Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review: Top 13 Moments of 2013

Happy New Year's everyone! Hard to believe another year has come and gone, but 2014 is now hours away.

From a personal standpoint 2013 was a pretty good year. I received the opportunity to pursue my long held ambition of becoming a sportscaster, when I was tapped to do play-by-play for the New Jersey Jackals minor league baseball team. It was a spectacular season capped off by a late second half surge that sent the Jackals to the Can-Am League Championship series. The Jackals would push that series to seven games before falling to Quebec.

In addition, the Open Mike program moved into its third year on MTRradio.com, this time with broadcasts every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. The new time slot has enabled me to preview the NFL on a weekly basis, hours before kickoff.

What does 2014 hold? The future is not for one to see, but, hopefully it will be better than the past year.

In the meantime I am combining some national moments, some local NY moments and personal favorites as my 13 moments from '13.

13) Ravens beat Broncos in triple OT thriller: Ok, this is not a NY moment, but it was a pretty amazing moment nonetheless. While this game technically counts as part of the 2012 season, this game did happen in 2013 in the divisional playoffs. The Ravens entered the game as a monster underdog to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, yet Baltimore would not be deterred.

Both teams interchanged scores throughout the evening, but midway through the fourth quarter Denver took a 35-28 lead on a Manning TD pass to Demarious Thomas. Then the Ravens had the play of the year when Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones from 70 yards out to tie it and force OT. The Ravens pushed the Broncos to triple overtime, where they won it on a Justin Tucker field goal. The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl.

12) Man'te Teo Mess Hits the Web: Ever been cat-fished? Cat-fishing became the phrase of the year after it was revealed that the former Notre Dame football star's girlfriend was in fact ... made up. Yeah, it was a monster scandal that exploded all over the internet with meme's galore. As for Teo, he was drafted by the Chargers and disappeared in San Diego, probably the best thing for him.

11) Knicks finally win a playoff series: I know things are so depressing with the Knicks right now nobody wants to talk about anything positive. But in 2013 the Knicks finally won a playoff series for the first time since 2000 when they beat the Celtics in six games. The Knicks would get slapped by the Pacers in the next round.

10) Newark Bears go bust: A major story in the New Jersey sports world became final in late October when word got out that the Newark Bears and their unscrupulous owner Danielle Dronet were going under. Dronet ran the franchise into the ground with falling attendance, a revolving door of employees, and gimmicks like the faux Justin Bieber at Stadium of Screams night. Having seen that circus first hand, it was delightful news for myself and the people who worked there to hear the Bears were bust.

9) Wacha! Wacha!: Unless you were under a rock, you know what "Wacha, Wacha" refers to. St. Louis Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha became a super star for the Cards down the stretch of the 2013 season and into the postseason. After posting a 4-1 record in the regular season, he was even better in the playoffs. Wacha went 4-1 in the playoffs with a 2.64 ERA including pitching in clinching games against Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

8) Pirates Make Playoffs, Heat Win NBA, etc, etc: Nationally there were a lot of big stories that grabbed ink. The Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs for the first time since 1991, ending more than two decades of complete ineptitude. Meanwhile in the NBA the Heat won their second consecutive title with LeBron James earning another MVP award in the process. The Ravens won the Super Bowl, even with a blackout at the Superdome, and Tony Romo still sucked in the clutch.

7) Giants 0-6 start dooms season: A season that opened up with the hope the Giants would become the first team to ever host the Super Bowl in their own stadium was dashed by a horrific 0-6 start to the year. Heck, you could argue the season went out the window when New York dropped a 38-0 decision to Carolina in week 3. The Giants never recovered from that start. Change is coming to Big Blue with hopes for a better 2014.

6) #KeepRex becomes phenomenon: Twitter has become famous for its trend of hash-tags that dominate the net; but in the last two weeks of the year it was the hash-tag #KeepRex that became the rallying cry of most NY Jets fans wanting to keep embattled coach Rex Ryan. Keep in mind this catch phrase only got hot after it was revealed that Ryan told his players that he expected to be fired before the team took on the Browns.  Apparently Woody Johnson got the message as he and GM John Idzik will indeed bring Ryan back for 2014.

5) Matt Harvey starts All Star Game: There wasn't much to get excited about with the Mets, but Matt Harvey getting a chance to start the All Star game at Citi Field was the lone highlight of another lost season in Metland. Harvey was great that night, pitching two shutout innings and plunking then-Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.

4) Losing sucks: NY Sports was depressing: Ok, let's be honest 2013 was not a good year for sports in the New York area. Everyone pretty much sucked this year. The Yankees missed the playoffs with a beaten up and aging roster; the Mets are still the Mets, finishing with 73 wins this past year. The Knicks and Nets are both busts so far in the 2013-14 season. Believe it or not they both still have a shot to make the playoffs this year. The Rangers, Devils and Islanders have all underachieved this season. And the Giants (7-9) and Jets (8-8) each had underwhelming seasons. Can 2014 bring better results in New York? We shall soon know.

3) Alex Rodriguez Fiasco: Let's face it A-Rod was by far and away the biggest mess of the year. He was suspended by MLB for 211 for his involvement in Bio-Genesis, but the third baseman has been fighting it ever since. Rodriguez didn't win any sympathizers, well ... except for Mike Francesa! A-Roid is trying to make the case that MLB has made him into a scapegoat, but most aren't amused. A-Rod walked out of his own hearing in November, and lord knows what will happen if Rodriguez's people take the case to federal court. The Rodriguez case will be a major story of early 2014.

2) Comeback Jackals: Again my time with the Jackals during the 2013 season was truly one I will never forget. The team was made up of some gritty, never-say-die ball players. The team became known for making incredible comebacks, non bigger than the coming out of a deficit in the standings to get into the playoffs.

Game highlights included New Jersey's rally from 6-4 down in a game at Quebec in July to win 7-6 in 11 innings, and their exciting comeback in Game 2 of the LCS. The Jackals were down 7-2 before rallying for 13 runs in the final two innings of that game to even the series. What a year it was. All the moments are flooding back to me as I type this.

1) Mariano Rivera says Good Bye: Nobody did it better in New York than number 42, Mariano Rivera. Rivera called it quits in 2013, but not before giving the fans a few more moments of brilliance. He recorded 44 saves with a 2.11 ERA. The guy could have continued to pitch, that is how good this guy was. He was showered with praise all over Major League Baseball -- even getting tokens of appreciation from Boston and the Mets! Rivera was the greatest closer of all time, and will be missed.



Rex Ryan Will Not Get Long Term Extension

As I predicted in my previous article about Rex Ryan's return, he is going right back on the hot seat for 2014.

While owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik said that Ryan would come back for the 2014 season, they are not ready to commit to the bombastic coach for the long term, nor should they commit to him.

According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the Jets are looking to give Rex only a 1-year extension that will keep him a Jets through the 2015 season. Not exactly what Ryan was hoping for. He wanted a long term contract.

That means Ryan enters 2014 the same way he entered 2013 with questions about his job security, and as predicated, unless the Jets are rolling to the playoffs next season, Ryan's job status will be a hot topic a year from now.

Can't blame the Jets for feeling this way. While Ryan "earned" the right to come back for the final year of his contract, the 2013 season does not take away all of the negatives that come with Ryan either. He hasn't had a competent offense during his five year tenure in New York; not to mention coddling two bad quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

Ryan has done a solid job with the defense, but it's the entire package where Ryan needs to show improvement.

The Jets unwillingness to give Ryan a long term deal speaks volumes that they are not totally confident in his abilities. If that is true, they should have let him go instead of dragging this along another year. But, it's the Jets, nothing ever comes easy.

Gilbride Likely Out as Giants Offensive Coordinator

New York Giants owner John Mara feels that Big Blue's offense is "broken." Two weeks ago coach Tom Coughlin called the unit "pathetic."

So it comes as little surprise that reports that surfaced a week ago that Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was at risk of losing his job could be coming to fruition.

A report by the Newark Star Ledger has revealed that Big Blue is going to make some changes to the offense because of the units overall failure this season. The changes could come down in the next couple days.

The tipping point of course is the regression of quarterback Eli Manning, who had a horrendous season, leading the league in interceptions with 27. In addition, the Giants receiving corps came under fire with Hakeem Nicks and Ruben Randell having poor seasons. Big Blue couldn't get their ground game moving either, interchanging between David Wilson, Andre Brown, Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jacobs at running back. All of those issues fall on the offensive coordinator who couldn't get this unit to play well.

