LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are.
TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.
TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.
BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.
PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.
JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.
BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.
JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.
BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.
ROBB STARK — Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.
TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.
EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.
JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.
BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.
HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.
THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.
STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.
DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.
JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.
ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets: Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.
GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.
SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.
PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.
VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.
BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ‘em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.
THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ‘em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.
MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.
TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.
— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.
LOS ANGELES — Whenever NFL Network airs old episodes of “Hard Knocks,” no matter the team, I always tune in. In addition to being fantastically produced by the NFL Films team, they are hilarious to watch with the benefit of hindsight. When the Jets cut little Danny Woodhead in 2010 you had no idea he would turn into this all-world, do-everything back for the Patriots. Nearly three years later, after New York has proven to be the buffoons of the league, the move is even more laughable. Watching the Dolphins last summer you never got the impression they would ever sniff the .500 mark or be a competent football team; you were too busy waiting patiently for any scene with Lauren Tannehill. In 2009, Chad Johnson looked like a lock for Cooperstown and his career faded quicker than the yellow enshrinee jacket. And on and on.
So, with less than 3 months until the 2013 season begins – the Hall of Fame Game between the Miami and Dallas is on Aug. 4 – here’s my wish list for teams for this upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (in no particular order).
Washington Redskins: They have the most dynamic young player in the league who just so happens to be coming off a horrific knee injury in Robert Griffin III, a squirrelly coach in Mike Shanahan, an owner who likes to meddle and flash his deep pockets, and a rabid, rabid fan base thirsty for a winner again. What’s not to like here?!
Seattle Seahawks: Football is back on the Pacific northwest and the Seahawks have a dynamic, rah-rah coach in Pete Carroll and some explosive players (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to go with their charismatic young quarterback, Russell Wilson. Throw in the big mouth of Richard Sherman and the rest of the Boom Squad and this would be a very, very fun season of Hard Knocks.
Atlanta Falcons: I was pulling for them to be the choice last season, as the Falcons were a team on the rise, a thought confirmed as they were a play away from the Super Bowl. This time around is no different. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest pass-catching tight end of all-time, is back for a final season. Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, Mike Smith looks like an extra on “The Sopranos,” Roddy White is among the chattiest in the league, Julio Jones as well; not to mention Brian Banks and his struggle to get back his football life.
Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Cardinals would be extremely entertaining over four weeks of Training Camp. Bruce Arians and his Kangol hats would bound for laughs, Larry Fitzgerald is among the worldly NFL players, Patrick Peterson, the Honey Badger, not to mention Carson Palmer and his old tired arm and perfect hair. Sounds good to me.
New England Patriots: Yes, this is a homer pick, but who wouldn’t want to see exactly how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady perform their magic; to go behind the curtain with a 3-time Super Bowl Champion as they gear up for another AFC-dominating campaign. I know I would, and if you’re honest with yourself, you are, too.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL James Bond and is now paid like a Sultan, same goes for Clay Matthews, who now has enough cashola to have a room full of FatHeads of himself. Throw in Mike McCarthy, the people of Green Bay, the young and exciting Randall Cobb, and you have the recipe for entertainment.
Philadelphia Eagles: This one makes a lot of sense. You got a rookie head coach with a pretty high profile in Chip Kelly and the hype surrounding his new offense, of course there’s Michael Vick and the “dynasty” comments he’s made in recent offseasons, add in the outspoken DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the fans who would be bound to call into local radio to complain about the show, and I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
Buffalo Bills: A bit of a sleeper here, but think about it: Stevie Johnson is the new Chad Johnson right down to the game to back it up, they have a rookie quarterback learning the NFL game in surprise-First-Round-pick E.J. Manuel, a rookie head coach with a larger than life personality and enthusiasm for life in Doug Marrone. I’m guessing C.J. Spiller will wear a bunch of outrageous outfits, Marcel Dareus will do something ridiculous and they’ll eat a lot of wings. I hope.
San Diego Chargers: Two words: Manti Te’o.
LOS ANGELES — Sportscaster Tim Brando went on what could classified as a Twitter RT rant Monday night. Sprinkled throughout it were bizarre tweets about a sex tape and what the definition of a “hero” is. He apparently took some issue with NBA player Jason Collins being referred to as such by members of the mass public following Collins’ revealing in a Sports Illustrated article that runs this week he is gay.
This is major news – Collins’ remarks, not Brando’s – not regulated to only the sports pages. Collins is not the first professional athlete to come out and he won’t be the last. He’s not even the first active professional athlete to do so – women’s basketball player Brittany Griner did the same just recently in the coolest and most nonchalant way possible – but he is the first among the four major sports; NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and that is why it’s major news. Someday we’ll live in a world where it isn’t and I hope I’m around for it.
For now though, when an athlete who looks like Collins makes this announcement this grand it’s an A1 story in every newspaper and on every television talk show in the country. But no matter how progressive a direction our country moves the Chris Broussard’s and Mike Wallace’s of the world hide behind the Bible and machismo when speaking about homosexuality, and their opposition makes the rest of us look bad.
But does it really matter what they think? Yes, because they have a public platform in which their reaction is deemed newsworthy; and no, because they are shortsighted. People are entitled to their opinion, as wack is it may seem to others. And while I might have in the past, I won’t tell people what they should think. I’ll disagree with them, but that is my right, as it is theirs to think and believe what they choose. But this is an issue that shouldn’t be up for debate. You shouldn’t have to live your life in fear. Sadly, many do.
Folks will say Collins’ declaration will open doors and make it easier for others – pro athlete or not – to follow suit. He’ll be their lead blocker on this issue which has a stranglehold on our society despite the building outcry of support from those well-thinking individuals. However, there are still too many who won’t be OK with this. But like I said, it doesn’t matter. All that matters his Collins’ happiness and peace of mind, and it appears he finally has both. Collins said he’s been boo’d before, and surely he’s heard slurs of all sorts and couldn’t react. I don’t know how well I would’ve done had I been in his shoes. What restraint that must have taken.
To paraphrase my high school football coach and history teacher: you can’t deny an idea whose time has come. And the time has come for open gay athletes and it’s not too soon. Though I wonder just how much impact this will have. Collins is not superstar. He’s not even an all-star. He’s a respectable, tough and dependable team player in his sport whom no one probably expected to be gay. But is he this social movement’s Martin Luther King Jr.? I don’t know.
Around two years ago, I started posing a hypothetical scenario to friends in regards to this issue. It went something like this: suppose you knew that Player X, a super duper star athlete with a perfect image, was gay, but he wasn’t out until well after his Hall of Fame career was over. How disappointed would you be in him that he never came out during his playing days and became the face of the gay athlete and leader of the social movement? Everyone is usually puzzled by this and doesn’t offer a thought one way or the other. I, however, would be fairly disappointed. Surely the hypothetical burden he’s already under is great, but being the best of the best in his profession, there are already great burdens, so you’d think he could handle that as well. Plus, you’d have to think a majority of the sports community would be beyond supportive.
Just a thought.
On TNT’s postgame show Monday night Charles Barkely called Collins’ revelation “a huge deal.” And added, “I’m happy he can be himself. We all played with gay players.” And he’s right. We’ve all worked with gay people, know someone who is gay – out or not – and probably have a gay family member. It doesn’t matter. Who they are as people is what matters.
By all accounts, Collins is a man’s man. A stand up guy and someone anyone would be lucky enough to spend their life with. Does that make him a hero? His decision to come out now, while an active player is courageous. But Brando’s point was that it doesn’t make him heroic, just brave. My hero is my dad. The toughest guy I know and someone whom I always know I can turn to in time of need. Collins hopes to someday have a family and no doubt when his kids read about the week he’s had, they’ll think he’s a hero. And I’m guessing that’ll be enough for Jason Collins the man.
