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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mccagnan Changing Jets Culture, Brings Back Cromartie

It's only March. Football games will not be played for another five months, and we are six months away from the start of the 2015 regular season. It's a ways off. Yet, the New York Jets are making moves now that have taken them off the funny pages that they seemed chained to during the Rex Ryan era.

This week the Jets completed a total facelift of one of the worst secondary's in the NFL by re-signing Darrelle Revis to a five year contract. Then on Thursday night, the Jets reunited Revis with Antonino Cromartie, and signed former Chargers safety Marcus Ghilchrist as well. Suddenly the Jets secondary doesn't look so bad.

Cromartie signed a 4-year $32 million contract, after spending the past season with the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets under John Idzik let Cromartie walk last off-season, creating a gigantic hole in the secondary. With the Jets, Cromartie enjoyed some of his best seasons when he was teamed along with Revis. Now that they are together again the Jets will have two of the best corners in the game on the roster.

In addition, their presence will be a big help to some of the younger players, like Buster Skrine, whom the Jets signed last week, as well as Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor, two Jets draft picks who haven't panned out yet.

Milliner has suffered through two injury plagued years and had the unfortunate distinction as being the guy to replace Revis in 2013. That didn't work. Now with Revis and Cromartie back in town, the Jets can let Milliner learn under two of the best, while he works on his craft as a back-up and nickle corner.

Pryor, a safety by trade, who is best known as a hitter will now get to live that role under Todd Bowles, especially with said veterans back in the fold. So now there is less pressure on him too.

The addition of Ghilchrist is an interesting one for Gang Green. Picked by the Chargers in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Clemson, Ghilchrist has proven to be a solid player, but maybe not the big time safety San Diego was hoping for.

The Jets signed him with a four year contract after the Cromartie deal was done. Ghilchrist is versatile, having played multiple positions from safety to cornerback. According to GangGreenNation, he played in 900 snaps last year for San Diego, most of them in the slot corner position, or strong safety, and recorded 76 tackles, an interception, a sack, and two forced fumbles. At 26-years old, he is still learning -- and the potential is there for a very solid addition to the Jets secondary.

Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the Jets secondary is totally transformed. They have both experience and depth, and can feature a multitude of sets that will fluster quarterbacks.  It's been a heck of a week for GM Mike Maccagnan. Fortunately he's not done yet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jets Reunited with Darrelle Revis at Long Last

Finally cooler heads have prevailed.

Like the old saying goes: "three's a charm," because for the third straight off-season cornerback Darrelle Revis wanted a contract from the Jets, and finally this time, the Jets were willing to listen.

The Jets agreed to a brand new five-year, $70 million contract with their returning Pro Bowl cornerback that will pay him $39 million guaranteed, and $48 million over the first three years of the deal. His money for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, which will be $16 million and $17 million respectively, will all be guaranteed. Revis now joins Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman as one of the highest paid corners in the NFL.

The Jets needed Revis back. They had a gapping hole in the secondary the past two years, capped off by last seasons poorly inexperienced group that was one of the worst in the National Football League. Revis gives the Jets that number one shut-down corner they so desperately needed to go along with that nasty front seven.  For Todd Bowles, a defensive coach by trade, this is a move that will make him smile for days on end. 

What's more the Jets delivered a blow to two division rivals, the Patriots and Bills, who were both expected to be in hot pursuit of Revis too. The Patriots declined Revis' $20 million option for 2015, freeing him from his deal. The Patriots tried to negotiate with him, but the corner was (in Revis fashion) asking for too much. The Bills were also interested because of his connection to head coach Rex Ryan, however, Buffalo soon dropped out.

The long twisted road back to Green and White was not an easy one for Revis, and it is fair to say that a reunion with owner Woody Johnson was a bit of a long shot because of the hurt egos along the way.

Dating back to Revis' much talked about holdout in 2010, it was Johnson who refused to pay Revis after the 2012 season, and gave permission to then GM-John Idzik to trade him to Tampa Bay. Then, after Revis orchestrated an escape from the Buccaneers a year ago, and expressed his desires to return to New York and reunite with the Jets and Rex Ryan, Idzik and Johnson said "no way," as Idzik didn't even return their calls.

ESPN STORY.

Revis took that insult and headed to New England where he won the Super Bowl this past season with the Patriots. Now, ironically, it is the Patriots who were unwilling to give Revis what he wanted.

