By Soren Petro
Below is Soren Petro's ballot for the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 for the week of December 8, 2013:
2. Ohio St.
4. Michigan St.
6. Oklahoma St.
9. Wichita St.
17. Iowa St.
22. San Diego St.
23. North Carolina
25. New Mexico
By Soren Petro
Below is Soren Petro's ballot for the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 for the week of November 18, 2013:
By Soren Petro
I’ve always been a fan of Peyton Manning as a quarterback. Anyone who loves stats in sports has to enjoy looking over his career numbers. But there is one number that doesn’t seem to fit with the 62,736 passing yards and 469 touchdown passes, and that’s the 9-11 post season record.
If you are a Manning fan you can easily sweep the relative (and I do mean relative, relative to his incredible regular season success) lack of playoff success under the rug as a lack of supporting cast. If you are making a case for your favorite QB being better than Manning it is front and center in your argument. Or… if you are a “Fatty Talk-Show Host,” it is an intriguing question that figuring out the answer to would go a long way to understanding how play-off winning teams should be constructed.
This season the Denver Broncos are trying to outscore their opponents on their way to the Super Bowl. At least this is the conclusion I reached after looking at what the Broncos did this offseason, and with a record (through 9 games) 371 points scored so far this year they are certainly getting it done on offense.
But it also occurred to me that this approach has been taken before with Manning at the helm. Manning was at the helm of the Colts for 13 seasons and during those 13 years the Colts offense averaged a ranking of 5.7. Call it sixth best on average. During that span the defense average a ranking of 17.4. Call that 17th best. In fact a closer look shows the Colts were ranked outside the top 20 six times, in the middle (11-20) five times, and in the top ten only twice.
During that span the Colts went 9-10 in the playoffs, advanced to two Super Bowls and won one of them. A very successful run, no doubt. One that certainly everyone in Kansas City would take, but one that left Colts owner, Jim Irsay clearly thinking the Colt should have won more. His comments said as much, even if he would later try and back off them after he was met with a wave of bad press. But what if there was some truth in what he was talking about?
This past offseason the Broncos were coming off a divisional round, overtime, playoff loss to the Ravens. They had scored 481 points in the regular season, the second highest total in the NFL. It was second only to the Patriots (557) which didn’t make the Super Bowl either. In fact the eight highest scoring teams would not make the Super Bowl. Not that one season defines the holy blueprint of how to win a Super Bowl, but it is another fact in the process of determining how to reshape your team for the next season.
It is with this information in hand that I discussed on The Program the puzzling decision by the Broncos to allow Elvis Dumervil to get away after not being able to get him signed before the deadline, and then giving a two-year $12-million deal to Wes Welker. Again, the Broncos were already the second highest scoring team in the league when they chose to put even more money into the offense, and were coming off a playoff loss where they gave up 38 points at home in cold weather.
The discussion was about whether the reason for Manning’s playoff record could be traced to the Colts and Broncos spending too much of their cap space on offense to keep the offense strong around Manning instead of trying to strengthen the defense.
Did the Colts, and now the Broncos, actually hurt their chances of winning because they focused too much on giving Manning weapons and protection and not enough on stopping the other team? I called it “selling your soul to Manning.” The thought being that the Colts and Broncos had spent too much cap space trying to make Manning happy and it cost the teams post season wins.
In reaction, I received this email from Mitch Anderson…
I don't need this on the air, but I did want you to at least do a little bit of research on the Broncos offseason before continuing down your narrative about how they only focused on the offense by bringing in Welker.
Below is a link to the offseason report card from Yahoo sports on the Broncos offseason. While some of these can be debated, there is no denying that the Broncos did go more towards defense than offense.
This article fails to mention (probably because it was prior to the signings) the Broncos signed Quentin Jammer (not much impact to this point) and Shaun Phillips (because of the Dumervil situation).
Again, I know it doesn't fit your narrative about Peyton Manning's effect on organizations, but I think you will see that they definitely went more towards defense than offense.
If you look at the yahoo story you will certainly see that there are more defensive names listed. Below is a list of the moves listed in the story along with the two defensive names that Mitch chose to add on the defensive side of the ball. Unlike the yahoo story, I have added the contracts that the players were signed to.
DT Kevin Vickerson 2 years, $5M
S David Bruton 3 years, $4.5M
LB Stewart Bradley 1 year, $1.2M
NT Terrance Knighton 2 years, $4.5M
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 2 years, $10M
CB Quentin Jammer 1 year, $1.5M
LB Shawn Phillips 1 year, $1M
TOTAL 12 years, $27.7M
LT Ryan Clady 5 years, $52.5M
G Louis Vasquez 4 years, $23.5M
WR Wes Welker 2 years, $12M
TOTAL 11 years, $88M
Clearly it depends on how you want to look at it. Mitch wants to believe the Broncos are doing more on defense because there are 7 defensive players (after he added two names to what the story lists) added versus just 3 offensive. However when you put the contracts into the equation it is very clear the Broncos spent much more on offense. In fact three of the defensive players were signed for the veteran minimum or just above. The $88M spend on offense versus just $27M spent on defense tells you all you need to know.
Let’s also point out that there are three players that are listed as being releases. Caleb Hanie, DJ Williams, and Elvis Dumervil. Hanie was set to make $1.25M. Williams was set to make $6M and Dumervil $12M. The Broncos cut $18M in defensive salary and only a little over a million in offensive salary.
Here is a breakdown of how the Broncos spent their money this year (Active Roster and IR). These figures (and many in this column) are from spotrac.com.
OFFENSE $66,941,122 56%
DEFENSE $46,275,760 39%
SP. TEAMS $5,793,833 5%
By the way I could make those numbers lean even heavier to the offense if I wanted to. The kicker, which is considered an offensive player makes $3.3M and the punter, the defensive part of special teams, makes $2M.
Bottom line is this. The Broncos have chosen to spend on and around Manning. Whether they did that because Manning demands it or by their own choosing is only known by them… but they did do it. They are trying to win by outscoring their opponents.
I’ll also throw in the comments of Kevin Harlan this week on The Program. Kevin said Manning is “very aware of his statistics and place in history.” That doesn’t mean he is more interested in his personal stats than team wins, but it does speak to the fact that he knows what his numbers are.
In the end, if the Broncos win the Super Bowl they did it the right way. If they don’t, they didn’t. Just like every other team in the NFL.
By Soren Petro
Baylor is the lone addition to this week’s rankings. Colorado drops off after their 72-60 loss to Baylor in Dallas. Baylor was at #26 on my top 40 (I rank down to 40 to have an “on the radar” list after the top 25) because of questions about their backcourt. Kenny Cherry tossed in 14 points and Gary Franklin knocked down 3, three pointers to help Jefferson and Austin up front.
Wisconsin and New Mexico moved up one spot. Otherwise the rest of the top 25 is the same.
3. Michigan St.
6. Oklahoma St.
10. Ohio St.
11. North Carolina
12. Wichita St.
18. Notre Dame
24. New Mexico
By Soren Petro
One coach has already been fired and two others are under fire at three of the biggest programs in college football history.
Mack Brown got a huge win in Dallas, but even with the win against Oklahoma the vibe in Austin is still that this will be the final season for Brown. Here is a look at my list of HC candidates for the Horns.
My Top 10 Head Coaching Candidates for Texas
1. Jimbo Fisher – Florida St. HC
2. Art Briles – Baylor HC
3. Gary Patterson – TCU HC
4. Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M HC
The UT job needs someone that has been a head coach at the BCS level. Kirby Smart’s name gets thrown around a lot and no doubt being the DC at Alabama is a great line on a resume, but handling the entire head-coaching package in a high profile job is the biggest part of the equation.
Fisher was the loudest voice in Tallahassee talking about the Seminoles making the move to the Big XII. If he is that unhappy with the ACC, you would think the biggest budget in college sports would be a no-brainer destination for him. He’s run a program at the highest level and lands top shelf recruits (like Jameis Winston who said he always wanted to play for Texas). It would be the closest thing to reinventing the hire of Mac Brown.
Briles resume speaks for itself. Fun offensive football and recruiting connections all over Texas make Briles a homerun in Austin.
Patterson’s lost some momentum since entering the Big XII, but much of that is do to injuries. He knows Texas and would certainly get the Horns back to playing defense.
I hear Sumlin’s name thrown around but it has to look like a lateral move to him. My assumption is A&M would match any offer. It would be a coup if the Horns could pull it off.
The Trojans pulled the trigger on Lane Kiffin in an apparent effort to get ahead of the competition. So far that has netted them nothing on the hiring front, but did give Ed Orgeron (interim HC) a chance to gain some momentum. He’s known as a big time recruiter, but is going to need to finish very strong to have a chance at the job long term.
My Top 10 Head Coaching Candidates for USC
1. Jack Del Rio – Denver Broncos DC
2. Steve Sarkisian – Washington HC
3. James Franklin – Vanderbilt HC
4. Chris Peterson – Boise St. HC
I’ve had a chance to interview Del Reo at the American Century Championships in Lake Tahoe on a number of occasions and have always come away very impressed. I think he would be the perfect CEO type head coach the USC job requires.
Sarkisian has turned the Huskies from a doormat to a contender. His past employment at USC make him a popular name when discussing the opening at USC, but it is unlikely the Trojans brass could go down this road without hearing a lot of people ask how this move is any different than hiring Lane Kiffin.
Franklin got a big win against Georgia last weekend. His star has tarnished a bit with this year’s slow start, but he started slow last year as well. A strong finish will make him a top target again.
Peterson has succeeded at Boise, but that hasn’t meant success for his predecessors when moving on. I’m not sold on him at a program of this stature, but the resume is legit.
My Top 10 Head Coaching Candidates for Nebraska
1. Mark Richt – Georgia HC
2. Gary Patterson – TCU HC
3. James Franklin – Vanderbilt HC
4. Chris Peterson – Boise St. HC
Most people don’t know Richt grew up in Omaha and was a Husker fan. Everyone around the state of Georgia says he won’t leave. That’s what every fan base says. Injuries have piled up and now so have three losses. If the Bulldogs drop another one or two the Georgia fans (who seem to think they are entitled to Alabama like success) may be vocal enough to run Richt out of town. Richt is even tempered and would be the polar opposite of Bo Pellini.
From what I wrote above I will add in that I think Texas could be a fertile recruiting ground for the Huskers even playing in the Big 10. Patterson should be able to use his connections in Texas to inject talent immediately into the program. He would certainly get the defense back to “Black Shirt” status. The question is whether he can build an offense.
Franklin is going to be a homerun for someone, why not Nebraska?
Peterson is mentioned often with USC, but I think his style of play is a better fit at Nebraska. They throw the ball around when they have the QB, but the heart of the offense is a tough, hard-nosed, running game. That would certainly fit in Lincoln. He’s also done a great job of recruiting California kids to Idaho, I would think Lincoln would be an even easier sell.
By Soren Petro
Alex Smith vs. E.J. & Geno
It’s still early in the 2013 NFL season, and Eric Fisher may not be looking like the number one overall pick in the draft, but at least he’s not Geno Smith. Smith has certainly made NFL personnel men (like John Dorsey) look smart. While the Jets are (2-2) on the season it has not been pretty for Smith most of the time.
In four games Smith has thrown 4 TD’s vs. 8 INT’s. Oh… and don’t forget the three lost fumbles as well. That’s 11 turnovers in four games. There’s still plenty of time for Smith to develop as a QB, but it is clear there will be no Andrew Luck, RG3, or even Andy Dalton caliber rookie season.
Here is a look at what the Chiefs do have at QB in Alex Smith and what they could have had if they had drafted one in the first or second (if they didn’t trade it for Smith) round.
|Alex Smith||60.3 %||7 TD/2 INT||0 Lost Fum.||11 Sacks||89.9 Rating|
|E.J. Manuel||56.9%||5 TD/3 INT||2 Lost Fum.||11 Sacks||80.2 Rating|
|Geno Smith||57.4%||4 TD/8 INT||3 Lost Fum.||14 Sacks||68.6 Rating|
If the young QB’s can cut way down on the turnovers in the future the Chiefs may regret their decision to trade for Smith, but there is no doubt Smith has been the right choice if you wanted to win games in 2013.
The Chiefs have allowed only 41 points so far this year. That is the third fewest in the NFL, but the least by a team that has played four games. The Saints (how unbelievable is that after their horrible 2012 defense) have allowed only 38 points, but will play their fourth game on Monday Night Football this evening, and the Panthers have allowed only 36 points after sitting out this week on a bye.
Good rule of thumb… if you can hold your opponent to around 10 points per game, you have a great chance of winning.
Turnovers and sacks have been the story for the Chiefs defense and it was again against the Giants. The Chiefs picked off Manning once and recovered two Giants fumbles. The pass rush got to Manning 3 times. The Chiefs have now forced 12 turnovers and recorded 18 sacks.
Before Sunday the Chiefs offense had yet to turn the ball over and you knew that wouldn’t last all season. The question was would the defense be able to keep taking it away on a day the offense had their troubles. At least Sunday the answer was yes.
The Chiefs turned it over three times on offense and the defense responded by taking it back, three times on their own, all three coming in the second half.
The pass rush was led by Tamba Hali’s two sacks, giving him three on the season and proving how difficult the Chiefs will be to handle up front this season. If teams shad the protection to Houston, Hali gets to work one on one and if they fan the protection to help on both sides Dontari Poe is left to work man on man. It is the pressure on the QB that is forcing the turnovers.
Allen Bailey picked up his first sack of the season. The Chiefs will need him to become a more consistent threat to get to the QB. Poe is playing almost every snap and looked exhausted at times in the second half.
Special Teams and Not So Special Teams
The Dexter McCluster punt return for a TD was the biggest play of the game (Andy Reid’s challenge just before it isn’t a play, it’s a decision) and was another sign of Special Teams Coach, Dave Toub’s ability to coordinate a great return game. That’s the good news.
The bad news is the Chiefs almost had their third blocked kick. The Jaguars blocked a punt for a safety in week one and the Cowboys blocked a field goal in week two. Sunday the Giants tipped a punt that goes in the record books as a 30 yard punt for Dustin Colquitt. It also sent Colquitt to the locker room and had Ryan Succup warming up his punting leg to go along with his kicking leg.
In the end Colquitt was able to return and hopefully will be the only person that remembers this play beyond Sunday. Limping through the pain for however long it takes for his leg to return to 100% will be a constant reminder for him.
But if Toub and the Chiefs don’t get their kick protection together soon, it will cost them. The tipped punt was clearly almost a blocked punt. It was a zero-zero game at that time. If the Giants block the punt the way the Jags did this game may look very different. The Chiefs are a team built to play from in front and wait for their defense to force the offense to make a key mistake. They can’t afford to make the mistakes themselves. The protection has to get a lot better.