Saturday, January 30, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Preview

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As we prepare for Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, here are the reasons why the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints should win on February 7.

In the last three Super Bowls I've covered, each quarterback has won multiple titles and padded their Hall of Fame credentials.

In Super Bowl XXXIII here in Miami, Denver Broncos signal caller John Elway retired a two-time champion with a 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons, who were piloted by his old coach Dan Reeves. This gave Coach Mike Shanahan his second championship.

Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville saw former Michigan Wolverines QB Tom Brady and Coach Bill Bellichick capture their third titles together with a 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Finally, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who struggled to win Super Bowl XL in Detroit by tossing for only 123 yards passing, redeemed himself with a one touchdown and a 256 yard performance to emerge with a 27-23 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.

Roethlisberger's game winning six-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds was one of the greatest games ever, and gave him his second championship, and the Steelers recorded the franchise's sixth crown.

Here are the reasons why the Colts should win:

Indianapolis is the beneficiary of the Rooney Rule which requires teams to seriously interview a minority candidate for head coaching and executive positions. Former Coach Tony Dungy became the first African American Coach to win a Super Bowl by knocking off the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI in a battle of black coaches defeating his former assistant Lovie Smith.

Now Dungy's African American successor Jim Caldwell has a chance to win on the same Joe Robbie Stadium turf.

This is my third Super Bowl where I've seen a team reach the title game for the first time. The Falcons and Cardinals have both lost and Indianapolis is under extreme pressure to win because the Colts bypassed a historical opportunity to go 16-0 by resting their starters in season ending losses to the NY Jets & Buffalo Bills.

The AFC is 3-0 in Super Bowls that I've covered as Denver, New England and Pittsburgh have won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Here are the reasons why New Orleans should win:

Quarterback Drew Brees is on a mission to make the San Diego Chargers regret that they kept Philip Rivers instead of him.

If Brees leads the Saints to a victory in their first appearance in the Super Bowl, they'll join division rival Tampa Bay with victories in it's initial appearance. The Buccaneers blasted the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII as Coach Jon Gruden defeated his former boss Al Davis.

New Orleans defeated the Miami Dolphins 46-34 at Joe Robbie Stadium on Oct 25, 2009. The Saints would like nothing better than to extend their celebration from South Beach to Bourbon Street giving the city its first major championship against New Orleans native Peyton Manning, the son of legendary Saints QB Archie.

New Orleans spoiled the homecoming of former Saints fan Brett Favre with a 31-28 OT win in the NFC Championship Game. New Orleans would like to continue this against Manning.

For the Saints to defeat future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner of the Cardinals who retired Friday, Favre, who could likely retire this year with his final game like Warner's being played in the Superdome, and Manning; this would be a championship well earned. Warner is 1-2 in Super Bowls and has played in three classics.

Finally, if there is a sentimental choice to root for a team, this would be it. The city of New Orleans has already said it will throw a parade whether the team wins or loses. To see the Saints win a title after the region was battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 would be
unbelievable!

Here is my prediction on who will win Super Bowl XLIV based on this formula.

Denver defeated Atlanta by 15 points, New England edged Philadelphia by three while Pittsburgh came from behind to defeat Arizona by four points. The total point differential for all three games is 22 and if you divide it by three games, this equals 7.3.

Therefore, in a shootout of two franchises which have won important games at Joe Robbie Stadium, Indianapolis (14-2) defeats New Orleans (13-3) by a 38-31 score in the Super Bowl everyone wanted to see in the battle of No.1 seeds.

The win allows Manning to join Elway, Brady and Roethlisberger as multiple Super Bowl winners.

Since Shanahan and Bellichick won back to back multiple titles when I attended those games, it's time for a repeat of African American titles. Caldwell would become the third African American to win a championship with last year's Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin being the second.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

The Great One Vs Pistol Pete

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I don't make many guarantees but there is one that I feel comfortable making. When comparing New Orleans and Indianapolis' Sports History, there won't be a media outlet that will provide you with what I'm going to do in this posting.

Did you know that Hall of Famers "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Wayne Gretzky have unique ties to these towns?

In 1978, the World Hockey Association had a young 17-year old player named Gretzky that started his professional career as a member of the Indianapolis Racers, who played at the now demolished Market Square Arena. Gretzky played eight games for the Racers who folded on December 15, 1978. He scored his first goal in his fifth game against Dave Dryden of the Edmonton Oilers and then his second four seconds later.

In eight games for the Racers, Gretzky had three goals and three assists for six points.

This would be the beginning of a career that would see him play in 1,487 NHL Regular Season Games, score 894 goals, amass 1,963 assists for 2,857 points. In the playoffs, Gretzky played in 208 games, added 122 goals, 260 assists for 362 points.

Upon his retirement on April 18, 1999 he held 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, six All-Star marks and is the only NHL player to total 200 points in a season which he accomplished that feat four times. His No.99 has been retired by all teams in the NHL.

Gretzky, now 49, won four Stanley Cup Championships for the Edmonton Oilers in 1984, 85, 87, and 88.

The waiting period to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was waived thus he was enshrined in 1999.

How important was Pete "Pistol" Maravich to the Sports Fans of Louisiana?

When you go to the New Orleans Superdome, his No.7 was retired in 1988. Saints fans are reminded of that every time they watch a game knowing that Maravich played for the New Orleans Jazz from 1974-79. During his final year with the Jazz, he played in the NBA All-Star Game held at the Pontiac Silverdome.

The former LSU legend, has also had his No.7 retired by the New Orleans Hornets and the Utah Jazz.

