Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mike Piazza Jersey Retirement Ceremony

A week after being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Mike Piazza had his jersey retired by the Mets, at long last.


Over the years the retirement on jersey's, or lack thereof, by the Mets has long been a topic among the fanbase. Many have clamored for the Mets to finally retire the jersey's of Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and, of course, Piazza.

Well, Piazza's number 31 is finally hanging in the rafters at Citi Field. His number now stands in immortality next to Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges and Casey Stengal, as the only Mets to have their jersey retired. It's an exclusive group. As much as the Mets have been criticized for not retiring more jersey's, they deserve credit for keeping such a club so exclusive over all these years.

Inspite of inclement weather, and a wallowing baseball team on the field, Mets fans came in droves to see Piazza's number retired. He came out to a thunderous ovation, after a poignant film showed him standing in the Citi Field parking lot, where home plate used to be at Shea Stadium. After tapping home plate with his hands, he got up and made the stroll toward Citi Field, through the entrance, and down into the clubhouse area, and finally onto the field.

Relieve this great moment in Mets history right here:

MIKE PIAZZA CITI FIELD ENTERANCE 

Mike Piazza Ceremony 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Jets Select Penn State's Hackenberg in 2nd Round

The Jets quarterback quandry got even more interesting on Friday night when the team selected Christian Hackenberg out of Penn State with the 51st pick of the draft. Hackenberg had been linked to the Jets for days leading up to his selection after rumors about Paxton Lynch heading to Gang Green died out by Thursday night.

Once former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington announced to the crowd that the Jets had selected Hackenberg, a collective gasp could be heard in the audience in Chicago. Those dressed in Jets gear sat in their seats,  with their hands on their heads in total disappointment and shock, and who could blame them. The Jets have totally made their quarterback position into the biggest joke in the NFL. Not event the Cleveland Browns can claim this much instability at the position.

In Hackenberg the Jets get a total project. He was brilliant his Freshman year under Bill O'Brien's pro style offense for the Nittnay Lions, but struggled horribly when O'Brien left for the Houston Texans, and was replaced by James Franklin. In his two years under Franklin, Hackenberg's completions percentage took a total nose dive. He completed only 55 precent of his passes in 2014, and a horrible 53 percent in 2015. Not to mention the turnovers shot up. After throwing 20 touchdowns and 10 picks his rookie year, he threw only 28 touchdowns and 21 picks in his final two years in college.

Hackenberg developed plenty of bad habits from inaccuracy, to turnovers and sacks. A lot of scouts were reported as saying they didn't think Hackenberg would do well at the NFL level. The only one who seemed enamored with the quarterback was Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, and it will be on Maccagnan for not just this pick, but an entire draft that left nothing but a sour taste in the mouths of Jets fans.

Rich Cimini, who covers the Jets for ESPN New York, called the drafting of Hackenberg a 'panic move' and he would be exactly right. This was a total panic move by the Jets, who have no idea whether Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to return or not. Instead they now have two rookie quarterback projects in Hackenberg and last year's draftee Bryce Petty, and an underachieving hot mess in Geno Smith. This is not good. Three back-ups and not one of them is a starter.

Hackenberg is not going to see the field this year, meaning that New York wasted an impact draft pick on a guy who may not see the field for two years, if he ever sees the field for this franchise.

The drafting of Hackenberg now throws another monkey wrench in the Fitzpatrick sweepstakes. Reports are the Jets still want Fitz back, but now on a one-year deal. Fitzpatrick has been looking for a long term deal in the $16 million per year range, and this will only make negotiations even more difficult. Why will Fitzpatrick sign a deal with the Jets now, when he knows he has no future with them? Why would the Jets now cave and give Fitzpatrick more than $10 million for one-year? It won't happen. If it does, than the Jets, Fitzpatrick or both parties are that desperate.

Then again, the Jets could also swing a deal with the Los Angeles Rams for Nick Foles. Yes, that rumor is now out there too. The Rams can afford to shop Foles after they drafted Jared Goff with the first pick in the draft. Goff will start, and Foles has no spot now. Three years ago, Foles had one of the best years of any career when he threw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions for the Eagles. He has never come close to that production. Yet, he is a big armed quarterback who stands at 6-foot-6. He's got the attributes a team looks for, but the consistency has not been there.

