That's right. It's directly to the ‘Etcetera' section this week. What? You expected a full-blown discourse and intense analysis on the Pro Bowl? Actually, if you expect intense analysis from this column on any topic you should move along to the next column.
- Okay. Let's talk about the Pro Bowl. I'll make my annual argument that the NFL's ‘All-Star' game is the worst all star game of the major sports. It's a game where the best players don't play (even more so now that the game precedes the Super Bowl by one week) and the players that do play are there to enjoy the venue more than they're there to play football.
- The Browns are quietly going about re-shaping their football organization under new President Mike Holmgren. In fact, when you look at the organization today compared to when the season ended only the coaching staff remains relatively untouched in Berea.
- I'm interested to see what kind of honeymoon period new Tribe manager Manny Acta is afforded by Cleveland fans and media.
- He's not the sexy pick-up that most Cavs fans want to see in a deadline deal come late February, but the more I look at it the more I believe Troy Murphy is destined to be a Cavalier.
- Sunday allowed us a pre-tournament look at the OSU basketball team and the Buckeyes are looking good. They're healthy and hitting on all cylinders five weeks before the Big10 tournament as evidenced by their blowout win over Minnesota at home Sunday afternoon.
The rules are changed to protect against injury and the players themselves are mindful that not getting hurt is the real name of the game.
It's a game I can't wait to not watch every year and with positions filled by 3rd and 4th alternates I have a hard time understanding why anyone would make a point to dial in.
The league should end the charade. Name the All-NFL team and be done with the post season honors. I'm not interested in an NFL stars vs. college all-stars game either. Nothing good can come from that game that had its run decades ago. Football is a brutal and violent game. The fewer times guys have to line up and expose themselves to the violence and brutality the better off they'll be when the games actually count for something.
Incidentally, at least 12 players named to the game by the NFL have backed out of the Pro Bowl. They are less interested in playing the game and exposing themselves to injury than we are in watching it.
And no, that doesn't count the 14 players representing the Colts and the Saints who won't be playing due to a prior commitment next Sunday. We're a rolled ankle or two (maybe three) from Mohamed Massaquoi suiting up for the AFC.
No thank you.
The latest development is the hiring of Holmgren's long-time friend Gil Haskell as a consultant. I was always told that a consultant is a guy who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is but it looks like Haskell is going to look exclusively at the Browns offense and help determine what it looks like moving forward.
The Browns also made a ‘trade' in regard to front-office personnel. Dawn Aponte, who handled salary negotiations for the Browns last season, has been dealt to Miami in exchange for Matt Thomas. Thomas was the negotiator and salary-cap guy in Miami and he follows Bryan Wiedmeier, the new Browns business boss, to Cleveland.
All of that is fine and dandy. It's good to see a structure being formed in Berea and it's better that Holmgren is surrounding himself with people who share his basic philosophies.
But ultimately fans aren't going to care about the number crunchers and the salary experts. They'll be glued to the television, newspapers and internet to see if the guys on the football side can find some quarterback-crunchers and some guys who can run, throw, catch and hit people. The draft is still about ten weeks away. And if there is to be any optimism for next season and beyond this draft is going to be crucial in forming the Browns on-field philosophy and injecting some talent into the roster.
To be more accurate, I'm fearful Tribe fans are going to be restless early on despite the fact that this is clearly a rebuilding year. Acta has walked into a difficult situation. This is a team that was a game from a World Series appearance just a couple years ago and the hangover from that experience is still being felt by Indians fans. But in many ways this team is closer the basement than the penthouse and there's not a great deal Acta can do to change it.
The starting rotation is a mess. As has been previously mentioned here and nearly everywhere else, the Indians are counting on a 32-year old career third starter coming off elbow surgery to be healthy and effective enough to lead the staff.
They're also using the 2010 season as an open audition for young position players while coming to grips with the fact that their most expensive and experienced assets (the previously referred to Jake Westbrook along with Travis Hafner and Kerry Wood) all have question marks by the name in regard to productivity and/or health.
Acta was forced out of the frying pan in Washington and appears to have jumped right into the fire here in Cleveland. Developing talent and sticking to a rebuilding plan is fine and necessary right now. But unless a manager has an accord with his GM regarding that rebuild, he's the one who's going to suffer the slings and arrows of wins and losses.
I liked the Acta hiring when it went down. I didn't want another major re-tread looking to jump start his MLB managing career like Bobby Valentine. Valentine would have made Rollie Massimino's hiring by Cleveland State a few years back look bold and appealing. I also didn't want another Mark Shapiro lackey from the Tribe's system in the job because the organization needs a flush and refill and some new ideals at key positions. But with Acta not really being a Shapiro disciple and with Shapiro's seat a little warmer than in past years I can't help but wonder how this new relationship is going to play out and how quickly the heat gets turned up on both Shapiro and Acta.
Winning games early would help. But look at the rotation and tell me where those wins are going to come from.
Fans drool over Antawn Jamison and Amare Stoudemire and even to a lesser degree Andre Iguodala (whose name keeps popping up in potential Cavalier trade scenarios) and those guys have the name recognition and creds that drive fan discussion. But the Murphy-to-Cleveland deal makes more and more sense.
Murphy would add firepower on the offensive side of the ball. He would be an upgrade to a team that currently boasts the NBA's best record. He's a very good shooter that's averaging 14 PPG on a terrible basketball team. In Cleveland's offense he'd be afforded many open looks when LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal are drawing attention.
Consider the fact that Murphy is shooting a higher percentage from both the field and from behind the arc than Jamison is and is also rebounding at a better clip than Jamison is this season and there's some value to the Pacers 6'11", 245lb pound shooter.
And it's not just this season. Murphy is a better career 3-point shooter than Jamison and has averaged more rebounds over the course of his career than Jamison has. As an added bonus Murphy is also younger, cheaper and averages more assists per game than Jamison does.
Troy Murphy is not a one-trick pony.
An even bigger factor is that Murphy would come at a lesser price than Jamison would in terms of years remaining on his contract and in terms of players you'd have to give up to get him. The Wizards would not likely be looking at a straight salary dump for Jamison. They'd want at least some young talent in return. The word on the street is that Larry Bird would likely deal Murphy straight up for Zydrunas Ilgauskas and that he's already told Cavs front office folks that he'd renounce ‘Z' immediately. That would, after 30 days of vacation time for ‘Z', enable the Cavs back up center to re-sign with the team and head into the playoffs.
Murphy and ‘Z' make in the $11m range so the numbers would work. And unlike Jamison, Murphy's contract expires at the end of next season which gives the Cavs greater flexibility in terms of their payroll.
Like I said, Murphy is not the sexiest choice. But when it comes down to it, acquiring a double-double points and rebounds guy for 30 days of going ‘Z-less' might very well appeal to the Cavaliers.
What appeals to me is having the floor littered with weapons (not in the way that would appeal to Gilbert Arenas), when you imagine LBJ, Shaq inside and shooters and scorers like Mo Williams and Troy Murphy waiting and open. A cold January morning just got a little warmer thinking about it.
That team is going to be a tough out come March. They have an inside and outside presence and they play stifling defense. They also have a guy in Evan Turner who can simply take over. Put the ball in Turner's hands and he can get to the rim, knock down intermediate shots or create open looks for his teammates.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if OSU was amongst the final four to eight teams remaining in the field when March Madness is upon us.