LOS ANGELES — The annual abnormally giant human fashion and accessory show we call the NFL Draft gets underway tonight at Radio. City. Music. Hall. Where the flyest 21 and 22-year olds have their names called and then they awkwardly hug the commissioner for an uncomfortably long period of time. Seems like we were just here, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s that time of year again where NFL teams load up on potential and What-Could-Be and kids become instant millionaires before a single ball is snapped on Sunday. Who will be the Next Big Thing? Who will be the Next Big Bust? All speculative, all conjecture, all fun. That’s what the NFL Draft is and will be from here until the end of time. Let’s get started.
As always, I’m tuning into NFL Network for my coverage; not because I’m a company man but because it’s the best. Enjoy.
4:01pmPST - The draft is now an hour away and already a couple Radio. City. Music. Hall. calls from my man Rich Eisen (he’s joined by Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin and, of course, draft guru Mike Mayock). Gonna try and drop a few thoughts here before the real coverage begins at 8pmET… And look at this, show starts with old footage of the guys on the set in college. Marshall’s is of him getting drafted. So tiny and nice flat top with Paul Tagliabue
4:02 - WOW. Look at that mustache on Mooch. “National Champion Northern Michigan!” Mooch is a proud Yuper, indeed.
4:03 - Man, Irvin is so hood. That soundbite from his draft day was incredible. Referred to himself as “The Playmaker” even way back then. Guaranteed he could still catch 50 balls for 700 yards and a couple scores even today.
4:04 - MAYOCK JUST INTERCEPTED DAN MARINO. Didn’t see that in the “30 for 30.” “Did you hold that up?!” Marshall yells at him. Incredible. And love that Mayock finally ditched the Philly gangster pinstripe suit. Still 3-piece though. Always OG.
4:06 - Hot damn, now THAT’s a gangster suit from Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Early frontrunner for best dressed.
4:08 - Geno Smith tells Melissa Stark and Deion on the Red Carpet that today his his mom’s birthday. That’s pretty awesome. Can’t beat getting drafted as a birthday gift.
4:18 - Feature on Pat Summerall and John Madden gave me instant goosebumps. Incredible piece. Sumerall was so smooth and told you so much by being so brief. Best of all time.
4:30 - A Django reference from Eisen talking about John Idzik, the Jets GM. Wonder if it’ll be the last? probably… what the hell is a “War Daddy?” We need a Mayock dictionary.
4:44 - Assignements that don’t suck: Hawaii. Alex Flanagan is the big winner of the Draft reporters tonight.
4:47 - Manti Te’o says he’s not angry. I’d be pretty pissed if I was him, though what ya gonna do. Everyone will forget about this soon enough. All that matters in the NFL is how he performs on the field. That’s it. If he can play, all this crapola about Catfishing and whatnot will go away.
4:59 - Shot of Geno Smith sitting at his Green Room Table and he’s rocking some Nike Flight lines in the side of his head. Very sick.
5:03 - HERE WE GO!! Mayock says Eric Fisher, followed by Luke Joeckel are the first two picks and then the intrigue begins with the Raiders at #3. Mayock loving Lane Johnson. Thinks someone will move up.
5:04 - Roger goodell hits the stage to welcome the crowd to a chorus of boos. New York Fans are seriously the best… classy move remembering the people of West Texas and Boston as crowd chants U-S-A! Love America. Land of the free, home of the brave.
5:06 - Someone resembling Joe Namath just did some awkward chanting to put the New York Superbowl on the clock. I can’t tell if he’s your kooky drunk uncle or just plain kooky. His hair is so bizarre, too. It’s a terrible rug, that’s for sure. And just under 283 days and counting until Super Bowl LXVII… and Goodell puts the Chiefs on the clock.. and look at that hawaiian shirt on Andy Reid. Thanks for dressing up, Andy.
5:09 - Whoa, Eric Fisher’s mom. What’s up.
5:11 - I know these two oafs are going 1-2, but I really wish Al DAvis was still alive so the Raiders could screw everybody’s board and take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin at #3. Now that would really be something.
5:16 - Here comes the Commish to more boos … “with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan” … Alex Smith sleeps a little easier tonight.
5:17 - Jacksonville is on the clock. What are they waiting for? Immediately take Luke Joeckel. Come on! Blaine Gabbert is your franchise QB!!
5:20 - “I’m so proud of myself” … big ups to you Eric Fisher for giving yourself props. Somewhere Freddie Mitchell is nodding in agreement.
5:24 - Goodell out with the Jags pick … Joeckel is it, on his iPhone5 as he shakes hands and hugs his peeps in the Green Room. How do we feel about their new uniforms? Helmets are kinda cool with the half matte, half gold… classy 3 piece gray suit for Luke .. and good to see we’re still hugging the Commish like crazy. This is by far the weirdest facet of Draft day to me.
5:24 - Hip snap! Mayock needs that pop-up video treatment explaining all his lingo.
5:28 - Rich explains this is the first Raiders First Round pick since 2010 when they took Rolando McClain and his flock of pistols. They have to trade down, right?
5:29 - Darren Mcfadden is the only Radiers First Round pick still on the team since 2003. Being a raiders fan must literally be the worst.
5:31 - “We need a word better than rebuilding,” Irvin says about the Raiders… OK, clock has stopped, which means we have a TRADE!!! Yes!!!! It’s about to get hairy up in herrrre.
5:33 - Dolphins move up. WOW. Miami going for broke this offseason to compete in the AFC East … and here comes Roger with the call …
5:34 - DION JORDAN!!! and we have a round of “whooooaaaaaasss!!!” from the guys on set. Unbelieveable. Turning to my resident Ducks fan Chelsea for some reaction: “HOLY SHIT!!!! and it’ll be really easy to get tix to see him play.”
5:35 - “This is all about going to get some pressure on Tom Brady” – says Marshall. He’s absoltuely 100% right. Miami has to compete and to do that they have to stop the Patriots. Well here’s one way to do it. What a move. Love it. Love when crazy takes over the Draft.
5:36 - Amazing bowtie on Jordan and not for onthing, he’s a freakin giant…. “He’s breathtaking off the edge.” Mayock is swooning.
5:39 - If you’re scoring at home, and I know you are, that’s 4 Radio. City. Music. Halls. out 0f Eisen.
5:42 - First pick of the Chip Kelly era is Lane Johnson, the big tackle from Oklahoma. Mayock’s adoptive son. “Most athletic offensive tackle in the Draft” … ROCKY theme playing in the background. Hilarious.
5:45 - Lane Johnson just said something about buffets. I have no idea. Great southern accent. Good ole boy for sure. Said he was excited to protect Michael Vick. Wonder what Chip has to say about that?
5:49 - Joey Harrington jokes never get old. Love Mooch pretending not to listen to Eisen rib him.
5:50 - Barry Sanders, your new Madden cover boy, out to announce the Lions pick.. and it’s Ziggy Ansah. Never played football until a couple years ago after getting cut from BYU hoops team and track team. Amazing. What a story. Mayock explaining how Ziggy wasn’t on scouts radars in September until he started dominating and then blew up the Senior Bowl…
5:53 - Browns fan draft party and guy wearing a “Punters Are People Too” shirt in the front row jumping up and down. Very cool.
5:55 - Browns select Barkevous Mingo. the winner of the All-Name team today. Don’t even think about it. He’s the winner.
6:00 - The Cardinals pick is in and we’re waiting … great shot of Bruce Arians rocking the Kangol. Are they officially licensed team gear? The Arians Era is basically going to be like if Samuel L. Jackson coached an NFL team. Someone get HR on the phone …
6:01 - Jonathan Cooper picked by the Cards….zzzzzzzzz…. come on, Cardinals fans, you’re not happy about that?! You don’t even know who he is?! Mayock says the team got better by drafting him. Well then, what the hell do I know??
