still, yesterday’s loss to the Eagles will bring back memories of December swoons of the Parcells’ Era, and will make this week’s countdown to the Panthers a long, difficult week of questions, injury concerns, and over-reactions. Such is life when you lose a home game and don’t even score a Touchdown. And to do it all to those stinking Eagles….Well, you feel the pain this morning. The following are the notes and accounts of a puzzling loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Texas Stadium:

· If we are going to go on and on about the greatness of Tony Romo, then we certainly should demonstrate that we are willing to criticize him on his bad days. He was awful. Awful in the 1st half, then he went in to the locker-room, made some adjustments, and then was just as bad in the 2nd half. You cannot blame the thumb, as that was hurt in the 2nd Half, although the thumb looked bad when the ball slipped out of his hand. He still had his Jedi magic when the interception was fumbled right back to the Cowboys, and all of his fumbles were recovered by his own guys, but his throws were inaccurate, late, and at times, poorly conceived. One week after the entire Wide Receiving unit combined for just 8 catches in Detroit, they combined for just 4 against the Eagles. Can you believe that? 4 catches for Owens (2), Crayton (2), Hurd, and Austin? Since he looked like a magician against Green Bay, Romo has had a pretty difficult time finding his wide outs. Are they being played differently by the oppositions? Sure. But, I am beginning to question the “Unstoppable” label that we had assigned to this offense, as the dump offs to Witten and Barber will always be there, but maybe the home runs are stoppable with some proper defense.

· Let’s all think a good thought about Andre Gurode. He needs to be fine. I think he will be, but when he left the game, it was sack after sack on Romo. It looked like the Cowboys plan was to help Cory Procter with Leonard Davis. Then, the Eagles saw that, and stunted rushers right past Davis if he did help Procter. This resulted in a full-scale confusion level for the Cowboys offense. So, give Jim Johnson plenty of credit for that. The bottom line is that the Cowboys have been very fortunate to enjoy great health with the offensive line in 2006 and 2007. We shall see if that good fortune continues through Andre’s MRI today, but if not, the Cowboys are going to need to prepare to carry on without.

· Jason Garrett has been everyone’s hero all season long. But, like Romo, a day like yesterday has us all wondering about Garrett’s decision making as well. Did you know the Cowboys called 12 straight pass plays yesterday after cutting the lead to 7-6 in the late stages of the 3rd Quarter? I thought the game really called for a strong dose of Marion Barber, especially given how poorly Romo was throwing the ball. And, once the Eagles demonstrated their pass rush could get to Romo, the Cowboys needed to run the ball right down the throat of the Eagles (like they did in Philly), but it never happened.

· As for the Eagles offense, they have little more than Brian Westbrook. McNabb still has something, but I am not sure what it is. I think the Eagles would be crazy to send him away, as Kevin Kolb may or may not be able to hold his jock, but McNabb has some very weak throws. In fact, if he could hit his receivers in the stomach as opposed to the top of their shoes, they might get some run after the catch. But his throws were consistently low and this ended plays at the catch.

· Does Roy Williams try to entertain us with his inability to tackle without employing the horse collar? Because it is beyond disconcerting, annoying, or bothersome. It has now made its way to flat out comedic. Here is a guy who has made his living in the game of football for years, has been chastised for years, and yet cannot help himself.

· Is it just me or did the Eagles start nearly every drive beyond the 35, and the Cowboys started nearly every drive at around their 18?

· The Cowboys pass rush appears to be the real deal. When they put the package in of Ware, Ellis, Spencer, Ratliff, and Hatcher, they can get to anyone. Then, they don’t have to even consider an additional blitzer, so you have 6 guys in coverage making holes in the defense fairly rare. This is what befuddled the Packers, who feed off blitzes. If there are not any, then you have problems.

· Is Terrell Owens not being utilized the same way? What happened to motion to find the right matchup? What happened to lining him up in the backfield? I know the defense wants to take him away, but you cannot give in. Make no mistake, he is the reason you are unstoppable on offense, so you must find ways to keep him on the minds of the safeties.

· AJ Feely’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for getting in the referee’s path on the sideline was something you don’t see very often.

· DeMarcus Ware is a pleasure to watch every week. I think his sacks are obvious, but do you notice how great he is at holding up the corner with leverage against the tackle that allows him to pounce to the corner and still stop Westbrook? He is too strong and too quick for anyone in this league to handle. What a stud.

· Jay Ratliff looked like a guy proving he deserved his contract. Well done.

· I will be interested in the NFL’s ruling on the Ken Hamlin big hit on Matt Schobel. It looked like a big fine at first, but then you could see Hamlin try to keep his helmet out of the mix by turning his neck and pretty much getting all jaw in the process. That was a nasty example of why playing football for a living is not good for your health.

· I watched the game in the booth next to the Eagles coaches yesterday. Most of the opposing coaches block the windows to keep curious eyeballs out of the room (like me). But, the Eagles showed no concern over my eyes as I tried to slyly look at the papers on the desk. There for my eyes to see were their first 15 plays. Before it happened, I saw that #9 was the Flea Flicker play, and I kid you not, there on the page for me to see was “84 Flea-flicker”. So, in this high-tech espionage world of professional football, they actually called the Flea Flicker the Flea Flicker. I was disappointed there was no code.

· Jessica Simpson. Where to begin? How about this: She wants to be seen. Tony, she doesn’t love you, she loves the cameras. She is Eva Longoria. Run! Run! Or, at least make her stay home. I apologize, but I had to get this on the notes.