As one can see, Maccagnan has made his search for a franchise quarterback into a total fiasco. One has to wonder how Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker feel right about now? How Matt Forte, who signed with Gang Green in March, feels right about now, and veterans like Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis feel right about now? It can't be good. Not when a franchise can't help but keep itself in the headlines over an issue that should never have been an issue when the 2015 season ended around New Year's.

Oh, and mini camp is just weeks away. How much more fun are we in for with regard to the Jets?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ryan Fitzpatrick rather "sit" than take Jets offer

The stalemate between the New York Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit ridiculous speed a long time ago, as neither side can come to terms on any kind of deal. Heck, they can't even meet halfway right now.

Reports surfaced on Thursday that Fitzpatrick would rather sit out the entire 2016 season than play for the Jets and their offer. The Jets reportedly offered a deal in the $7 million to $8 million range. Fitzpatrick wants a deal around $16 million a year. Even the Denver Broncos steered clear of Fitzpatrick when his asking price was too much for them.

The Jets want to get a deal done with Fitzpatrick, if for no other reason than the fact the quarterback had great locker room chemistry with his teammates and played well last year. Fitzpatrick has seen the likes of Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford and Chase Daniels cash in on mega deals, and none of those guys threw 31 touchdown passes last year. Fitzpatrick did.

If Fitzpatrick is fixated on sitting out an entire season because he won't get the contract that he deems is fair, the Jets really need to move on. While bringing Fitzpatrick back makes all the sense in the world, (nobody wants to see Geno Smith start this year), the Jets have to understand that they can't force Fitzpatrick to sign a deal he doesn't want.

Granted, the Jets are offering a very fair contract for a player who never once in his career dominated the position. Fitzpatrick had a career year last year and the Jets rewarded him with an offer for $8 million a year. That is not too shabby. Fitzpatrick has to realize that if he is going to play any down of football this year, he needs to lower the terms of his contract demands. Not only are the Jets staying away but so are other teams. If Fitzpatrick plays this out and does sit out (as unlikely as it is) he can pretty much kiss his career good-bye. Nobody will want to even pay the veterans minimum to a 34-year old quarterback who took a year off, because he was making a public statement about his salary.

Fitzpatrick needs to realize that the Jets are the only destination out there for him. It's the only outlet that guarantees him a starting job this year. The Broncos are going to start Paxton Lynch after trading up to draft him. The 49ers are stuck with Colin Kaepernick. The Browns just signed RGIII, and the Rams and Eagles drafted quarterbacks in round one. There are no more starting spots available, except the Jets.

Time for Fitzpatrick to put aside this ridiculous charade and sign a contract.

Jets and Giants stink it up with first round selections

It has been a pretty bizarre off-season, at least for one of the two teams in New York.

In one corner, Giants GM Jerry Reese is under the gun to get the G-Men back on track, or else face the wrath of John Mara and company at the end of the upcoming season. In the other corner, the Jets continue their kamikaze off-season. It has not been fun for either team this Spring.

It didn't get any better after the first night of the NFL draft.

The Giants pretty much panicked with their first pick in the draft when the selected Eli Apple, a corner back out of Ohio State with the 10th pick. A lot of people had defensive end Leonard Floyd falling to the Giants at 10, but the Bears traded up to nine to get him. The Giants could have tapped Shaq Lawson, the talented pass rusher out of Clemson, but surprisingly passed on him.

Yes, the Giants needed a cornerback, they had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year, but Apple is a guy who is extremely raw, and was kind of a reach at the 10th pick. While he has good size, 6-foot-1, he is extremely young, only 20-years old, and was a pass interference machine in college. He loves wrapping himself around receivers, which means teams in the NFL will pick on Apple all day long.

This is not the impact defensive player that the Giants needed to get. They needed an edge rusher more than anything, and totally dropped the ball here. Reese called Apple, a "value pick." But, in the first round, your objective as a NFL team is not to get a value pick, but to find an immediate impact player. The Giants didn't get that in Apple.