6:04 - Rams have traded up with Buffalo to the #8 slot and talk from former scout and guru Daniel Jeramiah is they’ll be taking Tavon Austin, whose stock has risen like Apple computers in 2001 in the last couple days… Also, love Jeramiah. He’s going to be a huge star very soon and a big media winner when this Draft is over.
6:08 - Mega trade with the Rams and Bills with St. Louis getting 2 picks (1st and 3rd) and Buffalo getting 4 in this year’s draft. Bills loading up and here’s the Commish with the pick … Tavon Austin … Sam Bradford sleeps a litlte easier tonight… and snap, look at that burgandy jacket. Looking sharp, son. West Virginia swag.
6:12 - Deion asks Austin if he always has this much confidence. Um, come on Deion, look at that suit, of course he does. Pretty sure he wakes up and pisses excellence …
6:16 - Jets on the clock here with the 9th pick… fans on the edge of their seats in Radio City. Oughta be realllly interesting here … and the Commish says : Dee Milliner from Alabama … Revis out and another corner in. No pressure, kid.
6:18 - Mayock had him nubmer 2 on his defensive board … and states “essentially the Jets traded revis for Milliner and 3rd next year” … as we see Milliner at the combine dropping passes like he’s Terrell Owens.. that’s just brutal video. Welcome to the NFL, son.
6:21 - Nice watch, Dee. Hope that’s a rental.
6:23 - “At least his first game isn’t against Revis’s new team … oh wait, yes it is. … at least his first nationally-televised game isn’t on a short week against Tom Brady … oh wait, yes it is.” Love it when Rich does this.
6:24 - Army troops in Afghanistan says the Titans should take guard Chance Warmack so Chris Johnson can get back to doing this thing .. and the pick is in and the Titans warrroom is very happy …
6:25 - Pick #10 and the Titans take Chance Warmack from Alabama … Major Taylor picked it right! “I told you 6 fatties would go in the top 12.” Mike Mayock, everybody!!
6:30 - Rapoport reproing the Bills could still take Ryan Nassib at 16 … Chargers pick is in and it’s offensive lineman DJ Fluker … 3rd straight Alabama player taken … Nick Saban, if you need him… Roll Tide.
6:32 - First time since 2000 that a quarterback wasn’t selected in the first 10 picks (Chad Pennington) … some guy named Brady was taken with the 199th pick that year. Whatever happend to him?
6:33 - “I love his length.” Mayock doesn’t give an eff.
6:38 - From Chelsea: “I’d love for the Jets to draft Barkley. Not in the first round, but eventually. That ‘d make me so happy.” Um, that would make us all happy.
6:46 - And the Jets pick is in … wow, fans are gonna go nuts here … Geno? … nope, it’s Sheldon Richardson, some defensive tackle from Missouri … wow. Very Anticlimatic … “explosive, freakish athlete at 310 pounds .. and Jets fans aren’t that excited” … uum, ya think?
6:50 - Panthers take Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a very good player who really shouldn’t have dropped that far. In that division you have to be able to stop offenses and this is one way to accomplish that. Also on the All-Name team for this Draft. He’s at home watching with his family. That’s the way to do it. Why come to New York when you can party with your family?
6:58 - Saints are on the clock and to say they need defensive back help would be an understatement. I threw for 378 yards and 4 scores last year against them… and here comes the Commish with a special guest from St. Jude’s hospital, whose favorite team is the Saints … Kenny Vaccaro is the pick … loving his suit, two-toned three piece .. very fly… can’t wait to hit up @fragglesrocks for the All-Swag team tomorrow.
7:00 - Mayock: “you never want to be limimted in the box” … Addison chimes in: “you always want to be strong in the box.”
7:04 - Bills on the clock here at 16 and it’s QB time … will they do it? … EJ MANUEL from Florida St.!! WOW!!! The first quarterback taken!! unbelievable … Deion Sanders is going to have A LOT to talk about with him shortly … dang. Former Syracuse coach and new Bills HC Doug Maronne passes on our guy Ryan Nassib .. Kurt Warner loves that pick … I’m stunned.
7:06 - Just texted Owl, my resident bills fan … we’ll see how angry of response he comes back with … “Love it. and I LOVE that they traded down.” Didn’t see that coming. Thought for sure he’d want Nassib.
7:08 - EJ emotional with Deion .. “I’m just so happy” .. good moment for him. his mom had breast cancer and beat it… you’ll be seeing this interview a lot in the next couple days.
7:12 - It’s getting fun now in here. The 49ers have traded up and have made a pick … swapped picks with the Cowboys … and we appear to be in a back log … Steelers up right now and take Jarvis Jones … WOW… Jantzen, our Georgia alum friend, is PUMPED RIGHT NOW!! unreal. still think he should’ve named his kid Jarvis.
7:14 - 49ers up and take Eric Reid, the defensive back from LSU, who’s in the green room holding his adorably cute daughter… “big physical safety” says Mayock … love former 9ers great Merton Hanks giving Reid his cap: “maybe he’ll make him do the chicken walk,” says Eisen … Reid walking out to meet the Commish with his daughter in his arms … very cool moment … maybe my favorite so far.
7:20 - G-Men on the clock with the 19th pick and the Commish is out… always curious to the crowd reaction … Justin Pugh … Sryacuse Tackle … “I told you it wasn’t sexy, but I love the pick” … as some broad is dancing like crazy on screen … “she likes the pick” says Rich.
7:25 - Oregon guard Kyle Long goes to Chicago amid rampant Manti Te’o speculation. Long is the brother of Chris Long from the Rams and son of Raiders great, Howie. Talk about NFL bloodlines. He’s going to no doubt be a success. And let’s be honest, Jay Cutler needs needs protection.
7:33 - Bengals up at #21 amid report that Falcons have traded up to 22 … Bengals take Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, arguably the best tight end in the Draft, which perhaps foils the Falcons plans … Eisen points out Falcons knew bengals were taking Eifert when they made the trade … still curious who they’re grabbing now despite.
7:40 - Falcons take Desmond Trufant, defensive back from Washington who fits in and will start right away with a depleted secondary down in ATL. He’ll be tested too with all the weapons in that division. NFC South shaping up to be a really competitive.
7:42 - Lots of good players still available including Sharrif floyd, Mayock’s top-rated defensive player and his most explosve player on tape all year … Geno Smith .. Ryan Nassib … Vikings are about to make their pick as members of the military coming out on stage … awesome.
7:45 - Floyd goes to the Vikings … he dropped but he’s going to play right away and learn from Kevin Williams.. what a force they could be in the middle there … “this kid will be a heckuva player,” Mayock says.
7:48 - Mayock getting out of his seat talking about Floyd’s explosiveness … “right now there’s a chip on my shoulder … and I’m ready to get going” he says with Deion … nice simple Mad Men pink shirt black tie combo … “I’m here and I can stand here today and say I’m a better man than I was a year ago.” Redemption is always a nice element to any sport.
7:50 - Painful shot of Geno Smith in the Green Room … getting that Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn treatment right now.
7:51 - Bjoern Werner going to the Colts at 24 … “a taste of Germany going to Indianapolis” says Eisen … “guy that does everything really well but doesn’t have a spectacular trait,” adds Mayock … compares him to Paul Kruger … Werner wipes off his girlfriend’s kiss on his way up. Don’t let her see this tape, young fella.
7:53 - Aaron Rodgers tweets to Geno Smith to hang in there and said good things come to those who wait … awesome.
7:54 - Vikings back up with their second pick of the round … Xavier Rhodes from FSU … “whoa” from Mayock. Hey, someone has to cover Brandon Marshall and Randall Cobb, right? … Te’o still on the board.
7:59 - Packers on the clock and they need a Running Back … is it Eddie Lacy time? Also, and can’t believe I’m just noticing this; Irvin’s suit is very conseravate for the second year in a row…wonder if he’s feeling OK these days.
8:01 - Datone Jones from UCLA to the Packers … hey, you can never have enough pass rushers, right?