· Well, the 1.5 game advantage on the Packers is now .5. Some how, the Packers have hung with the Cowboys all season long, and may force the Cowboys to win out to retain the homefield advantage. The bad news is both games are on the road. The good news is that both teams have backup QB’s playing. I would say to hope that the Redskins are eliminated before Week 17. If they win in Minnesota next Sunday night, the playoffs will be riding on that Cowboys game. I don’t think you want to be in that situation if you can avoid it. Despite the bump in the road, the Cowboys still control their entire destiny. Don’t screw this up.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays...And other stuff...

A few notes about this very blog to consider as we head into the vacation week(s).

· The Bob and Dan Radio show will not return until December 27, therefore after today, neither will Bob’s Blog with a few notable exceptions. By the way, we are on 5:30am to 10 am on the 27th, then Noon to 3 on the 28th and beyond.

· The “Cowboys Game Notes” will still be posted on Monday, Dec 17 and Monday, Dec 24.

· I plan on composing a few more of the “Ask Sports Sturm” episodes into blog form during vacation.

· Other than that, Merry Christmas and We shall see you on December 27.


Now, on to the Mitchell Report and all that implies. Let’s start with all that implies first.

Yesterday, was not a very proud day in the business of the sports media, and I was right in the middle of it.

It all started when shortly before noon, WNBC in New York announced that it had acquired a list of the players on the list. This, of course, spread like wild fire in the time leading up to and immediately following the actual release of the Mitchell Report.

The Early Report

According to WNBC the list includes former MVP's Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi and Ivan Rodriguez. Former sluggers Juan Gonzalez, Albert Belle and Jeff Bagwell. The list contains two sets of brothers: Jose and Ozzie Canseco and Aaron and Bret Boone.

I don’t know how WNBC got their list, and I also don’t frequent their website to know or care how they got their list, but then and ran with the list. This adds a ton of credibility to this report because of decades of NBC news gathering. Then, the Associated Press picked it up and ran it on its news wire. By this point, when NBC and the AP have both signed off on the report, that is all I need to feel it was credible, and I referenced the list plenty on the air. Along with many, many other outlets around the country, I now regret that.

Of course, this meant discussions on Bagwell, Pujols, and Pudge Rodriguez in particular. If you were listening to our show, all you heard was that they were on the list. I could offer you excuses such as my faith in the AP and NBC was obviously misguided, but that really doesn’t matter. The reality is I got it wrong. But, here is the other reality; given the exact same circumstances today, I would probably do the exact same thing: that is, trust a trusted news agency.

When I heard Pudge’s name, I wanted the people reading it for us (Sean Bass and Tom Gribble) to find the exact passage that discusses his offenses. Once they searched for his portion in the Mitchell Report, we quickly learned that he was not in there. And thus, the mistake was realized…but it was too late.

See, it is really easy to send me an email that says, “check your facts next time”. But, the reality of the media in 2007 is that radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers all over the country do not have a team of reporters dispatched all around the world. A few try, but in this day of media consolidation, even the heavyweights like ESPN or the New York Times often rely on a few reporters getting the story right for the thousands of outlets that will believe and trust them. “Checking your facts” means Do Not take information from e-mailers (no offense, but this is why I often reply with the question of “do you have a link?”), message boards, or even blogs. But, believing that “trusted media outlets” got a story right is something the guy at the end of the line has little choice but to do.

For instance, when you hear that it is going to rain today on Channel 8, do you believe them? Or do you conduct your own weather readings and measurements to determine whether that information is proper? If you have your own meteorologist lab then I would assume you are in the great minority. You trust those who have earned it, and someday you may regret that trust, but you don’t have the resources to check your own Doppler radar.

So, make no mistake: I got it wrong. I apologize, and I wish I could personally send an email to anyone who tuned it, especially those who told me that they were crushed when they heard that their heroes, Pudge or Jeff Bagwell or someone else, were on the list. But aside from my station hiring another 200 reporters, to span the globe and conduct their own investigations, the reality is that media outlets are always going to rely on people like NBC and AP to get it right. Ah, the flaw in the system.

Trust me, I wish NBC did not run the wrong list, but with no way of checking their facts personally, I am not sure how we improve from this mistake.

Pujols is not amused

When rumors about superstar Albert Pujols spread on Thursday morning, the Cardinals feared the worst. When the truth came out, the club was relieved -- but the player was understandably steamed.

A report that originated with WNBC-TV in New York spread quickly before former Sen. George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball was actually released. The early rumor included a list of names of players who allegedly would be cited in the report, and one name in the initial list was Pujols'.

However, when the Mitchell Report was released, Pujols' name did not appear once in the document. Pujols remained quiet during the day, but his agents issued a statement on his behalf on Thursday evening.
The statement read as follows:

"It has come to my attention that several national and local news outlets have published false reports that associated my name with the Mitchell Report. I have never disrespected, nor cheated the game of baseball and knew without a doubt that my name would not be mentioned in the official investigation. I would like to express how upset and disappointed I am over the reckless reporting that took place this morning. It has caused me and my family a lot of senseless aggravation due to their inaccurate information.

"What concerns me, is the affect this has had on my family and that my character and values have now been questioned due to the media's lack of accuracy in their reporting. I have never had a problem with the media when they do their job correctly, whether it is positive or negative -- just as long as they report truthfully.

"I would like to thank my fans for their continued support and never doubting my integrity. God has blessed me and allowed me to play a game that I would never take for granted."

WNBC has since printed on its Web site a "correction and clarification" apologizing for the incorrect information.

St Louis station fell for it as well

Contrary to a report that dominated a one-hour newscast by a local television station this morning, Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols was not named in the Mitchell report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

KTVI (Channel 2), the Fox Network affiliate in St. Louis, began its 11 a.m. newscast by announcing that Pujols was among the players with Cardinals connections who would be named in the 409-page report.