Despite playing in only 10 seasons, Maravich was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987. He's a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996), a five time All-Star, scored 15,948 points (24.2 ppg) in 658 games.

He only made the playoffs four times, three with the Atlanta Hawks and once with the Boston Celtics, as he finished his career as a teammate of fellow Hall of Famer Larry Bird in 1979-80. He played 26 games averaging 11.5 points wearing the green and white and retired at the age of 32.

On January 5, 1988, Maravich died at the age of 40 due to a heart attack while playing in a pick-up basketball game in a gym at The First of the Nazarene in Pasadena, CA.

When you compare these two players careers, even though Gretzky's lasted much longer than Maravich's, there names will not only be remembered by National Sports Fans but more so in History of the States of Indiana & Louisiana.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hot Tempers Cost Money & Reputations

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Will these NCAA Football Coaches ever learn?

I doubt it. In recent weeks there have been three major coaches that have lost their jobs due to allegations of player abuse.

I'll never forget when former Ohio State Buckeyes Coach Woody Hayes was fired on my birthday, Dec 29, 1978 for punching Clemson Tigers nose guard Charlie Bauman on the sidelines during a 17-15 loss at the Gator Bowl. The Buckeyes finished the season with a 7-4-1 mark while Clemson ended its season 10-1.

But more importantly, this turned out to be the end of an era. Can you imagine how much publicity this Hayes incident would have gained in today's Mass Media Internet Market?

Hayes would have been crucified in the press and would have lost millions of dollars.

So instead of the public remembering that Hayes guided the Buckeyes from 1961-78 to three National Titles, 13 Big-Ten Championships, is ninth all-time in FBS coaching victories with a 238-72-10 record in 28 years as a head coach, he'll be remembered for "The Punch."

Former Kansas Jayhawks Coach Mark Mangino departed Lawrence after reaching a $3 Million settlement for insensitive comments made to his players.

Mangino was hired as coach in December of 2001 and led the Jayhawks to a 50-48 record, 3-1 in Bowl Games. He has the second most victories in school history. Mangino guided Kansas to a 12-1 record in 2007 as the school went to their first BCS Bowl defeating Virginia Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl.

In this day and age, tough love isn't something student athletes respond to. Coaches have to deal with parents, lawyers, nervous administrators, boosters and alumni as they become conscious of a schools image, yet know there is a high demand to field a winning program on the field as well a high revenue producer.

The lawyers are looking for a piece of the pie and administrators are quick to take swifter action to remove the coach.

Time will tell if Mangino ever gets another college job again. If not, he'll find work in the NFL as an assistant coach and will be taking orders from a head coach who can keep his temper under control.

Fortunately for Kansas, the Jayhawks made a great hire by landing former Nebraska QB & Buffalo Coach Turner Gill.

When Gill was named head coach at Buffalo on Dec 16, 2005, the 23rd coach in Bulls history, previous coach Jim Hofher led the school to an 8-49 mark and this was one of the four worst FBS programs. By 2008, Buffalo finished with an 8-6 record, landed in the International Bowl marking the first bowl game since joining the FBS in 1999.

This transformation enabled Gill to get consideration for the Auburn Tigers head coaching position. He was bypassed in favor of Gene Chizik, who was 5-19 with the Iowa State Cyclones. On December 15, 2008, former NBA Superstar & Auburn player Charles Barkley cited race as the No.1 factor as to why Chizik was hired comparing the records of the two candidates.

Gill concluded this season with a 20-30 record in four seasons at Buffalo. Now Gill's annual salary at Kansas is $2 million per-season and at age 47, has his big coaching job because he demonstrated enough class to keep his mouth shut therefore his patience enabled him to return to the Big 12.

I don't know if former Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach knew anything about Hayes but the timing of his departure does link these two individuals together near my birthday.

The Red Raiders were the last stop for legendary Basketball Coach Bobby Knight who recorded his 902 victory for the Lubbock based university. They handled Knight's fiery personality well and then hired his son Pat to continue leading the program.

In February of 2009, Leach signed a 5-year $12.7 Million contract and was due an $800,000 bonus if he remained head coach on December 31, 2009. Leach was fired on Dec 30, 2009 pending allegations of inappropriate treatment of Adam James, son of former SMU and New England Patriots running back and current ESPN College Football Analyst Craig James.

I'm sure Leach's comments about "Fat Little Girlfriends" didn't score any points with his bosses. Yet, he did compile an 84-43 record and was 5-4 in bowl games. In 2008, Leach guided the Red Raiders to an 11-2 record and had them contending for a national championship.

Perhaps Leach's biggest mistake was he didn't come out publicly and try to square up his problems with James as well as his bosses. But as we have found out in this case, no matter how good your record is, you can't think that you can say and do whatever you want because there are enough quality coaches available that would relish the opportunity to build on what you've created. It also didn't help that he was looking at other jobs at Auburn & Washington while employed by Texas Tech and his contentious contract negotiations became a public spectacle.

Leach took his situation for granted and his replacement Tommy Tuberville will reap from the benefits.

It's obvious that his lawsuit with Texas Tech will get ugly. Even when it gets resolved, will Leach ever get another high profile job let alone any college head coaching position?

I have a gut feeling that he will especially if he gets the right situation where the university knows what its buying as Tech did when it hired Knight. His worst case scenario is landing in the NFL or even with his wide open passing attack, Leach would be a good fit for the CFL.