8:03 - Rich starts talking about Geno and Manti and how the audience is probably sick of hearing about them by now … “some players on the desk might think that,” Mayock not happy with the repeated Te’o talk.
8:09 - Deandre Hopkins from Clemson, a wide receiver drafted by the Texans at 27 to go with Andre Johnson and those weapons … Irvin says he reminds him of Roddy White … high praise (Nic Cage voice).
8:14 - Broncos pick is in at 28 and the Patriots are on the clock … Mayock giving us three names – Damaontre Moore, Sylvester Williams or Manti Te’o for Denver … we’ll see … guessing it’ll be Moore with the loss of Elvis Dumervil and that fax fiasco earlier this offseason.
8:15 - Goodell out and it’s Sylvester williams … Mayock was right , shocker… “he can immediately come in and start at defensive tackle.” Oh, you don’t say?
8:17 - Apparently Williams worked at a radiator plant … “Do you know how many radiators you have to make to make the kind of money he’s gonna make” … Irvin references “Game Changers” (fantastic show) again to which Rich responds, “I haven’t even once said the P word!” Referring to the podcast … “I HAVE A PODCAST!!” he coudn’t make it anymore.. I knew it.
8:19 - Wow, the Vikings are back in the First Round trading with the Patriots and could take Te’o … unreal … Classic Bill Belichick move. Cant’ wait to see the particulars … damn! 4 picks to the Patriots: a 2, 3, 5 and 7. What must Tom Brady be thinking…
8:26 - Former Patriots lineman and Boston Marathon first responder Joe Andruzzi out to talk about marathon … unreal moment. That guy is a real man and Patriot.
8:30 - Vikings take Cordarrelle Patterson, the explosive receiver from Tennessee. This is what frustrates Patriots fans. Remember a few years ago when Dez Bryant fell into their lap and they traded down to the Cowboys? Yeah, think Brady would like to have Dez right now? We’ll see how Patterson pans out.
8:37 - Rams up with another First Round pick and take Alec Ogletree from Georgia. “Les Snead played some poker tonight and won.” Guess Mayock likes the Rams draft.
8:38 - Two picks to go. Cowboys and Ravens. We’ll see what Jerry Jones has up his sleeve here. We know he always likes to make a splash.
8:42 - Travis Frederick, center from Wisconsin. HAHA. Wow. So that’s what we were waiting for, Jerry. Isn’t this guy not even the best lineman on his own college team and a 2nd day projected pick? Cowboys fans must be steaming right now. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folk.
8:43 - OK, so one last pick for Manti Te’o. There were only a handful of teams who thought to be in his market – Bears, Vikings, Ravens – and let’s see what they do.
8:47 - WOW. So Te’o will have to wait until Day 2 to get drafted as the Ravens go with safety Matt Elam from Florida to replace Ed Reed. What a First Round.
8:48 - Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Had a lot of fun with this for the 4th year in a row now. It was low on celebrity but thank goodness the trades were plentiful to keep it interesting. No players from Southern Cal or Miami, 12 players from the SEC and only 1 from the Big Ten selected. Only one quarterback chosen, and not the one we expected, and no running backs for the first time ever. What will come on Days 2 and 3? No one knows, so be sure to check out all the action. I’ll have sporadic commentary on my Twitter feed: @ChrisBrockman.
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 NFL Draft is in a couple hours and by now you’ve surely read 8,000 mock drafts telling which team should take which college standout where and what it should trade up to get him, who’s worth the risk and who’s getting passed up. You’ve read things like “heavy-legged waist bender” and “dancing bear” and dogs and cats and busts, and heard comparisons to Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Elway and Marino and everywhere in between. Well this is not like any of those mock drafts. This is way more fun and speculative. Based on NFL.com’s projections for each team’s biggest area of need, I broke down what each of the teams picking in the Top 16 should do if they were drafting celebrities, either based on their real lives or a character they once played long ago. Because what’s more hilarious and a waste of time than mixing sports and pop culture? Right. Nothing. Pretty sure Grantland’s whole existence is based on this premise.
Enjoy and don’t forget to tune into the 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft on NFL Network in a couple hours at 8pm ET and all throughout the weekend. And, as always, I’ll have my 1st Round Running Diary posted sometime before Friday night’s 2nd Round coverage kicks off.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Need – Offensive line. Celebrity Pick – Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family): This might be the easiest pick in the Draft. Not only is Stonestreet a gigantic Chiefs fan, but he’s also roughly the size of a starting left tackle. In fact, I don’t think anyone would notice if Kansas City took him instead. And I know ES has lost some weight recently, but who wouldn’t want to see him in a wing-off with Andy Reid? Who isn’t paying $9.95 to see that?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Jerry O’Connell (“Jerry Maguire”): If you were going to be the No. 1 overall pick in a fake NFL Draft, that’s really all I need to slot you at the top of this mock draft. Now, O’Connell didn’t have the greatest arm motion in his brief football clips but hey, anything’s better than Blaine Gabbert, AMIRIGHT?!
3.) Oakland Raiders: Biggest Need – Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Rick Ross (rapper): You want to talk about a hole plugger, Ross is your guy. He’s Vince Wilfork but with vocal skills. And you don’t have to worry about him looking the part; Ross would immediately be in the Top 5 All-Tattoo Team and his rap sheet puts him on par with Rolando McClain. Sounds like a Raider to me.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles: Biggest Need – Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Abraham Benrubi (“ER”): Every year there are picks that make you shake your head, and this is one of those, but trust me, Benrubi can protect Chip Kelly’s fine jewels. First off, this guy was a nurse, so he knows how to take care of people. Secondly, I once saw him at California Chicken Cafe on Melrose, and let’s just say he can pack away a combo wrap or 5. Conditioning might be an issue in this new high-tempo offense, but a source tells me he’s ready to adjust.
5.) Detroit Lions: Biggest Need – Defensive End. Celebrity Pick – Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”): Aggressive? Check (the guy’s a werewolf). Looks the part? Check (yeah, 6-5, 260 is significantly bigger than Dwight Freeney).
6.) Cleveland Browns: Biggest Need – Defensive Back. Celebrity Pick – Anthony Mackie (“We Are Marshall”): Mackie brought the wood and looked legit doing it as a Marshall safety, and certainly he’s jacked up like LaRon Landry in his latest flick “Pain and Gain.”
7.) Arizona Cardinals: Biggest Need – Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Billy Gardell (“Mike & Molly”): Not only is Gardell a monster, he’s a security guard, so he knows what’s it’s like to protect the good. Not that Carson Palmer would be considered “the goods” anymore, but you get my point.
8.) Buffalo Bills: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Keanu Reeves (“Point Break”): “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Johnny Utah.” ‘Nuff said.
9.) New York Jets: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Jamie Foxx (“Any Given Sunday”): If there’s anyone who could come in and tame the New York media and become the new QB darling in the Big Apple it’s Willie Beamen. Not only was he ahead of his time with the spread offense, he’s not afraid to smack talk with his own players. Something Mark Sanchez definitely isn’t doing.
10.) Tennessee Titans: Biggest Need – Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Reuben Studdard (Americon Idol): I don’t know what big Rube is up to these days, but I’m guessing him right now, in 2013, would be better than anyone the Titans could draft here. He could probably play the whole left side of the line if my waistline trajectory projection is accurate. Chris Johnson could ride that sandwich to 2,000 yards.
11.) San Diego Chargers: Biggest Need – Offensive Lineman. Celebrity Pick – James Gandolfini (The Sopranos): There’s not a more offensive person in the history of the world than James Gandolfini. OK, that may be stretching it, but Tony Soprano has to be up there among TV characters. He didn’t even want Meadow causally dating that mixed dude in Season 2, and he was always so eloquent with his speech. This is someone you want protecting you.