The station did not immediately reveal the source of its information.

Turns out, the information came from the WNBC (New York) and CNBC web sites, which late this morning "leaked" a list of players who would be named in the report.

But about 20 minutes into the KTVI newscast, the bogus list -- which KTVI said included deceased former Cards pitcher Darryl Kile -- was pulled from those web sites because a Major League Baseball official said it contained multiple errors. Kile also was not named in the Mitchell report.

Clemens and Pettitte were the bigger names who were implicated for the first time

Among the names that appear in the Mitchell Report unveiled Monday are two of the most celebrated pitchers in Yankee history - Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
"For more than a decade there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids ... by players in Major League Baseball," Mitchell said at the 2 p.m. press conference.

According to a source familiar with information provided to Mitchell, Brian McNamee, the longtime personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte, gave the former Senate majority leader conducting a steroids investigation for Major League Baseball information linking Clemens to the use of steroids and human growth hormone and Pettitte to human growth hormone.

According to the source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information, both players were provided the substances to help them recover from injuries and to get through the long slog of the baseball season.

"It's going to say he provided them with (steroids and human growth hormone," the source said.

Former Yankee pitcher Mike Stanton, former pitcher Jason Grimsley, whose home was raided in 2006 by federal officials investigating steroid trafficking in the BALCO probe, and former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch will also appear in the report, according to another baseball source close to the team.

Earl Ward, McNamee's attorney, could not be reached for comment today. Randy Hendricks, the agent for both Clemens and Pettitte, did not return repeated phone calls and attempts to reach him by E-mail. He told the Houston Chronicle that he would comment after the report is released at 2 p.m. Monday.

A source familiar with the report confirmed to The News that McNamee provided information to Mitchell, based on business he is believed to have conducted with one of the primary sources of the Mitchell Report - former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski.

McNamee, who was once on the Yankee payroll, is believed to have given information to Mitchell that includes checks he gave to Radomski anddates that the players received drugs. Radomski pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering in April and his plea agreement included cooperating with Mitchell's investigation into the "Steroid Era."

This wouldn't be the first time McNamee has appeared in a steroid investigation: The Los Angeles Times reported last year that McNamee's name appeared in an affidavit from Grimsley. Former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, who prosecuted several principles in the BALCO case later said the story contained inaccuracies, although he declined to identify them.

Pettitte, who signed a one-year contract with the Yankees this week, said Wednesday in a conference call that he had not worked with McNamee during this offseason, but both Pettitte and Clemens have strongly defended the controversial trainer since he was questioned in a 2001 sexual assault on a woman in a hotel pool during spring training.

The Yankees did not retain him the next season, but Clemens continued to use McNamee as recently as this summer as he prepared to return to the Yankees for a pro-rated $28 million contract. The two-time Cy Young Award winner told The News in May that he had cut ties with the trainer but a source close to McNamee said the two continued to work together.

Washington Post Coverage ….

To non-steroid news, the Cowboys host the hated Eagles on Sunday. This has to be the quietest “Eagles Week” anyone around here can recall.

I think the Cowboys in on Sunday, but I believe I will throw out a reasonable 24-17 score. I expect the Eagles to have a decent defensive performance that will be blitz happy.

Owens happy with fortunes of both teams since he signed in Dallas

Terrell Owens is in his second season playing for the Dallas Cowboys, a team that sports a 12-1 record, has clinched the NFC East title and is the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

He is two years removed from playing for the Eagles, a team that lies far below the Cowboys in the division, saddled with a 5-8 record and not likely to get a whiff of the playoffs.

But reporters who crowded around a speaker phone yesterday at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex expecting the loquacious wide receiver to boast or gloat about his own good fortune and the problems of the team that dumped him had to be a little disappointed.

He came close a couple of times. In one thought, he said, "In my heart, I'm getting the last laugh." Another time, he told the assembled media to assess the difference between his time with the Eagles and the team now "as far as what's going on, without me even saying it."

That was about it, though.

"It doesn't matter," Owens said. "It's not a matter of me walking around every day and saying, 'Oh, look at what they're doing and look at what I'm doing.' I'm just going out and being focused on trying to be the best player that I can be.

"I'm the same player that they wanted and they got coming to Philly, and I'm the same person now on the other side of the rivalry. So other than that, I don't really concentrate on what they're doing or what they're not doing."

Owens, who turned 34 on Friday, leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,270 on 74 catches, 14 of them for touchdowns. The numbers are similar to those Owens posted in 2004, his first season with the Eagles, when he caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs, helping the team reach the Super Bowl.

Owens' Eagles career went from tumultuous to nonexistent in 2005 when he was suspended at midseason for four games after being critical of the team and quarterback Donovan McNabb. He was told not to return after the suspension ended. The Cowboys signed Owens as a free agent on March 18, 2006.

Is LJ Smith done in Philadelphia? …wow, that is the only pass catcher that scares you. They have to keep him, don’t they?

Thanks to the sprained ligament in his right knee, the possibility exists that L.J. Smith's career with the Eagles is over.

If that's the case, we can look back at a five-year period that has been better than many people may believe, and we can look forward to what the Eagles might do to fill the need at tight end next season.

Smith, a second-round draft choice, can become a free agent after this season and has been saying for some time that he doesn't think he'll be back in Philadelphia next season. He has never said that he doesn't want to return, and he kept that door open even yesterday before disappearing behind the door to the players' lounge.

"It feels a little weird to be here and not know my future, and I don't know who to look at and ask the questions to," Smith said after his teammates finished practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. "I don't know who to get answers from. That's the weird part."

