Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Lions Draft Decision

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There aren't many athletes that I can't stomach, but the two that stand out are former Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and Deion Sanders.

I'll discuss Marino another time but since the NFL Draft is tonight, the timing couldn't be better to talk about Sanders.

It's easy to point out the numerous draft mistakes the Detroit Lions have made over the years.

But there is one mistake they didn't make.

I'll never forget that before the 1989 Draft when Deion Sanders told the Lions it would be a wise move not to draft him because he didn't feel they'd either have enough money to sign him or wouldn't pay him the salary that he would command.

From that point on, just thinking of Deion Sanders made me sick. Instead, the Atlanta Falcons selected Sanders in the first round and fifth overall.

After his Atlanta stop, Sanders would play for the San Francisco 49'ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens in a career that would last until 2005.

Lets not forget that he also played baseball for four teams which included tenures with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds on two occasions, and the San Francisco Giants. He was just a mediocre player who finished with a lifetime average of .263 with 558 hits and 186 stolen bases.

If there has ever been a high maintenance athlete, Deion Sanders is it!

Should Sanders ever get selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I'm there to see it at the Press Conference, I'll take some medication to settle my stomach.

We all know that the Green Bay Packers took Tony Mandarich with the second overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Mandarich became one of the biggest draft busts in league history.

The player Detroit selected behind Mandarich and ahead of Deion, with the third overall pick was a guy by the name of Barry Sanders, who played his entire career with one organization.

I'd say by selecting the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner that the Lions made out pretty well!

All Barry did was fill the Pontiac Silverdome, rush for 15,269 yards, get selected to 10 Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in a class that included John Elway, Carl Eller and Bob Brown.

But back to Deion. When I heard that in a Detroit News article that he hoped the Lions would give Pacman Jones another chance, this seemed strange. I guess Sanders forgot that the Lions are still owned by the Ford family, an organization that he had negative words about in 1989.

Before Sanders made his suggestion to the Detroit News, I might have had a soft spot for Pacman because of his past relationship with Jim Schwartz, who was with the Tennessee Titans when Jones was there.

Now I'm against the idea coming from a clown like Deion! I guess he figures the Ford family can afford Jones at a bargain basement price since he's had numerous chances and has failed them all.

Even Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones gave Pacman an opportunity to resurrect his career and surrounded him with good people but the player failed to straighten himself out. I don't care if he's been free of any legal troubles the past two years. Pacman, 26, hasn't been paid millions to blow his money and go back to his wild lifestyle.

I'm sure that even if Pacman does get back into the league, Commissioner Roger Goodell will put him under a "Zero Tolerance" policy. After dealing with the recent problems of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the last thing the commissioner wants to do is open up his Tylenol and take a couple pills or step up to the microphone at a press conference indicating the player is banned for life.

As for Deion, I refuse to listen to anything that he has to say on the NFL Network because I just simply dislike him!

Whatever he's learned by reading the Bible is all well and good and if makes him a better person then more power to him. But as I've stated in this blog, I can't stand the guy because he's full of hot air thus I have no respect for him!

Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Barry Bonds when his San Francisco Giants lost to the Florida Marlins in the National League Division Series but chose to pass on that and instead got soaked with the winners at Joe Robbie Stadium.

All I can say Deion is if you ever read this blog, you wouldn't want to hear what I have to say to you. But perhaps you will if I ever attend your Hall of Fame selection.

Your "Prime Time" persona is as fake as it gets and whether you donate lots of money to charity, while that may be an admirable gesture, you also know it's a good tax write off especially in your tax bracket.

But I do know this, the Lions did draft the better Sanders by taking Barry, and the best two sports star I've ever seen is Bo Jackson.

Jackson was an excellent baseball player, great football player and if his NFL & MLB careers weren't cut short due to injuries, he'd get my Hall of Fame vote. Those that watch ESPN Classic can still appreciate Bo Jackson.

Here is another piece of advice for you Deion, if you want to give the Lions draft advice, perhaps you could work alongside of Martin Mayhew and he'll give you your two cents worth and you can voice your opinion. But then again, I have to ask myself, can the Ford's afford you after your football career?

Although the Ford's have never seen their football team reach a Super Bowl, they still have more money then you'll have in plenty of lifetimes.

Your eight Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl rings mean nothing to me. It's your superficial personality that makes me ill. If you can ever prove to me that you can build a championship team in the front office and respect good business people, then I won't nominate you for the Hall of Shame.

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


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NFL Draft Thoughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What makes practical sense or what makes common sense?

These are the decisions I'm glad I don't have to make as the NFL Draft will find new homes for this years crop of collegiate players.

For the Detroit Lions, at least they selected their quarterback last year when they landed Matthew Stafford with their top pick. Thus, far, the former Georgia Bulldog is showing excellent potential and has a strong upside providing he gets a good supporting cast.

Past experiences indicate the Lions won't be taking a wide receiver in the opening round anytime soon. The selections of Charles Rogers and Mike Williams were just a couple of the major reasons Matt Millen has returned to the broadcasting booth and is unlikely to return to an NFL front office anytime soon.