I'll guarantee you one thing that if Mangino or Leach ever demeaned an NFL player, these players would put them into the emergency room. I'd be curious to see how well Leach would work with San Francisco 49'ers Coach Mike Singletary, who does happen to be the man in charge of turning the former Red Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree into a productive player.

Singletary wouldn't tolerate Leach's off the wall behavior.

Finally, the incident which bothers me the most is what has transpired at my alma-mater the University of South Florida.

This is another major mess.

Leavitt just completed the second season of a seven year $12.6 Million contract and was the only coach in the program's 13-year history. He finished with a 95-57 record and I truly thought he'd be there many more years and even have a building named after him.

When he was hired in 1995, USF operated out of trailers on campus and the Bulls made a swift progression from Div I AA to a BCS Conference Member. He turned down major offers to stay at USF and build his own tradition.

But the incident which finished off Leavitt was that he is alleged to have grabbed sophomore Joel Miller by the throat, slapped him in the face twice during halftime of the Louisville game. Leavitt's departure was not only due to the physical incident but also interfered with the investigation by having direct contact with material witnesses during the review process.

Nevertheless, the coach who has had USF ranked as high as No. 2 in the polls in 2007, has played in a bowl game in every year since joining The Big East in 2005, finds himself out of work. His teams have started out 5-0 the past two seasons but have suffered collapses in conference play and slid out of the top 25. This season, USF finished 8-5.

Now the question remains, like Mangino, and Leach, where will Leavitt land when this is all settled? He could have more options than these other two since he built USF from scratch.

Of course there is the pros.

It would be amazing to see him continue his coaching career at Raymond James Stadium as a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs. He's well liked and known in the community.

For those schools looking to build another program from scratch or looking to eventually reach FBS, he has a track record plus has put players in the NFL.

Ironically, when coaches leave the NCAA with their careers in shambles, they wind up in the pros.

Two-time probation Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson wrecked programs at Oklahoma and Indiana but has landed as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. All he has to focus on his motivating, strategy and dealing with men that concentrate on basketball not the external distractions "Outside The Lines."

But I do believe that the common bond between Mangino, Leach and Leavitt is they put three programs on the college football map. Now Gill, Tuberville and Skip Holtz simply have to build on what they started. As for Leach and Leavitt, there newly appointed assistant coaches are now the lawyers and we haven't heard the last of all three situations.

These guys will land again because they have proven that they can build and build winners. In the end, winning does mean something.

Yet the question remains, unlike Hayes, will they learn from their mistakes, so they can salvage their careers and their reputations?

Stay tuned, I'm very curious to see how all of this plays out in time.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com

Friday, January 22, 2010

NFL VS NCAA COLLEGE FOOTBALL

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When talking about championships, there is nothing better than the term, "The Final Four."

The NCAA Basketball Tournaments both the Men's & Women's feed off of March Madness.

The NFL does a great job and this weekend will provide us with the Conference Championship Games.

Will the New York Jets relish their role as underdogs and leave Indiana with a victory over the Indianapolis Colts?

Will 40-year old Brett Favre return to his hometown region of Louisiana and end the feel good story of the New Orleans Saints with a Minnesota Vikings victory to become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams?

At least in both cases, these championship results and match-ups will be decided on the field.

It's hard to believe that two weeks ago Alabama defeated Texas to win the National Championship at the Rose Bowl.

But as the debate over the years has lingered that the highest level of NCAA Football still doesn't have a playoff system to determine it's true champion and the politics of university presidents, conference commissioners, etc... prevent such a reasonable conclusion, I do hope at some time the public gets to see a true champion decided the right way.

I have a feeling that one day, Congress will step in and there will be legislation to force a change in how the NCAA does business. They've intervened with steroids, the concussion debate in the NFL so why not here.

While there is no easy solution to create a playoff system, there is a means to minimize the debate as to who gets to the championship game. I'd like to think there is a degree of common sense which can factor into the equation.

I'm sure that there isn't a person who doesn't enjoy the great different rivalries on Saturdays during the fall. But what makes me ill is that when the season ends, we can see 2-5 undefeated teams going into the bowl season.

While the BCS does its best to match the top two teams in the country to minimize the debate, I understand why the college football hierarchy doesn't want to make major changes in their system.

Being an NFL writer, I enjoy the bowl system. It gives NFL scouts the opportunity to attend 34 games to find prospects with the 68 teams participating. We shouldn't forget that that NFL does have the other divisions to find players and do have their playoff systems to determine their national championships. Regardless of the level, there is nothing better than hard hitting, adverse game conditions and the ability to see which players talent's emerge under high pressure circumstances.

Not all of the best players have ever played in NCAA Division I. Former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton (Jackson St.) and current Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco (Delaware) are prime examples that you can find talent anywhere. You'll find talent in the Mid American, Sun Belt, Big East, Conference USA, etc... and the hidden gems are usually found in rounds 3-7 as well as undrafted free agents. This determines whether an NFL team becomes a constant post-season participant and wins Super Bowls.

The post-season college All-Star Games are a great way to interview potential pro prospects, determine strength and watching players perform against the best of all levels. But the coaches have to substitute so much to look at all players and not key in on specific ones.

At long last, again, it's time for common sense to take over!

I'd be happy to just reduce the debate and give an underdog a chance to compete for a national championship.

It's time to finally add just one more bowl game and create the "Plus One" so we can see the 1-4, 2-3 scenario!

This won't effect final exams.

In fact, it will bring more money into the NCAA and I doubt that even with a slow economy that there would be much difficulty finding advertising. It would have been great to see a Boise State (12-0) versus TCU (12-0) contest in a semifinal setting instead of just a BCS game with no meaning for the right to have played for a national title.