12.) Miami Dolphins: Biggest Need – Tackle. Celebrity Pick – John Goodman (“Roseanne”): Explosive. Powerful. Volatile. That pretty much sums up Goodman in all his roles and that’s definitely the kind of attitude you want on the offensive line where he’ll be protecting 2nd-year Mr. Lauren Tannehill.
13.) New York Jets: Biggest Need – Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Jason Segal (“How I Met Your Mother”): Segal once told me and Hines Ward on the Red Carpet of the 2012 Academy Awards that if were ever to portray a football player in a movie, he’d be a tight end. So naturally, this is fitting for the Jets who need anyone to do anything productive on the field.
14.) Carolina Panthers: Biggest Need – Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Dwayne Johnson (Everything): Seriously, do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?
15.) New Orleans Saints: Biggest Need – Linebacker. Celebrity Pick – Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”): There’s literally nothing this guy can’t do, so why not start at middle linebacker for the Saints? He’s ripped. A physical specimen and you know if he ever picked one off and returned it to the house he’d have a fantastic end zone dance.
16.) St. Louis Rams: Biggest Need – Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick – Bill Bellamy (“Any Given Sunday”): This seems like an obvious choice. Bellamy told us he’s the greatest receiver of all-time. I have no reason to NOT believe him. All wide receivers are very level-headed individuals and never prone to self-aggrandizing and egomania.
LOS ANGELES — A lot of weird things happen at the gym. Everyone except you is strange. I get it. I’m the only normal person at my gym, too. Today something really bizarre happened. I was in between sets on a back machine when I noticed this hummingbird fluttering INSIDE next to a large window. Clearly, it did not intend to be on the other side of the glass and was trying to get back outside to its natural habitat. I thought it was different. A door is commonly open so it’s not out of the ordinary that it flew in and got lost. It happens. What happened next was not common. And it was awesome.
This guy just came out of nowhere behind me and started yelling at the bird. “What are you doing?! … Come on, get down here!” He was holding a mini-trash can and it dawned on me he wanted to save it. He was trying to catch the bird. Noble. I dug it. That he also had long, bleached-blonde hair and a black T-shirt that said “I Need More Cowbell” on it only made him more insane. I joked on Twitter that he looked like Phil Spector‘s brother.
So I did what any normal person in 2013 would do: set my iPhone to video mode and started recording! Here’s what I managed to snag. Pretty impressive performance by Brother Spector, I might add.
I loved his wife (?) in the background making sure he didn’t hurt it. And how did he just snag that bird Miyagi style?! Somebody get this guy a reality TV deal STAT!
LOS ANGELES — Back in my sports writing days, my favorite column to write each year was my “Guide to March Madness.” In it, I always gave my Maine readers tips for optimally enjoying their NCAA Tournament experience, whether it was ideas for party food or face painting, and I even threw in some sleeper choices for their brackets. It’s been four long years since I’ve put this piece from my brain to computer screen, and guess what?
That’s right, without further delaying you reading my genius, here’s the 2013 edition of “Your Guide to March Madness.”
1.) Get your viewing situation in order — Obviously, this is the most important element to March Madness. You need to figure out how you’re going to watch the games. There are 67 of them over the course of 3-plus weeks. That’s a lot (though a slow month for @Farbaro picking up chicks on Match.com), so you have to make sure you’re setup is ideal. If you’re going multiple TVs, I recommend a 3-box, that way you can have the best game of the session going in the middle and then your sub games on the side. You can also fire up a laptop, as all the games will once again be streaming online live at MarchMadness.com. Also, you’ll want to make sure you know where to quickly find TruTV, TBS and TNT on your cable provider (if you can’t find CBS, then you’re pretty much beyond help at this point). I don’t know about you, but I literally only watch TruTV during these couple weeks, and couldn’t even find it on DirecTV if you paid me right now. I’ll be following my own advice on this one. If you’re going to a bar, make sure you get there early, as it’ll probably be packed with morons who clearly don’t know as much about college hoops as you do. Speaking of…
2.) Don’t be the obnoxious guy at the bar — We all want our teams to win, that’s a given, but there’s a fine line between rooting and being that freakin’ annoying-ass poser we all hoped would get eaten by Bigfoot on the school camping trip. If you’re going to physically be at the game, it’s OK to paint your face, but not at the bar. I don’t need your Jayhawk blueface dripping into my buffalo wings. Leave the pom-poms at home, too, before you knock over my milkshake. If you have to bring items with you, then you didn’t need them in the first place. Your cheers and loud claps are enough. It is appropriate to wear a shirt or jersey, team hat or headband and even break out some appropriate knee socks but don’t get carried away. There’s no need for themed sunglasses (hello, you’re indoors), foam fingers (how are you supposed to eat loaded nachos with one hand?) or signs. And when your best player knocks down a big 3 in the first half, go easy on the chanting. No one cares that you remember your fight song. In fact, unless you’re at an official sponsored event your college is throwing, no singing or chanting whatsoever is appropriate.
3.) Only fill out one bracket — This is a change from my previous years columns, where I used to tell everyone to fill out as many as you could get your hands on, and make sure you had your highliters and abacuses and charts handy to know how you’re doing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that one bracket is the way to go, no matter how many different “office pools” you’re in. With one bracket you don’t have to worry about rooting for Butler AND Bucknell to win. You’ll be happy when you take Ole Miss to upset Wisconsin and they do just that when Marshall Henderson goes nuts from beyond the arc. It just simplifies your life, which is really what enjoying March Madness is all about. The less time you have to spend worrying about who’ve selected to survive and advance, the more time you can focus on devouring one more slice of pizza. Ya know, the important stuff.
4.) Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep — March Madness is a marathon, not a sprint, that’s important to remember when you’re stuffing your face with quesadillas and $3 pints at happy hour on Thursday and Friday. There’s 32 games played on those first two days and you want to make sure you’re well rested and properly hydrated so you can enjoy each one to his maximum. You don’t want to pass out or cramp up before the late games either day. And with another 16 games over the weekend, that’s a lot of basketball and too many opportunities for failure. Fortune favors the prepared. For every couple of beers, make sure you pound a water. During that lull between morning and evening sessions, grab a power nap. Don’t let Mother Nature be the reason you missed another Valparaiso miracle or UCLA coast-to-coast buzzer beater. You’d have only yourself to blame if Bucknell is again Cinderella and you were face down in tears like Adam Morrison.
OTHER MARCH MADNESS THOUGHTS
Stone Cold Locks: By now, you’ve spent Monday and probably the better part of Tuesday ignoring a 83% of your workload and trying to find as much “inside” information as you can on who to take. As most of you know, you can’t win your bracket in the First Round but you can definitely lose it. One thing you don’t wanna do is have a Final Four team fall on the first day (thanks a lot, 2011 West Virginia) or any of your Sweet 16ers. But you can be safe riding these teams: (EAST) Indiana, Marquette, Miami; the top three seeds have easy roads to the Elite 8 in this region. (SOUTH) Georgetown, Florida, VCU should all advance to the Sweet 16. (MIDWEST) Louisville, Michigan St., Saint Louis appear to have the best road in by far the toughest bracket. Be careful of Duke. It has the talent to win the whole thing or lose in the first round to Albany. (WEST) New Mexico and Ohio St. are the only two locks in this region. It’s a shame they’ll meet as early as they will in the Sweet 16.
Sleepers: A lot of little guys got into this year’s tournament, which hopefully will pave the way for a slew of upsets and busted brackets (not mine, of course). In order to ensure yours stays in tact you’ll want to take a hard look at these possible darkhorses: Oregon (12) and Cincinnati (10) in the Midwest, Minnesota (11) in the South, Bucknell (11) and Cal (12) in the East, and Ole Miss (12) in the West. I also like just one 9-seed and one 10-seed to win, it’s up to you to figure out who. And lastly, I know every year it seems like a 13 beats a 4, so I’ll give you one of those too; take South Dakota St. over Michigan (come on, you don’t think I’d actually tell you to take Montana over Syracuse, do you?).
