Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is Romo Elite? Madden 12 Suggests Not

How good is Tony Romo?  Ask three people, and you will likely get three different answers.  Cowboys' fans love him, experts remain intrigued by him, and countless others hate him.

Though far from scientific, one entertainment source might just have the answer.  Since its inception in 1988, the Madden NFL video game series has sold over 85 million copies worldwide.  On August 30, Madden NFL 12 was released, along with their annual player and team rankings.

Take a look at the chart below to see how the NFL QBs were rated. 

Madden Rating
Tom Brady
Peyton Manning
Aaron Rodgers
Phillip Rivers
Drew Brees
B. Roethlisberger
Michael Vick
Matt Ryan
Joe Flacco
Matt Schaub
Tony Romo
Eli Manning
Josh Freeman
Matt Cassel
Sam Bradford
Jay Cutler

Romo received an overall rating of 88, good for ninth among all QBs.   Does that make him elite?  In my opinion, no.  The word elite is often misused and abused by NFL talent evaluators.  For those in need, consider the following definition.

e·lite (noun /əˈlēt/  /āˈlēt/):  A group of people considered to be the best in a particular society or category, esp. because of their power, talent, or wealth.

If you ran a race and finished tied for ninth in a field of 32, would you consider yourself elite?  No.  Tom Brady is elite.  Peyton Manning is elite.  Aaron Rodgers is elite.

So where does Romo fall?

Is he average?  This adjective probably understates his talent.  Jay Cutler is average.  Josh Freeman is average.

Great?  This is a dangerous adjective for a quarterback with one playoff win to his name.  Great implies that he has acheived greatness.  Perhaps a bit strong.

How about above average?  Though vague, this is the best I can do.  It at least provides an unlimited ceiling for Romo entering the 2011 season.

But have no fear Cowboys' fans.  We could debate for hours the correct adjective to describe Romo.  Or, we could at least be happy with one fact.  At least he's better than Eli.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Plaxico is Back...Sort of

Photo by AP

It was an amazing play by the former convict. 

After beating his defender down field, Plaxico Burress reached up with both arms, secured a deep wobbly ball from Mark Sanchez, and dove into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.  The play came with under a minute remaining in the first half and extended the Jets lead to 17-7.  It was undoubtedly one of the game defining plays that led the Jets to a 27-7 victory over the visiting Bengals.  Simply…amazing!

That’s certainly how one might interpret the touchdown based on the post-game hype.  After what appears to be a routine play, the Plaxico bandwagon is back intact, and numerous outlets and writers are jumping on for the ride.

“A Giant Regret? Giants may regret letting Plax fly away”
“Burress’ first Jets touchdown a brilliant example of his talent”
“Plaxico Burress Let’s Everyone Know He’s Here”

Overreaction Monday is already upon us, and it’s only Week 2…of the preseason.  A more accurate description of the event is as follows.

Facing inside pressure from a blitzing corner, quarterback Mark Sanchez placed a perfectly thrown ball at the outside shoulder of the former Giant’s receiver.  Plaxico had a step on his defender, adjusted to the ball, caught the pass and fell into the end zone.  He miraculously beat the single coverage of Fred Bennet, the 5th year corner out of South Carolina, who last season recorded two tackles and zero passes defended in five games.

This is not a knock on Plaxico.  He might have a great season with the Jets (and I may soon jump on as well).  But to start lambasting the Giants for letting him slip away is silly.  Don’t sing his praises just yet.  Make him legitimately earn it.

It’s the preseason.  That was the Bengals.  And a guy by the name of Fred Bennet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Baseball’s Only “Unwritten Rule”

Another event, another debate.  On Sunday afternoon, Justin Verlander was within six outs of recording his second no-hitter of the season.  With the Tigers holding a slim 3-0 advantage, in steps Erick Aybar to lead off the eighth inning. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Aybar lays down a bunt.  Verlander responds with an errant throw to first base allowing Aybar to reach safely.  The play was ruled an error, leaving the no-hitter intact.

Twitter blew up.  The baseball traditionalists erupted.  And even Verlander was livid, shouting at Aybar and threatening to throw at him from the dugout.  Why? It’s baseball’s unwritten rule of course: never attempt a bunt to break up a no-hitter.  Seems logical right?  If the pitcher has his dominant stuff and is on the verge of blanking your team late in the game, just go easy on him.  It’s his day.

Ridiculous. How about this “unwritten rule”: Do everything you can within the rules to win the game.  Run through the catcher, steal signs from second, and heaven forbid, bunt the baseball.

Entering the game, the Angels were a mere 2.0 games back of the AL West leading Rangers.  Their ace, Jared Weaver, had just been ejected from the game.  The offense was struggling as they had failed to collect a single hit through seven innings, yet they trailed only 3-0.  That sounds like the perfect time to bunt.

Traditionalists will argue that Aybar is compromising the integrity of the game, yet I believe he is upholding it.  The detractors are the same people who refuse replay in baseball.  They are the ones who like watching professional pitchers hit.  And they are the old-school fans who reject the idea of a Mark Cuban-like character in baseball.  They are holding the game back.

If Aybar was wrong, Tiger manager Jim Leyland surely didn’t think so.

“They've got a good team with a lot of speed and they're trying to win a pennant just like we are,” said Leyland. “I don't have any problem with that play whatsoever.”

But Verlander took exception to the play.  "I know it was only 3-0, so I can understand there are arguments on both sides. But as a pitcher, we call that Bush league," said Verlander.

The irony is that, in this particular case, the errant throw to first by Verlander was the only one that deserved the distinction of being an amateur play.