We've all heard that saying that on any given day, a team can beat another.

Nobody expected Boise State to upset Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the 2007 the Fiesta Bowl. Utah defeated Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl in 2009 much to the delight of the Nick Saban haters in South Florida. The list can go on and on. I doubt that the collegiate football powers complained about these upsets.

Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati were worthy of getting their opportunities to compete this year but the system prevented that. Would former Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly have left early for Notre Dame with a chance to win a national championship? I doubt it because if Notre Dame wanted him that bad, they would have waited to get their man.

But the NCAA does need to add a "Plus One" format. We're only talking about one football game!

As I mentioned before, I enjoy the bowl system because not only is it a great scouting base, but it gives smaller conferences a chance to promote their schools academics, bolster their athletic department revenues, plus it's nice to see different college campuses.

One of the things I enjoy doing when I travel around the country by car is touring different universities. I enjoy the sports venues, museums, scenery and talking with the people in the area. With all of the different bowl games, it's great for the tourism industry plus does give the smaller schools a chance to add revenue to their athletic programs.

To me, college football is two things:

1) Great Fall Entertainment in 49 States. I'm not sure how much Alaska is involved except for watching the games.

2) A Feeder System to Pro Football, whether it's the NFL or CFL. Period!

The reason these students play college football is to fulfill their lifelong desires to play on Sundays and earn a paycheck. I get sick and tired of student athletes having a full ride to get to school, earn $30 a weekend for meals and then end up robbing others to buy shoes etc... while universities make millions of dollars off their efforts.

To not allow athletes to gain some extra income means they'll resort to find another way to get it.

But no matter how you look at the glamour of college football, it's still very corrupt, filled with greed and plenty of controversies.

Now the question is to find a happy medium to crown a champion with lesser discussion about "What If" and compromise the best way possible to make everyone happy with as less inconveniences as possible.

It's not that much trouble to climb from 35 games to 36. Just add another week.

The sport gets more cash, publicity, the term "Final Four" becomes relevant, an underdog could emerge as a champion and the exposure is priceless.

Even though the NCAA knows it can't duplicate it's Basketball Tournament model to the gridiron enabling the public to pick upsets in their office pools, enough is enough with the excuses by not being able to add that final game.

By not having a sensible way to create some sense of sanity, these executives are looking like a bunch of clowns in a circus!

The NFL makes billions of dollars doing things the right way, after all of these years, it's about time The NCAA will at least alter a "Severely Broken System."

The NFL Conference Championship Games are more interesting than the BCS Bowl Games. At least they decide something, the right to earn who has a chance to be the "Best."

As for the "Super Bowl," that speaks for itself. The NCAA's system is a "Super Farce."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com. His blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com






Monday, January 18, 2010

Historic Super Bowl In The Making

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The Minnesota Vikings and QB Brett Favre finally erased some of their bad memories of the Dallas Cowboys by blasting them 34-3 in the Metrodome Sunday.

Here is what we have to look forward to in the next few weeks leading up to the Super Bowl on February 7, 2010.

The Vikings (13-4) travel to the Superdome and face the New Orleans Saints (14-3) in the first ever NFC Championship to ever be held in this historical venue. It's only fitting that we have a matchup featuring the top two seeds.

The 40-year old Favre returns to the building where he won his lone Vince Lombardi Trophy on January 26, 1997 with a 34-21 victory over the New England Patriots. Favre, who played his collegiate career at Southern Mississippi and was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, is 363-531, 4,202 yards for 33 TD's and just seven interceptions in 2009.

In Sunday's win over Dallas, Favre was 15-24, 234 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Favre's four touchdowns was the most in his post-season career and he earned his first playoff win over the Cowboys.

Including the post-season, Favre has played in 307 consecutive games. During his 19-year career as of week 17, 2009, Favre has thrown for 69,392 yards, 497 TD's, 317 interceptions, 9,811 attempts and 6,083 completions.

Here are some more interesting numbers.

Thirteen years ago when he won his Super Bowl in New Orleans, the cost of a 30 second commercial was $1.2 million. The Neilson Ratings were 43.3 and the market share was 65.

Pat Summerall and John Madden were the broadcasters for his historical win on Fox. Joe Buck and former Cowboys QB and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman will be televising this contest for FOX.

In Miami, the No. 13 jersey of Dan Marino is retired at Joe Robbie Stadium. Marino's 61, 361 yards in 16 seasons used to be the all-time NFL mark before Favre broke the Super Bowl Titleless performer's record.

My first Super Bowl was XXXIII in Miami on Jan 31, 1999. The Denver Broncos, who defeated Favre a year earlier to win their first championship, knocked off the Atlanta Falcons 34-19 as Hall of Fame QB John Elway retired a two-time champion. Now Favre, like Elway, has a chance to win his second title on Marino's old playground.

Going into Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Saints QB Drew Brees, at the age of 31, who played at the same university as Miami Dolphins legend Bob Griese, Purdue, has put together an excellent career of his own.

In 2009, Brees is 363-514, 4,388 yards, 34 TD's and 11 interceptions. During his nine-year career, he's 2,697-4,164, 202 TD's and 110 interceptions for 30,646 yards.

Brees turned down the opportunity to sign with the Miami Dolphins and play for Coach Nick Saban and chose to accept the challenge of playing for first time Head Coach Sean Payton in 2006.