Final Four Picks: When it’s all said and done, here’s who I like to meet in Atlanta on April 6: Louisville (1) vs. New Mexico (3), and Georgetown (2) vs. Miami (2).
Players who could be this year’s Harold Arceneaux: For those too young to remember the Weber State great, let me learn ya’. Arceneaux and the Wildcats won the Big Sky Conference in 1999 and faced third-seeded North Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. All that happened over the course of the next 40 minutes was the hotshot guard’s coming-out party. Weber State upset the Tar Heels, 76-74, as Arceneaux scored a game-high 36 points, 20 in the second half, including the game-winning steal in the closing moments. The image of the Wildcat players lifting their coach became part of CBS’s coverage year after year and Arceneaux vaulted into national spotlight. In the Second Round, Arceneaux scored 32 points as Weber State pushed Florida to overtime, but fell 82-74. He returned for his senior season in 1999-2000 and finished 5th in the nation in scoring, averaging 27.0 ppg in league play, but the Wildcats finished 18-10 and did not qualify for the tournament.
So, who could have a meteoric tournament and find themselves an overnight sensation? Well, I mentioned Henderson earlier, who is a prime candidate given his huge SEC Tournament. But don’t sleep on Valparaiso’s Ryan Broekhoff, San Diego St.’s Nate Wolters, Cal’s Allen Crabbe, Iowa St.’s Tyrus McGee, Belmont’s Ian Clark and Montana’s Kareem Jamar.
STREAKY SYRACUSE IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.
As I watched Selection Sunday and Greg Gumble rattle off each region, it became clear there was a solid chance Syracuse would be playing out west here in San Jose, which is only a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles. Quickly, I began thinking logistically and calculating financially what it would take to get me up there to watch our First Round matchup against Montana and it wasn’t as crazy as you’d think. While my decision to hope in the Joffrey and make the trip will be a game-time one, I don’t think it’s one I’d regret. One thing making this a simple no-brainer is the fact that in the last month the Orange has played some of the most inconsistent basketball I can remember as a fan. I tweeted out this was the most inconsistent team I could recall and was notified of the disaster Donte Greene year of 2007-’08 in which Syracuse went 21-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament. I did indeed black that year out.
To close this season, the Orange lost four of its last five games and I was telling anyone who would listen it was destined for an opening-round loss in this year’s Big Dance. Then Madison Square Garden happened and a run to the Big East Championship game that reminded the country why we rose to No. 1 for a week this season. The talent is there. The ability to put it all together for a string of games is there. Shots were consistently falling, defense was being played and we even made free throws. Then, of course, the second half of the Louisville game took place and I went back into panic mode, but that’s besides the point. Could Syracuse win it all? I’m going to go that far. A return trip to the Elite 8 would be be a very successful conclusion to this roller coaster season. And it all starts with Montana on Thursday.
Enjoy the Madness, everyone.
LOS ANGELES — I am fortunate to live at the epicenter of film, and for the second consecutive year, will be attending the Academy Awards Red Carpet gala. I added the “gala” part because last year, as I witnessed first hand, it’s really something spectacular. Watching at home on E! all those years with my mom as Ryan Seacrest did his thing, you could never really get a feel of how extravagant being on the Red Carpet really is. I capitalize it because of all the events worldwide, this is the one. This is the Super Bowl of cinema. And I’ll be there. With Rob Gronkowski.
That’s right. Hollywood is about to get Gronk’d.
Scratch that. I wrote the above paragraph a couple days ago. That’s when we had Rob Gronkowski as a correspondent for The Eisen Podcast. Now we don’t. Seems like he had “other” “plans” come up which resulted in him canceling all appearances in the immediate future. Including the Oscars Red Carpet. Oh well. His loss.
Sometimes, though, Hail Mary’s are caught and ours came in the form of Ed Reed, the future Ravens Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion. He’ll be joining me Sunday in front of the Dolby Theater for what should be an epic afternoon hobnobbing with the biggest names in Hollywood. Last year, we had Hines Ward, the Steelers great. This year, a Raven.
As always, I try and see all the big movies up for the major awards and end up with around a 50% success rate. That was also the case this time around. (Note to self: get on a screeners list next year.) So here’s my expert opinion on who’ll be Sunday’s big winners.
Best Picture: “Argo” — Thought this was extremely well done from top to bottom, and even though I knew the end result, I were still on the edge of my seat the entire time. Just gripping cinema. It’s a damn shame Ben Affleck got snubbed in directing.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis — Honestly, the only performance in this film that I saw was Bradley Cooper’s, and while it would be great to see him win, DDL is the best actor alive right now. He could play in the Dumb and Dumber sequel and make it an Oscar-winning performance.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain — My favorite part of “Zero Dark Thirty” is when they’ve found the compound and everyone in the CIA is the boardroom and Gandolfini walks in and asks who’s the girl sitting in the back, and Chastain sits up and says, “I’m the motherfuc*er who found this place.” I may have did a little fist pump in the theater at that point. She was spectacular.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz – I would watch any movie where this guy plays a snarky, semi-bourgeois, wise ass with a bone to pick who then leaves a slew of bodies in his wake. Yeah, sign me up for more of that and less of that Elephants movie BS he did.
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field — While Anne Hathaway has won every award show in this category this year, I’m refusing to give her any recognition here. Why? Well think about it like this: Field played Mary Todd Lincoln!! Her husband, oh you know, Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves and then got shot watching a play. As if she wasn’t suffering enough watching the damn play, her husband gets iced by some nutjob! Throw the woman a bone.
Best Director: Ben Affleck — What? Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director of the movie that’s going to win Best Picture? Whaddya mean? That can’t be right. Go back and check again. He’s really not? Are people aware of this? Oh, they are? Screw it. He still did the best job.
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say “Zero Dark Thirty” gets it here, the reason being, at least for me, is that “Django Unchained” was far too long and went in a few different directions, which I know is what Quentin Tarantino does, but still. That movie should’ve ended a few times before it did. And ZDT had that “Argo” feel to it where you knew how it was going to end and it was still tense and thrilling and awesome. Oh, and Boal already has a statue at this house for “Hurt Locker,” which means he knows how to write modern war flicks.
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell — Loved “Silver Linings Playbook” from beginning to end. If it wasn’t for “Argo” it’d be the best film of the year. It pulled on your heart strings, made you laugh, make you wanna give your parents a big hug and take up balllroom dancing all at the same time.
Best Animated Film: Wreck-It Ralph — Admittedly, I didn’t see any of the films nominated here but I remember really wanting to see this and hearing it was awesome. Plus, it’s about video games. And once upon a time, I liked them.
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour — Reason leads me to believe if a film is good enough to be nominated for Best Picture, which is everything, then it’s probably going to win its sub-category. Right?
Best Cinematography: Skyfall — This iwas a pretty badass movie and the cinematography had a lot to do with it.
Best Editing: William Goldenberg — So this is a pick based on math, since Goldenberg is nominated twice for “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” I mean, 40% chance, that’s pretty freakin’ good.
Best Production Design: Les Miserables — This is one of those categories that always seems to go to a film based in the 19th century, since those are the hardest to replicate. “Project X” ain’t getting nominated for this, that’s for sure.
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina — Is it possible for no one to win this category? So we have two films about Snow White, two more where everything is dank and ashy and literally miserable and the last where people play dress up. Guess I’m going with that one.
Best Makeup: The Hobbit — Do you know how hard it is to make regular people look like midgets? Do you?!
Best Original Score: John Williams — This guy seems to win everything … (checking his IMDB) … yup, he’s won 5 Oscars. Again, math wins here.