At the end of the day this entire deal was about two people: Darrelle Revis and Woody Johnson. Sure Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles played a big part in bringing Revis home, but Johnson had to okay it. He had to accept that he was wrong about Revis the past two years. 

Woody Johnson didn't have to make this deal work. He could have stood firm in his belief that Revis is asking for way too much; but he knows how valuable a great player is to its franchise, or at least he has learned that the hard way anyway.

The fact that the Jets and Revis were able to strike this deal says two things. 1) Woody Johnson was willing to forgive and forget. 2) Revis and his agent were willing to forgive and forget as well. Both sides know that they are better together than they are apart. With the Jets, Revis became a super-star cornerback. With Revis, the Jets became a contender.
 
 Revis now gets to reclaim the real estate that was his, Revis Island. He is the shut down corner that nobody will throw to, and will allow the Jets front seven to put even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

A long awaited return that should have never had so much drama to begin with is now over. Back to football.

Winners: 

Jets fans. The fans are the biggest winners here because they get one of their favorite players back in the fold and it gives the fan base hope that the new administration is indeed moving the franchise in the right direction.

Bowles/Maccagnan: These two guys have been here less than two months, and already are making moves to make people forget about the hideous two years of Rex Ryan and John Idzik. While the rest of free agency and the draft are still to take place, getting Revis along with David Harris and Brandon Marshall is a good start.

Revis: The dude gets paid. That is the one and only reason he was willing to accept this reunion. He finally got the money he felt he deserved from the Jets a long time ago.



Losers: 

Rex Ryan: Ryan desperately wanted Revis back the past two years, but as stated before, the front office felt otherwise. If the Jets brought back Revis last year perhaps the Jets have a better season, and Ryan is still here coaching the NY Jets. I'm sure Ryan doesn't feel too good hearing this news all the way up in Buffalo.

The Patriots: Now Tom Brady has to worry about the Island again, and the Patriots really don't have a number one threat at wide receiver to go up against Revis, unless of course they tap Andre Johnson in a few days.

11 other teams on the Jets schedule. You know the Jets play other teams except Buffalo and New England, right? Revis will get some fun match-ups this season: Mike Wallace with Miami; Victor Cruz with the Giants; Dez Bryant with Dallas; T.Y. Hilton with Indianapolis, and many more. Should be fun to see how Revis can attempt to shut those guys down. 

OTHER JETS MOVES: The Jets officially released Percy Harvin from his contract after the Brandon Marshall trade became official. The Patriots have been rumored a suitor for Harvin. The Jets then finalized a deal with back-up running back Bilal Powell. New York also signed fromer Cleveland Browns corner Buster Skrine to a four year, $25 million deal. Perhaps Skrine will platoon with Dee Milliner next year, unless the Jets go out and bring back Antonio Cromartie

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wilpon Needs to Remember Mets Woes Aren't All on Collins

Fred Wilpon spent 20 minutes with Terry Collins on Monday after the teams' 13-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in preseason action. The Mets are now 3-4 on the preseason, and already the owner of the Mets wants his manager to know that his presence will be felt, that expectations have changed.

It has been reported that Wilpon plans to be around the team much more than he's been in year's past, with Collins reiterating that Wilpon, "expects (the Mets) to be a much better team. He told me two weeks ago, 'Look I'm going to be here a lot ... A LOT,' where in the past, he'd come in and he'd be gone for a week to 10 days."

This is not to say that Wilpon will echo his inner George Steinbrenner, but with ownership and fans putting extremely high expectations on a team that hasn't cracked .500 since 2008 -- pressuring the manger this early would be alarming.

It has been widely speculated for years that Terry Collins is a fall guy for the next manager of the Mets, a placeholder who is just around to get the Mets through the dark days of bad baseball, as ownership tries to free itself from financial peril. Now that the Mets have astronomical expectations this season, there will be pressure on Collins, and to an extent GM Sandy Alderson, to get the job done this year. If the Mets should fall flat, or get off to a very sluggish start, there is a chance one of them will be out of a job.

Not fair. Then again the sports business isn't fair either sometimes.

If the Mets do falter this season, Collins will get the blame, even though he does not deserve any. He's been working with a short deck ever since he took this job in 2011, because ownership still can't get itself out of the same financial plight they have been in since 2008. From Bernie Madoff scandal which has cost the team millions, to millions more lost in lawsuit litigation around the case, to money lost at the gate due to a poor product, and a poor economy which took dents into Wilpon's real estate company, it has not been a good seven or so years for the Mets.

