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Old 12-15-2003, 10:12 PM   #1
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Default [Sports Central Newsletter] - #107 - Fixing a Broken System

The Sports Central Newsletter
December 2003 - Issue #107

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files: "Fixing a Broken System"
- What's New at Sports Central?
- Feature Article: "Don't Blame Gruden, Blame the System"
- Marquee Matchup: "NFL: Eagles at Dolphins"



Hello folks,

Brad Oremland makes his case for a playoff system in this issue's O-Files. "Playoffs work in every other major sport in North America, and the reasons to institute one in college football are more compelling than ever ... It's time," says Brad.

Not to be forgotten, Mike Round explains why Jon Gruden is not to blame for the Bucs' uninspiring, disappointing season in the Feature Article. Mike sums it up as, "He's a victim of circumstance, ill luck, injuries to key players, complacency in some of his team, and the cap." And lastly, Anthony Brancato, a new contributor to the newsletter, but a long-time moderator on the message boards (https://boards.sports-central.org), breaks down this week's Monday Night Football game.

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|-- THE O-FILES--|

"Fixing a Broken System"

By Brad Oremland

Never has the case been more clear. Never has there been less room for doubt. Never have I been more distressed that college football cannot crown a true national champion.

By instituting the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the overlords of college football admitted that most players, coaches, and fans want to know who the best team in the country is. They created a system that, with the benefit of a few years of experience, we've realized really makes no one happy, even the slightly bizarre fans who claim that nothing makes them so happy as not knowing, say, whether Ohio State was really better than Miami last season.

This year, there are at least three teams who should get a chance to prove themselves as the best team in the country. One is being left out. Now that Oklahoma is vulnerable, the national championship game -- and I use that term very loosely, as this year's game won't prove a thing if USC wins the Rose Bowl -- is no one's slam dunk, and LSU, USC, and Michigan all deserve a chance to prove themselves on the field rather than in someone's computer program.

An eight-team playoff, using the top eight teams in the BCS, could solve all of this. In a given year, there are probably four or five teams with some legitimate claim at a chance to play for the national title, so if the ninth-ranked team really wants to complain about being left out, we can safely ignore them. Maybe they shouldn't have lost two games or played a weak schedule.

This year, for instance, in the eight-team playoff the BCS overlords have no excuse not to institute, Oklahoma would play Tennessee, LSU would face FSU, USC would go up against Texas, and Michigan would rematch Ohio State. The winners would advance to a four-team run-off, and the winners of that round would face each other in a TRUE national championship game, with no team having a legitimate argument that it got robbed.

If you want to throw the conferences a bone -- and that's probably necessary -- drop the Longhorns and Volunteers from that list and throw in K-State and Miami. Not that it matters. Frankly, I don't think UT, Tennessee, KSU, or Miami could win the necessary three playoff games to be crowned national champion. One upset -- even two -- I could see, but the train stops there.

If the goal of the BCS is to determine who the best college football team in the country is, then the current system is a failure. Playoffs work in every other major sport in North America, and the reasons to institute one in college football are more compelling than ever. If there was any doubt remaining, Oklahoma's loss in the Big 12 championship game erased it. It's time.


Brad welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)



A look back at the new articles from the week of 12/08/03 - 12/14/03:


COLUMN: Amico Report: Talkin' Clippers ... Yes, Clippers
By Sam Amico

Today, you might want to hit the delete key and just skip reading this, because today, SC's Sam Amico is going to write about the losingest franchise in professional sports. The Los Angeles Clippers. Today, he sort of believes in the Clippers. They have hope. At least a little bit, anyway. More NBA talk in the Amico Report.



COLUMN: Jester's Quart: Rejected BCS alternatives
By Greg Wyshynski

The Bowl Championship Series computer is loathed throughout the sports world. SC's Greg Wyshynski reveals the other options the NCAA considered using to determine a National Champion. That, plus a special rant on the firing of Butch Cassidy, and some random thoughts on George O'Leary, the Nets' move, and Kobe Bryant's jury ... in the Jester's Quart.



NFL: Winners and losers, NFL-style
By Jeff Moore

Want to know who is winning and losing in the NFL? Look beyond the scores. There is more at stake every week than just team wins and losses. As the end of the season nears, SC's Jeff Moore presents the winners and losers, NFL-style.