This will be a difficult and important move for Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whom, the report says won't put his own career in jeopardy for Gilbride. That is big news, because Coughlin's relationship with Gilbride is one paved through Jacksonville, when Gilbride was Coughlin's offensive coordinator for the Jaguars from 1995-1996. Coughlin is a guy notorious for having steep loyalty to his coordinators, but it looks like Coughlin won't stand in the way.

Nor should he.

Coughlin is the oldest coach in the league, and while he is returning for 2014, the Giants are not willing to give him an extension. It has been assumed all year that Coughlin would be allowed to decide his future beyond next season.

2014 will be a must win situation for the two-time Super Bowl winner whether its fair or not. The Giants have missed the playoffs two straight years since winning the Super Bowl in 2011.

Gilbride will be the first of many dominos that will fall in the coming weeks and months as the Giants try to regroup from this 2013 disaster of a season.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Road to XLVIII is Set, NFL Playoffs About to Begin

The 2013 regular season is now over, and the playoffs are about the begin. Heavyweight's Denver and Seattle remain the overwhelming favorites to square off at MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII, but the field is quite competitive with rising teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Cincinnati Bengals in the mix as well.

The playoffs kick-off Saturday afternoon when the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) visit the Indianapolis Colts (11-5). This is a rematch of a Week 16 match-up that saw the Colts storm into KC only to whip the Chiefs 23-7. The Chiefs have not played well since their 9-0 start, having dropped five of their final seven. However, you have to give the Chiefs credit for playing their hearts out in San Diego, in a game that meant nothing to their playoff chances.

This will be the second playoff berth for Andrew Luck and the Colts in as many seasons. The Colts come in with the perception as the weak sister in the AFC, having struggled at times down the stretch. Yet this is the same team that beat the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks this year.

The nightcap on Saturday will feature a match-up of the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints will hear for the entire week that they can't play outdoors, having lost five games on the road this season, which cost them a division title and a bye week. We'll see if the Saints can finally put it together on the road this time around.

The Eagles are on fire having won seven of their last eight to capture the NFC East division title. The Eagles are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Nick Foles, who has thrown 27 touchdowns this season, and if it weren't for Peyton Manning in Denver, Foles would be an MVP candidate. The Eagles are an easy pick to get to at least the NFC title game because of how well they've been playing football. The playoffs, however, are a different animal.

Lastly Sunday's wild card action features the upstart Chargers heading to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals at 1:00, and the 49ers heading to Green Bay to take on the Packers at 4:30.

The Chargers have been playing good football; the turning point of their season coming on a Thursday night in Denver a few weeks back, but nobody has played better at home this year than the Bengals.

For the 49ers, they should be a slight favorite to beat the Packers on Sunday afternoon. They have had success against the Packers of late, winning their last three against them, and are typically a sound road team. However, the Packers may not be a total push over, especially after Aaron Rodgers shook off some early rust in Chicago to lead Green Bay back for a thrilling 33-28 victory. The Packers have eight wins, but don't sleep on them.

The Broncos, Seahawks, Panthers, and Patriots all sit and wait for the winners before hitting the field for the divisional round.

Schedule:
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014
Kansas City @ Indianapolis - 4:30 NBC; commentators (TBA)
New Orleans @ Philadelphia - 8:00 NBC; commentators: Al Michaels, Chris Collinsowrth

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014
San Diego @ Cincinnati - 1:00 CBS; commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
San Francisco @ Green Bay - 4:30 FOX; commentators: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014
WC winner @ Seattle - 4:30 FOX
WC winner @ New England - 8:00 CBS

Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014
WC winner @ Carolina - 1:00 FOX
WC winner @ Denver - 4:25 CBS

Sunday Jan. 19, 2014
AFC Title Game - 3:00 CBS; commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
NFC Title Game - 6:30 FOX; commentators: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Super Bowl XLVIII
Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 - 6:25 FOX

Black Monday: NFL Coaches Likely to Get the Ax This Week

With the conclusion of the 2013 NFL season, the crazy period where NFL coaches learn their fate is about to kick-off. Black Monday is here; an unfortunate, but somewhat necessary tradition in the league where teams want try to get a jump on the off-season as soon as they can. Here is the list of coaches, who are likely moving on this week.

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns: Hard to believe this actually went down Sunday, but the Browns decided to part ways with their first year head coach,  Rob Chudzinski. I don't know what the Browns front office expected from this guy in his first year on the job taking over a team that has been a mess ever since it returned to the NFL in 1999. The guy actually got this Browns team to play hard all season, and lost some close games this year. But the front office felt losing seven in a row to end the year was enough to merit a firing.

Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins: By the time you read this Shanahan might already be fired. After four tumultuous years in Washington, the Redskins are ready to part ways with Shanahan, and for good reason. Shanahan created a unworkable relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III; the two clearly can't co-exist. Plus, Shanahan's decision to play RGIII injured in last year's playoffs, coupled with his bizarre handling of him this year, means it's time for change. Not to mention the Skins are plain awful.

Jason Garret, Dallas Cowboys: What Jerry Jones decides to do with Garret is the question of the off-season. The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs for the third straight year under Garret, and clearly a change could be in the offing. Even without Tony Romo on Sunday, the Cowboys invented ways to lose to the Eagles with the NFC East title on the line. Jones has stated in the past that Garret would be back in 2014, but we all know that owners can change their minds whenever they want to.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: The fact that Detroit had the NFC North in their hands and couldn't get the job done speaks volumes about Schwartz and the job he has done in the Motor City. The Lions blew it by losing two critical games down the stretch that allowed both Green Bay and Chicago back into the race. Now the Lions are out of the playoffs again.

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans: The Titans have to make a tough decision on Munchak who was a Hall of Fame player for the Houston/Tennessee franchise, but as a coach he's been underwhelming. The Titans won seven games this year with their starting quarterback on the shelf for most of the year. This is a decision that might take a while to process.

Leslie Fraizer, Minnesota Vikings: the Vikings are entering a new era. They will move into a college stadium for the next two years until the Metrodome is rebuilt as a new stadium, and they want to move into that new era with a new coach. The placid Fraizer is done.

Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders: It's the Raiders, you just never know what they will do from one minute to the next.

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes, the Buccaneers won four of their last eight, and played much better football in the second half of the year, but nobody will forget how Schiano handled things in the first half of the year. It looked like in October that Schiano would have a mutiny on his hands with the Josh Freeman situation. Won't surprise either way here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jets, Giants Opponents for 2014 Announced

With the 2013 season now complete both the Jets and Giants turn the page to 2014.

 The Giants will come off a horrific season with the hopes they can rebound in 2014. The Giants need a new strategy offensively to get Eli Manning back on track, and the Tom Coughlin watch will be on big time next year. Coughlin will be 69 next year, and the Giants might want to have a successor in place by this time next season.

As for the Jets, they are coming off a magical finish to 2013 that saw them overachieve to win eight games in a year where Rex Ryan was squarely on the hot seat. He will be on the hot seat again next year if the team is mediocre, but the Jets played hard for him, especially down the stretch. The question regarding the Jets will be the shape of the offense next year. Is Geno Smith the answer? Will the Jets draft a quarterback? Will the Jets get a big time running back and receiver to help this offense out? Those are all questions that have to be answered in 2014.

One thing that is certain for 2014 are the opponents for both the Jets and Giants. While schedules won't officially be released until mid-April, teams already know whom they will play next season. The Giants finished in third place in the NFC East, and will face a third place schedule. With the Jets victory over Miami, they finished 2013 in second place, and will get a second place schedule.

New York Giants Opponents:
Home: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, Arizona, Atlanta,  Houston, Indianapolis.
Road: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Seattle, Detroit, Jacksonville, Tennessee.

New York Jets Opponents:
Home: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Denver, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit.
Road: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Kansas City, San Diego, Tennessee, Green Bay, Minnesota.

Eli Manning Battered & Beaten, But Giants Win

GIANTS 20
REDSKINS 6

It was pretty ugly at the Meadowlands from the weather to the quality of play on the field. For quarterback Eli Manning, he must be thankful 2013 is now over.

Manning was battered in the first half of a rain soaked contest against the Redskins. He was hit a number of times, sacked once and had a pass intercepted. He was under total duress and didn't look comfortable at all in the pocket against both the Redskins pass rush and the rain drops. The biggest hit the former Super Bowl MVP took was on a desperate roll out to his right and was brought down awkwardly on his ankle just before halftime.