In their first year together, they advanced to the NFC Championship but lost to the Chicago Bears 39-14 at Soldier Field as the Saints amassed four turnovers. On that Sunday, January 21, 2006 afternoon, the Saints had to deal with a cloudy, snowy day with the temperature 28 degrees. Despite the loss, the Saints would be greeted warmly by a grateful region that had appreciated their efforts on the field and in their ravaged community due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The weather at the Superdome in Saturday's 45-14 rout of the Arizona Cardinals will be the same against the Vikings. Against the Cardinals, Brees was 23-32, 247 yards, three TD's and zero touchdowns as he out performed Arizona legend Kurt Warner.

Regardless of whether it's Favre or Brees, if the Indianapolis Colts (15-2) are able to defeat the surging New York Jets (11-7) Sunday, this could be a historic Super Bowl.

Manning won his first Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears on February 4, 2007 at Joe Robbie Stadium as history was made in the first game ever coached by African Americans featuring Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith.

Another African American is at the helm for the Colts as Jim Caldwell is under pressure to win this Super Bowl when he chose to not make a run at a 16-0 season as the Colts lost their final two games to the Jets and Buffalo Bills in an effort to rest their players, plus avoid injuries while getting others healthy.

Nonetheless, Manning, who is an 11-year veteran has compiled 50,128 yards as of week 17, 2009. He'll either face his hometown team New Orleans, whom his father Archie played for when the franchise was known as the Aints otherwise, it will be a match-up against another NFC North team in the Minnesota Vikings.

At the rate Manning is going, he should pass Marino's yardage mark in 2.5 seasons. But having won a Super Bowl in Marino's playground, now he has a chance to win a second one at Joe Robbie Stadium at the age of 33, the same Super Bowl as Elway's second. If Favre wins his second, it will come in a regular season where he threw for 33 touchdowns.

If Favre doesn't reach the Super Bowl and the Saints make it for the first time it will be a great story for the region which was battered by Hurricane Katrina but more importantly, the list of teams to have never reached the Super Bowl will be down to four.

How ironic will it be that as was the case in Super Bowl XXXIII, that an NFC South team could be making it's first trip to the Super Bowl in South Beach.

No matter what scenario plays out, history is destined to be made in South Florida. If an NFC team wins the Super Bowl, the Saints will either be 1-0 or the Vikings will be 1-4.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

NBC Needs The Detroit Red Wings

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

How important are the Detroit Red Wings to NBC?

All of their announcers made sure the fans knew that the Red Wings were robbed in their 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon regarding a disputed goal that shouldn't have counted.

Sunday, the Red Wings put on a good show in their 4-3 shootout loss to Original Six rival, the Chicago Black Hawks at the Joe Louis Arena. NBC knows that the best thing that can happen to the Red Wings is despite the fact that they have several key players participating in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, that it's vital the Red Wings get healthy during the break and make a strong second half run to get into the playoffs.

The network has scheduled a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between the Red Wings and defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins in Pennsylvania on January 31, which happens to be the same day as the NFL Pro Bowl.

Sidney Crosby against the trio of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom will still give the game plenty of star power. Will it matter what the records of these two franchises will be? I doubt it but as the Red Wings get more players back from injuries, this contest figures to be a dandy.

How Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland are holding up is anyone's guess. In my opinion, they're both geniuses because the team is still contending for a playoff spot despite the off-season losses of Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelson, Ty Conklin and Chris Chelios.

By letting Conklin depart, this forced Holland to find out what he has with rookie Jimmy Howard and the young goaltender has responded by being the workhorse and turning veteran goalkeeper Chris Osgood into a backup role. What happens should the Red Wings return to the post-season remains to be seen.

But you can limit the checkbook of Red Wings Owner Mike Illitch due to a salary cap and stop the Red Wings from spending and being the NHL's version of the New York Yankees, but 27 straight post-season appearances, four Stanley Cup Championships and six trips to the Finals are still what makes Detroit "America's Team." All you have to do is travel to opposing stadiums and you'll see plenty of red and white jersey's and a huge following that says "Lets Go Red Wings" in these sold out stadiums.

While Crosby is expected to carry the superstar tag on him into the new decade, he'll need help that his key rivals are playing well to help the NHL's chance of staying on national television.

Even though the Chicago Black Hawks are building a good young team and are finally playing well, until they start to win Stanley Cups, it will be hard to take them completely serious. Yet, being an Original Six team, I'm always hoping to see the day where the Stanley Cup Finals does have an Original Six matchup.

A Detroit, Chicago series against the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers would be a dream for NBC.

But if Montreal or Toronto made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Red Wings or Black Hawks, I'm sure the executives at NBC wouldn't complain because of the traditions of the Canadiens or Maple Leafs.

They could play up the North American angle and a USA versus Canada match-up does feature an Us versus Them theme.

But for now, I'll still be curious to see how many times the Red Wings appear on NBC's Game of the Week on Sunday's therefore, the entire country will know how important this marque franchise is to it's weekly ratings.

Even though it's a pipe dream right now, I doubt the USA audience would complain if the Red Wings and Penguins were to meet for the third straight year in the NHL Finals. I know NBC wouldn't mind a rubber match series with the score currently tied 1-1.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog is on www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Minnesota VS Dallas

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Minnesota Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at 1 PM at the Metrodome, there will be more pressure on future Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre than he realizes.

It's one thing that Favre signed a two-year $25 Million contract on August 18, 2009 with expectations that he'd be the missing link to win a Super Bowl. With running back Adrian Peterson and rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin as his play makers, Minnesota compiled a 12-4 record to earn a division title enabling them to host a playoff game.

