Jeff Fisher’s Charmed Existence

Despite not given much chance of contending in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the St. Louis Rams have received as much attention as any team in the NFL this preseason. All this attention is due to a pair of Sams, Sam Bradford and Michael Sam, neither of whom, it turns out, will play a single snap for the team this year. It is understandable that the loss of a starting quarterback for the year in pre-season and the drafting of a gay player would generate headlines, but I believe the media has been overlooking a much more fascinating Rams-related story, which is how Jeff Fisher has maintained his status as one of the most respected head coaches in the NFL.

Jeff Fisher is about to start his 20th year as an NFL head coach. In his time as a head coach his teams have had a winning record 6 times. When he was fired by the Titans after a 6-10 season, Jeff Fisher didn’t just have an easy time finding a new job, he actually had teams fighting over him. When he finally decided to accept the Rams’ offer, the media acted as if the team had just won the lottery. To put this in perspective, Marty Shottenheimer was fired after going 14-2 with the San Diego Charger, and never got a single job offer. That 14 win season was his 15th with a winning record.

The St. Louis Rams have had losing seasons in Fisher’s first two years as head coach. During that time the presumptive franchise quarterback he inherited has been frequently injured and mediocre when he has gotten on the field. Despite the lack of production at QB, he has consistently maintained that Sam Bradford is the guy they want to build around and has not drafted any potential competitors at quarterback even though they have had a wealth of draft picks thanks to trading the 2nd overall pick to the Redskins. Now that Sam Bradford has torn his ACL for the second straight year, Fisher will be playing in the toughest division in all of football with journeyman Shawn Hill as their quarterback. In fairness, I should point out that Hill has a better record as a starter than Bradford.

I don’t dispute that Jeff Fisher is a competent coach who knows how to run a team. There are no doubt much worse coaches in the league than him, but what cannot be disputed is that coaches this much better track records routinely find themselves fired or on the hot seat. Tom Coughlin has won two Super Bowls and he always seems to be a game away from being fired. There was speculation of his during both of his Super Bowl years. But here is Jeff Fisher who has produced a winning season less than a third of the time during his coaching career, soaking up the adulation as one of the most respected and valued coaches in the game.

How Bud Selig Ruined His Legacy by Getting Rid of PEDs

The reaction to Bud Selig’s retirement as commissioner of Major League Baseball this week was met with great celebration, not of his tenure, but of his departure. The sports media roundly derided Selig for presiding over a decline in baseball’s relative popularity, particularly in relation to the NFL. Many went so far as to mock him as an old man completely out of touch with the modern world, as evidenced by his own declaration that he has never sent an e-mail in his life and “never will”. Much of this criticism is justified, as the NFL has become far more popular than MLB during Selig’s tenure. What is not fair, though, is criticising him for the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs that lead the shattering of home run records in the late 90s and early 2000s.

It is worth remembering that baseball was grabbing a greater share of the sports headlines than the NFL when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were battling to be the one to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record in 1998. Every morning, the first thing any sports fan wanted to know was if McGuire or Sosa had hit a home run. The battle was made even more perfect when McGuire broke the record while playing against Sosa’s Cubs and the two embraced in a heartwarming display of sportsmanship. If Bud Selig had turned a blind eye to the drug problem, baseball would be far more popular today and we may not have found out that the race to break Maris’ record was fueled by performance enhancing drugs.

But the fact is, for better or worse, Bud Selig did make a concerted effort to eliminate PEDs from major league baseball, even though it resulted in a sharp decline in home runs. Baseball has the more rigorous testing system and harshest penalties for PEDs. Some of the biggest stars in the game, including Alex Rodrigues, Manny Ramirez, and Ryan Braun, have all received lengthy suspensions. Baseball has not merely reacted to positive drug tests, they have actively investigated the suppliers of performance enhancing drugs, as with the case with the recent Biogenesis scandal.

What is odd is that rather than being congratulated for aggressively moving to rid baseball of drugs, Bud Selig is being continuously blamed for baseball players taking drugs. The NFL, by contrast, which doesn’t even test for human growth hormone and is filled with players who are freakishly big and fast, does not seem to take any heat at all, even though players routinely test positive for the PEDs that the league does test for. In baseball, thanks to the leagues aggressive stance against PEDs, a positive test means that the player will likely never get into the Hall of Fame, no matter how impressive their career numbers. In the NFL, you can test positive and get a job working for the NFL network.

I am not going to say that Bud Selig was a great commissioner, but he did the right thing in attempting to rid his sport of performance enhancing drugs. I find it sad that doing the right thing has somehow done so much harm to his legacy.

Thoughts on the 2014 PGA Championship

Rory McIlroy is My Favourite Golfer of All Time

Rory has no shortage of fans these days, what with being the most talented on player on earth as well as one of the most personable. What really won me over on Sunday was not his remarkable play, but the sight of him standing up on every hole with his arms crossed waiting impatiently for the group in front of him to get on with things. Slow play is slowly killing golf and part of the problem is amateurs mimicking the deliberate, plodding style of golfers they watch on TV. One of the greatest things I have ever seen in golf was Rory ready to tee off right over the heads of Phil Mickelson and Ricky Fowler. Had the rules officials allowed it, he would have played right through them. Most other golfers would have come back the following day to finish the hole, but with a major on the line Rory was still willing to blast a driver off the tee with water all along the fairway just to get the round over with. Here’s hoping that more amateurs try to follow his example.