He limped off the field and into the locker room and was not heard from again. The image of Manning limping off to the locker room was emblematic of the entire season, with Manning leading the league in interceptions with 27. He was lost all season, and lost on Sunday.

Give credit to the rest of the Giants, particularly the defense, which got after Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, forcing two interceptions and holding the Skins to 160 yards passing on the day.

 The biggest plays by the defense came with New York backed up against the shadow of their own goal line. With 6:35 to go in the third quarter, Cousins was strip sacked by Justin Tuck, giving New York the football back with a delicate 10-6 lead. Later Trumaine McBride picked off a Cousins pass at the New York 25 to keep Washington out of the red zone.

Curtis Painter wasn't good in relief of Manning, but he didn't make a big mistake to kill the Giants either. He was two of eight for 11 yards, with the only highlight coming on an end around to Jerrel Jernigan, who cut up field and scored on a 49 yard run to break the Redskins back late in the third quarter.

While the Giants won this game to finish at 7-9, it was still a disappointing season for a team that expected so much more this year. It's anyone's guess if this was the final game for Kevin Gillbride as offensive coordinator. Two weeks ago there were reports surfacing that Gillbride would be ousted after the season.

Sunday was no excuse, as the Giants were once again pathetic offensively, even with the rain drops. The Giants made no announcement about changes, but rest assure they are coming.

The Giants will also have to address changes to personnel as well. Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck are two big names who might not be back with the Giants next year. Tuck has a big cap number and might be cut. Nicks is a free agent, and underachieved greatly this year, so his return is highly unlikely.

For Giants fans who couldn't wait for the season to end after an 0-6 start, your wish is here. 2013 is over, and 2014 is underway.

Rex Ryan Returns: Jets Shine for Coach in Victory over Miami

JETS 20 
DOLPHINS 7

They couldn't have closed out this season any better.

With the status of coach Rex Ryan technically up in the air, the Jets showed up and played their most complete game of the season against the Miami Dolphins, destroying Miami's playoff hopes in a 20-7 victory, cementing an 8-8 finish.

The rumors have been swirling for weeks about Ryan's job status with the latest rumors that Rex Ryan will come back in 2014. After Sunday's performance Ryan is not going anywhere.

After the game, Jets owner Woody Johnson announced that Ryan would return as head coach for the 2014 season. Neither Johnson nor GM John Idzik would discuss Ryan's contract status, which still has one year left on it. Johnson and Idzik added that they felt good about keeping Ryan from day 1; and the last two weeks had no bearing on their decision.

The Jets played loose and fancy free compared to Miami, who looked like they were playing on glass the entire afternoon.

Geno Smith and Dee Milliner, both of whom played poorly earlier in the season, drawing the ire of many, both had their best efforts of the season. Smith played like a true field general. He made plays both with his arm and legs, and didn't turn the football over once. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 190 yards, and whenever plays were unavailable to him, he tucked it in his arms and ran it.

It was a total domination by a Jets offense that ripped up 154 yards on the ground, and 374 total yards. New York averaged 5.3 yards per play.

The biggest turning point of the day had to come with the game tied at seven in the second quarter. The Jets had the football at their 20 with 2:21 to go in the half, and marched right down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Smith completed three consecutive passes early in the drive, highlighted by a 31-yard route to David Nelson to move the football to the Dolphins two. After a couple of incompletions, Smith bulled his way through the defensive line for the touchdown, bending and stretching his body over the goal line for the score to make it 14-7.

From there the defense pinned its ears back on Miami. The Jets forced three turnovers in the second half, two of which were made by Milliner.  The Dolphins were trying to pick on Milliner all afternoon, but the rookie corner stepped up big time. When Ryan Tannehill tried to thread the football to Mike Wallace, the corner stepped in front of a pass and picked it off, killing a Miami drive.

After the Jets got a field goal to make it 17-7, Ed Reed picked off a Tannehill pass to set up another Nick Folk field goal to make it 20-7.

Fittingly the season ended when Milliner picked off Tannehill to ice the contest with time expiring.

The Jets players celebrated with the ceremonial gatorade dunk of Rex Ryan -- a coach who went through a lot, and was forced to grow up as a coach this year; he gets even with the haters and will be back in 2014.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Signs are Pointing to Rex Ryan's Return to N.Y. Jets in 2014

Surprise, surprise, Rex Ryan may not be going anywhere after all.

It appears that owner Woody Johnson has heard enough catcalls from the fans and media this week, demanding Ryan's return to the organization, and reports from various NFL insiders are saying that the Jets are leaning toward bringing back Ryan in 2014.

The reports state that the Jets and Ryan are in talks over an extension, so things are not written in cement. Anything can change at any given moment, but the signs are pointing to his return.

No surprise.

Last week a report leaked to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer that Ryan told the team he expected to be fired. He used it as a ploy to motivate the team to play for his return, and it appears it worked.

Many call this a solid move because it brings continuity to the organization, and it leaves little doubt as to who the leader of the franchise is: Rex Ryan. This team is built with his personality; he has infused himself into the Jets over the years.

 I always applaud an owner who decides to stick with the program rather than dump it for a new path. Typically, franchises that are successful stick with their coaches long term. So from that standpoint it's the right move.

Ryan does get credit for winning more games than some people expected this year, but even if the Jets do finish 8-8, this is not a good 8-8 team by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said, Ryan hasn't exactly earned this return, not after three straight seasons without a spot in the playoffs. Not after his failure to develop, or even, to try to develop some form of a competent offense over the past five seasons.

Not to mention the circus-like atmosphere that he created for the organization has become harder and harder to take.

Alas he comes back. But not without some questions. If Rex Ryan does come back what does this mean for the offense? For starters it means that Marty Mornhinwheg will return as offensive coordinator to tutor Geno Smith. The Jets under Rex Ryan probably won't give up on Geno -- i.e. their ridiculous patience with Mark Sanchez -- so expect Geno under center in '14.

Also don't expect, unless the Jets change their minds between now and April, to draft one of the top flight quarterbacks coming out of college.  Knowing Rex Ryan and his reputation with quarterback's, Geno is his man. Mark Sanchez? I expect him to be gone, but heck, knowing how much Rex likes him I wouldn't be shocked at all if the Jets re-work his contract and bring him back.

What does this mean about the power in the organization? Rich Cimini brought up a good point in his article about the power structure within the Jets franchise. Woody loves Rex Ryan and his bravado; it was assumed that John Idzik was not too crazy about Rex, but they were amicable this year. What does Rex's return mean for Idzik's power within the organization now?

Coaching staff? The Jets have a lot of assistants in the final year of their contract, and it will be interesting to see which assistants return under Rex as the team moves forward.

Finally, if the Jets have another mediocre season in 2014, then what? The fans professed their love for Rex Ryan this week, but lets remember that most of them wanted him fired before the Browns game. What happens if next season produces more average results? Will the fans turn on Rex and demand he be fired? Remember what I said in my previous article, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rex Ryan's Future Becomes NY's Latest Bizarre Debate

You gotta give Rex Ryan a lot of credit; he is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you are in the media, or a fan living in the New York area.

Hours after the Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns, 24-13, amid reports that Ryan had told his players that he expected to be fired, a firestorm of debate erupted amongst Jets fans about whether the embattled coach should stay or go. 

A week ago at this time, most Jets fans wanted Rex out; now it looks like the fans have done a total 180 and want him to return! Check out the Jets twitter feed or Facebook page and it is loaded with fans demanding that Ryan come back. #KeepRex has become the new hot-word on the internet in a matter of hours.  What was once a united front of "Fire Rex and take Sanchez with you," has morphed into a divided Jets nation. A sudden majority want the trash talking coach back. 

Talk radio was abuzz with hosts and callers giving excuses and kudos to Rex Ryan; I even heard someone call in and say he should be considered for ... (wait for it) ... Coach of the Year! Yes, someone actually said that.  The "new" consensus: Rex Ryan is awesome. John Idzik is a jerk. 

Even Ryan's harshest critics, like Manish Mehta and Joe Beningo, are saying that the 2013 Jets were Ryan's best coaching job. 

How did this happen so quickly? How did a victory over the pathetic Browns turn jeers to cheers and tears for Rex Ryan? Where were these people five or six weeks ago? 

Perhaps Ryan knows the answer to that. He has achieved something, whether it be directly or indirectly, and he has made himself into a martyr. When Rex Ryan told his players that the front office had it in for him, the stigma changed. He went from zero to hero. His speech then became something of legend when the team actually won on Sunday. 