The FOX announcers will tell you that Favre is 0-3 lifetime against the Cowboys in the playoffs.

But I wonder whether FOX's announcers will go deep into the past and realize that the history between these two franchises goes as deep as another missing link which will always connect these organizations.

On October 12, 1989, former Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn made "The Trade" which involved 18 players and or draft picks.

The Vikings obtained running back Herschel Walker from the Cowboys along with four draft picks.

Meanwhile, Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson committed the greatest steal in NFL History which would lead to three Dallas Super Bowl titles in 1992, 1993 and 1995.

The Cowboys would get six of Minnesota's picks, two of which would be used to draft running back Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson. The Cowboys dealt the Vikings first round pick in the 1990 draft which was No. 21 along with their 81st selection to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 17 pick and drafted Smith.

Johnson used the other draft picks to make trades with other teams around the NFL. There were a total of 13 players involved on the Dallas side of the deal.

In 1990, the Cowboys chose Alexander Wright in the second round.

In 1991, Dallas used its second round selection to draft Dixon Edwards. Their top selection in 1991 was Alvin Harper.

Other key players for Dallas in this trade included linebackers Jesse Soloman, David Howard, cornerback Issiac Holt and defensive end Alex Stewart.

It seems far fetched to think the NFL's all-time leading rusher could have been the property of the organization which owns the most Super Bowl championships with six. What do Steelers fans think of this trade? Perhaps not as bad because they've had a lot of success. But Smith in the same media guide as Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw, etc. would have enhanced a rich history.

But as if the Vikings have had to live with the frustration of losing four Super Bowls, Walker wouldn't be the missing link to get them one.

To add insult to injury, the Minnesota/Dallas connection goes beyond the football field.

The Minnesota North Stars made the Twin Cities their home from 1967-1993 and moved to Dallas in 1994 to become the Dallas Stars. Five years later, the Stars won their only Stanley Cup Championship in 1999.

Dallas has won four championships at the expense of Minnesota franchises. Three in the NFL and one in the NHL.

Do you think there is a lot of added pressure for Minnesota to want to defeat Dallas when it counts? I'd say so.

The last thing Vikings fans want to think about is that they traded Smith for Walker and while a win Sunday won't change the fact that they did, it should ease the pain a little as they hope to reach their goal to play in the Super Bowl a few weeks from now in Miami.

But a loss to Dallas at home would only create more nightmares for Minnesota and while the Boston Red Sox trade of Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees creating the "Curse of the Bambino" doesn't match up to what's transpired between Minnesota & Dallas, it's certainly worth discussing as a legitimate comparison.

Scott Morganroth can be reached as Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen on www.scottsports33.com.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Remaining Five Non Super Bowl Teams

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As the NFL Playoffs begin this weekend, while the Detroit Lions & Coach Jim Schwartz try to figure out how to rebound from another poor season, they can only hope the New Orleans Saints don't make it to the Super Bowl.

The Saints, who started the season 13-0 but lost their final three games to finish 13-3, are in a select group of teams to have never reached the title game.

The Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars along with New Orleans & Detroit have never played in the Final Meaningful Game of the Year.

The only time that the Super Bowl has had a major Detroit story line is when the city hosted a pair of title games.

Super Bowl 16 was the beginning of the San Francisco 49'ers dynasty as QB Joe Montana & late Coach Bill Walsh began their championship run at the Pontiac Silverdome by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

The Seattle Seahawks made their lone appearance in Super Bowl 40 in Detroit as they became victim No. 5 by the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field.

Super Bowl 43 in Tampa turned out to be one of the most exciting title games ever as the Arizona Cardinals made their first appearance a memorable one losing to the now six time champions Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23. It would be a banner year for the city of Pittsburgh as the Penguins captured a Stanley Cup Championship over the Detroit Red Wings giving "Steeltown" a pair of titles.

Earlier in the week, I wrote a blog on the legacy of Wayne Fontes and his eight seasons which produced a 67-71 record from 1988-96, in addition to his 1-4 playoff record.

I've never felt more compassion for a coach as I do for Jim Schwartz. This poor guy lobbied for this job and he inherited a 33-111 record over a nine-season span.

The only thing that he can feel good about is he did land a good young QB in Matthew Stafford. Despite his 2-8 record, this young gunslinger threw for 2,267 yards, 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in a rookie season that saw him battle his own injuries plus the loss of some of his key offensive weapons. This kid showed more guts trying to make plays and carrying the weight of this dismal franchise on his busted up body.

In 2010, Stafford can look forward to throwing to wide receiver Calvin Johnson and tight-end Brandon Pettigrew after he recovers from knee surgery.

I still believe that Kevin Smith can be a productive running back in the NFL but the Lions need to bolster this position drastically in the draft.

On defense, a healthy Ernie Sims, the re-signing of Larry Foote and an improved sophomore season by Louis Delmas will give the Lions a few building blocks for the future.

As I prepare to cover my fourth Super Bowl in 10 years, I'll be seeking out opinions from various experts who will try to figure out why the Lions futility compares with that of the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and LA Clippers.

These statistics are enough to make anyone gag.

* In 2008, the Lions become the first 0-16 team in NFL history by yielding 517 points, which was the second worst in NFL history.
* This season, Detroit yielded 494 points, fourth worst in NFL history and finished with a 2-14 mark.
* The Lions set a league record 30 losses over two seasons.
* Detroit owns a league record 24-game road losing streak & their current road woes are now at 20.
* Detroit has won three games since midway through the 2007 season in what has become the worst 40-game slide since the Dayton Triangles were slightly less successful during the 1920's. For those that think the Bermuda Triangle is a place of no return, at the rate the Lions struggles continue, will there be any teams in the future bad enough to break these infamous records of futility?