Best Original Song: Walter Murphy/Seth MacFarlane — Keep in mind, past winners in this category include Eminem and the Three-Six Mafia, so why can’t the freakin’ host of the show win for a song he wrote for an talking, crude, sex and drug-crazed teddy bear? By the way, a song from “Les Miserables” is nominated; isn’t this a remake of a film AND a play? How can you have something original in there?!
Best Sound Mixing: Skyfall – This was my favorite film on the list of nominees. That’s all the reasoning I need.
Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty — Now here’s what I want to know, how does a film get nominated for Sound Editing but not Sound Mixing? Either way, in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow’s film “Hurt Locker” took both these categories and you’d have to go back to 2009 when the same film didn’t sweep.
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi– My roommate works in visual effects on some pretty big films, so I figured I’d just ask him and he said, “I haven’t seen ‘Life of Pi’ but it’s getting a lot of buzz to win… the other real contender is ‘The Avengers’.” Works for me.
Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man – This film makes life worth living. Check it out if you haven’t.
Best Documentary Short: Open Heart – I once went to Jane Seymour’s house and in the gift bag was one of her open heart collection tie pins.
Best Animated Short Film: Paperman — Dude just wanted to meet a girl.
Best Live Action Short Film: Curfew — Because who doesn’t enjoy their afternoons ruined by children?
You know it’s funny what a young man recollects? ‘Cause I don’t remember bein’ born. I don’t recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don’t know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world.
- Forrest Gump
LOS ANGELES — I don’t remember the first time I ever saw Michael Jordan play basketball. I suspect it was sometime during the 1987-’88 season. I was living in Virginia at the time in Coast Guard housing, a development with other military families, and have a vague recollection telling one of the other kids – we were both in the elementary-school range – that Jordan was the greatest ever. That he never missed a shot. I may have been imitating his jumper on a mini hoop when I said this, tongue out. As luck would have it, I was onto something with my 7-year old assessment of Jordan. He was otherwordly that year, averaging 35.0 points per game to lead the league. He also was tops in the NBA in minutes played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and steals, and shot 53.5% from the floor. He won the first of his five MVPs that season but the Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 5 games to the Pistons.
Since then, he was always my favorite player. It helped that, because our cable TV provider carried WGN, I was able to see nearly all of his games and listen to Johnny “Red” Kerr’s blatant homerism. Call me a front-runner, I don’t care. I was 10-years old, no one knows what that even means at that age, plus I don’t think I was alone in my open-faced loving of No. 23. I had every poster, basketball card and wanted every shoe. I recorded games religiously, imitated him on the playground (tried to at least) and wore black socks and baggy shorts.
Calling Michael Jordan an “icon” doesn’t really do the word justice. Sure, we all wanted to Be Like Mike, but there was so much that encompassed that. To write about just one Jordan trait didn’t seem right and how could I possibly pick from the lot? Jordan has given me some of my greatest sports memories, decorated my walls to no end and been the name brand on my feet for countless miles traveled. As he turned 50-years old over NBA All-Star Weekend it only seemed fitting to think back on his life to this point, how impacted mine and reflect on some of my favorite moments.
- I never saw Michael Jordan play in person. It’s probably my biggest regret as a sports fan along with having never been to Old Yankee Stadium. I never went to the Old Boston Garden or saw Joe Montana play in person either, but I wasn’t of true sports intellectual conscious during their respective heydays. But I didn’t need to see him play in person to appreciate his grace and power, domination and competitive drive, and the impact he had on his teammates with a single death stare. Basketball fans of this generation think Kobe invented that move, but he just copied all of Jordan’s. Only he doesn’t do them as great. I’ve seen hundreds of games on TV but seeing him in person just once would’ve been enough. Thankfully, I’ve been able to see some of the current greats but I’ll always regret never seeing 23.
- My birthday is the 23rd and for this reason I always felt a kinship to MJ, and whenever I’m playing roulette I always load up the chips on 23 Red.
- When my family lived in Alaska, my friend Jared Burdette-Gross had a pair of Jordan 5s, the ones with the purple trim, and he let me wear them once and it was the greatest thing my feet had ever had covering them. I knew I had to have some someday. So I saved. And saved. And finally bought some 10s at the Ocean City, Md. mall. It was summer and we were visiting my grandparents at their condo and I saw them. It was love at first sight. That was my first pair. I’ve bought 4 others. Hope to buy at least lots more some day.
- For the “Shrug Game” against the Blazers in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals, I had a Little League game. We lived in Alaska at the time and I played for Coastal Tire. I was 11 and either pitched or played shortstop that day, but I never got to see it live because of the game. But my dad had to work and then came later and told me all about it. It was amazing. I must’ve watched SportsCenter a half dozen times that night and morning. Dan and Keith killed it, I’m sure. Always get goosebumps seeing that clip and it conjures up that memory.
- When Jordan retired for the first time we had just moved to Maine and were living in a cottage-style hotel in Scarborough while we waited for our house to be ready to move in to. It was freezing cold in that place. And then Jordan retired. Held the press conference. Sold the story of when he has nothing left to prove in the game basketball, it’s time to move on. I was crushed. I still have the USA Today from Oct. 6, 1993; it was a thing I did as a kid, collect newspapers and clippings from big stories. I don’t know why, but I always had to have them. And they’re all in a tupperware at my mom’s house. I once made a Rickey Henderson posterboard after he broke the stolen base record. That was fun.
- Of all my Jordan posters, and there have been many – Jordan with all his rings, one with him, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the ’88 dunk contest slam from the free-throw line – my favorite has to be “Wings.” I used to have it hanging above my bed at my mom’s house. It was like sports jesus blessing me before I went to sleep each night. I bought it for around $12, which was twice as much as posters went for in those days, and while I thought it was steep (it’s doubtful I had a “job” at the time) clearly it was worth it. Do kids even have posters on their walls these days? The poster rack was always the first place I went to at Wal-Mart and when a Prints Plus opened up in the Maine Mall, I’d spend an hour in there browsing the racks.
- On March 19, 1995 Jordan made his comeback to the Bulls official with his fax that simply stated: “I’m back.” He took to the court against the Pacers and I couldn’t have been more excited. Not only do I have the game on VHS tape somewhere, but I even kept stats and have that sheet somewhere as well. What can I say, I was an enormous nerd back in the day.
- I learned to really play basketball on the playground of my elementary school in Ketchikan, Alaska; Valley Park Elementary. A group of us, when not playing football or kickball or some other form of ball sport, would play hoops. The nets were chain link and it was a struggle to get shots off on the full-size rims, but I always remembered these games because our friend had a Michael Jordan red and black ball that we used. I loved that ball and desperately wanted one of my own. Never found it, though.
- I was a sports card collector. And that’s putting it lightly. From the ages of 8 til about 14 I was into it as much as you could be and accumulated a vast collection. Every Saturday as a kid I would make my way to the grocery story or Wal-Mart or even the card shop on the main drag when we lived in Ketchikan and scope out new releases and decide what packs to spend my money on. I’d trade with friends and even had a subscription to a couple price guides to check the value of my investments. Of course, the bottom fell out of the sports card market some time ago but I’ve still held onto everything. They’re all neatly tucked away at my mom’s house in Maine, and among them are 50+ Jordan cards from as far back as, I think, 1988. I even have a few of his Upper Deck baseball cards when he played for Birmingham. I remember exactly where I was when I opened the pack to find those, now that I think about it. Right next to the light by Sam’s Club on the Holmes Rd. in Scarborough, Maine. Yes, ladies, I am available.
I could go on and on with insignificant, yet specific memories I have of Jordan, like where I was for his Game 6 winner against Utah in the 1998 Finals (my upstairs living room jumping up and down like a mad man) or his infamous Hall of Fame Speech in 2009 (watching streaming online in our tiny ass apartment in West Hollywood), but simply put, I’m a fan and always will be. In opinion he’s the best basketball player who ever lived and the game’s ultimate competitor. No one wanted it more and no one pushed his teammates to levels not even they thought they were capable of. Jordan trusted them and they trusted him and his teams won because of it. It’s not something you see often in today’s sports landscape.