During this time the club has slashed its payroll by about 56% since 2010 when the team had a payroll amassing over $149 million. As of 2014 that payroll was $84, 951, 365 for the 25 man roster. While most of those 2010 contracts were bad deals, with the likes of Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, the fact remains this has been a team that has been reluctant to spend money inspite of owernship's constant plea that they have money to spend and will do so.

The Mets only significant off-season moves this past winter included signing aging and injury prone outfielder Michael Cuddyer, and utility-man John Mayberry Jr. The team tried to pursue a short stop this winter, but felt the price tag and trade market was unreasonable. Last year their only significant move was signing Curtis Granderson who looked more like a grandfather with the bat. Until last year's surprising bullpen renaissance, Alderson's biggest faux pas was the lack of quality arms that he brought in via free agency. The Mets have also been very quiet at the trade deadline in recent years.

So the Mets still aren't spending wisely even though they have been paying much less. Yet the Wilpon's want the fans to believe that if this team doesn't win it's all the manager's fault?

The fact is the Mets salary for this year is expected to be around $89 million for active contracts. Still nowhere near where this team used to be, and not even sniffing the $100 million threshold. The Mets roster is comprised mostly of players in rookie contracts, with David Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million), and Cuddeyer ($8 million) being their biggest commitments to date.

If the Wilpon's insist that the money is there to spend on the team, why aren't they willing to throw some money on a short stop with a bat? Or willing to go after outfielders who are closer to their prime? Or even willing to boost the bullpen with a veteran arm? These are things a contender would be and should be doing, but the Mets haven't done that.

So while the Mets have some good young starting pitchers, and have some good, young talented players to compete, they will never get to 85 wins or even 90 wins relying on a payroll that reminds people of the Tampa Bay Rays.

So if we are sitting here in two months and the Mets are at or below .500 and in third place in the NL East, Fred Wilpon better look in the mirror at the real problem with his franchise.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

NY Jets: the Case for a Nick Foles Trade

The New York Jets pulled a trade for Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a move that has both a high risk and high reward potential considering both the talent and volatility of the player. The upside of the move is tantalizing. Marshall gives the Jets their best deep threat since Santonino Holmes in 2010, and maybe their tallest receiver since Keyshawn Johnson left town in 1999.  The potential is there for greatness -- Marshall has had seven 1,000 yard receiving years in his career, and is a terrific red zone threat.

But there is one on-field issue: who will the Jets have throwing the football to him and Eric Decker? Does the new Jets regime want to throw its weight around Geno Smith for one more season? Do they want to take a major risk and draft the franchises third rookie quarterback in seven years with, presumably, Marcus Mariota in April's draft?

If the answer to both questions is no. Then the Jets need to both find a way and hope that they can make something happen via trade for none other than Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

Is Foles available? He might be. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is very fond of Mariota, to the point that he is rumored to wanting to do anything to trade up to get him. If the Eagles want Mariota as their quarterback they will have to give up both the 20th pick and Foles to do so.

This is does not mean that the Jets are a lock to be involved in a trade. The Eagles could work out a blockbuster deal with either Tampa Bay or Tennessee in which that team gets Foles and load of Eagles draft picks to compensate for trading either the first or second pick in the draft. The Eagles could also call the Jaguars, who are picking third and offer Foles and draft picks, especially if they don't want to wait. Even though Jacksonville has a young quarterback in Blake Bortles, Foles is better.

Nothing is guaranteed. Yet everyone seems to think that the Bucs and Titans will pass on Mariota, meaning that the next likely team in the market for a quarterback is ... the Jets. If Mariota does indeed drop the Jets shouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call Kelly down I-95 and make the deal.

The case for Foles:Even though he has had a solid career thus far, Foles has still drawn the ire of Eagles fans and some NFL fans as being not that good. Having watched him at different points over the past two years, I don't understand the hate. This is a guy took off two years ago and led that franchise to the playoffs, and had them in position to make the playoffs last year before suffering a collar bone injury.  Before his injury he won six games last year with his signature wins coming in comebacks against Jacksonville and Indianapolis.

He has completed 61 percent of his passes in his career, and has a tremendous touchdown to interception ratio of 46-17. Two seasons ago, Foles threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions all year. This guy has talent -- and at 26 years old, he hasn't even hit his peak. This is not Mark Sanchez who was a bad quarterback that had more lives than a cat, and excuses to boot. Foles has the potential to be the real deal. 