As I mentioned before, the Lions record since 2001 is 33-111 when Owner William Clay Ford turned the keys to his franchise over to former President & General Manager Matt Millen.

When I was growing up, everybody used to think that former General Manager Russ Thomas was bad when he was drafting players from smaller colleges so the team would have less resistance in signing the top selections. Thomas did have the luxury of having more then seven rounds to work with in the draft.

Nonetheless, is there is a fan in Lion Land that would have a problem with a 7-6-1, 7-7 or 6-7-1 record these days? I doubt it. The Lions current nine-year stretch is the worst by an NFL team since World War II.

How many fans remember the last time a Detroit professional football team won a championship?

On July 17, 1983, the Michigan Panthers, led by former U-M wide receiver Anthony Carter and QB Bobby Hebert defeated the Philadelphia Stars 24-22 to win the inaugural USFL Championship.

Even though the Lions championship drought hasn't reached the levels of the Chicago Cubs century old mark, Schwartz will have to say a lot of prayers that the Saints don't go marching to Miami as the Atlanta Falcons did for their first Super Bowl appearance in 1999, only to see John Elway retire on top with the Denver Broncos.

Schwartz would like nothing better than to see this list remain at five, while he begins his off-season preparing for the 2010 Draft.

Schwartz will have the opportunity to coach the North team in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL on Jan 30. This will allow him to find new talent plus interview potential assistant coaches, starting with finding a replacement for Stan Kwan, who was fired after 10 seasons, his third as special teams coordinator.

More assistant coaches became available when the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills made head coaching changes while the Chicago Bears are currently in the process of revamping Lovie Smith's staff.

But for the time being Jim, I have only two words of encouragement for you, "Good Luck."

At the moment, your mountain is higher than Mt. Everest. I'll bet your stomach turns each time Millen hosts an NFL pre-game show on ESPN, is an analyst for a college game or does color commentary for the NFL Network.

It has to be difficult to listen to a man which wrecked a lackluster/mediocre franchise and turned it into a laughing stock and it became your mess that you have the challenge of overhauling.

I'm sure deep down inside you're hoping that Millen is not involved with ESPN's Coverage of the NFL Draft because of all the draft busts that currently are listed in the Lions Media Guide. I really wonder how much Millen learned about college players after one year of broadcasting NCAA Football.

But his track track record does indeed suggest that he couldn't judge a good prospect and his horrible record speaks for itself.

Once again Jim, good luck and hope to see you here at the Super Bowl in Miami in a month.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wizard of 10,000 Lakes?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Now that the Minnesota Vikings are headed to the NFL Playoffs under future Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre, I have some good advice for all politicians & fans in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes."

Build the Vikings a new updated stadium or they'll leave. If history repeats itself, a likely destination for the Vikings could be Los Angeles. It isn't a matter of if it will happen, just when it will happen that the NFL will want to place a franchise in the No.2 television market in the country.

The only other two teams that make sense are the San Diego Chargers, who like their former entertainment competitor the NBA's San Diego (Los Angeles) Clippers made the move a couple hours north to play in the same market and now arena as the Lakers.

The Jacksonville Jaguars just completed a 7-9, non playoff season and they faced attendance problems by not selling out their stadium as their games were blacked out. Even if the Jaguars were to draft former Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow to sell tickets, the former Heisman Trophy Winner and two-time national champion won't be able to save the Northern Florida franchise in the long-term.

But back to the Vikings.

There is a history between the cities of Minneapolis and Los Angeles. It's a very deep one.

After John Wooden's final season at Larry Bird's alma mater Indiana State University in 1947-48, The Wizard of Westwood was being pursued for the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.

It was Wooden's wife Nellie's desire to remain in the Midwest since John was from Hall, Indiana.

Inclement weather in Minnesota prevented Wooden from receiving the scheduled phone offer from the Golden Gophers. Thinking that they lost interest, Wooden accepted the head coaching job with UCLA instead. Officials from the University of Minnesota contacted Wooden immediately after he accepted the Bruins offer, but he declined to take the Golden Gophers job because he had given his word to UCLA.

Wooden would post a 620-147 record with the Bruins, won 10 NCAA titles and had a record 88-game winning streak. The 99-year old was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1961 and the inaugural College Basketball Hall of Fame Class in 2006.

If Wooden had coached in Minnesota, can you imagine what the NCAA basketball history books would look like?

Did you know that the history of the Los Angles Lakers didn't begin in Minnesota but in Detroit?

The Detroit Gems were sold in 1946 to Minnesota businessmen Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen for $15,000 and relocated to the Twin Cities in 1947. The Minneapolis Lakers were born and won their lone National Basketball League title in 1948.

The Lakers, led by George Mikan proceeded to win five more NBA championships in Minnesota in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. The Minneapolis Lakers resided in their state from 1947-60 and then followed Wooden to Los Angeles and added 11 more championships. The franchise has 30 conference titles and lots of Hall of Fame players.

I'll bet the folks in Minnesota could only dream of watching Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar play in their city.

It doesn't take a math major to figure out that if you add Wooden's 10 titles and the 11 additional that the Lakers won in Southern California, you're at 21. That's a great hand at Black Jack and would have been a lot of trophies and banners to hang up in two different arenas.