NBA: Nuggets a cupcake no longer
By Joe Kaiser

No team in the NBA has been more of a surprise through the first month of the season than the Denver Nuggets. In a year that was supposed to be centered around the Carmelo Anthony hype, the Nuggets have shown they are no longer the laughing stock of the league, says SC's Joe Kaiser.



By Eric Williams

With Christmas fast approaching, one usually takes this time to stop and think about things in their life for which they are grateful. The one thing SC's Eric Williams is most thankful for is that the BCS has absolutely no bearing on who is crowned the NCAA champion in April.



NFL: The bitter irony of the NFL's past
By M. Edward Guest

The NFL's long, arduous march to full integration has not been without consequence. We know that because of the white players who've disappeared, and because of the dominant performances of trailblazing African-American stars, which can never be replicated.



MLB: And now, the end is near?
By Jeff Kallman

Mike Schmidt predicts Pete Rose's pending reinstatement. Again. Schmidt bats below the Mendoza Line as a prognosticator, by his own admission ... but Charlie Hustler just might have a case for reinstatement, says SC's Jeff Kallman.



COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Best Championship System, or Best Contender Screwed?
By Adam Russell

Oklahoma is No. 3 in both "human" polls while USC and LSU are No. 1 and 2, respectively. Those two should be playing in the Sugar Bowl next month. It's a travesty that seven computers can circumvent what dozens of writers, broadcasters, and coaches conclude unanimously.



NFL: NFL Week 14 power rankings
By Brad Oremland

The Eagles and Patriots stay on top with dominant performances against good teams, while the already-last Cardinals hit a new low. SC's Brad Oremland also weighs in on Donovan McNabb, Aeneas Williams, and the Kansas City run in his Week 14 power rankings.




"Don't Blame Gruden, Blame the System"

By Mike Round

Last January, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. This year, the Raiders are mired in a 3-9 slump and have a locker room at war with the coaching staff. Down in South Florida, the world champion Bucs are two games below .500 and on the brink of official playoff elimination. Welcome to the wacky world of NFL parity.


Right, first things first. It's time to hold my hands up to a howlingly bad call made last year. After the Jon "I sleep in My Office" Gruden hire, I ripped the Glazer family for giving up four high draft picks for a coach with (at the time) a 40-28 record. I'm sure my loyal reader(s) recall that I predicted nothing but misery and gloom for long-suffering Tampa fans. Okay, I whiffed, again, and was reminded so by my loyal wife as the clock ran down that January evening in San Diego. But every dog has his day, and, at the risk of getting lost in cliché-land, the chickens have finally come home to roost on that whole deal for the Bucs.

The trouble with head coaches is that they don't actually play football, and as such are never worth high draft picks, with one or two rare exceptions. Bill Belichick? Absolutely, given his outstanding job in turning around a moribund Patriots franchise. Bill Parcells? Ditto that job in Foxboro, but add onto the résumé the Cowboys, Giants, and Jets. But the list ends there.

Tony Dungy and GM Rich McKay put a strong Bucs team out on the field year after year in Tampa and, arguably, Gruden rode that roster to Super Bowl glory, with a few tweaks on offense along the way. In the modern NFL, you don't need to be adept at playing championship football on both sides of the ball to win, as the Ravens, Patriots, Rams had proved in recent years. Gruden, to his credit, let Monte Kiffin's defense do its stifling thing and unbuttoned Dungy's offense just enough to put sufficient points on the board. Next thing you know, Chris Berman is crowning him a certifiable genius.

Fast forward from Super Bowl XXXVII to last Sunday and the Bucs humiliating 17-10 defeat to Jacksonville, then languishing at 2-9. Gruden watched his team commit seven drive-killing penalties for a loss of 80 yards and only convert 2-of-12 third downs. Not once did ESPN's manic Sunday night gang of hyenas in the booth question Gruden's coaching skills, as they no doubt would have done if the Raiders and Bill Callahan were the opposition that night. They also failed to mention how much the Bucs could have done with those forfeited draft picks last April, and indeed this April to come.