I’ve never met Michael Jordan him and not sure I want to. Often when you meet your hero you leave disappointed. I’ve read everything there is to read about the man and so far, that’s been good enough for me. Maybe someday our paths will cross and you can bet I’ll remember it.
LOS ANGELES — The final “You’re The Man” rankings of the 2012 National Football League season comes off one of the best Super Bowls of the last few years. The Ravens and 49ers displayed what we love about the big game; the story lines were thick, there were lots of big and memorable plays, there was a freakin’ blackout, a comeback and a goal line stand to decide the Vince Lombardi Trophy’s owner. In the end, the Ravens proved once again you don’t have to dominate the regular season to be crowned champs in the end; you just have to get hot at the right time. And have a quarterback who thinks he’s elite, God and some steroids on your side (allegedly).
As we head into nearly 7 months without real football games being played – though only 10 days until the Combine and 73 until the Draft – let’s take a look at some question marks teams have heading into the offseason, and stay tuned for hopefully other articles about the NFL and who knows what else (probably the Red Sox, Celtics, movies, life in LA and whatever else I can throw together) here at the site. As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars — To pay MJD or not to pay MJD, that is the question. And will they bring in Tim Tebow? Seems like the answer right now to both is “no.”
31.) Kansas City Chiefs — Being a Chiefs fan must be rough these days. How do you think they’re doing talking themselves into Andy Reid right now? At least he trimmed his mustache.
30.) Oakland Raiders — Will they go all-win with Terrell Pryor or bring back Carson Palmer for another go around at nearly 5x as much money?
29.) Philadelphia Eagles — Is Chip Kelly going to stick with Michael Vick to run his hurry-up, college-style offense? Or will he trade up and draft Geno Smith?
28.) Arizona Cardinals — Who’s going to play quarterback? That’s the only discussion Bruce Arians should be having with anyone.
27.) New York Jets — Mark Sanchez started tweeting again, actually he was on a retweeting positive comments binge; just reminding himself people still like him. Will they bring in any offensive weapons for him this offseason, because if they don’t, he might get irrevocably broken next season. (But I tell ya what, JaMarcus Russell rumors don’t appear out of thin air.)
26.) Cleveland Browns — Another team with a new coach. How long will Brandon Weeden be calling the offensive shots? He and Trent Richardson need help.
25.) Tennessee Titans — Is it time for the Titans to cut ties with Chris Johnson?
24.) Detroit Lions — Will this once playoff team find discipline in the offseason? Losing a few knuckleheads is a good start.
23.) Buffalo Bills— CJ Spiller is an emerging NFL star but for the Bills to compete in the AFC East they need to be able to stop the Patriots and the emerging Dolphins.
22.) San Diego Chargers — Now that a new head coach and GM have been hired, will the Chargers make The Leap? Not if they can’t beat the Broncos, which they won’t do with zero running game and a shaky secondary.
21.) St. Louis Rams — The Rams need to make a splash, and they need to reap the rewards of that blockbuster trade with Washington last year. They need a big, household name. Clearly, they can play; undefeated against the NFC champs.
20.) Miami Dolphins — It appears Reggie Bush won’t be back, but the biggest question remains who is going to catch the ball from Ryan Tannehill, since it appears he’ll be a halfway decent NFL quarterback.
19.) New Orleans Saints — Now that Sean Payton is back for the entire offseason, the offense should be back to form, but the Saints need all kinds of defensive help. Will they get it?
18.) Dallas Cowboys — Somehow Jason Garrett still has a job, but others do not. Recently, some questioned if the Cowboys are still Americas team based on their decade-plus of mediocrity. How will this offseason go in restoring that once-great moniker?
17.) Carolina Panthers — Face it, Steve Smith might not like Cam Newton but it’s not Cam’s fault Smith is old and can’t play anymore. The Panthers need a young, big-play receiver or 2013 is going to be a 2012 repeat, which means Ron Rivera will be out of work.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs gave away their best defensive back and then missed the playoffs. I’d say they’d want to get better at stopping people, what with them being in arguably the most talented QB division in football.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Injuries derailed the Steelers this season but finding a running game and some youth on defense are paramount for the black and gold.
14.) New York Giants — It appears the Giants want to be cheaper and younger across the board, let’s see how long that lasts this offseason. Can you buy discounted consistency, too?
13.) Chicago Bears — The defense isn’t getting any younger, it’ll be curious to see how they go about replacing Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest.
12.) Minnesota Vikings — Is Christian Ponder the answer at QB? I’m still not sure. But someone has to be able to catch the ball other than Kyle Rudolph. You gotta give defenses another look besides Adrian Peterson running the ball 30 times a game. Not that you can stop him, but still.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals — Think the Bengals want to go back and change their game plan against the Texans in the Divisional Round to include getting the ball to AJ Green? I’d say so. Still, they need to get better on defense. Especially with the supernova Ravens now kinds of the NFL and AFC North.
10.) Washington Redskins — Clearly, the most important thing facing the Redskins this offseason is the healthy of My Good Friend Robert. All other questions will be deferred until RG runs in a zig-zag line without teetering over like a drunken sorority girl.
9.) Indianapolis Colts — The Colts need some big-time playmakers on defense, because I’m guessing Andrew Luck doesn’t want to come from behind and pull a win out of his ass in 2013 as often as he did this season.
8.) Houston Texans — Matt Schaub finally won a playoff game but having some secondary help might have got him a second.
7.) Green Bay Packers — The Packers were badly exposed by the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which means getting younger and faster on defense should be at the top of Ted Thompson’s offseason priority list.
6.) Denver Broncos — I completely whiffed on the Peyton Manning thing, but the more I think about it, I get the feeling Peyton’s gonna pull a Vikings-era Brett Favre. Remember how great Favre was in 2009? Then remember how terrible he was in 2010? Feel me?
5.) Seattle Seahawks — Top-to-bottom, the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. Russell Wilson proved he can be a big-time quarterback and their defense is as stingy as summer horse flies. Can’t hurt bolstering the offensive/defensive lines.
4.) New England Patriots — For the second year in a row Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots made strange clock management blunders to end the first half and again Wes Welker had a key drop in a situation that could’ve helped put the game out of reach. Is this the end of their decade-long reign or can they fill in the missing pieces – big play receiver, shut down corner, rush edge – to stay at the top?
3.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons were 5 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl but their issue isn’t on offense. In the second half against San Francisco they gave up 14 unanswered and couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick if they were the ones controlling his joystick. How will Atlanta improve on defense this offseason? Being so close to the big game you’d expect them to make a move.
2.) San Francisco 49ers — This is a team than can win the Super Bowl as it is: top-flight defense, an explosive offense and a fiery head coach. While Jim Harbaugh was out-coached Super Sunday by his brother, what the 49ers were missing against Baltimore was a deep threat. It’s clear they missed Mario Manningham, as Randy Moss didn’t give them that stretch of the defense they were expecting. Colin Kaepernick also show signs of what he could be become with a full season under his belt, but why not let him run it down by the goal line? Regardless, he vowed to start preparing for next season immediately, so it appears as if he’s on a mission. San Fran is the class of the NFC, along with Seattle and Atlanta.
1.) Baltimore Ravens — Finally, we’ve found out who’s The Man of this 2012 NFL season. It look 22 weeks but the Ravens emerged from beneath the rubble. Heading into this offseason their biggest question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Baltimore’s offense behind Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and company are an absolute force. But defensively, it will be a different-looking Ravens squad in 2013 with the retirement of Ray Lewis (perhaps you’ve heard) and the likelihood of Ed Reed playing elsewhere, not to mention Terrell Suggs is older and banged up. We’ll see if they make moves to sure up that side of the ball in the coming months and in the Draft.