A private moment somehow found its way into the notebook of Fox's Jay Glazer and has become the rallying cry for Jets fans. We still don't know who leaked the speech to Glazer, but if it was Ryan, then this has to be Ryan doing what Ryan does best: he makes everything about himself. 

 Ryan drew the battle lines. He wants to get the players and fans behind him against the front office. This is a battle that will only get uglier, unless owner Woody Johnson and Idzik are in on the Ryan bandwagon themselves, and we don't know that yet.

I can't remember for the life of me a head coach on the hot seat becoming this popular at the last minute. Most coaches who are on the hot seat in this town never get a reprieve from the fans. Maybe Mike Woodsen of the Knicks needs to talk to Ryan. 

Then again, it seems that almost anything will please Jets fans, even seven wins in a season that most thought would feature four or five wins. Slight overachievement is not something fans should hang their hats on, but these are the Jets. 46 years and counting, by the way. 

Fact is, outside of the Jets front seven, this is not a great team. At the beginning of the year Ryan called this team the best collection of talent he's ever had. Then two weeks ago, he called the 2013 Jets draft class the best ever. Both statements are laughable, but he said it, and he coached this team. 

The secondary is atrocious, and the defense overall doesn't scare people. They give up big plays and have become very undisciplined; New York is currently 10th in the NFL in penalties, averaging 6.9 a game. The Jets are ranked 24th in pass defense, and 21st in scoring defense. They have forced only 12 turnovers all season. 

The offense -- don't get me started -- ranked 27th. Geno Smith is a rookie, yes. But Ryan has entrusted the offense into the hands of his third co-ordinator in three years and still doesn't put his input into the offense.  

Then there is this. Ryan had the Jets at 5-4 coming off a bye week with a crucial three game stretch ahead of them. He opened that stretch by taking the team to Dave & Buster's bar the night before the game. The Jets lose the next day and would continue to lose three in a row before running into the equally inept Raiders.

Expectations low? Sure, but the Jets had a chance to be that surprise team in 2013 but couldn't pull it off. 

Plus let us not forget how we got to this low season in the first place. Since the back-to-back AFC title game appearances it has been downhill. Ryan and then GM Mike Tannenbaum stripped the team of its core leadership (Allen Fanica, Thomas Jones, Damien Woody) and created a circus atmosphere in town.

Ryan coddled his boy wonder QB, Mark Sanchez, even when it was obvious the guy just didn't have it.

He botched the Tim Tebow experiment to point it became late night fodder.

He stayed loyal to his old Ravens players (Bart Scott, Ed Reed, etc) beyond the point of no return.

There was the middle finger in Miami-gate, foot fetish-gate, the Mark Sanchez tattoo-gate, G-D Snack-gate; all which filled the headlines on a regular basis.
Ryan was John Belushi in Animal House. He was fun initially, annoying by the time the calendar read 2012. That is why 2013 was a make or break year. Unfair as it might seem, Ryan should have been let go with Tannenbaum a year ago. 

Ryan worked hard this year, no doubt. He went all in on this season. He tried to get Dee Milliner to be Dee Milliner, and not the next Darrell Revis. He tried to weather the storm with a rookie QB amid calls for Matt Simms. He lived with the QB competition even though he preferred Mark Sanchez.  But, outside of the Atlanta and New Orleans games, this team was tough to watch. 

The battle lines are now drawn. Who will make the next move? A likely 7-9 finish, the entire history of Ryan's career in New York tells me that change should happen, not because Ryan is a bad guy or a bad coach, but because it might be best for the franchise. The Jets don't want to become the Dallas Cowboys where the headline each year is the coach's job security. 

Nevertheless, my gut tells me that Woody and Co. will give Rex another shot. But if the we are having this conversation again next year, I don't want to hear from the same Jets fans who wanted Rex back in the first place then crying that they want him fired. Be careful what you wish for; you might get it. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Giants Show Heart in Detroit, Knock Lions From Playoffs

GIANTS 23
LIONS 20 

In the long miserable year that was the 2013 season, the Giants have waited all year for a signature victory. On Sunday they finally got one, upending the Detroit Lions and blowing up Detroit's playoff chances with a 23-20 overtime victory that proved Big Blue does indeed have enough heart to finish this disappointing season strong.

The Giants never gave in, never relinquished under pressure, and, played a solid football game, something we haven't seen from them this year. Even with New York blowing a 13-3 lead, they hung around and found a way to come back; kudos to them, kudos to the coaching staff.

New York found itself in charge of this game in the first half for the simple fact they didn't make any mistakes. The Giants went 59:30 without turning the football over on Sunday, with the Giants defense playing a solid role in the effort.

The Giants defense kept the Lions at bay for the most part. They forced two interceptions of Matt Stafford, sacked the quarterback twice, deflected six passes and kept the great Calvin Johnson quiet with three receptions for 43 yards. It was a total team effort.

With the game tied at three, Big Blue got its first break of the day when Antrell Rolle picked up a fumble by Reggie Bush at the Giants own 41 yard line.

From there, Eli Manning put together a solid, time consuming 5:21 drive with big completions to Andre Brown and Ruben Randle to move the ball into the red zone. Two plays later, Manning hit Jerrel Jerrnigan for a 20-yard touchdown to give New York a 10-3 lead.

The Giants built their lead to 13-3 before Detroit came back. The Lions scored on three of their next four possessions, including sacking Eli Manning in the end zone for a safety that cut the Giants lead to 13-12. The Lions took the lead on Theo Riddick's two yard touchdown run, plus the two point conversion, made it 20-13 Detroit.

At this point, it appeared that the Giants hard work would be for not. The Lions needed the game a lot more than the Giants, and no one would have been surprised if Detroit held on at this point.

But that is why Matt Stafford is ... well ... Matt Stafford. The veteran QB threw an ungodly interception to embattled Will Allen at the Lions 38 yard line. Allen brought it back to the house for the tying touchdown with less than five minutes remaining.

Logic would dictate that the Lions should have run the football to take time off the clock, but got too aggressive for their own good and it cost them.

New York was able to force overtime, and nearly got screwed when the officials incorrectly ruled that Andre Brown fumbled the football in Detroit territory when it was obvious by replay that he was down before the ball came out.

Needing a big time stand against Detroit, the Giants defense stood firm. They got a break with a holding call on the Lions, before forcing Stafford to make two errant throws to force a Detroit punt. This time the Giants wouldn't be denied.

Manning chipped away at the Lions defense, completing three monster passes including a huge 15-yard  completion to Jernigan to spot the ball at the Lions 27. Three plays later, Josh Brown kicked Big Blue to a big victory, and knocked Detroit from the postseason in the process.

At 6-9, the Giants can wrap up their season quietly against the Redskins on Sunday. A win Sunday, the Giants can finish at 7-9 -- respectable considering they started the year 0-6.

Jets Comeback to Beat Browns, Play for Rex

JETS 24
BROWNS 13

As insane as it appeared on the surface for Rex Ryan to tell his team that he will be fired, it apparently was enough to push his team to a second half surge, as the Jets came back to beat the Cleveland Browns 24-13.

The Jets were led by spirited efforts from running back Chris Ivory, receiver David Nelson, and yes, even Geno Smith in the victory. It also helped that the Browns shot themselves in the foot a number of times.

Once Geno Smith was banged out of bounds on a second and two scamper for a first down, the Jets kicked their energy into a new level. Rex Ryan jumped in front of the sideline official, screaming at him in the face -- and even started jawing at Tashaun Gipson who was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Ryan had to be restrained by his players, and it seemed to ignite a spark.

That moment was the turning point; before it the Jets had done nothing. They watched the Browns move the football with alacrity jumping out to a 10-0 lead. It could have been more, but the Browns decided to go for it on a fourth down and goal, and couldn't convert - a break that came back to bite Cleveland later in the game.

But the roughness on Smith was really what sparked the Jets. They tied the game at 10, and went on to punish the Browns thereafter.

They held Cleveland scoreless in the third quarter, due in part to a key interception by Dee Milliner, who picked off a Jason Campbell pass to set the Jets up in Browns territory. While the Jets ended up missing a field goal on the ensuing drive, the Browns really had nothing to offer to threaten New York.

Once the Jets got the football back they punished Cleveland on a 14 play 73 yard drive engineered by Smith who completed 7-of-8 passes. He was precise with his throws, most of which came out of the shotgun. He hit Jeremy Kerley for 15 yards on a key second down, and later connected with Jeff Cumberland for 18 more.

