best counter

Your Ad Here
Just The Sports: 2006-12-31

Just The Sports

Friday, January 05, 2007

Don't Get Too Excited

For a variety of reasons, the hiring of Nick Saban by the University of Alabama to head up their football program should be met with subdued excitement. Not the least of the reasons is there is no guarantee how long Saban will be content coaching in Tuscaloosa before he decides to move on to another challenge in his professional life. However, the one that is more important and what I will be focusing on in this post is to pose the question of just how much of a positive impact Saban will have on the Crimson Tide's ability to win games.

Much has been made of the fact Saban has only had one losing season in his coaching career with the one losing season occurring in 2006 when he led the Miami Dolphins to a 6-10 season. While it is true that this is the only time one of his teams has finished with a below-.500 record, do not forget that while at Michigan State, Saban only coached one group of players that finished more than one game above .500; in his last season at Michigan State, the Spartans went 9-2. Even so, Saban still managed to get himself hired at Louisiana State University.

At LSU, Saban acquired a reputation after he supposedly transformed the LSU football program to national prominence although there is no evidence he actually did anything spectacular in Baton Rouge. True, Gerry DiNardo, the coach Saban was hired to replace, had a coaching record of 7-15 in his last two seasons at LSU, but the two years before that he had gone 26-9. While it was evident the Tigers were going in the wrong direction, it is not as though a vast overhaul of the program was needed, which is a good thing since Saban did not provide one.

Saban's tenure compared to DiNardo's tenure yields similar statistics, both offensively and defensely in terms of completion percentage (allowed), yards per pass attempt (allowed), and yards per rush (allowed). Actually, there is only one true difference between the two coaches' teams and that is that Saban's quarterbacks threw more passes per game and therefore passed for more yards per game. So why was he considered a savior of LSU football?

The reason why what Saban did at LSU is so applicable to what he will most likely be able to accomplish at Alabama is because Alabama under Mike Shula is neither statistically significantly worse nor better than what LSU was under Gerry DiNardo, meaning Saban will have entered two different SEC schools under practically identical circumstances. If Saban does anything, it will be to average one more win per year than what Shula did. Should he out-perform this prediction, I will be greatly surprised in the same way I have been surprised that Nick Saban has been given this largely undeserved reputation for being a genius coach.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Millen Takes Care of Business

Detroit Lions CEO Matt Millen has had it up to here with himself and has decided to fire himself effective immediately, citing his gross incompetence and the overwhelming mediocrity of the Detroit Lions franchise as the primary reasons for his dismissal. The Ford Family, as always, have ceded to Millen's judgment and agreed that his firing was the best for the Lions because he came up with it.

During Millen's tenure which started in 2001, the Detroit Lions have gone 24-72, with their best season coming in 2004 when the Lions finished 6-10, coming two games short of a .500 record in a league that forces parity upon its teams. Yet, Millen retained his job while others lost theirs, despite overwhelming evidence that he was not qualified to handle player personnel matters.

"Today I fire myself because passing the buck is only fun the first two times you do it," Millen stated. "After that it gets kind of old and you have no choice but to look in the mirror and fire the person staring back at you. And while it was fun, really fun actually, to fire Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci and to blame them for not being able to win with the flawed roster I created, letting myself go is probably the only good decision I made since 2001. That and drafting Joey Harrington."

"I'm kidding," Millen added. "Drafting Harrington was a big mistake. What was I thinking picking a quarterback with a college completion percentage of 55.0%?"

Although the Ford Family refused to do so, Matt Millen said that he actively tried to get himself fired, seeing just how many poor personnel decisions he could make before the Ford Family would be forced to terminate his contract. One example of this is when he drafted the third straight wide receiver with the Lions' first-round draft selection. After keeping his job despite such an egregious waste of a draft pick, Millen finally realized that the Ford Family cared even less about the Lions' success than he did. While Millen certainly appreciates the extreme job security he held with the Lions organization and the freedom of never having to answer for his mistakes, he would rather experience that sort of treatment from the broadcast booth.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sophomore Slump

Last year, University of North Carolina freshman Tyler Hansbrough was the toast of the basketball world. In addition to being a McDonald's high school All-American, he was the headliner recruit in Roy Williams' first full recruiting class. He was the only legitimate star player on a team trying to find its identity after losing its top seven scorers off the previous year's national championship team. And Hansborough responded to this pressure by leading the Tar Heels in scoring average with 18.9 points per game on the way to All-American honors.

How quickly things change, though, because Hansbrough in this, his sophomore, season has found himself unable to match his freshman numbers. Comparing his first thirteen collegiate games as a Tar Heel to his first thirteen games in the 2006-07 season finds his sophomore self lagging behind his freshman self in several statistical categories. While he is averaging more shots this year than last year (11.8 to 8.5), he is shooting worse from both the field and the free throw line with a 60.0% true shooting percentage. This may be respectable for an ordinary player, but Hansbrough had a 70.8% true shooting percentage through a baker's dozen set of games in the 2005-06 season so the decline in his shooting efficiency is more than apparent.

In addition, Hansbrough's trips to the charity stripe have decreased even while his field goal attempts have increased, a trouble phenomenon for a player whose major strength is his ability to get to and score from the free throw line.

On the other hand, not all is wrong with Hansbrough's game as a sophomore since he is doing a couple things right. For one, he has drastically reduced his turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions) from 14.4 through the first thirteen games of 2005-06 to 9.7 through the first thrirteen games of 2006-07. Also, he has marginally increased his rebound rate from 15.2 to 15.8. His assist rate has remained basically the same.

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they are such a talented team that they are immune from Hansbrough's sub-par play so the only thing Hansborough is hurting right now is his NBA draft stock.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Getting Rid of Dead Weight

In regards to Reggie Ball, I wrote, facetiously I must confess, awhile back that he was the only quarterback who could keep wide receiver extraordinaire Calvin Johnson under one hundred yards receiving. After Georgia Tech's offensive outburst against West Virginia today, it looks like that snide comment was not far from the mark. Finally, with Ball declared academically ineligible for the Gator Bowl, the world was able to see the potential of Georgia Tech's offense fully maximized, potential that Ball had impressively kept under wraps during his four years as Georgia Tech's quarterback.

Not only did Tashard Choice rush for 169 yards, but Calvin Johnson set a career best in receiving yards with 186, throwing in two touchdowns for good measure. Alas, this birth of Johnson as an elite college receiver, who is actually allowed to showcase his immense talent in a game, has come too late to make a difference for Georgia Tech over the long term as Johnson will no doubt be declaring for the NFL draft within the next two weeks.

As for sophomore quarterback Taylor Bennett, who completed 20 of 30 pass attempts for 333 and three touchdowns, he had a better game in only his second collegiate start than Ball had for his entire 49-game NCAA career. No statement can possibly describe Reggie Ball's futility as a quarterback than that one.