As for the Jets, they totally underwhelmed with their first round selection of Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee. Lee is an undersized inside linebacker, who while he has good speed, might be an odd fit in Todd Bowles defense. Lee had only four sacks last year for Ohio State, and is more of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. The biggest knock on him is that he gets beat way too often against the run. This pick was a huge gamble, and one that may not produce instant results for Gang Green.

While the Jets were smart to avoid taking a quarterback, such as Memphis' Paxton Lynch, they really could have been more aggressive and bold and taken a flyer on Myles Jack from UCLA. Yes, Jack has an injury history, but he was the better player on the board when the Jets were picking.

As for the Lynch to the Jets stuff, I will say this, it might be the best for both worlds. The Jets would have thrown Lynch into the kerfuffle that is their quarterback situation.  They are still trying to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long term deal, and are not sold totally on Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. Lynch, by all accounts is a developmental quarterback, and the pressure cooker of New York probably would have been too much for him.

 Lynch instead goes to Denver, where there is little question that he will be the starter at some point this season. There is no way in H-E-L-L that John Elway is going to live with Mark Sanchez under center for the Broncos. Lynch is going to be his guy, and watch him flourish in Denver. The Broncos have a good system and know what they are doing ... unlike the Jets.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jets and Giants 2016 Schedules Announced, Analysis

The 2016 NFL schedule is now available! The schedule, which was not supposed to be released until next Thursday, was instead released this evening with a whole slew of surprises, big games and monster primetime match-ups.

 From the national perspective, the NFL hits a monster homerun with its top two primetime games in week 1, the Panthers will visit the Broncos in a Super Bowl rematch on the opening Thursday night. Meanwhile the Patriots will visit the Cardinals on Sunday night football.

The NFL did drop the ball a bit by having Rams and 49ers in San Francisco rather than in Los Angeles in Week 1 on Monday Night Football, but there is a chance the reason the Rams didn't get a single primetime home game had a lot to do with the team playing in a college stadium.

As far as the local teams, the Jets will open the season at home for the seventh straight season, and for the second straight year it will be against a AFC North opponent from Ohio. No not the Browns, but the Cincinnati Bengals. Will be a fascinating game. The Bengals are still in search of that first playoff win, and need to get off to a good start in 2016. The Jets have been a team in total flux this off-season, and who knows who their quarterback will be by Week 1.

The last time the Jets and Bengals opened the season against one another, you'd have to go back to 2004, when the Jets hosted Cincy at the Meadowlands, a 31-24 Jets victory. It is also interesting to note that the Jets have opened the season at home every year MetLife Stadium has been opened, dating back to 2010. The Jets are 5-1 in their previous home/season openers.

The Giants on the other hand have get the short end of the stick again in Week 1. Not only will they open on the road for the fourth consecutive year, but they will face the Cowboys in Dallas for the second straight season. While this game won't be on Sunday night, it will be the headline game on Fox at 4:25 p.m. in Week 1. This is the fourth time in the past five seasons, dating back to 2012, that the Giants and Boys open the season against one another. Three of those match-ups now, 2013, 2015 and 2016 have been in Dallas.

Both New York teams get a total of five primetime games.

The Giants first primetime match-up is in Minnesota in Week 4 on Monday night football. The following week they visit Green Bay on Sunday night. Big Blue will host the Bengals on Monday night football in Week 10, and the Cowboys on Sunday night football in Week 14. Their final primetime game will be in Philadelphia on a Thursday night in Week 16, which is also on NBC. The Giants also face the Rams in London in Week 7.

The Jets five primetime match-ups include a Week 2 tilt with Rex Ryan and the Bills on Thursday night football on CBS and NFL Network. That will be a huge game, considering the Bills beat the Jets twice last year by the count of 22-17. It was a no-brainer these two teams would see each other early in the year in primetime. The Jets also visit Arizona in Week 6 and host the Colts in Week 13, both games will be on Monday night football. The Jets host the Patriots on November 27 in their lone Sunday night contest. The Jets final primetime game will be on Saturday, December 17 at home against Miami.