Yes, Foles was hurt by turnovers last season with ten interceptions, and has had fumble issues. The other negative is that he takes a lot of big hits -- which is something that a lot of these big quarterbacks who are over 6'5" seem to take nowadays.

If protecting the football, and improving his timing on throws is his biggest concern, the Jets should go all in. This is a franchise that has seen some of the worst quarterback play any one team can see over the past six seasons. From Sanchez who led the NFL in turnovers two years running, to Geno Smith and his very, very long learning curve that has created doubt in the minds of football people that he can be something more than mediocre, the Jets deserve better.

The Jets have never had a true franchise quarterback who can gun the football down the field accurately on a consistent basis. The Jets have seen spurts: Vinny Testaverde in 1998, Chad Pennington in 2002 and 2004, Brett Favre at 38 years old in 2008, and even a little bit of Sanchez from time to time. But those few moments of brilliance were very far between.

If Foles continues to develop at the rate he started in Philadelphia, the Jets would be foolish not to consider trading for him. They need a quarterback of this ilk, who can get the football to the likes of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They need a quarterback who can provide steady leadership where its been lacking. They need a quarterback who can become the face of the team. All the great franchises have a quarterback who is at the center of the franchise. While the jury is still out on whether Foles can become a top NFL quarterback, he is certainly a good one, and much better than the options that are out there on the market.

If Mariota is available to the Jets at six, pick up the phone and make a deal.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

BlogTalkRadio: San Francisco Giants Preview

On Friday, March 6 I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Saltzman of Baseball Essentials, and host of the podcast From the Bleachers with Candlestick Will, about the 2015 San Francisco Giants.

The Giants are coming off a World Series championship, and have plenty of questions as the franchise is once again challenged to defend their title.

San Francisco Giants Preview

Take a listen and Enjoy!


Friday, March 6, 2015

Jets Acquire Diva Brandon Marshall from Bears

Less than a week before free agency begins, the Jets have decided to join the NFL trading block party by agreeing to terms on a trade with the Chicago Bears that will bring Brandon Marshall to the Big Apple.

On the surface this trade sounds great. Marshall is a five-time pro bowl wide receiver, is a big target at 6'4", and has had seven 1,000 yard receiving seasons in his career. Pairing him with Eric Decker, on paper is very formidable, and if the Jets ever do get a quarterback they could have a dynamic passing attack. And all the Jets gave up for Marshall with a fifth round pick.

That being said, Marshall does carry a lot of baggage. Last season the Bears rewarded him with a three-year $30 million extension and he decided to commit himself to part-time media career, serving as an analyst on Showtime's Inside the NFL, rather than being on the practice field. Add injuries to the list and Marshall had one of his worst seasons of his career with only 721 receiving yards and eight scores.

He's also had a laundry list of legal trouble that dates back to his college days at UCF. In 2012, he was accused of punching a woman in the eye socket at a New York night club, although the investigation came up negative. Other alleged charges on Marshall include: assault, drunk driving and domestic violence.

In 2011 it was revealed, after an altercation with his wife, by which Marshall was left with a stab wound to his stomach that he suffered from borderline personality disorder. He has tried in recent years to soften his image becoming an advocate for mental awareness.

The Jets will be Marshall's fourth team. He started his career with the Denver Broncos before being traded to the Dolphins in 2010. Two years later he was on the move again, this time via a trade to the Bears. In each stop either his salary cap number or personality stamped his ticket out of town.

The Jets hope that the New York spotlight is not too bright for Marshall and that he can continue to be a dynamic force on the football field. He did work with Todd Bowles when they were in Miami, so perhaps Bowles can be something of a calming force for him.

The Jets need this to work. They have been looking for a dynamic play-maker at wide receiver since they split with Santonio Holmes a couple seasons ago. Also, with Demarious Thomas getting franchise tagged by the Broncos, the options on the market for a wide out were thin at best. 

It should be fun to see how the duo of Marshall and Decker work out on the field. If all goes well, the Jets will have that potent air attack that they have waited years for.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Seahawks Blow It! Terrible Play Call Ends Seattle's Chance to Win Super Bowl

PATRIOTS 28
SEAHAWKS 24

For a few moments it was going to be the Super Bowl in which we would forever talk about the bobble-catch made by Seahawks receiver, Jermaine Kearse. On first and ten with a 1:10 to go in the game, with Seattle trailing by four points, Russell Wilson went for it all heaving a pass down the sideline to a double-covered Kearse, who made a play for ages.