Smith, in his fifth season, has never been considered an elite tight end like San Diego's Antonio Gates or Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez. But in 2005 and 2006, he was among the top 10 at his position.

That, of course, has not been the case this season. Slowed by a groin injury that required two separate surgeries, he has just 22 catches for 236 yards and one touchdown. He missed three games because of the groin injury, and now he figures to miss at least the next two because of the knee injury. He said he could not imagine a worse season.

"I've been through injury, and I've been through my first real taste of media criticism," Smith said. "I've seen it all this year."

It will be interesting to see how the worst season of Smith's career affects his value on the open market in March. From 2004 through 2007, he caught 145 passes for 1,670 yards and 13 touchdowns. In that same time frame,
Indianapolis' Dallas Clark, the only tight end taken in the first round of the 2003 draft, caught 92 passes for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns. Smith has 67 more career receiving yards than Clark.

The only tight end from the draft class of 2003 that has been more productive than Smith is the Cowboys' Jason Witten, who has vaulted into the class of the elite. Witten, taken eight picks after Smith, in the third round, has 80 catches for 955 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Smith, 27, doesn't think his injuries this season will hurt him all that much in free agency.

Stars with impressive win …Miettinen looks like Gretzky.

Mike Ribeiro had two goals and two assists, and linemates Brenden Morrow and Antti Miettinen scored Dallas' other two goals as the Stars won 4-1 at American Airlines Center.

With the victory, the Stars improved to 11-1-1-0 in their past 13 games against the Kings.

The Stars have also officially buried that 6-5 overtime loss in Los Angeles in November -- the one in which they blew a 4-0 third-period lead. They've outscored the Kings 7-1 in the two games since.

Marty Turco got his second consecutive victory, stopping 26 of 27 shots. But it was that style-and-substance line, once again, making the difference.

"We challenged our veteran leadership today to make sure we were ready. Brenden, Ribs and Miets there took that to heart," Tippett said. "They were very good for us."

Morrow, Ribeiro and Miettinen have been together for two complete games now; but watching them, it looks like the union has been longer.

They nine of the Stars' 12 points Thursday; Miettinen had a goal and two assists and Morrow had a goal and an assist.

The three had two goals, including the winner, and three assists in a 5-4 overtime victory over Edmonton on Monday.

Thursday was Ribeiro's first four-point game since Jan. 10, 2004, when he had a goal and three assists for Montreal against Pittsburgh.

"There've been a few nice games," Ribeiro said. "Brenden's playing really good and so is Miets. We're getting a lot of offense, a lot of chances to score. It was a good game for us."

Curious story of the day? Mike Richards signed through 2020 …wow. Note that he has a “Career High 14 goals” this year.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed scoring leader Mike Richards to a 12-year contract extension Thursday.

While the team didn't disclose financial terms, The Canadian Press reported the deal was for $69 million.

The 22-year-old forward has a career-high 14 goals this season and also has 20 assists. He's third in the NHL with three short-handed goals.

Richards' new contract will start next season and run through the 2019-20 season. The team announced the extension before its game Thursday night against Montreal.

Green Bay’s secret weapon?

The Packers brought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's legendary heavyweight champion of the world, Randy "The Natural" Couture, to address the team Saturday night and stoke the flames as Green Bay prepared for the Raiders.

"It was unbelievable," head coach Mike McCarthy told FOX Sports after listening to the special guest speaker. "I don't think I've ever been around a guy that impressive before in my life. He's pretty much the baddest guy walking the country, but he's one of the most humble guys I think I've ever been around.
"You had to see the guys' reaction when he walked into that room."

McCarthy set up the surprise speaker perfectly. He talked to the team about fighting through adversity and what it's like to battle through together before rolling in a highlight film of America's most beloved mixed martial artist. The players whooped it up as Couture slammed, choked, punched and elbowed victim after victim.

"Then after the tape ended, all the sudden Randy walked into the room... you could hear a pin drop," said McCarthy. "They were shocked. I think it took a few seconds to sink in that the guy was in the room."

"It was a really cool experience for me," Couture said Sunday morning before heading to Lambeau Field. "I talked to the guys about not taking a loss too hard. When you face Dallas again and beat them in the NFC Championship game, nobody will remember that loss. Put it behind you and don't make it harder on yourselves.

"I also talked about the mental aspect of fighting because I use a lot of the same mental principles those guys bring on the field. I talked about visualization skills, the skills I use for all of my fights."

The highlight of the talk came when young, brash defensive back Frank Walker got up and said there was a linebacker in the room named Brady Poppinga who was much bigger than him and stronger than him and continually picking on him. Was there anyway Couture could knock him around a bit?
The room exploded in laughter.

Uni-Report Gold


Hi Sturm-

First time, long time.... I am part of an interactive agency that has recently finished a "pet project" of ours. Being big basketball fans, we were constantly arguing over who the ugliest players in the NBA are. So, we decided to make a website out of it. I feel it is pretty well done, and you (as well as others) might get a kick out of it.

So, check it out if you get a chance. If you feel it is worthy, I would love a plug for this little labor of love.

Thanks, and keep up the good work at The Ticket.

Baby arm.

I am surprised at the lack of appreciation on the season the Cowboys are having. I believe the Patriots are the main reason. If the Patriots had a couple of losses then the entire national media would be recognizing the greatness of a team with only one loss. Only four other teams in NFL history have finished with 15 wins (San Fran ’84, Chi ’85, Min ’98, Pitts ‘04. We still have three games left, so I know it’s not a fourgone conclusion.
Daniel Troupe

Pete offers a correction from yesterday’s email bag

In 2000, the Cowboys met the Cardinals three times.