Last year, Stafford received over $40 Million in guaranteed money.

Will the St. Louis Rams pay a defensive player over $40 Million or will they take the plunge into the signal caller market and draft Oklahoma's Sam Bradford with the top pick? Is a player who is coming off major shoulder surgery, worth over $50 Million in guaranteed money? They might not have any choice since they released former starting quarterback Marc Bulger.

But if this makes the Rams feel any better, past Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners have done well in the pros.

Former Sooners & Detroit Lions running backs Steve Owens and Billy Sims, both Heisman Trophy winners, had short and sweet careers before knee injuries ended them prematurely. In today's modern medicine, they would have played longer.

Owens was the Lions No.1 draft choice in the 1970 draft, 19 overall and was the first running back in franchise history, to ever rush for over 1,000 yards. He played four seasons for Detroit and participated in one Pro Bowl.

Sims was the top player selected in the 1980 draft by the Lions, rushed for 5,106 yards and played in three Pro Bowls.

If the Lions want to take another Oklahoma play maker, then Gerald McCoy would be a great choice.

But Detroit has also had good luck with past Nebraska Cornhuskers as well. If the Lions select Ndamukong Suh, then fans should remember linebacker Jimmy Williams and fullback Cory Schlesinger, who had good careers wearing the Honolulu Blue & Silver.

Williams played in Detroit from 1982-1990 and the Lions drafted him in the first round, No.15 overall. It's guys like Schlesinger, who will give you a reason to watch the draft in the later rounds. This three time Pro Bowl alternate was drafted in the sixth round, 192 overall and played for the Lions from 1995-2006.

Speaking of Owens and Schlesinger, if the Lions are looking to upgrade the running back position, Stanford's Toby Gerhart is a rare white runner with an abundance of talent that if he's not taken in the first round, will be on a mission to prove his critics wrong that passed on him. The 6-0, 231 pounder had 343 carries for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Cardinal in 2009.

How can I forget about Florida's Tim Tebow? This guy has won two national championships and is a Heisman Trophy. Yet his draft status is in question because of his throwing mechanics.

It's any one's guess where he'll wind up or whether he plays quarterback in the NFL. In a league where there is a need for good quarterbacks, my best bets for him are Jacksonville, Buffalo or New England.

He'd sell tickets in Jacksonville and Buffalo and could eventually start in both places. I'd say he'll start quicker in Buffalo because there is a bigger need. The hiring of new Head Coach Chan Gailey, a noted offensive coach, could speed up his learning curve.

In 2003, the Buffalo Bills gambled on injured Miami Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee, by drafting him in the first round with the 23 overall pick, then waited until 2004 until he made his NFL debut. He went on and played three seasons for the Bills before moving on to the Baltimore Ravens. Tebow is also from the State of Florida so I see no reason why history won't repeat itself.

Back in 1975, the Lions drafted former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Dennis Franklin, who was known as "Michigan's First Black Quarterback" in the sixth round and converted him into a wide receiver. A 30-2-1 record at Michigan wasn't good enough to unseat Lions quarterbacks Greg Landry and Bill Munson. I'll bet that the Lions wish they could make that decision again especially with the quarterbacks that would follow after Landry and Munson's departure. We all know that was a bad move and the Lions fans know it.

Those that think that moving the left-handed Tebow to the wide receiver position without giving him a chance to develop and compete for a starting quarterback spot down the line would be making a huge mistake.

In New England, Tebow could develop under former former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady and wouldn't be rushed into action. As I mentioned before, Tebow would be a good fit in Buffalo and you can rest assure that Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly would love to help Tebow refine his skills. As for Jacksonville, David Garrard is the starter but if Owner Wayne Weaver has his way, he'd be the mentor until Tebow develops.

In 1981, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jim "Crash" Jensen in the 11 round, 291 overall out of Boston University. He played for the Dolphins from 1981-1992 as a wide receiver, running back and was the third string emergency signal caller behind Hall of Famer Dan Marino. He made the team because he impressed Dolphins Coach Don Shula with his hard-nosed play on special teams.

If a team drafts Tebow, they're getting a player with a great work ethic, excellent character, who is the last player you'd see that would have off the field problems. He's a proven winner in every sense of the word.

In the wake of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's problems, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made an example out of him by suspending him 4-6 games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Tebow is a white quarterback, who won't embarrass himself representing the shield. How ironic would it be if he landed in Pittsburgh.

But the Jensen/Tebow comparison could be a valid one not only because of skin color but they both could be viewed as versatile performers or hybrid players.

In this draft, I'll also be curious to see where Texas & Notre Dame quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen land.

Will this be the year where the Florida Atlantic University Owls finally have a player drafted? Their best prospects include quarterback Rusty Smith, who threw for over 10,000 career yards and tight end Jason Harmon (6-2, 216), who bounced back from a severe knee injury and had a productive senior season in 2009. Harmon's a good blocker but also has fine hands and can gain yards after the catch.