Smith's biggest throw of the day had to be a 17-yard screen pass to Kerley on third and 13, a play that was totally blown by Cleveland. Finally, Smith found David Nelson in the back of the end zone for the score to make it 17-10.

After Cleveland got a field goal to cut the deficit to four, the Jets were all about converting third downs and eating clock. Smith hit Nelson for 15 on a huge third and ten at the Jets 20 to move the chains. Later Smith hit Nelson for seven more on third and six to move into Cleveland territory. Smith would eventually score his fifth rushing touchdown of the year on a 17-yard scramble to put the game away.

While Smith and offense were efficient, lets keep in mind they were playing the Browns. The Browns have had issues closing games out, especially with a lead. The Browns are a four win team for a reason.

As for Ryan, the victory only creates more confusion about his future. It is amazing how a report about a coach's future can create an even bigger circus. Did he tell his team he's getting the ax? Who was the leak to this story? Will he get the ax if the Jets win in Miami? The Ryan saga creates even more distractions and subplots for New York's final week against Miami.

Some have said that Ryan did a solid job because of the lack of talent on this team. That maybe true, but if Rex Ryan does return to the Jets, it will only confirm another year where we ponder the coach's future. It will echo in more of the same with regard to mediocrity on the field and a circus atmosphere off of it.

If the Jets front office is smart they should not let a victory over the Cleveland Browns cloud their final decision. If they do, then Rex Ryan has succeeded in creating a circus regarding his own future with the franchise.

Rex Ryan Tells Players He Will Be Fired

Rex Ryan's career with the New York Jets is indeed coming to an end, and the coach was not afraid to tell his players that before they took the field with the Browns today.

According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Ryan told his players in a team meeting on Saturday night that the "word on the street" is that he will be fired after the conclusion of the Jets season next Sunday in Miami.


It's important to know that even Ryan doesn't seem to know his fate or what Jets owner Woody Johnson is thinking. The "word on the street" all season has been that Ryan needed to win this season to keep his job, but no one seems to have a clear idea of how Johnson is leaning. Even Glazer notes that Ryan has viewed himself as a "sacrificial lamb" all season.
"Whether or not that decision is made, we don't know," Glazer said, (NFL.com)

If it is true that Ryan told his players this, then he is a complete fool. Why would any coach tell his team that he will be fired on the eve of a football game and expect them to go out there and play their hearts out the next day? If he did this, than Ryan deserves to be fired just for this.

This sounds like another Saturday night special by Ryan, who earlier in the year decided to skip the teams mandatory meeting for a night at Dave & Busters before the Jets took on the Bills. Result: the Jets got spanked by Buffalo 37-14.

If the Jets finish this season 6-10 or 7-9, you can rest assure that Ryan will be gone. With this latest news, he is basically attaching the Jets lone Super Bowl trophy to the rear bumper of his car and driving around the facility.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NFL Ready To Move Super Bowl If Blizzard Hits NJ

Are you ready for a Monday Night Super Bowl?

If New Jersey gets hit with a monster blizzard, which seems to always happen every year in late January/early February in these parts, it could be a disaster for Super Bowl XLVIII.

The NFL has a contingency plan to move the game either to Saturday night, or Monday Night if Sunday, February 2 brings weather fit enough for the abominable snowman.

“There is a potential for a move-up or move-back scenario, depending on what we see coming,’’ Frank Supovitz, Senior VP of NFL Events, said Wednesday. “If we see something that is crippling to the region, then we’ll make a decision based on the intelligence we have at the time. How late we do that is going to be as late as possible’’(NY Post).

The NFL, obviously, would like to avoid this, and they will deploy as many trucks as possible to the area to make sure that the game happens on Sunday -- however, just the thought of having the Super Bowl moved up or back is a disaster.

The game has been a Sunday staple for decades, and to have it moved because of a storm would be catestrophic. More importantly it would cancel out any thoughts of bringing another Super Bowl to a cold weather stadium, whether it be Chicago or New England. All bets would be off if Met Life Stadium gets dumped with several feet of snow and ice.

That is why having the Super Bowl in New Jersey was a bad idea to begin with. Not only do the players hate it, but out of towners will be non-too-pleased having to drive around New Jersey in bad weather conditions to find a stadium, hotel, or even a restaurant.

All we can hope for is that the snow holds off, and everyone has a good time. But if it doesn't, the NFL won't hear the end of it.

Week 15 Recap & Week 16 Preview: NFL Playoff Gifts Under the X-Mas Tree

Twas the week before Christmas and All Through the NFL
Not a player was chirping, not even Rex Ryan's big mouth!

The footballs were thrown deep into the air
hoping that Tony Romo wasn't throwing them into someone else's care...

Yes, week 15 is in the books, and, boy what a week it was. A week that literary changed the landscape of the NFL playoff picture, giving us now two weeks to determine a number of slots in the playoffs. Week 16 figures to be a heck a week, and many teams will be gunning for that last second christmas gift ... err ... victory to put under the Christmas tree.

1) Justin Tucker Kicks Ravens Into Playoffs, Lions Out of Playoffs: It was the kick heard round the world on Monday night when Justin Tucker nailed a 61-yard field goal to put the Ravens in control of the number 6 seed in the AFC wild card, and put the Lions on deaths door.

Two thoughts: A) What a collapse by the Lions. This was a team that had a great shot at winning the NFC North with a win vs. the Ravens but they totally blew it. Matt Stafford came up small with a couple of key fourth quarter interceptions that cost the team, and now they are likely done. The only way the Lions can win the division is IF they win out and hope that Chicago beats Green Bay in Week 17.

B) The Ravens are starting to flex their muscles. They are playing their best football at the right time, and can still win the AFC North, believe it or not, by winning out.

2) The Bengals and Patriots Implode with Opportunity to Clinch in their Face: Both the Bengals and Patriots were given a great opportunity to not only clinch their divisions, but climb into a potential bye week scenario in the playoffs. First, New England. If the Pats had found a way to beat Miami, they would have jumped ahead of Denver for the number one seed. Instead Tom Brady couldn't lead the Pats to victory, falling to the Dolphins in the final seconds. Miami, by the way has a great shot at making it to the playoffs.

The Patriots caught a huge break however, because, the Bengals lost to Pittsburgh. If the Bengals had won Sunday they would have leapfrogged the Pats for the number two seed. Oh well, Cincinnati decided not to show up. Now they have got to win out just to win the North, and fend off the Ravens. The Patriots, meanwhile, can still clinch the East with a win, or a Dolphins loss.

3) The Broncos are no bet as a Super Bowl favorite: There is something wrong with the Denver Broncos. In a season dominated by the incomparable Peyton Manning, who is about to shatter the single season touchdown record, among others, he can't do it all on his own. He needs help, especially on the defensive side. Defensively the Broncos are one of the worst defenses in football; ranked 23rd in total defense and 28th in pass defense.

If Denver is going to make a serious playoff push to the Super Bowl they have to play better team football. Last week, they got exposed against the San Diego Chargers, who held the football for nearly 40 minutes. The Broncos also come across as a team that can get punched in the mouth fairly easily; another bad sign. If it weren't for Manning's heroics turning major deficits into blowout victories this year, the Broncos would be in big trouble.

Watch out for a Denver upset in January if things don't improve.

4) Tony Romo Punched Jason Garrett's Ticket Out of Dallas: For all the great statistics that Tony Romo puts up, he has never been clutch when it counts. His two fourth quarter interceptions doomed the Dallas Cowboys in their inexplicable 37-36 loss to Green Bay last week. Lost in all the Romo hoopla was the fact that Dallas blew a 23-point lead, just to Romo's big turnover.

There was so much that went wrong for Dallas, one would need a book to describe it all. Basically, Dallas got ultra conservative in the second half. Even with Green Bay creeping back into it, the Cowboys didn't do much to stem the tide that they eventually got swallowed in.

Romo was careless. He was told the run the football with Dallas holding a slim 36-31 lead, and decided, instead, to audible to a pass play and proceeds to throw an interception. Green Bay soon scored the winning touchdown.

Romo's picks will ultimately cost Jason Garrett his job. Fair or not, Garrett is not getting paid as much as Romo, and the coach always takes the fall. That is IF Dallas doesn't find a way to win out and sneak into the playoffs with a division title.

HOT SEAT
Jason Garrett, Cowboys: RED HOT: Garret needs to win out and get the Cowboys a division title, or he will be looking for a new position. You know it's a tough business when one loss can mean everything, but that is the tightrope the Cowboys walk on a weekly basis.