Week one - Win 38-10
Week eleven - Win 35-28
Playoffs round one - Lost 7-20


Peyton’s Priceless Pep Talk

Staubach Gold

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday, Dec 13 Blog

Various Sports Items on our Thursday blog that you might enjoy.

Item #1 Is that Scouts, Inc has decided to rate every QB in the NFL, and Here is the top 20

The hardest part was deciding how to rank them. Do we look at just this year? Do we look at their careers and their body of work? We decided it would be a mixture of the two, that we couldn't completely ignore a veteran with a history of great success having a subpar year.

About the only thing we agreed on was that Tom Brady was No. 1 and Peyton Manning was No. 2. From there, the first debate came, with some feeling that Tony Romo was right there with those two, but we eventually decided Romo was No. 4, behind Brady, Manning and Brett Favre.

The top 10 was very difficult after we got through the top five. In that second group of QBs, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb have all had a ton of success but have struggled at times this season due to different circumstances. The other QBs who were tough to place were the guys who are having success as first-time starters. David Garrard and Derek Anderson have both played very well, and we think they will continue to ascend. The rookies were tough to place, but we thought they should be ranked higher (based on upside) than some retread-type backups.

1. Tom Brady
Starter, New England Patriots
Brady is a future Hall of Fame QB who is having a career season. He leads the NFL in touchdowns and completion percentage and has a league-best QB rating of 123.4. There is no longer a debate over who the best QB in the NFL is -- Brady has moved ahead of Manning.

2. Peyton Manning
Starter, Indianapolis Colts
Like Brady, Manning is a future Hall of Fame QB. There is not a QB in the NFL who studies the game as much as Manning, and he is one of the best competitors to play QB. Despite losing several key players to injuries this season, Manning has still completed 64 percent of his passes and thrown for 27 TDs.

3. Brett Favre
Starter, Green Bay Packers
He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. At 38, he is still playing at a high level, and it looks as if he may be able to play into his 40s. There is no denying his arm strength, and Favre is still able to make all the throws. Favre is doing a great job this season making every player on the offense better.

4. Tony Romo
Starter, Dallas Cowboys
He is a young gunslinger who reminds a lot of people of a young Favre, and Romo shows no fear in the pocket. He is mentally tough and shows an excellent ability to bounce back when he makes mistakes. He is a big reason the Cowboys have the best record in the NFC.

5. Ben Roethlisberger
Starter, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger is a young QB who struggled last season, but he is healthy this year and is having a solid season. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has given him more responsibility, and Roethlisberger has responded with improved leadership. He's making better decisions and is completing a career-high 66.9 percent of his passes this season.

6. Carson Palmer
Starter, Cincinnati Bengals
This hasn't been Palmer's best season, but he still has all the tools you'd want in a QB. Playing behind a decimated offensive line, Palmer has thrown 17 interceptions and has struggled to lead this underachieving football team. Still, he is unquestionably one of the most talented QBs in the league.

7. Matt Hasselbeck
Starter, Seattle Seahawks
Coach Mike Holmgren has put much more pressure on Hasselbeck this season, and he has responded by playing very well. He is a rhythm passer who can be a little streaky, but he is very good at running Holmgren's West Coast offense. He is an excellent leader, and it's no coincidence that once Hasselbeck became the focus of the offense, the Seahawks won five straight and clinched their fourth straight NFC West title.

8. Drew Brees
Starter, New Orleans Saints
After a great 2006 season, Brees has struggled some this year behind a shaky offensive line and a running game that is missing starting RB Deuce McAllister. Brees has been forced to carry too much of the load this season, and though he is a very good QB, he is not the type of player who can carry a team without solid weapons around him.

9. Donovan McNabb
Starter, Philadelphia Eagles
When healthy, McNabb has shown that he can still be an elite starting QB. The problem is that he has rarely been healthy, and the last time he played a 16-game season was 2003. McNabb may be trade bait this offseason, but he still has some solid years left.

10. David Garrard
Starter, Jacksonville Jaguars
There were a lot of questions concerning Garrard when the Jaguars released Byron Leftwich at the start of the season, but he has proven his ability as a quarterback in the NFL. He benefits from a strong running game, but his decision-making has been superb (he has just one interception in 274 attempts this year), he's completing nearly 66 percent of his passes and his QB rating is third, trailing only Brady and Romo.

11. Jay Cutler
Starter, Denver Broncos
Easily one of the most impressive young quarterbacks in the NFL. He is a natural fit in coach Mike Shanahan's West Coast offense. He is a smart, instinctive player with a gunslinger mentality. He has a big-time arm that Shanahan loves, and he plays with a calm demeanor in the pocket. He is a young player who is only going to get better the more his plays.

12. Derek Anderson
Starter, Cleveland Browns
Without a doubt, he has made a name for himself and a lot of money in the future based on his performance in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's system since taking over as the starter in the second game of the season. Anderson has one of the stronger arms in the NFL, which has allowed the Browns to attack all levels in the passing game. He is a prototypical pocket passer with average to above-average accuracy in the short and intermediate areas in the passing game.

13. Marc Bulger
Injured starter, St. Louis Rams
Bulger has struggled this season behind a shaky offensive line and has missed time with a rib injury and a concussion. When healthy, he has played very well. He does not possess great size or arm strength but is an accurate QB and a great fit in coach Scott Linehan's offensive system.

14. Jeff Garcia
Starter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Garcia is a perfect fit for coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast passing attack. He is highly competitive and can still move around in the pocket with good accuracy in short and intermediate areas. He doesn't have a big-time arm, but he does a great job when throwing in rhythm to spots on the field.