Phil Mickelson is the Classiest Liar in all of Sports

Phil was royally pissed off that Rory and that that Austrian guy played up with him on the 18th hole. He was clearly taken aback not just that he was asked to let them play up, but the way in which it played out with the officials only asking about it after he had started walking up the fairway and then then creating confusion over when Rory would hit his second shot. He was clearly thinking that the PGA officials had made a complete mess of the situation and threw him out of rhythm, perhaps costing him a chance to make a spectacular approach shot and give himself a try for eagle. After the round though he went out of his way to offer praise to McIlroy and make clear that the confusion on the 18th hole did not affect the outcome. It was a classy move by Phil even though he didn’t really believe a word of it.

The Tiger Woods Era is Over

This is not to say that Tiger Woods will never win another major. He probably will. He may even have a chance at catching him, but the days of him being a dominant figure on and off the course is no more. Regardless of his health or the status of his swing changes, he is no longer the same fearless player he once was. While Tiger is trying to massage three woods and long irons around trouble on the fairways, Rory is grabbing his driver and blasting away, even if he is clinging to a lead in a major in the dark with water all along the fairway. That has been clear for some time now, but what really changed this past weekend is we had the first truly compelling major championship that didn’t involve Tiger since 1996. Ratings were up sharply even though Tiger didn’t set foot on the course on the weekend. For years people made dire predictions of what would happen to golf ratings if Tiger was no longer around. Sunday showed that that Rory can keep people interested in golf for many years to come.

Brandel Chamblee’s Self Admiration is Approaching Johnny Miller Levels

As Brandel Chamblee’s profile has risen over the past few years, his self-admiration has increased right along with it. The 1-time PGA tour winner seems to have an opinion on how all of the world’s best golfers can improve their swings. Earlier this year he devoted some time to criticizing Martin Kaymer for changing his swing, right before he went on to win the Players Championship and then obliterate the field in the US Open. At the time he used the example of Jim Furyk, who has won one major, as an example of a successful player who has never changed his swing. For those keeping score at home, Kaymer has two majors, and is not yet 30 years old.

Not content with picking apart Martin Kaymer, Chamblee informed the world that Tiger’s current problems are all due to swing changes that results in too much forward shaft lean. Never mind that Tiger won 5 tournaments last year or that he recently had back surgery, or that he had made major swing changes three times in the past. Chamblee seemed downright giddy debating Nobilo when he proclaimed that he would “bet everything on this set and everything you own” that he is right. He seems determined to make sure that viewers understand that he is the smartest person on the set. This can actually backfire on him, as it did after the final round on Sunday when Frank Nobilo suggested that the PGA should have started the round earlier in the day given that there was rain in the forecast. Chamblee, who is clearly loath to concede any good points to Nobilo, started talking as if Nobilo had said that they didn’t come back quickly enough from the rain delay. When Notah Begay pointed out that Nobilo was not talking about the delay, but simply starting earlier, Chamblee refused to acknowledge his mistake and simply moved on.

Why LeBron Shouldn’t Trade Andrew Wiggins

According to every basketball writer in the world, Cleveland Cavaliers GM LeBron James will trade this year’s number one overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, as well as last year’s number one overall pick, Michael Bennett, to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with one or more future first round picks for Kevin Love. Though it has been lost in the media feeding frenzy surrounding LeBron’s return to Cleveland, one of the most remarkable NBA stories over the past year has been how Andrew Wiggins has gone from being the greatest draft prospect since LeBron James and someone who could singlehandedly turn around a team to being merely part of a package of players to be offered for one year’s worth of Kevin Love, a player who has demonstrated no ability to singlehandedly turn around an NBA team.

Though he didn’t take the NCAA by storm in his lone year at Kansas, Andrew Wiggins did show enough promise to justify being the first player selected in one of the deepest drafts in years. With his incredible quickness and jumping ability, Wiggins should be a formidable defender right out of the gate though his offensive game may need a few years of development. Kevin Love, though a great rebounder, is considered to be a below average defender.

Regardless of Andrew Wiggins’ potential or Kevin Love’s shortcomings, Love will almost certainly be a better player than Wiggins next year, but that should not be considered reason enough to justify making this trade. If LeBron was only planning to play one more year and retire, than this deal would make perfect sense, but since LeBron would still love to match Michael Jordan’s six titles, he should be thinking further down the road than next year. Even with its current roster, Cleveland would be the clear favourite to win the Eastern conference. Those who have said that LeBron cannot win right away with this group of players should go back and look at who LeBron had on his team when he took the Cavaliers to the Finals. There wasn’t another player on that team anywhere near as good as either Kyrie Irving or Andrew Wiggins.

LeBron James is right to want Kevin Love on his team, it’s just that trading Andrew Wiggins is not the way to do it. The smarter approach would be to play this year with his current teammates, and then sign Kevin Love as free agent in the offseason without having to give up any players or draft picks. The danger in trading for Kevin Love now is that he may decide after next year that he would rather go back to southern California. Why would LeBron take a path that risks ending up with neither player when there is an option that offers the potential of ending up with both players? Kevin Love may well have already giving LeBron his word that he would sign a long term deal in Cleveland, but nobody understands better than LeBron James that a star player’s promises mean nothing without a signed contract.