The Jets will play six games on the road in nine weeks, certainly a very difficult stretch.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jets acquire Broncos tackle Ryan Clady to replace Ferguson

When reports surfaced on Friday that D'Brickashaw Ferguson had decided to retire from pro football everyone was stunned, except for the Jets.

Perhaps Gang Green really did anticipate his retirement coming, because 36 hours after the announcement the Jets formally acquired Ryan Clady and a seventh-round pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a fifth-round pick.  

All of sudden the Jets have replaced Ferguson, who started 167 consecutive games over 10 years for New York, with a tackle who when healthy is a physical presence on the offensive line, who stands at 6'6" and 315 pounds. 

The big question regarding Clady is health. While his predecessor was always the top bill of health, Clady was the opposite. He has missed 30 games over the past three seasons.  He played only two games in 2013 when he suffered a Lisfranc injury (foot injury) that led him to miss the rest of the '13 season. Clady missed all of the Broncos 2015 Super Bowl season. 

Because of the health concerns and high price tag ($9.5 million over two years) the Broncos and GM John Elway had been looking to trade the offensive tackle after they signed former Seahawk, Russell Okung when free agency began. 

In order to make the trade happen, the Jets had to work out new deal with Clady, and restructured the deal to a one-year deal worth $6 million, with $3 million guaranteed. Clady also gets a one-year option for $10 million if things pan out this year. 

This is a huge gamble for the Jets. If Clady remains healthy this year and reclaims the status that made him one of the games top left tackles, this could be an absolute steal for the Jets, especially since it cost them only a fifth-round pick. Obviously, if Clady is not healthy, the Jets issues at left tackle will only persist. 

It should be interesting to see how this trade affects the Fitzpatrick negotiations, if at all. The Jets have taken a hard stance on Fitzpatrick's contract, refusing to pay him more than $7 million a year. Fitzpatrick has been looking for something in the $10-$11 million a year range.

In addition, the Clady move could still have an impact on the Jets draft plans. New York had been expected to target either defense line or even quarterback before the Ferguson retirement. Now they might have to settle for a tackle. My guess is they will still target the offensive line with their first pick in Round One. 

Ferguson Retires After Jets Ask him for Paycut

D'Brickashaw Ferguson won't take a paycut to stay with the Jets. Instead the pro Bowl leftt tackle decided to retire for reasons most still are not sure of.

One thing is for sure, the Jets offseason which has been pockmarked by the ongoing Ryan Fitzpatrick negotiation, has now taken a new twist with the Jets losing their blindside protector for the quarterback, which will almost undoubtably change the course of the Jets draft plans.

For Ferguson the announcement of his retirement comes as a big surprise, even if the Jets claim that it isn't, at least to them. While Ferguson's production had dropped off the past couple of years, there was no indication from him until the day it happened that he was going to retire. In fact, it is ironic in more ways then one that he made his firm decision only after the Jets spoke to him about a pay cut.

Reports have indicated that Ferguson had considered retirement for sometime, especially if he couldn't meet his own standards. Perhaps the contract was the final straw.

Last week, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan spoke to Ferguson about taking a pay cut that would free up cash for the Jets to sign Fitzpatrick. Ferguson had a $14 million cap hit in 2016 and the Jets, with only $1 million in cap room left, felt pushing Ferguson to accept less money was a home run for everyone. Well, as it turns out its really only a home run for Ferguson who leaves with a full bill of health and plenty of money saved after a long and productive playing career.  The New York Post reported that Ferguson was approached at the Jets facility about the reduction in pay, which didn't surprise the left tackle. There were no formal negotiations either.

Those who want to run around and claim that Ferguson retired because the movie "Concussion" heavily influenced him are making a fairly weak case. Yes, Ferguson was troubled by the movie, he spoke out heavily against the NFL's lack of transparency.  A lot of players who have been victims of concussions are ticked off at the League for its lack of transparency on the issue, and there are certainly enough active players, troubled by it as well. But, to say it was the deciding factor is a bit far fetched.