Jim Schwartz, Lions: HOT: Schwartz had a chance to lead the Lions to a division title in a year where Jay Cutler missed five weeks for Chicago, and Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season in Green Bay. Instead his team has slipped in recent weeks, including blowing their playoff chances in a 18-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at home. Now the Lions have to get serious help just to get in with the division title. If Detroit fails to make it to the postseason, it could be curtains for Schwartz.

Rex Ryan, Jets: HOT: Word out of Jet-land is that Rex might stay, but his future is really 50/50. There is mounting evidence that Rex should be fired, evidence that I have documented pretty well on this site, but Jets owner Woody Johnson was said to be happy with the teams progress a couple weeks back. If Woody gives Rex another mulligan, it would only delay the inevitable for another year and set the franchise back another season. Unless the Jets get embarrassed in the the next two weeks, Johnson is still free to change his mind. Keep in mind Rex has won only 12 games in the last two years combined, and has no quarterback to speak of.

Leslie Fraizer, Vikings: HOT: Even though Minnesota has played pretty well of late, change is coming.

Mike Munchak, Titans: HOT: The Titans need a new face, and need one that can put the franchise back on the map. Munchak was a hall of fame player, but as a coach ... eh... yeah...no.

Mike Shanahan, Redskins: ULTRA BOIL: Shanahan is going to get fired -- or so we think. The spat between RGIII and Shanahan has been one of the most bizarre episodes we have seen in a long time. Shanahan clearly despises Griffin so much that he is willing to stir up a lame QB controversy with Kirk Cousins. Problem is owner Dan Snyder might be forced to keep Shanahan because of the $7 million he owes him for 2014. This is a huge mess that won't rectify itself very quickly.

Tom Coughlin, Giants: WARM: It has been my long held belief that Coughlin is not going anywhere. If the Giants make any moves to the coaching staff, it will be offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell that get the boot. Coughlin has done too much good to be fired now. However, the end is near. Coughlin is 68 years old and pushing 70. The Giants need to come up with a strategy for the end of the Tom Coughlin era appropriately.

Greg Schiano, Buccaneers: WARM: The Bucs have played well in recent weeks, even winning four of their last six. But a 4-12 finish is still a disappointment, and it is hard to forget how the Bucs got to this point. Question is: Does anyone want to take this job? If not, than the Glazers might have to stick with Schiano for one more year.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Gilbride Likely On Way Out After Miserable Giants Season Ends

Black Monday is two weeks away, yet it looks like for Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, Black Monday will be here quicker than that.

Gilbride wasn't given his pink slip today, but, word came from the Newark Star Ledger that the embattled offensive coordinator is not long for his current job.

After Sunday's 23-0 loss to the Seahawks, it became abundantly clear that changes are on the way. The Giants offense was beyond inept, even drawing criticism from head coach Tom Coughlin, who called the unit "pathetic."

While Gilbride is not the one who threw the passes, and he is not the one who dropped completions, he is responsible for overseeing the entire unit; the axe will ultimately fall on his head.

There has been a steady decline in offensive production for the past two seasons. Last year, the Giants were in the middle of the pack, this year they are close to the bottom in total offense, ranked 28th. The Giants have been the only team to get shutout in a game this year, a mark they have reached twice. This in a league where scoring has become more prevalent.

There were 82 touchdowns this week in the NFL, none of them belonged to the Giants. As offenses become more and more dynamic, the importance to counter with an offense that can score points becomes paramount.

The Giants were supposed to have that dynamic offense this season. They had a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback in Eli Manning in his prime; a star receiver in Victor Cruz, and a reliable number two receiver in Hakeem Nicks; they had what looked like a solid running attack in David Wilson and Andre Brown.

Instead, 2013 has been nothing but a nightmare.

Manning has regressed. He has thrown 25 interceptions, which leads the league. While he is not at fault for all of the turnovers, he has looked Sanchez-like a number of times this year. He is responsible for turning the ball over three or more times in five games this year, all of those game were Giants' losses.

He has been careless with the football, throwing into areas where there is no open man. He's been a rebel without a cause, and it has hurt this team.

The only reason Manning isn't getting the kind of flack that his New York counterpart, Mark Sanchez, received the past few seasons, and the kind of flack Tony Romo has received in Dallas, has more to do with Manning's Super Bowl rings. Take those away - and New York Giants fans would be running to MetLife Stadium with burning torches.

Hakeem Nicks has been the Invisible Man this year. He has zero touchdown catches, doesn't look like the same guy from 2011 and 2012, and has played and talked his way out of town for the 2014 season.

The running game is a mess. The Giants have gone from David Wilson to Peyton Hillis to Brandon Jacobs to Andre Brown, back to Hillis, and back to Jacobs. They have nobody to run the football, and one thing Jerry Reese has to do is either find one via trade or draft a big time back.

And don't get me started on the offensive line.

 So when things go array someone has to take the fall, and that is Gilbride. His offense has been ultra conservative at times, too aggressive other times. It seems like Gilbride is a guy who doesn't have a good feel for the game.

The Giants need a new offensive coordinator, one that will  put Eli Manning back in the right path toward another Super Bowl title. A coordinator that can take advantage of the talent he is given; create dynamic plays and a multitude of scoring opportunities.

The Giants are no stranger to fixing their offensive woes. Years ago when the Giants were sputtering offensively in the Jim Fassel era, they gave the play calling to some kid named Sean Payton (you may have heard of him) -- the Giants went back to the Super Bowl in 2000. Can Reese and Coughlin find the next bright young offensive mind out there to take the reigns of the offense? That will be their challenge in the month of January as the 2014 Giants begin to take shape.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Panthers Hold Off Jets, New York Eliminated from Playoff Contention

PANTHERS 30 
JETS 20

A blocked punt and a typical Geno Smith pick 6, the Jets playoff hopes officially and finally went up in smoke as the Panthers held off a stubborn Jets squad 30-20 in Charlotte.  The Panthers did everything they could to invite the Jets back into the ball game, but the Jets still couldn't help themselves from being the Jets.

For the most part, New York looked overmatched, especially in the second quarter with Can Newton picking apart the Jets in a game that was initially tied at three. Newton led Carolina on three impressive scoring drives in the quarter to build a 16-6 halftime advantage. No play was more impressive for Newton than his 72-yard screen pass-touchdown to DeAngelo Williams.

The touchdown by Williams was a poor job of execution by the Jets defense. They got fooled by the play action, and allowed the Panthers to complete their blocks. The only person who had a shot at Williams was Dee Milliner, and he completely missed him down the sideline.

Yet, the Jets hung around. They were sporadic offensively. At times, the Jets looked brilliant, others they looked deplorable.

Case in point, early in the second quarter with New York trailing 6-3, the Jets looked poised to take their first lead of the game. Geno Smith hit David Nelson for 18 yards to convert a first down. Chris Ivory gashed the Panthers for 35 yards to the Carolina 24, and Bilal Powell ate up 15 more yards to the Carolina 9.  But, Smith went back into his shell, overthrowing two receivers badly forcing the Jets to kick.

That was the turning point of the first half. It enabled Carolina to settle in -- the Jets failed to deliver what could have been a big blow in the game. The Panthers turned around and got that aforementioned Williams touchdown.

Still, Carolina tired to give the game to New York. Leading 16-6, Panthers coach Ron Rivera got a bit too greedy going for it on fourth and two at the Jets 20, and couldn't convert. The Jets took that full advantage of the opportunity, pounding the football 77 yards down the field for a touchdown by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

That was the closest New York would get.

From there the Jets returned to being the Jets. They couldn't answer the bell after Carolina's next possession, leading to the blocked punt that set up the Panthers at the Jets 10. Mike Tolbert pushed his way through the Jets defensive line for the touchdown to make it 23-13.

Then, Geno Smith put the cherry on top with another tailor made pick 6. He tried to force the football to Santonio Holmes, but instead he found Captain Munnerlyn, who brought it back 41 yards for a touchdown -- icing the game and icing the Jets fate.

Forget the Jets got a touchdown late, the Panthers were playing prevent defense at this point. They were pretty much overmatched by the Panthers defense all day. The Jets only managed 140 yards through the air, and before their final touchdown, New York had only 87 yards passing. The New York running game was decent, but it's little consolation to this loss.

Rex and the Jets will try to spin this as a moral victory that they were able to hang with the tough Panthers, but moral victories, at this point in the year is no excuse. The Jets playoff hopes are dead, and Ryan is once again front and center.