15. Vince Young
Starter, Tennessee Titans
Young is an intriguing young player who places a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his outstanding athleticism, arm strength and ability to scramble and make plays with his legs. He hasn't had as much success this season because offensive coordinator Norm Chow's game plans haven't always taken advantage of Young's strengths as much as they did last season. That said, Young is still far from the finished product, especially as a passer, but he will continue to improve the more he plays.

16. Philip Rivers
Starter, San Diego Chargers
Rivers has not performed as well as he did last season and still must become more consistent in his decision-making and downfield accuracy. However, he still has the ability to process information quickly while attacking the weakness on the back end in coverage. He is smart and instinctive, with good pocket awareness and the arm strength to spread the ball around.

17. Eli Manning
Starter, New York Giants
Manning is extremely talented but has struggled with consistency and decision-making throughout his short career. Still, he has shown a few flashes that make you believe he will be a frontline starting quarterback in the NFL in the right system. He has shown coolness under fire in the pocket but lacks that emotional drive that gets you excited.

18. Jason Campbell
Injured starter, Washington Redskins
Campbell is extremely talented and will be a frontline starter. He has the arm strength to attack all levels in the passing game while making defenses defend the whole field. While he could improve his accuracy in the short and intermediate areas in the passing game as well as his ability to process the reads while getting rid of the ball quicker, he has a bright future.

19. Jon Kitna
Starter, Detroit Lions
He is in an offense that simply doesn't run the ball often, so his yardage, touchdown and interception numbers are inflated. Still, the number of interceptions remain worrisome. He is a good, intelligent leader and shows real toughness playing behind a terrible offensive line. Physically, none of his traits stand out, but he is not a major liability in any one area, either. He is best-suited as a caretaker quarterback, grooming a young, talented QB like he did in Cincinnati with Palmer.

20. Jake Delhomme
Injured starter, Carolina Panthers
All you have to do is study Carolina's offense since Delhomme was injured in Week 3 to see how much the Panthers miss his ability within their system. He is an experienced player with an outstanding competitive demeanor. He is smart and instinctive, and he processes information while getting rid of the ball quickly. He doesn't have the big-time arm but does a great job of throwing in the Panthers' rhythm offense with good timing.

The methodology was a bit difficult to sort through, but I thought it was worth reading. Oh, and sorry, Eli.

Meanwhile, Owens vs. Keyshawn is very enjoyable

Terrell Owens has been relatively quiet away from the field this season.

Until Wednesday.

Owens lashed out at former Cowboys receiver and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson.

Smiling at times during a 15-minute interview with reporters, Owens took some offense to Johnson's statement Sunday that he's not giving former coach Bill Parcells credit for building this Cowboys team that is 12-1.

Johnson said Parcells deserves some credit.

"It's not a matter of me giving or not giving Bill credit," Owens said. "Everybody wants to make a big deal that this is the team he built. It doesn't matter. My thing is give credit to Wade [Phillips].

"The difference between Wade and Parcells is this: Parcells, he didn't use me as a playmaker. Wade, he got the staff, and that's what I'm being used as."

Owens added that Johnson, if he came out of retirement, couldn't make a team.

"I challenge him to come out of retirement and try to take my position," Owens said.
Then looking into television cameras, Owens said, "ESPN producer, let him go. Let him go."

Said Johnson: "I don't need to defend my career. My résumé speaks for itself. I have a picture of me holding a Super Bowl trophy. I'm not chasing a ring. I have one. I'm
chasing an Emmy these days."

Johnson said some of his comments about Owens were taken out of context. And if he had an MVP vote, Owens would get it.

"I only wish he would stop needling Bill Parcells, because he's never going to win that battle," Johnson said. "The media is going to eat him alive. I was praising him, but I guess instead of talking to him like an adult, I need to talk to him elementary, so he can understand it."

Owens also said that he's much happier this season without Parcells.

When Parcells was told of Owens' comments on a Philadelphia radio station Wednesday, he said, "Tell him there's two people happier. He's not the only one happier."

I like them both at some level, but a look at those numbers tell quite a story of dominance from TO

T.O. -- 875 catches for 12,985 yards (14.8 ypc) and 128 TDs in 171 games
Keyshawn -- 814 catches for 10,571 (13.0 ypc) and 64 TDs in 167 games

T.O. -- 50 catches for 702 yards and four TDs in 10 games
Keyshawn -- 39 catches for 569 yards and two TDs in seven games

T.O. -- 159 catches for 2,450 yards and 27 TDs in 29 games
Keyshawn -- 141 catches for 1,820 yards and 12 TDs in 32 games

Today is Mitchell Report day. Revo writes

Guilty as charged.

It's highly unlikely that when the Mitchell Report comes out today, and names are named and fingers are pointed, that mine will be listed, but I'm here to confess anyway.

I didn't do my job well enough.

I didn't spot the innocuous brown paper boxes stacked inside players' lockers for what they must have been: illegal shipments of steroids. They just looked like shoe boxes to me.

If I ever saw it, I obviously didn't recognize "The Clear" as one of the latest designer steroids. Like Barry Bonds, I guess I thought it was just flaxseed oil.

I must have been daydreaming in the Rangers' clubhouse on those days when Jose Canseco was sneaking off to a bathroom stall with selected teammates to inject each other with stuff that would turn them into rage-filled, pimple-backed, baseball "Hulks."

Maybe if they'd have also turned green, I'd have noticed.

And I actually chose to naively believe that more and more players were simply hitting the weight room, and that explained their sudden explosion in size and muscle.

Yep, like a lot of other people, I'm guilty.

That's very likely what the Mitchell Report will say today.
Everybody's guilty. Some, of course, more than others.

Fukudome went to the Cubs. No shock. The Rangers didn’t get their guy. No surprise. But, I am getting a few “message board” emails about a report that the Rangers actually out-bid the Cubs. I cannot get this documented, so if someone else can find this is a reputable report, email me.