Ferguson's decision is simply about money, and whether he felt he should keep playing at a high level for less. Sorry, conspiracy theorists, Will Smith gets no credit here.

According to the New York Daily News, Ferguson was troubled by the sense that the organization was trying to replace him, something he saw firsthand when the Jets drafted bust Vlad Ducasse to push out veteran Allen Faneca. When Ferguson got word the Jets wanted HIM to take a pay cut, it was the tall tell sign that he needed to make a move.

Make no mistake Ferguson was a great player for the Jets. He missed only one snap his entire career, playing in 167 straight games for the Jets since they drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He will be missed, and he made a decision that was sound and well thought out. Ferguson has a bright future in the business world, whether it is sports related or not. You will be hearing a lot about his success off the field for years to come.

As far as the business of football is concerned, the ball is really in Maccagnan's court now, and he can't screw this up. He asked Ferguson to take less so he could keep Fitzpatrick, and now has lost his left tackle. While the loss frees up $9 million in salary cap space, the pressure is on the Jets to get the Fitzpatrick deal done.

Fitzpatrick has done a terrible job handling this himself. He and his agent overvalued  the quarterback's worth to the point that nobody, not even the Denver Broncos who went out a traded for Mark Sanchez, want a piece of him. Fitzpatrick is negotiating against himself and the Jets know it.

 The Jets are right to hold firm in this negotiation, but as they do, RGIII is now in Cleveland and Colin Kaepernick looks destined for the aforementioned Broncos. The 49ers seem poised to draft one of this year's top quarterbacks in a draft that is rail thin on good quarterbacks. So the pressure is on the Jets to get something done soon. If Fitzpatrick were to somehow, by a miracle, find a landing spot elsewhere the Jets would be in huge trouble. The idea of Geno Smith or inexperienced Bryce Petty starting under center is starring them in the face.

Moreover the Jets were even looking at Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch last week. Rumors were swirling that Lynch could be the Jets guy at the 20th pick, but with the latest developments on the offensive line, the Jets will probably scrap any plans to draft a quarterback early in the draft, if at all.

And that leads to this question: Who is going to play left tackle? A lot of people have speculated the Jets would go out and trade for Ryan Clady, who is due $19.5 million over two years from the Broncos. The Broncos are still in negotiation with San Francisco for Kaepernick, and would probably ask for a kings ransom from the Jets in the form of draft picks and compensation. While a trade is always possible, this is one that seems unlikely -- at least right now.

The other option of course is to draft a tackle. The draft is full of top lineman, many of them are expected to go early in the draft. Unless someone falls in the draft, the Jets might have to trade up to get a top guy. Then again, the stock on some of the second tier lineman might start to go up.

So while the Jets may have gotten what they wanted with money off the books, it may come at the expense of Fitzpatrick, who right now, has nobody to protect his blindside. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Giants and Jets preseason schedules announced

The 2016 regular season schedule for the NFL must be coming up fairly soon. How do we know? Well, the preseason schedule was released this afternoon.

Most already knew that the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts were to play a preseason game at the Hall of Fame at the start of August, but the rest of the meaningless slate is now available.

Regarding the Jets and Giants, the two New York teams will face one another in their annual Preseason Week 3 tilt with the Jets serving as the home team.

The Jets will open the preseason hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Meadowlands. The last time these two faced off in the summer, you have to go back to 2013. The Jets and Jags did meet in the regular season last year, with the Jets getting the win. The Jets will then visit the Redskins in Week 2 of the preseason schedule. New York will close out the summer with a trip down I-95 to Philadelphia.

The Giants, meanwhile will have a AFC East flare to the schedule. In addition to their annual match-ups with the Jets and Patriots, the Giants will open up the preseason at home against the Miami Dolphins, and will visit Rex Ryan and the Bills in preseason week 2.

JETS preseason schedule
JACKSONVILLE
@ Washington
NY GIANTS
@ Philadelphia

GIANTS preseason schedule
MIAMI
@ Buffalo
@ NY Jets
NEW ENGLAND