To make matters worse for the good folks in Minnesota, it was the Lakers who defeated the Kevin Garnett led Timberwolves in the 2004 Western Conference Finals. Ironically, it was the Detroit Pistons, that defeated the Lakers playing a "Detroit Gems" of a series with the performances of Chauncey Billups, another former Timberwolve, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, etc.

So the bottom line is, with all the history and ironies that exist between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, it would be wise to build the Vikings a new stadium. The Timberwolves have a new building, the Wild has a new arena in St. Paul but the city learned the hard way when the North Stars moved to Dallas and the Twins are moving into their new downtown open air ball park this season. The Gophers just completed their first season in their new on campus open air stadium.

The NFL is less forgiving then the other sports. Just ask the cities of Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland and St. Louis and they'll tell you how much more time and money it took to bring a team back to their city when each place ended up building a new stadium to accommodate another team after the Colts, Oilers, Browns (Ravens) and Cardinals bolted town for greener pastures.

I'd hate to see Minnesota lose anymore titles. If you factor in a Stanley Cup Championship for the Dallas Stars a few years ago, the total would increase to 22.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Legend Of Wayne Fontes

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Now that the Detroit Lions have concluded their first season under Jim Schwartz with a 2-14 record, even though the rookie coach doesn't figure to be a victim of "Black Monday" when NFL Head Coaches find themselves on the unemployment line like the rest of us, I'm sure there are a number of Southeastern Michiganders who wish that the last man to win an NFL playoff game was roaming the sidelines at Ford Field.

Remember Wayne Fontes?

When Lions fans look at the past decade of futility, they probably wish December 26, 1996 didn't happen. This was the day that Fontes was a casualty of "Black Monday" and was replaced by Bobby Ross after a 5-11 record.

How would a record of 1-4 in the playoffs sound to Lions fans these days? It would pack Ford Field!

During Fontes tenure in Detroit, he compiled a 67-71 record. Both numbers are the most in team history. Fontes coached the team from 1988-1996. If the Lions were currently a mediocre team, there would be no discussion of taking away their Thanksgiving Day Game. Fontes led Detroit to the playoffs four out of eight seasons including three consecutive (1993, 1994 and 1995).

But he will be remembered for the team's 12-4 record in 1991 and the Lions ripped the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in the opening round of the playoffs at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Star Running Back Barry Sanders had his deepest run into the playoffs only to see his Super Bowl hopes dashed as the Lions lost to the Washington Redskins 41-10 at RFK Stadium. The Quarterback of this team was Erik Kramer.

Fontes was the 1991 AP Coach of the Year and led the NFC to a 21-15 win in the Pro Bowl. His Quarterbacks included Brett Favre, Troy Aikman and Steve Young. The AFC signal callers were Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Warren Moon. Lions fans could only dream to have had any one of these Hall of Famers to hand off or throw to Sanders.

If there is one area that Fontes could be criticized in, it was re-inserting Rodney Peete as the starter after Kramer's 1-1 record in the playoffs. I understood his decision that a quarterback shouldn't lose his job due to injury but there is that philosophy that you reward success. He didn't do that and Kramer felt disrespected and eventually left for the hated Chicago Bears.

Detroit would eventually sign Scott Mitchell and that move backfired.

But Fontes did know how to hire assistant coaches. Mouse Davis and June Jones made the Run & Shoot offense fun to watch. Jones went on to become a successful collegiate coach for Hawaii and recently led the SMU Mustangs to their first bowl victory in 25 years.

Tom Moore is the mastermind behind the success of Peyton Manning's greatness with the Indianapolis Colts and the tandem won Super Bowl XLI 29-17 over the Chicago Bears. Manning was the MVP in this Super Bowl.

Even though Ross had some success after Fontes departure, there was no way Bobby could co-exist with Sanders. That was evident at Sanders Hall of Fame Induction on August 8, 2004 when Barry made reference to Fontes during his speech.

To this day, I'm convinced that Sanders would never have retired in his prime and would have become the NFL's all-time leading rusher if Fontes remained the coach.

As I look at the Lions recent quarterback shuffle the past two seasons, these numbers make the Peete to Kramer to Mitchell soap opera look like nothing.

Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Drew Stanton became the fifth different starter. Stanton is 0-1, Daunte Culpepper is 0-10, Dan Orlovsky is 0-7, Jon Kitna is 0-4 and rookie Matthew Stafford is 2-8.

Beyond this, I wonder whether Joey Harrington would have fulfilled his potential under the tutelage of Davis, Jones, Moore and Fontes. Could you imagine what Harrington and Sanders would have looked like in the same backfield?

But one thing is for certain, when you think of "Black Monday" in the NFL, just remember the old saying that "You never know how good you've had it until it's gone."

If the Buffalo Bills can't find a big name head coach, the might want to try to lure Fontes out of retirement from his home in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Maybe one day we'll see Fontes give Terrell Owens a few big hugs just like Bills Hall of Fame Owner, native Detroiter Ralph Wilson gave him a job.

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get rid of Raheem Morris, that would be another good job for you Wayne since it's the job you coveted after the retirement of John McKay in 1984. It would be a popular hire in the Tampa Bay area and a shorter drive down the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Highway 60.

As legendary Boxing Promoter Don King would say, "Only In America."

Time to go back to work Wayne.

Your buddy William Clay Ford could use you as a consultant and since he gave you your only NFL head coaching job, he needs a hug and credible football mind to rescue this franchise from more futility. All you've missed is an NFL record 0-16 season and record 24-game road losing streak that could now be broken next year as the current streak stands at 20-games and the sellouts will not return until the team becomes competitive again.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com




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