Cubs get their man …and the spending continues there…

Kosuke Fukudome comes to the Cubs with a heavy burden along with his four-year, $48 million salary.

The Japanese outfielder is expected to improve the Cubs offensively, defensively and financially, leading to newer revenue streams for the organization that can now market the team back in Japan.

"He's exactly what we needed for our ballclub moving forward," general manager Jim Hendry said. "He's been our target acquisition from Day One. … We couldn't be happier. It changes the dynamics of our club in a lot of ways. We certainly needed a quality player in right field that can hit from the left side, and he plays the entire game so well that we’re thrilled to have him.”

The Cubs, San Diego and White Sox were all in heated competition for Fukudome’s services, and his agent, Joe Urbon, said the final decision was not based solely on economics.

“Kosuke did have offers that economically were potentially better,” Urbon said. “But there are a lot of elements that played a role in his decision… the ability to win, being the first Japanese player on a club… all those things played a role.”

The White Sox have already had Japanese players on their club, as have the Padres.

The immediate question is how will Fukudome adjust the playing in the majors? Japanese players
like infielder Kaz Matsui and right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka have had difficult transition periods after coming over to the United State with great hype.

But Hendry pointed to Ichiro Suzuki’s immediate success in Seattle, and a few other notable Japanese free agents from 2007.

“Ichiro obviously was a marquee guy and hit .350 his first year (in 2001),” Hendry said. “The third baseman, (Akinori) Iwamura, hit .285 in Tampa. (Seattle’s Kenji) Johjima hit .291 with 18 home runs right out of the gate. So we’re not worried at all about a transition period or what kind of player he may be. He’s got the ability, the versatility and the character to success at a very high level here.”

Hendry said he’s ‘comfortable” that Fukudome will be ready to take part in spring training after elbow surgery last August, and is not concerned about any health issues. He wouldn’t speculate on where manager Lou Piniella would use him in the lineup, but said he can bat anywhere from second through fifth.

Ken Rosenthal reports …again, no mention of Texas…

Considered one of the best outfielders in Japanese baseball, the 30-year-old slugger was a key member of the team that won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March 2006.

He had surgery on his right elbow in August and sat out the Japan Series, but has 192 homers and a .305 batting average and .397 on-base percentage over nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, who won their first championship in 53 years on Nov. 2.

Hendry said the Cubs medical staff is convinced Fukudome's elbow will be fine and he will be ready for the
first day of spring training.

Fukudome drew interest from the Cubs, San Diego Padres and White Sox.

And then TR Sullivan, who tries to put a nice thought on the Rangers lineup, Cracks me up with his ending to the lineup card

Let's see, Major League Baseball gets the Mitchell Report on Thursday and the Rangers get Milton Bradley and Ben Broussard.

So now on Opening Day we have:

LF Frank Catalanotto
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Michael Young
1B Ben Broussard
3B Hank Blalock
CF Marlon Byrd
RF Milton Bradley
DH Jason Botts
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Bench: David Murphy, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Shelton, Gerald Laird

Rotation: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Kason Gabbard, Edinson Volquez

Bullpen: C.J. Wilson, Joaquin Benoit, Frank Francisco, John Rheinecker, Kameron Loe, Wes Littleton, Scott Feldman or Bill White. Seven of those eight.

* Can the Rangers win with the above? We quote from the immortat Hans Gruber and the movie: Die Hard:
"It's Christmas, Theo. It's the time of the year for miracles. So be of good cheer and get me those detonators!"

In other news, Mavericks get pounded

Pitiful shooting ensured that the Mavericks' trip north of the border would end in failure as they fell behind big early and took a 92-76 drop-kicking by the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

As clunkers go, this was a team effort. And it extended the Mavericks' inability to create any identity this season, other than the fact that they are an inconsistent group at both ends of the court.

"The offense wasn't clicking today," Josh Howard said. "We just couldn't buy a basket. It was that simple."

One night, it's offense. Against Denver last week, it was defense. Rare is the night when play at both ends of the floor by the Mavericks is acceptable. Against Toronto – a team on the second night of a back-to-back – it was the Mavericks who were lifeless.

For the last few days, Avery Johnson has been evaluating the Mavericks as they got past the first quarter of the season. He said he came to one conclusion: "You haven't seen the real Mavericks yet."

They certainly were nowhere to be found Wednesday. At least, the Mavericks better hope this was a faux version.

And Sports Email:


Kevin here. I read the blog everyday. Good job on it and thanks for doing it. I have, in the last few weeks, been growing more and more worried about meeting the NY Giants for a third time
this season and the prospects of beating a team 3 times in one season. I used the link to on the right hand side of your blog to research the Cowboys history of playing teams 3 times in one season and came up with the following.

Since the Dallas Cowboys entered the league in 1960 they have only 4 times met a team 3 times in a single season.

1972 Washington L W L
1980 Philadelphia L W L
1992 Philadelphia L W W
1995 Philadelphia W L W

So as you can see, the Cowboys have never beaten a team 3 times in one season. If they play the Giants, highly likely, in the divisional game this January, history will not be on their side.
I wonder if you know an easy way to see what the history of all teams in the league is regarding this. Thanks again.


Drunk Islanders fan delivers must-see quality

Favre and Holmgren going for Oscars

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ask Sports Me: Hall of Famers Undrafted

Given the fact that I am actually broadcasting this morning during “White Elephant Day”, it will be up to you to find any and all relevant sports stories that you might be curious about today. Please accept my sincere apologies, the whole time knowing that it isn’t very sincere….