Rumors have swirled that Woody Johnson is happy with the "progress of the team" but we will see if he changes his mind at the end of the month. The Jets host a very tough Cleveland Browns team that lost close games to New England and Chicago in the last week plus -- they can score and are no pushover. The Jets finish the year against a Dolphins team that might be looking to lock up the sixth seed.

Victories are no certainty, neither is Rex's future at this point.

Giants Show Zero Heart in Defeat to Seahawks

SEAHAWKS 23
GIANTS 0 

Change is defiantly on the horizon for the New York Giants, especially after Big Blue's second consecutive stinker, a 23-0 shutout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in front of a half empty MetLife Stadium.

The Giants showed no life, and even less interest in this contest. They played like a team that not only knew they were playing the best team in the NFL, they accepted defeat before kickoff. The main culprit was the offense, which once again could do nothing, this time against the the number one defense in football.

When this was still a contest, the best drive the Giants could muster was a mere 29 yards. Other than that the Giants had drives of -8, 4, -4, 24, -1, 0, -10 ... you get the picture. It was ugly and this game was not even close.

Eli Manning was horrific. He channeled his inner Mark Sanchez, looking like the Eli who struggled through the first six weeks of the season. Manning was horrible. He threw five interceptions, three of which came in the first half. He couldn't get on the same page with his receivers, who were also guilty of dropping makable catches.

With Seattle leading 3-0, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson engineered an efficient 72 yard drive, with Wilson making big plays with both his arm and leg. His 25-yard completion to Doug Baldwin moved Seattle to the Giants 19. Wilson then hit Baldwin again for 13 more to the six, before Marshawn Lynch finished it off with a touchdown to make it 10-0.

Even though it was 10-0, the game felt like it was over. The Giants had no pulse. The players were seen slumping their shoulders and shaking their heads at this point.

In short a change in philosophy is necessary. Tom Coughlin does not deserve to be fired -- he has taken this franchise to great highs, but his coordinators need to go.

Kevin Gillbride's offense was unimaginative and pathetic to watch. The Giants offensive unit had no answer for the Chargers last week, and no heart this week. While it is easy to blame Eli Manning for the turnovers, he is not to blame for everything. This is a unit that needs a total overhaul in attitude.

Defensively, the Giants did ok, but even Perry Fewell's seat has to be warm. His unit couldn't stop the Seahawks big receivers, and have had their issues all season.

Coughlin is a guy who is very loyal to his coordinators, but he can't be loyal anymore -- especially if he wants to keep his job for at least one more year. If Coughlin doesn't like hearing this, he is free to step down as the HC of the NYG if he should choose -- nobody will blame him nor stop him.

However, if Coughlin is willing to bring in a new voice or two to help him out -- he has to do it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mets Waste $20 Million on Waist-line of Bartolo Colon

At least you can give the Mets credit for spending some money.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they spent it very wisely, when they threw $20 million over two years at 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, a known PED user, who magically rediscovered his game last season with the Oakland A's.

Make no mistake, on paper, Colon would seem like a positive addition. He won 18 games last year, had a ERA of 2.65, and was sixth on the Cy Young balloting. Yet, Colon will be 41 in Spring Training, and his ever present weight of 265 plus pound is sure to be an issue.

While his 2013 was spectacular, it should come with raised eyebrows. Colon hadn't had a season that good since 2003, when he was 15-13 with a 3.87 ERA for the Chicago White Sox. From 2004 - 2012, Colon's skill set greatly diminished and he battled numerous injuries. On top of that he was also suspended 50 games in 2012 for PED use.

So this addition comes with a big time asterix for the Mets. While the Mets are not a team bereft of pitching, they are hoping that Colon can be a bridge to Noah Syndergaard -- that is if Colon can stay healthy long enough to make a dent in the rotation.

If Colon is even a mild success they Mets could always trade him by July, even though teams will be leery about picking up the remaining $10 million he is owed in 2015.

However if Colon should struggle, and at his age, the Mets would be hard pressed to expect Colon to duplicate his 2013 success, this would be a colossal failure for New York.

For $20 million, the Mets could have spent this money elsewhere. Maybe throw some of that money at Bronson Arroyo, or even use to pump up an offer to short stop Stephen Drew. Instead the Mets give it to Colon. The Mets better hope it was worth it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Joe Torre Receives Much Deserved Ticket to Hall of Fame

In early 1996 the covers of the New York papers read "Clueless Joe."

That was the first and last time Joe Torre was ever really criticized as manager of the Yankees. Now in 2013, Torre along with fellow managers Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will set foot in Cooperstown this summer in what could be the most prestigious Hall of Fame ballot in years.

The three managers were easily the best of the best during the past two decades in baseball, each winning more than 2,000 games, and combining for a total of eight World Series titles.

Torre's managerial career started off as a bumpy one, starting off as a player/manager with the Mets and later moving onto the Braves and Cardinals with little success. However, once the Yankees entrusted him with the keys in 1996, Torre's managerial career took off.

He won 1,173 games, four World Series title, and six American League pennants with the Yankees. His landmark years coming in 1996 and 1998. In '96 he led the Yankees to their first World Series appearance in 17 years, beating Cox's Braves in six games to capture the title.

In 1998, he managed a Yankees team that won 114 regular season games en route to a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres that same fall.

Under Torre, the likes of Derek Jeter, Mariano, Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams became household names. He even found a way to control and live with wacky personalities like David Wells, the infamous Roger Clemens, and of course temperamental owner, George Steinbrenner.

Torre finished his career with the Dodgers, retiring in 2010 with 2,326 victories.

Always humble, and always competitive, Torre gets the honor he so much deserves. His impact on the game and the New York City area is indelible. Now he's officially one of the greats.

NY Jets Biggest Concern: Woody Johnson

Perhaps the biggest concern for Jets fans isn't Rex Ryan, or the play of Geno Smith.

No the biggest concern for Jets fans has to be Woody Johnson.

Because if Johnson is true to his word, it looks like the status quo will remain just that going forward to 2014. In an interview on the Jets pre-game show on ESPN NY, Johnson said he was "happy with the way things are going," for the franchise right now.

This before the Jets beat the Raiders 37-27, and coming off of a three-game losing streak that saw the Jets playoff chances slip away. A losing streak that started when Ryan decided to take his team to a night out at Dave & Busters instead of getting ready for a football game.

Yet, Johnson feels everything is just dandy in Green and White land.

Johnson added that his decision on the head coach will  not be based solely on the win-lose record.

“It’s really the direction of the team and how we think the learning curve is going and whether the young people are absorbing it, and whether it’s a formula that can help you win,” Johnson said (N.Y. Post.com).


In other words, it looks like and sounds like Ryan could be coming back next year. However what will Johnson be thinking three weeks from now? Does he reserve the right to suddenly change his mind? What if the Jets finish the season with another three game losing streak, or lose two of their final three games to finish at 7-9? 

The assumption was that Ryan had to make the playoffs this year just to have a shot at keeping his job. This time won't make the playoffs -- in fact they aren't even that good. 

The progress that Johnson is seeing is the complete opposite of what everyone else has seen. The fans have seen a disjointed, poorly coached football team, with little depth at the skills positions and busts at quarterback, and corner. 

Many believe that the Jets do not have a franchsie quarterback in Geno Smith. And they certainly didn't have one in Mark Sanchez either, which means they have to go back into the draft or free agency to find one. 

Ryan has defended the 2013 draft calling it the best ever in Jets history; a laughable statement considering, with the exception of Sheldon Richardson, the Jets 2013 draft picks have been pretty bad. Dee Milliner looks lost, Geno Smith is lost to name a few. 

Ryan has been blamed in the past for not having the pulse on his football team. He coddled Mark Sanchez until he lost the him mentally during the 2011 season. Sanchez went from promising prospect to bum under his watch. He has done the same thing with Smith, who is a lost puppy. 

Ryan has refused to immerse himself in the offense and once again the unit is one of the worst in the NFL, and, once again his decision to take the team out the night before the Buffalo game displayed poor judgement on his part. 

Not to mention, Ryan's prized defense is good, but, not exactly great. 

He hasn't changed his style, even though he isn't guaranteeing Super Bowl victories. 

And what are the fans to expect if Johnson gives the ok to a Rex Ryan return? Does that mean that a Mark Sanchez return is not too far off? Why not, since Sanchez is Ryan's boy -- it would only open up another ridiculous quarterback competition at camp between two horrific quarterbacks. 