But Dan Patrick and his giggling gang of dimwits were, for once, right on the money to give Gruden a mulligan on this. There is absolutely nothing Gruden can do, or could have done, to save this season for Tampa Bay. There's very little any head coach can do once the season starts going down the toilet, except give the familiar "Win one for the Gipper" speech, tweak the playbook a little, or tinker with the roster.

This isn't baseball, where you can call up a hurler from AAA ball or trade away some prospects for a veteran or vice-versa. No one trades anymore in the NFL, except on draft day when the odd veteran gets exchanged for a middle-round draft pick. All you can do is scour the waiver wire or deactivate your underachieving big-mouthed slot receiver then stand back and watch the carnage.

The losers when teams get hamstrung like this are the fans. Tampa Bay has a huge stadium with fans that are amongst the best and the NFL is stiffing them. Malcolm Glazer has so much money he has just gone and purchased a 14% share in the world's biggest, or second biggest, depending on how you measure it, soccer team, Manchester United.

He could easily afford to go out in the free market and get himself some decent help in the secondary, or a dependable running back, or a wide receiver to replace injured Joe Jurevicius. But he can't do that because the team is only $1.16 million under the salary cap. Plus, his talented, yet troublesome, wide receiver carries absolutely no trade value because no team could afford to add his salary, bar the Arizona Cardinals.

The NFL makes a sack full of money. Its players are, in sporting terms, the poor relations when compared to golfers or baseball and basketball players. Yet more people watch the NFL than any other sport. The television revenues are astronomical. Every franchise makes a handsome profit. But the purse strings, if anything, get tighter. And it's the fans that lose out.

In Arizona, the Bidwell family has long since given up on even the pretence that it's putting out a competitive team, yet still charges fans $50 and upwards to watch a game. The Cardinals are a whopping $12 million under the salary cap this year. That money goes straight into the Bidwell account, but could have been spent on four quality additions to a talent-thin roster.

I'm not advocating a free-spending, sign-who-you-like NFL. But the solution lies in other sports, like basketball and baseball. The New York Yankees spent the thick end of $200 million last year, but couldn't beat the Florida Marlins. They couldn't beat the Anaheim Angels the year before, either, and the Arizona Diamondbacks before them. Big spending doesn't guarantee championships, but it does show the fans you're committed to winning. The NFL should allow teams to break the cap and pay the tax if they desire. The only drawback to that plan is that the Bidwell clan will get even richer. And, of course, the owners, bar Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones, would never agree to it.

As an example of the sheer tight-fistedness of the NFL, I give you teary-eyed Dick Vermeil and his octogenarian kicker, Morten Anderson. After Anderson kicked a game-winning field goal against the Raiders, Vermeil told the press he had promised Anderson a $500 bottle of Bryant Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon if he made the kick. The NFL duly called the incredulous Vermeil to remind him that performance bonuses not included in contracts were forbidden. You couldn't make it up -- this from an organization that has more money than the Catholic Church.

Jon Gruden is no better, nor no worse, a head coach than he was last January. If the Bucs could make the playoffs, they'd have a chance at making an impression, given that their defense always puts them in with a chance in games.

Gruden can stay as late as he likes at One Buc Place and it won't solve a thing. He's a victim of circumstance, ill luck, injuries to key players, complacency in some of his team, and the cap. At least he won't pay with his job -- scandalously, Rich McKay will. I hope Dick Vermeil has a spare bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon for McKay to drown his sorrows.


Mike welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Feature_Article
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)


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By Anthony Brancato

MIAMI Dolphins 24, Philadelphia Eagles 10 (+2)

Monday Dec. 15th, 9 PM EST; Pro Player Stadium; Miami, FL; TV: ABC

Jay Fielder re-injured the same knee last week that caused him to miss more than a month earlier in the year, but if necessary, I'm sure Brian Griese can hand it off to Ricky Williams just as well as Fiedler can -- and Williams will run all over the munchkins that comprise the Philadelphia front seven and keep the Eagles -- who will be crowned NFC East champions for the third-straight year when Dallas loses on Sunday -- 0-for-life at Miami (they come in 0-for-5) in what, by contrast, is a must-win game for the Dolphins.

* Home team is capitalized.


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(Thanks for reading! Next issue is set to come out on 01/04/04.)

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