Regardless, I have been asked to bring some of the “Ask Sports Sturm” episodes to the blog as a written record of some of the research…So here is today’s:

The email for the latest episode is this:

“Dear Sports Sturm-

At the risk of being way too presumptuous on Tony Romo, how many Pro Football Hall of Fame began their NFL career undrafted?

John in Dallas”

Presumptuous would be one way to describe the idea of Tony Romo being a Hall of Fame caliber player, but for the sake of the segment, let us assume he can play at this level for at least another 8 years and he is ready to go to Canton. What players are currently there who never were draft like Mr. Romo?

Here is your list of 12. Most of these players go back to the AAFC era (the All-American Football Conference was the NFL’s competitor from the mid 1940’s to the mid 1950’s) and were not drafted because they were going to that other league. But, there are a few names of interest that just flat out were missed in the draft.

Emlen Tunnell DB NY/GB ’48-61
Joe Perry FB SF ’48-63
Bill Willis NT Clev ‘46-53
Marion Motley FB Clev ’46-53
Lou Groza T/K Clev ’46-67
Bill Gatski C Clev ’46-57
Dick “Night Train” Lane DB LA/Chi/Det ’52-65
Willie Brown CB Oak ’63-78
Willie Wood DB GB ‘60-71
Larry Little G Mia ’69-80
Jim Langer C Mia ’70-79
Warren Moon QB Hou/Minn ’84-00

Obviously, Warren Moon is the best example of a Romo-like player, given he is the only QB and also the only player who played past 1980.
Here is a Gil Brandt story on Moon that references the short list of players in Canton

And although many of these players are not in the Hall (yet), here is another list of great undrafted players

1. Warren Moon- Despite leading the University of Washington to a Rose Bowl victory over the Michigan Wolverines in 1978, quarterback Warren Moon went undrafted. Moon took his talents to the Canadian Football League where he excelled, leading the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Grey Gup victories. As a result of his success north of the border, Moon drew much interest from the NFL. He joined the Houston Oilers in 1984 and proceeded to perform at a remarkably high level. Moon was elected to nine Pro Bowls and ranks fourth in career passing yards with 49,325. Moon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, making him both the first undrafted quarterback and the first African-American quarterback to receive such an honor.

2. Emlen Tunnell- An undrafted defensive back from the University of Iowa, Emlen Tunnell is the first African-American to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He spent the majority of his distinguished career with the New York Giants, making nine Pro Bowls. He won an NFL championship with the Giants in 1956 and with the Green Bay Packers in 1961. Tunnell ended his career with 79 interceptions.

3. Dick “Night Train” Lane- The pride of Scottsbluff Junior College, Lane joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1952 as a 24 year old rookie. In his first season, Lane pulled down 14 interceptions, an NFL record that has yet to be broken. Nicknamed “Night Train,” Lane was named to seven Pro Bowls throughout his career. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974 and is widely considered one of the best defensive backs to ever play the game.

4. Willie Brown- Undrafted from Grambling University, Brown began his pro career with the Denver Broncos in 1963. Brown made a name for himself as a member of the Oakland Raiders. His 39 interceptions are a franchise record. He was named to the Pro Bowl four straight seasons from 1970-1974 and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

5. John Randle- An undrafted defensive tackle from Texas A&I, John Randle began his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 1990. Over the course of the decade, Randle was one of the most productive defensive linemen in the league. He made seven Pro Bowls and concluded his career with 137.5 sacks, tying him for fifth all-time with Richard Dent. Randle will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2009 and will likely be inducted shortly there after.

6. Antonio Gates- An undrafted tight end from Kent State, Antonio Gates didn’t even play football in college. He played college basketball and was an integral part of Kent State’s Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in 2002. At 6-4, Gates was not tall enough to be an NBA power forward, so he decided to give football a try. He had not played football since his senior year in high school. The San Diego Chargers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2003. After a decent rookie season, Gates quickly established himself as the premier tight end in football. He has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls and is destined for many more.

7. Adam Vinatieri- The New England Patriots signed Vinatieri as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota St. in 1996. That turned out to be a great decision. Vinatieri was instrumental in leading New England to three Super Bowl victories. Throughout his career, Vinatieri has made a countless number of clutch kicks and has been the deciding factor in the outcome of many important games. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and won a Super Bowl in his first season with the club. To this point, Vinatieri is the only placekicker to win four Super Bowl rings.

8. Kurt Warner- Undrafted out of Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner signed with the St. Louis Rams in 1998. After starting quarterback Trent Green blew out his knee in the 1999 preseason, Warner suddenly became the Rams quarterback. Warner went on to have an incredible season, being named league MVP. The Rams won the Super Bowl and Warner was named Super Bowl MVP. He was also named league MVP in 2001, but the Rams lost to New England in the Super Bowl that year. Even though his career has declined rather rapidly, Warner will always be remembered for his meteoric rise to glory with the Rams.

9. Rod Smith- An undrafted wide receiver from Missouri Southern State, Rod Smith was a key member of the Denver Broncos championship teams in 1997 and 1998. Smith has quietly established himself as the most prolific undrafted receiver in league history. Smith is the first undrafted receiver to accumulate more than 10,000 yards receiving. Smith is the Broncos all-time leader in receptions, touchdown receptions, and receiving yards. He has also made three Pro Bowls throughout his illustrious career.

10. Priest Holmes- The Baltimore Ravens signed Holmes as an undrafted free agent in 1997. The former Texas Longhorn enjoyed incredible success after joining the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. That year, Holmes led the NFL in rushing yards (1555) and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Holmes continued his productive play the next two seasons, scoring 48 touchdowns. His career has been derailed by injury but Holmes is attempting to make a comeback in 2007.

There you have it. Enjoy.