Initially it looked like the ball fell incomplete, but Kearse was able to keep his focus on the football as he was falling down onto his back, and made the catch with two Patriots standing over him. Yes, the bobble catch was going to join the likes of the Helmet Catch as one of the greatest, and most improbable catches in football history.  The Patriots were once again going to lose a Super Bowl because of a tremendous catch in the late stages. And one could feel the karma of Deflategate coming back to bite the Patriots with this Seattle rally.

That was until the Seahawks decided to throw it all away.

Seattle had the game in their back pocket. With :26 to go, the ball at the one yard line, and a timeout to use, all the Seahawks had to do was hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch and the game would have been won. Instead they decided to throw the football on second and goal at the one, and it was intercepted by rookie safety Malcolm Butler. Game over.

It was easily the worst play call in the history of the National Football League. There was no logical reason for the Seahawks to throw the football on the goal-line. Some have said that Lynch had issues in the past running the football at the goal-line, but I just don't understand how. Lynch has been one of the toughest backs to tackle all season; he has been notorious for carrying defenders for long gains, and had already gashed the Patriots for a steady 102 yards on Sunday night. If Wilson hands Lynch the football, he scores -- its that simple.

Whoever made that call, whether it be head coach Pete Carroll or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, must be sick to their stomachs right now, because logic dictates that running the football is the only option in that situation. If the Patriots stuffed Lynch and kept him out of the endzone, Seattle could then try a naked bootleg, or a bubble-screen to the corner on the next play, and still find a way to get the winning score. Instead we are left with not only the most bizarre endings, but maybe the worst ending to a Super Bowl.

The Patriots got the football back, drew Seattle off-side, and started a melee in the end zone when Pats' tight end Rob Gronkowski was taunting the Seahawks. Gronkowski wasn't penalized at all, another signal that when it comes to the Patriots and discipline, the officials like to turn a blind eye. Instead it was Seattle's Bruce Irvin who was ejected for starting the fight. It didn't matter, the game was already lost.

I can only imagine what Carroll and his coaching staff went through last night when the team actually had a moment to think about what had happened. I bet it is replaying in Carroll's mind even to this minute; he'll never get over it, trust me.

While the end of the game is clearly pinned on the play-calling of the Seahawks coaches, lets keep in mind that this was a team that had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Seattle had the number one ranked defense in football, and were 18-0 when leading after three quarters the past three years combined. Yet, the Seahawks much bally-hood Legion of Boom defense had no answer for the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked them apart with short, high percentage throws to the sideline. Rarely did Bardy challenge the Seahawks deep, when he did it led to a couple of interceptions, including one down near the goal-line in the opening quarter of the game. Other than the two picks, Brady was fantastic. He threw for 328 yards and four scores, claiming the game's top prize as MVP.

However, a honorable mention should also go to Julian Edleman, who gutted out a bad hip to catch nine passes for 109 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Both fourth quarter drives ate up huge chunks of clock and yards as New England pressed the issues against the Seahawks vaunted defense. In a lot of ways it was like Seattle never adjusted their defensive game plan. They were going to give the Patriots everything and anything underneath, but were not going to allow Brady to beat them deep; unfortunately for Seattle that plan backfired.

A nine play 68 yard drive, not only ate up close to five minutes, but it left the Seahawks defense gasping for air, as Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone for the score. After Seattle went threw and out on it's next possession, Brady drove the Patriots down field again, on another lengthy drive that felt eerily reminiscent to the drive Joe Montana led against Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII. Brady was 9-for-9 on the Pats final drive of the day, with every single plass being a short underneath check down.

While Brady's integrity regarding deflategate should be questioned, you can't take away the fact he had a great Super Bowl against, what was supposed to be a shutdown defense.

But at the end of the night, all anyone was talking about was the opportunity that Seattle had. The Seahwks could have changed everything in that game if they only did the smart thing and run the football. This is a play, a moment, a game that will haunt this franchise forever. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Inside Look on BlogTalkRadio

On Friday I had the esteemed pleasure to interview fellow baseball broadcasting colleague, Dan Arndt, who is an Events Production Supervisor for the NFL about what it is like to work behind the scenes at the Super Bowl.

Dan gave great insight into all the hard work that the men and women behind the scenes do to put the worlds biggest game on the air.

Listen to an excepert here:


You can catch the full length episode right here: