Monthly Archives: September, 2014

Sports Fan Vs. Red Sox Fan: Do I Root for Jon Lester Tonight?

I’ve been debating this one since July 31st. I don’t know whether or not to root for Jon Lester this October.

Your initial response is probably “What the hell??!! How would you not root for Jon Lester?” And that’s fair, because that’s how I’m thinking. Of course, it’d be awesome to seen Lester destroy 3 American league teams (including the wild card game tonight) and then shut down some lowly National League peasants like the 2007 Rockies and 2013 Cardinals. Then he could come back to Boston this winter with yet another dominating postseason on his resume.

But that’s the thing: The Red Sox have to resign him, and the market for Lester is going to be insane. Max Scherzer turned down 6 years and $144 million before the season, and Lester will probably get more than that, pending the next few weeks. Scherzer is a grand total of 6 months younger than Lester, and Lester has the kind of postseason pedigree that will make big market, hungry-for-a-championship general managers get a little bit of a pants tent. To be fair, Scherzer’s postseason past isn’t too shabby, as you may remember from Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS last year, but Lester should get more than Scherzer.

All this is to say that Jon Lester will command a lot of money this winter, and anything he does positively this postseason could add to that total more than we realize. And this is where the baseball fan in me clashes head on with the Boston Red Sox fan in me. Do I root for the awesome baseball story with the connection to the Red Sox, which is watching a guy that we love dominate October again, or do I ruthlessly abandon anything that involves entertainment and only root for what helps the Red Sox, which would be watching Lester uncharacteristically fail and drive down his free agency price tag.

Simply put, do I root with my heart or my head?

Simply put, I have no idea.

It’s not often when being a diehard fan of a sports team gets in the way of being a diehard sports fan. The other example that comes to mind easily is my reluctance to watch regular season NBA games that don’t involve the Celtics, but I think part of that is due to the fact that NBA regular season games are often truly boring. It’s far more rare for something like this to happen: a situation in which me as a sports fan and me as a Red Sox fan are going full throttle with no other impediments (like regular season NBA games often being boring), and the two clash head on.

It’s kind of depressing, honestly.

Loving sports paved the way for me to become a diehard Boston sports fan, which of course paved the way for this website. But now, rooting for the Big Four teams of the area is such a drug that, which is why I’ll always feel a little bit cheated if Brady and Belichick don’t win another Super Bowl and if this Bruins core doesn’t win another cup. Especially when you’ve tasted your team’s success, you want more of it, just like a drug. But more importantly, the act of rooting for a team, winning or losing, is the drug.

As for tonight, I’m gonna wait until the game starts and then see who I’m rooting for. This will be a great experience for me, actually. Am I watching sports nowadays primarily with my head or my heart? I don’t know, but I’ll find out tonight and maybe throughout the 2014 MLB postseason. Being a sports fan is the type of mindset where people almost always feel VERY strongly about where their interests lie. But the fact that I don’t know who I’m rooting for tonight is a sign that, like so many other parts of life, being a sports fan occasionally becomes a personal tug of war.

Chiarelli Bails out Bruins by Screwing over Smith and Krug

IT’S OVER!!!

Torey Krug and Reilly Smith have resigned, and now we can stop worrying about them either not suiting up for the season or some team pulling a Calgary Flames – Ryan O’Reilly stunt, in which case the Bruins couldn’t have handled it as well as the Avalanche did because they’re cap strapped, if you didn’t already know

Both Smiddy and Krug Life signed today for $1.4 million over 1 year, which is… well… this.

Seriously, if you don’t realize how lucky the Bruins got with this one, you’re just not paying attention.  By any calculation imaginable, both Smith and Krug are worth well over $2 million each, and that’s when I’m already including the fact that restricted free agents always get screwed over.  On the open market, they’d be worth well over $3 million each, and you’d expect them to get roughly $2.5 each on these bridge deals, considering Derek Stepan got over $3 million per year in the same situation last year.

But nope, because Peter Chiarelli played it tough, and he won.  He correctly bet that Smith and Krug would cave, and they did.  I guess when you love hockey and the competition of the NHL enough, you’re willing to leave millions on the table and abandon the principle of getting paid what you deserve.  Not that I have a problem with any player doing so, because it’s his life and not mine.  But for these lowball contracts, you’d think they’d hold out for just a little more.

The B’s now are roughly $3.6 million over the cap before putting Marc Savard’s $4M contract on LTIR, but any blogs/columns/articles that you’ve seen suggesting that the Bruins now have cap space is simply wrong.  They’re still gonna have to do something with their defensemen, because not everyone who will be on the roster is currently on it.

Take a look at the invaluable Capgeek’s Bruins page.  While you’ll notice that the Bruins are, in fact, just $3.6M above the cap, you might also wanna notice that they only have 8 defensemen and 12 forwards listed, minus Savard.  Chiarelli referred to the Bruins in July as having 9 defensemen, and David Warsofsky would be the 9th.  I see no real reason to not have him on the roster, as he probably has higher upside than Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, and he definitely has a higher upside than Adam McQuaid.  But he’s also already 24, meaning that they might wanna make that upside happen sooner rather than later.  Warsofsky isn’t listed on the Bruins roster on capgeek right now, so let’s add his $600k to the books.  You can already tell that I’m getting at trading a defenseman, but we still have to go over the forwards, first.

Having 12 forwards is fine, but the B’s will want to head into the season with 13.  And Matt Fraser isn’t listed on the roster yet, and he should be.  He’s also a surprising 24, and he played better than Caron or Florek in the playoffs last year, so get him on the roster.  That adds another $625k, so now the B’s are about $800-900k over the cap again.  If they choose to substitute Ryan Spooner and his $760k for Justin Florek’s $600k (I’d like this move) or swap Spooner for Jordan Caron’s $600k (I’d fucking LOVE this move), then add another $160k to that total.

So let’s say that they have to clear another million bucks.  If that number is actually under $800k, then Kevan Miller is a candidate to be shipped out of town.  If not, the options are pretty clear:  Matt Bartkowski or Adam McQuaid.  Bartkowski makes $1.25 million, and his agent should be applauded for getting that contract in July, because he’d get nowhere near that if he tried to wait the Bruins out a la Krug and Smith.  McQuaid makes $1.56 million.

To me, the obvious choice is Adam McQuaid, but it’d be a close call if health weren’t an issue.  I just don’t see the point in relying on either your 6th or 7th — or maybe even 8th — defensemen to get healthy.  A guy that low on the depth chart should be the kind of guy that you can plug in at any point and not have to worry about him breaking a few bones by sneezing.  OK, that’s harsh, and I don’t mean to come at an athlete for injuries.  After all, even the most injury prone guys in the world (Danny Amendola) are far tougher than the average person.  But health is a skill, and it’s one that Adam McQuaid doesn’t possess relative to his counterparts.

And there’s still a chance that Bartkowski improves a little more, while I don’t think that McQuaid is gonna get much better.  Given that Chara, Seidenberg, Krug, Bartkowski, and Warsofsky are lefties compared to just Boychuk, Hamilton, McQuaid, and Miller are righties, Chiarelli might decide to even out the numbers by dumping Bart.  But Seidenberg can play on the right side, of course, so all the more reason to keep Bart over One Tough Hombre.

But the most important part of today is that Johnny Boychuk will be on the 2014-2015 Boston Bruins.  His $3.36 salary will not be the sacrificial lamb for the Bruins cap issues.  Instead, Peter Chiarelli made up for his Seidenberg and Kelly extensions — for the time being — by using Reilly Smith and Torey Krug as the collateral damage.  Luckily they played the part beautifully.

State of the Pats: Week 4

Didn’t watch the all 22 this week because I had to do what was in the best interest of my team. Either way, some thoughts before tonight’s game:

-Siliga and Dennard being out hurts. The D-line depth could bite them in the ass at some point. I’m not worried about the defense though. Even Pat Chung had a good game in coverage last week. Hightower’s been the best player on the team so far this year except for Slater/Gostowski, and if he and Jones keep making big plays they might stay at #1, or at least near it for a while.

-The offense sucks. Greg Cosell said last week that the Patriots look like a “slow and unathletic offense.” That sounds about right. Cannon and Devey were a big part of that, and they’re getting replaced today by Connolly and Fleming. For as much as the pass protection’s gotten killed by the media, they were just as bad run blocking against Oakland. Their execution of any zone run, inside or outside, has been garbage all year. Cannon was a disaster inside and Devey is not an NFL player. Connolly will be fine at left guard, so that will be better. But Stork’s getting his first NFL start in Arrowhead in prime time, and Fleming didn’t play a snap of guard at Stanford. Hopefully stunts and blitzes are easier than rocket science.  Good thing is, offensive line can’t get worse than what it was. Probably. Solder needs to get his head out of his ass too. The Pats will win the division no matter what but they won’t win a game in January if this shit isn’t figured out.

In 2010, the Pats were facing the Steelers on the road on a Sunday night. They had just gotten blown out by the Browns. A bunch of people said the Pats were finally falling off. They wiped the floor and went 14-2.

In 2011, the Pats were 5-3 and playing the Jets on the road on a Sunday night. They signed Sterling Moore, a corner, off the street that week and started him at safety. A bunch of people said the Pats would finally fall off. They embarrassed the Jets and went to the Super Bowl.

In 2012, the Pats were 1-2 and down in the third quarter by 14 against the Bills. You know Mazz was licking his lips, ready to finally bury Belichick. They won 52-28 and went to the AFC Championship game. 

In 2013, the Pats lost a heart breaker on Monday night and had to play the Broncos the next Sunday night. They were down 24-0 at halftime. They won in OT and went to the AFC Championship even though half their team was on IR.

If this team didn’t have the flying elvis on their helmets and didn’t have Belichick on the sidelines, I’d be really worried. I’m not. Pats 34 Chiefs 17

ESPN Bows Down to NFL Again, Suspends Bill Simmons

Two days after Bill Simmons got a ton of people behind him, myself included, for going after Roger Goodell and daring ESPN to come back at him, ESPN decided to do just that by suspending the Sports Guy for 3 weeks.

There’s a reason that the decision took 2.5 days.  While it’s fair to say that an employee shouldn’t be allowed to run a business, and while Simmons shouldn’t have challenged the higher ups at ESPN should have just ended the rant with his opinions on Roger Goodell, ESPN really suspended Simmons because they carry the NFL’s water no matter how despicable the league and its commissioner acts.  It’s too important for ESPN to know that Adam Schefter will be the first guy reporting everything than to allow one of their employees to have an independent mind.

Also, this is a classic dick swinging contest at this point.  Simmons feels that he has a ton of leverage after all he’s done for ESPN, which includes making Page 2 what it was, beating the crap out of Rick Reilly when Reilly was brought in and got paid more, and starting Grantland.  ESPN feels that Simmons can’t and won’t go up against the Worldwide Leader, and I’m guessing that all of their assumed leverage comes from Grantland specifically.  Grantland allows Simmons to be who he wants (for the most part) and run his own site, and ESPN doesn’t think that BS will give that up.  Here’s to hoping that Simmons doubles down and either moves on or comes back stronger than ever after swinging his dick a little bit farther than Bristol’s finest.

 

Bill Simmons Goes After Roger Goodell and ESPN

Remember the days when Bill Simmons was suspended from Twitter for 2 weeks for taking shots at Glen Ordway? Yeah, that was fun.
I speak nostalgically because those days are long gone, as the Sports Guy proved yesterday with his weekly podcast with Cousin Sal. Simmons went off on Roger Goodell and more specifically the media covering the commissioner’s horrible past few months. Here are some of the tidbits from the podcast:

“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar,” Simmons said Monday. “I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is — it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.”

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell,” he said. “Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast.”

Let’s be real: Bill Simmons isn’t quite throwing 98 mph on the black like he once was, and some of the reasons why are pretty understandable. First, it’s hard to keep your game up for that long, both from a motivation standpoint and because there are now sooo many sportswriters that it’s more difficult to make your own work stand out. What’s more is that Simmons is now doing more, giving him less time to actually write. He’s now covering the NBA full time during the season, still helping produce 30 for 30, and, oh yeah, running Grantland. For so many at the top of their game, part of becoming huge and growing your brand is leaving behind a little bit of what made you famous in the first place, and that’s ok.

But there are other reasons to only be in the back of the Simmons bandwagon in 2014, rather than driving it like I was about 5-7 years ago. You can bank on the Sports Guy clumsily (or casually, in Simmons’ mind) name dropping celebrities or mentioning the fact that he was at an ESPYs party despite the conversation having nothing to do with something like that. He’s defensive, as Charlie Pierce learned – although Pierce both fired back nicely and then joined Grantland relatively soon after. (Deadspin has the full details here.) And we all remember him being offended that he hadn’t spoken in awhile on set with Doug Collins and Jalen Rose. By the way, did you know that Bill Simmons is friends with Jalen Rose? I know, right??!! How cool is Bill Simmons??!!

But this recent rant made me move up a little bit on the BS Bandwagon, even if that sounds like a dumb name that he would create and then pretend that it’s good. Simmons knows what leverage is, and he used it. He’s always clashed with ESPN over what’s acceptable and the way that the Worldwide Leader covers certain subjects, and he decided that this one was just too far. Simmons decided to use his leverage to promote an idea that he views as moral and full of journalistic integrity… and I love it.

Nowadays, there’s way too much of a necessity to stay below deck with your own company’s brand, therefore forfeiting your independence and diminishing your overall credibility. Less than 2 years ago, Simmons was again suspended from Twitter (what a joke of a punishment, right?) for basically saying “If you don’t like First Take, don’t watch.” Completely pathetic. Now, Simmons is going after his own brand because they deserve it… and because he knows that he can. No one wants to be on the other side of “You should punish a wifebeater,” and Simmons knows that he can paint ESPN as the appeaser if they try to come at him and he reports what they said to him.
If someone is going to throw their weight around and use their leverage, it better be for a good cause. Hating Roger Goodell definitely qualifies, so I’m on board with Simmons 100% here.

State of the Pats, Week 3

Some thoughts on the Patriots after finally watching the Pats-Vikings All-22 Saturday:

-Minnesota sucks on offense without Peterson, and the Patriots took advantage like they haven’t so many times against bad offenses. They were wary of the read-option/Oregon scheme against Miami and did some weird stuff, but they turned their dogs loose in a good way last week. The Pats dialed up a lot of single high safety and press man looks and a lot less giving cushion and pattern-reading. Most of the (few) times Minnesota got receivers wide open were on hard run-action fakes, finding a few soft spots in zones, and when the pats got mixed up on bunch/crossing routes. Patricia called more stunts/blitzes than he has in the past, and a lot of them got to Cassel.

– The secondary was the best part of the game. Revis is savage at all times. He was in Jennings’ pocket all game and made some good reads and tackles in the run force. Ryan was all over Patterson, and Harmon and Chung looked better than week 1 opposite McCourty, who is a major asset. Arrington is solid, and Tavon Wilson even had his moments in coverage. Players like this on the back end change the game for what the coaches can do.

-Aided by that secondary — along with the Vikings’ O-Line, QB and backs — the front seven had a day too. Hightower tried to go around the tackle and didn’t set the edge on a couple outside runs, but was outstanding anyway. He was great in the pass game, getting good drops in zone and attacking when he sensed checkdowns, along with rushing the passer from a various spots. He and Chandler Jones massacred Vikings LT Matt Kalil rushing the passer at different points, and were both monsters in the run game. Ninkovich had a Ninkovich game, making some inexplicable plays for someone that looks and moves like him and never giving up while rushing the passer. Siligia had his moments, but the 300 LB+ club is why the defense can be even better. If Wilfork/Siliga can hold it down against the run, and Chris Jones/Easley can complement the outside pass rush, Belichick will have his best defense since he won a Super Bowl and it’s not close.

-I’m still not sure what the Pats are running on a lot of plays up front, but it probably involves of 3-4/4-3 combos that I can’t diagnose.

-Deontae Skinner was the biggest problem, and though he did get better as the game went on and got cut after the game, what he represents is a long term issue. With Collins out, pulling a guy of the practice squad and having him play both base and nickel signals that the Pats didn’t have a plan for their linebacker depth. It looked bad after they cut James Anderson, and it’s as bad as feared. Skinner looked like he had no idea what he was doing at the beginning of the game, probably because he didn’t. And the Pats didn’t have a better option. If Hightower/Mayo/Collins lands on IR, we might be done.

-Belichick and Caserio invested a lot of resources in the defense recently. It’s paying off. It has to because the offense is a problem right now. Here’s a list of the Pats’ offensive issues through two games

–Can’t break off a long run without penalties.

–Offensive line can’t execute any sort of zone run with regularity.

–Cannon may be as bad as Devey, affirming the reported fears of the coaching staff about aptitude at guard.

–The supposedly reliable tackles haven’t been much better.

–The center is the best lineman and he’s average.

–Gronk, who needs to be the best player on offense, is far from full form, which would be fine if this were 2011. It’s not.

–Tim Wright is probably a long way from being consistently relied upon.

-Good things about the offense:

–Gronk still gets open on those out routes against linebackers like clockwork.

–The Raiders. A 1 O’clock game at home against a West Coast team is huge for the state the offense is in right now. Ross Tucker also made the point on his podcast this week that old guys on their last big contracts playing for a coach they might not care about is a wonderful concoction for a disaster. The offense needs to get right this week for my sanity.

Also:

-Matt Slater, Don Jones, Nate Ebner and Stephen Gostkowski are showing why Belichick invests in special teams. Gostkowski has been the best player on the team this year.

Enlightening Screenshots of the Week

In this one below, Logan Ryan starts out on Patterson on the left, who then motions into the backfield. When he does, McCourty drops down and shifts onto Patterson.

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In the next one (same play), Ryan transitioned into deep safety, and McCourty is on Patterson like the corner he once was. That’s Rutgers versatility and football smarts from two of Schiano’s finest.

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This is the 3rd down that Skinner got burned on in the first drive. Skinner doesn’t realize/react where Ruldolph is going until it’s too late, and he has to wade through two other routes in the middle of the field. Skinner didn’t look like an NFL player because until Saturday, he wasn’t.

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This is the blocked field goal. From left to right, the black Xs are Chandler Jones, Siligia, and Wilfork, and the two blue gaps are the gaps that all three were squeezed into.

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Siligia stunted right, occupying Kalil’s (75) left and stretching him as thin as a man that big could be. Kalil tried to get Jones with his right arm, but Jones swam move’d around that and was on his way.

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Belichick said on his conference call this week that the angle Jones had to take to block the ball was tough because the ball was on the far hash, so I included that such angle. Jones timed it up, and the game was over.

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So What the Hell Do the Bruins Do?

According to Capgeek, the Bruins are about $800k over the cap with the following forwards on the roster (I’ll use numbers for the guys with obvious spots, and I’ll list linemates together): 17-46-21, 63-37, 23-34, 20-11, Justin Florek, Jordan Caron, and Marc Savard. The first note we need to make is that Savard’s money will obviously be put on LTIR, saving the B’s a little over $4 million on the first day of the season. The second thing to note is that Capgeek includes neither Ryan Spooner nor Matt Fraser, the latter of which is especially suspect.
In fact, let’s start there. Assuming that Reilly Smith gets the 2RW spot and Torey Krug gets the 5D spot (more on them later), the Bruins’ biggest need is obviously on the wing, which is probably a good thing. I’d rather have my team having a hole at wing than either center, defenseman, or goalie. Chris Kelly will probably play on Soderberg’s left wing as he did last year when Soderberg usurped him as 3C, meaning that the B’s need a 3RW, 4RW (Bye Shawn Thornton!), and an extra forward or two. Fraser has to be one of them. His salary will be $625k, only $25,000 more than Caron or Florek, and he played at least $25,000 better than either of them in the playoffs this past year (only because of froyo). Since he did well with Soderberg, let’s slide him at 3RW, and we’ll put Florek at 4RW and have Caron as the 13th forward, which is basically his life’s calling.

But that is way too easy. The elephant in the room is that the Bruins are gonna have to trade someone, as Chiarelli even admitted recently. He admitted to having to trade a defenseman, which seems obvious given that the B’s are set on D with 33, 44, 55, 27, 43, 86, 54, and Torey Krug when he signs. Seems like now is the point of the column where we crunch salaries and figure out who leaves.

As you might guess, this comes down to how much the Bruins screw over Torey Krug and Reilly Smith with negotiations (let’s be real, RFA negotiations in the NHL when no other team offers a guy a contract is just highway robbery), and how much either guy holds out. If Smith and/or Krug hold out into the season like PK Subban 2 years ago, this could be a problem.

Last year, Derek Stepan was in the same situation with the Rangers, and he got a little over $3 million per year for 2 years. Subban got $2.625 million in each of his 2 years. Subban and Stepan were both better than Smith or Krug at the time, although the difference between Stepan and Smith is pretty small. Chiarelli should obviously, and probably will, cave to whatever demands that Smith and Krug make regarding the number of years on the contract, so long as the cap hit is kept lower. Despite the fact that the cap is going up by the day, Chiarelli will probably be able to use Subban’s deal as a ceiling for Krug’s, since even Krug will admit he’s not that good. Stepan’s deal might be a ceiling for Reilly.

So I’m gonna pencil Smith in at 1 year, $2.5 million and Krug at 1 year, $2.25 million just for the sake of argument. That’s $4.75 million. (Hang on, I’m just checking your math.) That puts the Bruins roughly $5.5 million over the cap, or $1.5 million minus Savard’s LTIR contract.
Seems like there’s a simple fix here. Trade Adam McQuaid. He makes $1.56 million. Done, right? Wrong. You may have noticed that, even with Smith and Krug added in and McQuaid traded, we’re only at 12 forwards and 7 defenseman with Capgeek’s estimate. They didn’t put Fraser and another guy on the roster, whether that’s David Warsofsky, Ryan Spooner, or whoever.

So the Bruins have to make either a different move from the McQuaid one or a move in addition to trading One Tough Hombre. The two names that have been floated are Carl Soderberg and Johnny Boychuk. Soderberg isn’t going anywhere, because his contract will only get him $1 million next year. That’s the kind of cheap labor the Bruins need, so there’s no reason to trade him. The thought of trading Boychuk would scare me, because he’s the only guy that could even pretend to be a number 2 DMan if Seidenberg isn’t the same and if Dougie doesn’t take a huge step. Bill Belichick would trade Boychuk’s $3.37 million contract, sell high, and get good calue with just a year left on his deal, but I don’t think that’ll work this year. You gotta keep Boychuk for the playoffs.

Fun fact: Chris Kelly’s no trade clause just changed massively with the start of the new season. In the first 2 years of his horrible 4 year, $12 million deal, he had a full NTC. Now, he can give a list of 8 teams to which he will accept a trade, and the B’s absolutely have to exercise this option. Trading Chris Kelly makes sense for multiple reasons. The first is the obvious salary concern, but let’s also remember that he’s no longer the above average 3rd line center that he was in the playoffs of 2011 and 2012. He’s a slightly above average, injury prone 3rd line left wing, making his $6 million over the next 2 years look pretty bad. But the other reason to send him to whatever team takes him is Ryan Spooner. The B’s always like having 5 centers on the roster, and right now Kelly is the 5th guy. So move him. Make room for Spooner. In fact, I’d put Spooner at 4C and Campbell at RW to really let the kid spread his wings, and then maybe change that come playoff time to go with a sure plan.
So that’d be my choice. Ask Chris Kelly where he wants to go, and trade him there along with Adam McQuaid and whatever draft picks are necessary to make it go through. Kelly’s deal also runs through next year, which could be really, really bad given that Boychuk’s and Dougie’s contract will be up. I’d probably have Fraser and Florek on the 3rd line with Soderberg and Spooner on the 4th, and then call up Warsofsky as the 23rd guy.

That leaves the Bruins roster at 17-46-21, 63-37-18, 25-34-57, 20-51-11, 38, 33-55, 44-27, 47-43, 86, and Warsofsky or whoever the last guy is. I’m cool with that.

And if you’re hesitant about the fact that the Bruins would be trading a ton just to get rid of a guy, thereby giving up multiple positive assets for nothing, remember, this problem didn’t fall out of the sky. Peter Chiarelli made a mistake with the Kelly and Seidenberg extensions, and he also made a mistake by giving Matt Bartkowski $1.25 million before signing Smith or Krug (WHY!!!???). There was some bad luck with McQuaid’s constant injuries, but these issues were man made by a GM that is usually on his game. In order to get out of a mess you’ve made, you gotta pay up. I’d rather have Chiarelli pay up now in order to make sure that the B’s still have a President’s Trophy-caliber team this year while also getting them a little bit out of cap hell for the following season.

Vikings Reactivate Adrian Peterson; I see no issue

I feel like I should start just by explaining my headline.  I don’t have a problem with the Vikings reactivating Adrian Peterson, but the reason is not simply because of how bad/not bad what he did was.  I’m saying that I have no problem with Peterson being back simply because of how Peterson handled it in his comments released today.

Peterson seemed sincere in his apology, explained his faulty reasons for how he has previously justified disciplining his son by using a switch, and expressed a desire to change that also seems sincere.  What more could we ask for?

All too often, I hear BS apologies or apologies where the guy just doesn’t seem to get it, which might be even worse, like Ray Rice sounding like he wasn’t apologizing for actually clocking his fiance, but for doing something that would reflect badly upon him.  Isn’t this exactly what we need from a guy like All Day?  Remorse, a somewhat logical explanation showing us that his heart was in the right place even if his actions were still horrible, and a promise to change?

Saying that the NFL “needs to stand for something” by keeping Peterson off the field for longer is just plain stupid in this situation — not every situation, but definitely in this one.  Similar to what I said in my piece about how long of a suspension domestic violence deserves, I don’t see the rationale by automatically saying “No, this guy can’t come back.”  If someone like AP is willing to make a public statement about how wrong his actions were, then we’ll use that in order to show people that what he did was wrong.  The NFL can still stand for something good while allowing Peterson back onto the field, and Peterson’s mature reaction assures that.

Peterson has people’s ears all over the world because of his importance, especially among those who grew up in a tough environment like his.  It’s pretty powerful for him to stand up and say, “I don’t care that a switch helped me, and I don’t care that so many parents do what I did.  It’s wrong.”  Far more powerful than him never being on the same stage again.  It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong, and when you do, people tend to take notice.  Let’s have Adrian Peterson in the backfield again, and let’s use him as the poster child not only for never putting a hand on one’s kid, but for owning a mistake.

NOTE: Reports surfaced today that there’s more to the story.  If Peterson’s history of hitting his his kids is really that bad, obviously that could change what I’ve said.

Patriots Game Film Analysis from Week 1, Look Ahead to Vikings

Some takeaways from watching the Pats-Dolphins All-22, complete with photos, as well as a look ahead to the Vikings:

-The defense should be fine, even if Peterson didn’t abuse his kid. The heat mattered. Roosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi both said this week that you can’t downplay how tough it is to play in Miami early in the year, and the second-half tape drove that home. Jamie Collins played every snap but one and looked like he could pass out at any second in the fourth quarter.

-The front seven looked bad, but a lot of that was that it wasn’t a front “seven” very often, and even when it was, it was the wrong one. Two things here: Lazor clearly brought over Chip Kelly’s scheme, and it’s legit. Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo looked like they never saw an inside zone at times for some reason, but it seemed like the players and coaches were too far into their own heads about the Oregon-style offense. Belichick had Jones at 5-tech at the same time as WIlfork, and those two should never be in the same position. Jamie Collins is not a classic 3-4 ILB as much as Jones isn’t a Richard Seymour type, too, and then Hightower was lined up at almost a 90 degree angle to the line of scrimmage at times. There’s a method to the madness, but only God, Belichick and Patricia know why Easley was asked to two-gap as much as he did.

-The scheme was in the Pats’ head because it’s a really good scheme, though. Film guru Greg Cosell said on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast that because of the tempo and the way the offense spreads out a defense, the Chip Kelly rushing offense is akin to the Bill Walsh passing offense. As in, it just works. Hightower or Mayo would be in the slot often, covering a receiver or tight end and couldn’t do anything when the Dolphins ran inside zone against a six-man box, because in that offense, the QB can just as quickly throw a bubble screen as hand the ball off. This will explain the quality of that scheme better than I could.

-Belichick likely knows Norv Turner’s offense like his own at this point, and that’s why I’m not worried about the defense Sunday, Peterson or not. The Pats won’t be searching for answers because Bill already knows them.

-The pass defense and secondary was alright, and hopefully with more man-press concepts they can shine even more as Belichick and Patricia go to more of that stuff. Everyone from Butler to Ryan to Revis was competitive when in one-on-one, even if they were asked to play outside leverage with an eight yard cushion like they were Antawn Molden in 2011 way too much.

-The pass D will also get better when Ninkovich gets more snaps. Hightower had some good moments in his spot, but Ninkovich should be rushing the passer in nickel sets whenever possible.

-Offense: More worrisome than the defense. Hopefully it was a heat thing for them too, but everyone on the line sucked. Devey didn’t look like an NFL player, Solder and Vollmer got killed, Connolly was his mediocre self, and Cannon looked predictably suspect in his new position. Devey will be a problem if he keeps getting snaps, but Cannon and the tackles will be better, and Connolly is what he is. Stork could be an underrated key to the season if he can render Devey and Wendell irrelevant.

-Also worrisome: Brady locked on to receivers like Mark Sanchez a lot and threw like him too. His receivers weren’t spectacular, and barring a Dobson breakout (still hopeful), they won’t be. Brady has to elevate that group, and hopefully the line gives him the chance to do it like he has so many times before.

-The Vikings’ coach, Mike Zimmer, was the D-Coordinator when Kevin Coyle, Miami’s D-coordinator, was Cincy’s DBs coach. Coyle fooled Brady and the o-line multiple times last week with some zone drops and “sugaring” — showing blitz then pulling back at least one defender – and Zimmer will do the same stuff this week. McDaniels and Brady know it, and they have to figure it out. Hopefully they hit up Scarnecchia this week, too.

-Brady and Belichick have to bounce back. They always do. Pats 30 Vikings 14

Enlightening screenshots of the week (all images via NFL Game Rewind, insert joke here about the expressed written consent of NFL).

michael pic 1

This was the first play after Collins’ forced fumble and McDaniels took a shot at the endzone. Cannon whiffed on the block of the free rusher, and the Pats eventually settled for a field goal on the drive. Edelman was open, but also pulling the safety for Thompkins’ post route.
Belichick breaks down similar play against Texans in 2012 ago that went for TD here.
The big difference between those two plays is Cannon is the left guard making this peel-back block, not Wendell, a center. The left guard is closer, of course, but Cannon still doesn’t get his head around, and Brady forces a throw in Bolden’s direction as he is dragged down. Bolden was open here, too, with room to spare. This picture is obvious ammo for anyone who didn’t like the Mankins trade.

michael pic 2

Brady stares down Gronk, again. Vereen is definitely not doubled, Gronk is. Also, the Dolphins “sugared” the A-gaps here and then dropped back, which is why Connolly and Cannon aren’t blocking anyone. More of that coming Sunday.

michael pic 3

More sugaring. Wendell (62) is going to take the guy to his left, and everyone else will too.

michael pic 4

Except that guy doesn’t come, and Wake comes free, which is terrifying. Brady throws it away before he dies.

michael pic 5

The Xs show Wilfork and Chandler Jones both lined up on the outside shade of each tackle. WIlfork is “325” pounds, and Jones is 260-265. They shouldn’t play the same position.

michael pic 6

Later in that play, Jones gets washed out, and we have a ALLLAAAYYY (Merril Hoge voice).

michael pic 7

Brady stares down Gronk here as the safety is clearly bearing down on 87, with three guys open underneath. I miss the Tom of “my favorite receiver is the open one.”

michael pic 8

This was a play-action play, and Odrick, 98, was lined up to Devey’s right, and has already crossed his face before Brady even turns around!!!!!! Also, Solder whiffs at getting a hand on his guy, Vernon, and there’s a party at the quarterback.

michael pic 9

Evidence of how the Chip Kelly system can spread you out and then run on you. Not counting Revis, who is likely responsible for covering Clay, there are only 5 true run stoppers in the box on this play. What’s more likely to score in hockey, a 4-3 power play or a 5-4 one? A 4-3 one, because there’s more space to defend. Same concept here in the running game.
Collins still got through and had a chance for a TFL, but he whiffed. The heat mattered.

So How Long of a Suspension Does Domestic Violence Deserve?

While I’d never call anything in the Ray Rice situation, “funny,” there is one ironic part of the whole mess: The question of how many games a player should get for domestic violence has been completely lost.

Even a month ago, when the NFL gave Ray Rice half as much time off as they gave Wes Welker for popping a molly, presumably with Tyga and Wiz Khalifa with how much he looked like he wanted to party, very few people raised the question of just how far off the suspension was.
Obviously, it’s gotta be more than 4 games. No way you can send the message that hitting a bong and hitting a woman are just as bad. I usually stay away from using reasons like “This decision sends the message that…” or “This implies that…” because I’ve noticed that everyone in 2014 just tries to interpret things how they want to, and saying that a decision “implies” or “sends a message” or something is often just people interpreting a decision in the way that makes their opinion seem smarter. That being said, this is a clear situation. You just can’t send the message that domestic violence and recreational drug use is equal.

Goodell recently upped the automatic suspension for domestic violence to 6 games, although it’s possible that he only did that because he knew that the video was about to be released. (I wouldn’t buy that conspiracy theory if I had much respect for Roger Goodell and the league office, but I don’t.) So is 6 games right? And, more importantly than debating the numbers, is beating someone that you love, in particular a woman you love, the kind of crime that we can allow a player to come back from?

To that question, I say yes, and I don’t really have to think twice about it. While I have no respect for any case of spousal abuse, I wouldn’t suspend a guy for life because of an incident like Ray Rice’s. While I also have respect for the opinions of those who feel that it is heinous enough of a crime to ever forgive, I actually find many of these opinions somewhat naïve.

I think back to the Michael Vick fiasco. Vick served almost 2 years for what he did to hundreds of dogs, and we can debate over how long his sentence should have been. (I’m not giving an opinion simply because I have no idea whether his suspension was too long, too short, or just right.)
But more importantly for this case, let’s think back to a year and a half ago, when Vick had to cancel his book tour in March of 2013. This is the kind of thing that I really disagree with, as I’m generally skeptical of holding grudges.

The recidivism rate in this country is over 40%, and I had heard an estimate as high as 53% a few years ago. Maybe it’s because we don’t actually give people the second chances that we pretend we do. While every ex-transgressor should have much stricter limitations on him/her than the average person, such as Michael Vick being 1 transgression away from banishment from the NFL or an ex-con not being allowed to buy a gun, not enough people actually realize that out justice system should be about reconstruction and not retribution. Michael Vick’s book tour was cancelled because too many protestors, who, in my opinion, were pretty narrow-minded, decided that it was more important to stifle his message just because of what he did rather than allow his book to be sold, even though his book stressed how regretful he was of his actions and how he urged others not to get involved in dogfighting. Never allowing a guy to come back from something might allow people to put themselves on a moral high ground in their own minds, but it doesn’t actually do very much. No, what would have worked better would be letting Vick continue his book tour in order to spread his message that dogfighting is terrible – a message that the protestors obviously agreed with.

Now, the obvious difference between Ray Rice and Michael Vick is that the Atlantic City prosecutors, unlike the federal government in the Vick case, acted pathetically and didn’t punish Rice. If someone would like to make the claim that Rice shouldn’t be allowed to return while Vick should have been because Rice didn’t actually serve his time and therefore is actually less likely to learn his lesson, that’s admittedly pretty hard for me to argue with. Your opinion and mine will come down to whether the NFL should the legal system’s competence – or incompetence in this case – into consideration. I would say that it’s not on them to make up for the fact that law enforcement forgot how to do its job, but it is fair to make the case otherwise.

But, for the sake of my argument, let’s take any hypothetical NFL player who beat his wife and say that whatever punishment the NFL gives is completely irrespective of what the law does, whether the prosecutors did their jobs – or didn’t do their jobs like the idiots in AC. I just can’t see the reasoning behind suspending a guy forever. Not when the NFL, and whatever team that a guy like Rice signs with, can make him go through tons of hoops just to get back into the league, like speaking out against domestic violence on every public stage that exists. When Rice comes back, the league should instruct him to be an ambassador for actually treating your wife like a human and not a punching bag.
As for the number of games, I’d say an even half a season – 8 games – for domestic violence. But there should be certain nuances in cases like Rice’s. I’d suspend him an entire season, because it’s not like he punched her and then immediately realized his mistake and tried to make sure she was ok. He knocked her out, dragged her out of the elevator, and then didn’t give a damn. That’s worthy of a full season.
It’s hard to come up with the right number to use against a guy, especially in a situation like this. I guess the only thing we’ll all agree on is that Rice’s original 2 game suspension was a joke.