Monday, December 28, 2009

Resting your players

As the NFL season winds down, we hear the same arguments every year about those teams that have clinched playoff spots and don't have much to gain in the last few weeks.  Do you rest your players?  Do you go for the undefeated season?  To me, it's a no-brainer.  I don't see ANY positives in "resting" your players.

Here is the main argument for resting players:  We need them healthy for the playoffs.  Ok, so, play for 13-15 weeks with the same regiment, same intensity, and get your body used to the hits and brutality of football.  Then, take a few weeks off, take your bye and go into the playoffs close to a month removed from when you and your team were at your peak.  Great.

Looking at the last decade, 4 of the 9 Super Bowl champions have not had a first round bye.  Of the 5 winning teams that had a first round bye, only 1 was a top seed.  The equation there is resting your players after you have secured top seed does not equal winning.  This decade there has not been a Super Bowl of two #1 seeds.

What about the paying fans and season ticket holders?  Do they pay ridiculous money to watch a game with Curtis Painter at quarterback?  Do they want to see the team go undefeated?  Do the fans want to see history made?  I seem to recall a few years back (2005?)when the Colts rested their starters after clinching the top seed.  They lost first round to the Steelers.  Let's see what happens this year.

I guess the bottom line for me is you work from May or June to get into a great rhythm, hit a stride and peak at the right time.  You get there, you're team is hitting on all cylinders, good enough to clinch a first round bye, but don't ruin your rhythm and 'rest' players.  The reason I use quotes for the word "rest" is because who actually knows what these players do when they should be 'resting.'  I know Tony Romo went on a tropical vacation a few years ago with a high profile celebrity then lost.  And from the rather disturbing news from around the league as to what players do in their free time (Vick, PacMan, Henry, Burress) I don't necessarily know if free time is good for the players of this league.

There isn't much to gain, financially, in terms of chemistry and in terms of winning by resting players.  


Monday, December 7, 2009

Iverson Returns to Philly

Allen Iverson laces up his shoes tonight as a Philadelphia 76er for the first time in 3 years. Unfortunately, the Sixers are in such an awful situation as a team, that they had to resort to a player that even the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't get along with.  So what does this mean for Philadelphia?

In a four-sport city, with fans that live and die for their teams, this move was just that, for the fans.  The Sixers are 4th out of the 4 professional teams in Philadelphia, without much looking positive for the future either.  Iverson, certainly, is not the future either.  But, as all sports columnists and bloggers have been saying, this will sell tickets.  I believe I saw somewhere that this game has sold more tickets than any other game of the season, including the first day tickets began being sold.  

What this all tells me is that the Sixers franchise has given up.  It was a statement (if thats waht you want to call it three years ago (amongst other reasons) when the Sixers abided to Iverson's trade demands.  Iverson, who refused to play a 4th quarter, had worn out his welcome.  Iverson could not mesh with Larry Brown, one of the greatest coaches of all time and could not mesh with Maurice Cheeks, the greatest point guard the Sixers have ever had.  Couldn't mesh with Denver and George Karl (another all time great coach) couldn't mesh with Detroit and couldn't mesh with Memphis, who desperately needed any help they could get.  So how is Iverson going to mesh with Eddie Jordan (a pushover as a coach anyway, who has the team off to one of the worst starts in franchise history)?

Keep in mind, Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala, and Willie Green, all major components of the team this year, were on the team when the Iverson cancer spread.  All of them are still there.  Sure all will be great and fine when Iverson returns and smiles and hugs will follow.  But the minute that the first turmoil hits, memories of 2006 will surely return.

Back to my point about the Sixers giving up.  Iverson's return to Philly will show great rewards financially for a few games.  But he won't be with the team for long.  At best, through next year.  At worst, Iverson might not make it past three games like he did in Memphis.  Therefore, Iverson is a temporary effort at a fix to a huge problem.  The Sixers tried rebuilding three years ago, using their draft picks and trades to get younger and cheaper and rebuild a franchise that has given up on paying for half time performances.  Even Elton Brand comes off the bench now.

With Holliday, Williams, Green, Dalember, Iguodala, Smith and Young, the Sixers have no real need for Iverson in their future plans.  They are young (no pun intended) and have their rebuilding mission.  This mission is failing.  Miserably.  They can't find a decent coach.  They cant win a game.  They can't fill the seats.  Here you go Philly, we gave up.  Here's Allen Iverson.  But we can't even begin to think about getting through the first round of the playoffs.  Hopefully this will keep you occupied for a bit...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Concussions in the NFL

As I watch the ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown bottom line, I confirmed what I have been conjuring up in my head for the past few weeks.  Let me start by saying, take this blog with a grain of salt, especially if you are one of those modern 'safety first' hypochondriacs that take your kid to the doctor when they sniffle or tell everyone 'I haven't eaten in weeks' or 'I'm still getting over my head cold' (a month later) or you put hand sanitizer on 7 times a day.  Oh what did we do before hand sanitizer!?!?!  Ok, so those people who read this, read with caution or maybe don't read at all.  Anyway, there certainly are a lot of concussions all of a sudden in the NFL.

This leads me to believe that concussions are the new hamstring pulls of the NFL.  Remember a few years back when certain star players played every Sunday, but missed a whole bunch of pre-season and in-season practices because of a 'tight hamstring' or a hamstring pull.  Keep in mind now, that this is one of the most arbitrary injuries in sports.  There is no x-ray, there is no CT scan, there are no symptoms.  A hamstring pull or tightness pretty much comes down to what the player tells the physician.  And when a player limps over to a trainer and says, "I think I pulled my hamstring" well then by golly the trainer responds with "This player (T.O., Chad 'at the time' Johnson) has a pulled hamstring.  Leave them out of practice.

Yes, unfortunately, this is what I am suggesting is happening with concussions.  Its a disease.  One player, and I believe that Clinton Portis would be my guinea pig for this blog, misses a game or two for an arbitrary injury, then all of a sudden I count more than a handful of concussion injuries in the injury report.  This didn't happen years ago.  (Kurt Warner, Clinton Portis, Ben Roethlisberger, Jamal Lewis, Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson etc)

Now, I understand and truly believe that there are more precautionary measures being taken for the safety of the players.  Based on the average lifespan of an NFL player (around 58 years I believe), this needs to be done.  However, as in elementary school when 1 kid uses the bathroom pass, all of a sudden 7 more kids need to pee, the bathroom pass is still going around the NFL.  I'm not suggesting that all of these kids don't have to pee, I'm simply suggesting that they could wait until lunch or recess instead of interrupting class.  Translated- In a sport where you are getting speared with helmets and landing head first on the ground, you are going to get your bell rung.  Where before, a player would miss a play or two, shake out the cobwebs, then get back out there and play, today it means 4 days off of practice and sympathy (whether real or fake it doesn't matter) from coaches and the league.  

But then again, if I were Clinton Portis and I was on the Redskins, I would have more than a few 'concussions.'