While Johnson may like Ryan for his boastful personality he is no longer the people's choice at head coach. The fans have been leaving in droves. On Sunday the Jets played in front of a barely half full MetLife Stadium. So it isn't just Fireman Ed who has thrown the towel on this team. The fans have been growing inpatient for three years now. 

Most times I would applaud any owners decision to stick with the program for a couple more years. Right now, I can't do that. Change has to happen. Then again, Woody does reserve the right to change his mind in three weeks. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Giants Offer Lifeless Performance in Sunny San Diego

CHARGERS 37
GIANTS 14 

Apparently the New York Giants never even bothered to get on the plane for San Diego this weekend, because New York put together their most lifeless performance since they were shutout by Carolina earlier this year in a 37-14 smackdown to the Chargers, Sunday.

The Giants did nothing right. A team that still had a faint playoff window watched it shut right in their face as the Chargers built an insurmountable 24-0 lead in the first half.

In the first half alone, the Giants were out-played, out-classed and out-hustled in every aspect of the game. The Chargers rolled up 250 yards of offense, with Phillip Rivers and Ryan Matthews leading the way to the Giants early dismissal in this contest.

San Diego made a huge statement in the first quarter, when Donald Butler picked off an Eli Manning pass that bounced off the foot of Ruben Randal to set up Rivers and the Bolts at midfield. Rivers struck quickly against the team that once drafted him in 2004, before sending him to San Diego back in 2004. He hit Eddie Royal for seven yards, before connecting with Keenan Allen for a 43 yard touchdown to make it 7-0.

Now leading 10-0, Rivers was at it again. He engineered an 11-play 67-yard drive that ate 6:09 off the clock, culminating in a second touchdown pass to Allen to make it 17-0. Rivers was perfect on the drive completing all six passes.

After another Giants turnover gave San Diego great field position at the New York 39 yard line, Rivers put the stake in Big Blue when he hit former Jet Danny Woodhead for a six-yard score to make it 24-0 at the half.

This was the third time that Eli took on Rivers in their careers since the monster trade in the 2004 draft. If you need a reminder, the Chargers drafted Eli Manning with their first pick that year. Since Manning didn't want to sign with San Diego they found a trade partner in the Giants who drafted Rivers.

While the trade has worked out for the Giants over the long scheme of things, Eli has two Super Bowl rings; Rivers is 3-0 against the Giants in his career. He threw for three touchdowns in this victory over Big Blue.

The Giants 5-8 are now officially out of the playoffs, as if they weren't eliminated after an 0-6 start. New York didn't even bother in this game; their effort was poor, their play even worse. The Giants have to look deep within themselves to find the same pride they played with last week in Washington.

This has been a disappointing year for New York -- one that was not deserving of a playoff berth.

There is a lot of work ahead for Tom Coughlin and the front office come the off-season; let that process begin in earnest.

Uninspiring Jets Defeat Dreadful Raiders

JETS 37
RAIDERS 27

Rex Ryan and the Jets can send a big Christmas card to the Raiders after this one. Oakland spotted the Jets ten points on a couple of turnovers in the second quarter, ten points they could never make up as the Jets outlasted Oakland, 37-27 at MetLife Stadium.

With the pressure of the New York media and fans barring down on them, the Jets somehow managed to get a victory to keep their very unlikely playoff hopes alive for at least one more week.

Geno Smith was uninspiring. He made plenty of mistakes, overthrowing a number of receivers, and throwing an interception. He could have easily thrown three picks, if the Raiders could have held on to the football.

Still the guy made plays when he had to. Smith completed 16 of 25 passes for 219 yards a touchdown. He even ran for 50 yards and a score. Smith's two best drives of the day came in critical situations when he his team needed a response from their usually inept quarterback.

He led a 10 play 65 yard drive in the third quarter in which he used his own legs to get the job done. On a big third down, Smith dashed for a seven yard run for a first down to initiate a unnecessary roughness charge on Oakland, moving the ball to the Raider 26. Four plays later, Smith carried the rock into the end zone on an eight yard sprint to make it 27-10.

After the Raiders answered the Jets touchdown to cut the deficit back to ten, Smith once again keyed a Jets rally when he dashed for 32 yards to the Oakland 20, setting up Chris Ivory's touchdown to push the lead back to 37-20.

Yet, that was really it as far as excitement from the Jets is concerned.

The Jets defense was horrible. They couldn't stop a nose bleed let alone Matt McGloin and the Raiders offense. Oakland tallied 383 yards of offense, including 150 on the ground. The gave up big plays, and tackled poorly, certainly not a positive for a Rex Ryan coached defense.

Marcell Reese's 63 yard touchdown to open the second half brought Oakland back into the game at 20-10, and Rod Sterner's 48 yard touchdown catch and run cut the Jets lead to 27-17. New York was lucky that the Raiders wasted six and a half minutes in the fourth quarter to score their final touchdown of the day, because they had no answer for the Raiders.

The real reason the Jets won this game had to do with two plays in the second quarter. With Oakland backed up against their own goal line, McGloin threw a pick right into the hands of Ed Reed at the Raiders 10 yard line.

The Jets couldn't do anything with it, and Smith almost threw the back right back to the Raiders if it weren't for Nick Roach dropping a sure pick. The Jets settled for a field goal to make it 13-3.

On the next Raider possession, Antonio Allen snuck around a couple of Raiders, blocked the punt, and picked it up in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 20-3. There are the 10 points the Raiders spotted the Jets in this game. They could never recover from those two miscues.

So how would I grade the Jets performance against the Raiders? C-. It was uninspiring and if it weren't for the Raiders being even worse than the Jets, they could have lost this game. The Jets (6-7) are somehow still in the playoff mix, but, those dreams are sure to die next week in Carolina.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yankees Tap Beltran in Response to Losing Cano

The Yankees wasted little time in replacing at least the bat of Robinson Cano in the lineup by signing free agent right fielder Carlos Beltran to a three year, $45 million contract.

Beltran, 36, now joins the team he flirted with back in 2004, before signing with the Mets. While Beltran was not greatly appreciated in a Mets uniform, he was a very good player for them during his seven year stay in Queens before he was dealt to San Francisco in 2011.

Now Beltran returns to New York after spending part of the last two years in San Francisco and St. Louis. He still has some pop in his bat, having hit .296 with 24 homers and 86 RBI last season for the NL Champion Cardinals.

For the Bombers instead of investing $240 million in one player in Cano, they have invested $283 million in three veterans players, Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. A very solid job, at least on paper, by Brian Cashman to spread the wealth to dependable bats.

One issue with the Beltran acquisition is the log jam that has now been created in the outfield -- clearly the Yankees are going to have to make some tough decisions. The roster currently has Beltran, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, and Alfonso Soriano in the outfield. Someone has got to be cut, the Yankees can not afford to pay them all.

Soriano is making $19 million; Wells, $24 million; Suzuki, $6.5 million; Ellsbury $21.9 million; Beltran, $24 million, and Gardner $2.85 million. The likely ones to get cut are Suzuki and Wells. Neither player has much left in the tank and the Yankees might as well eat that salary and move on. Soriano is valuable as a power bat off the bench, and he could even play a little second base if the Yankees wanted to go that route.

While the move to bring Beltran aboard fills out the Yankees batting order, it doesn't solve everything. The Yankees are old and they have lingering questions. Second base is a mystery, as is third base with the soon-to-be suspended Alex Rodriguez.

They are betting that an older team can challenge the defending world champion Red Sox, and frisky teams like the Rays and Orioles for the division title. We saw that a year ago this formula did not work -- who is to say it will be different this time around.

Instead of trying to get younger, the Yankees are going for broke when we thought initially they would try to scale back on the payroll. Just goes to show everyone that the Yankees can't help themselves. They have built a monster that relies on signing former All Stars -- that has been their trade since the true final championship of the dynasty in 2000.

Losing Cano is going to hurt them in the short term; even Beltran can't replace all of the power that Cano provides in the middle of the order, especially not a 36-year old Beltran.

But this is what makes the Yankees interesting. The Yankees love money, they love spending it, even recklessly. They have seats to fill, boxes to sell out. One can't blame them for being bold.

No doubt the Yankees have some players here, and if they are fortunate enough to have both Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera back fully healthy - this could be a lethal lineup. It says something when a team has a lineup of clutch hitters, whom the Yankees have.

We shall see how this works out once the season commences, but the Yankees once again have our attention.