But with all the offensive moves Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew is making, he can only hope that either Suh & McCoy can become the latest version of Mario Williams (Houston Texans), who was the defensive end selected ahead of New Orleans running back Reggie Bush.

Bush may have his championship ring but he earned it with a great team.

Williams, who played at North Carolina State, and wasn't a glamour pick, has been to two Pro Bowls since he was the No.1 pick in the 2006 draft. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in another year. Williams has been a good anchor for the Houston defense.

We all know that Lions Coach Jim Schwartz built a good defense as the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Now he's looking to duplicate that success in Detroit.

Is there another Lee Roy Selmon, the defensive end, who was the first pick in the 1976 draft by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also out of Oklahoma out here? All Selmon did was play eight seasons and in six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

As the Lions look for sleepers later in the draft and collect late round selections, are there any Jensen's and Schlesinger's available? On Saturday, Mayhew & Schwartz will have a chance to find these pieces of the puzzle in rounds 4-7.

This figures to be one of the most interesting drafts in recent history with all of the story lines out there.

Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.


Who are the Phoenix Coyotes?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

They are a team that once played in the worst NHL arena where I've ever seen a sporting event!

When the Phoenix Coyotes moved to Arizona in 1996, they played in the America West Arena for eight years which was barely large enough to fit a standard NHL rink. The building was hastily re-engineered to accommodate the 200 foot rink, and the configuration left a portion of one end of the upper deck hanging over the boards and ice, obscuring almost a third of the rink and one goal from several sections.

As a result, the capacity had to be cut down to just over 16,000---the second smallest rink at the time. For the fans to have to rely on the scoreboard to watch the action was absurd. The only thing that I gained out of my experience when watching two Red Wings games in The Valley of the Sun, was they had a tremendous following with snowbirds in the Southwest in 2000. After watching recent games, that hasn't changed.

With all due respect, the Coyotes should have played at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum which even though the building holds 13, 730 for hockey, it would have been a more fan friendly venue. The Coyotes could have charged more for the tickets but the fans would have gotten their money's worth because there isn't a bad seat in the house. In the late 1980's, I saw two Phoenix Suns games and this venue gave me a cushy feeling like the old Olympia Stadium in Detroit.

But the Coyotes are a franchise which was supposed to build a new arena in Scottsdale and even had a shopping mall demolished to accommodate the stadium. But those plans fell through.

The presence of Wayne Gretzky as a minority owner and coach had little impact as the Coyotes eventually went bankrupt.

This franchise has gone through numerous ownership changes, has had very little success on the ice as it finally made its first playoff appearance since 2002. Even announcer Darren Pang bolted for the St. Louis Blues amidst the instability.

Yet with all of these problems, I give the NHL a lot of credit for realizing it has a Sleeping Giant sitting in the Southwest as it purchased the Coyotes for $140 million from owner Jerry Moyes on October 26, 2009. The sale was finalized on November 3, 2009.

By doing this, Commissioner Gary Bettman has a first class hockey facility in the Jobing.com Arena which does hold 17,125 and cost $180 Million to build. Playing in the Glendale Sports Complex next to the Arizona Cardinals who play in the University of Phoenix Stadium, with winning comes the sellouts as both teams have experienced.

As I mentioned before, Phoenix could be a great hockey market with all of the transplants. There are plenty of "Winged Wheel" jerseys and fans in the area. The same could apply to other cold weather large market teams. Especially Chicago which does have both of it's baseball teams in the area during Spring Training.

With Bettman and the NHL buying this franchise and determined to keep the team there, he's been able to maintain rivalries with the Dallas Stars, LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. These three markets also have teams that make their Spring Training homes in Arizona.

But Bettman got the best break he could receive in this years playoffs. He has the Detroit Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes locked up in an excellent series which is tied 2-2. The Red Wings are the first ever playoff opponent for the Coyotes at the Jobing.com Arena.

I can't believe that Versus showed the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night instead of the Red Wings and Coyotes. Even though Versus wanted Sidney Crosby, you don't bypass two USA based franchises in a competitive series.

However, Bettman does have the Coyotes and Red Wings on NBC for two Sundays in a row. It's a match-up that features a marquee franchise and a resurrected one which saw Gretzky resign as coach two weeks before the start of the regular season, yet managed to win 50 games and locking up the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

I never thought I'd see the Coyotes on the NBC Game of the Week. But the ratings intrigue is indeed there. You have two great media markets featuring a dynasty and a feel good story. The Red Wings always produce good ratings which is why they're constantly featured on NBC.

I'll never forget recently at dinner with my father and nephew Branden Morganroth that when we were talking about hockey, when I was growing up, the Red Wings rarely made the playoffs plus the NHL rarely got national television coverage.

My father reminded Branden that he's had it pretty good. I also know that the Red Wings success has motivated Branden into playing hockey himself as he pursues his dream looking to eventually attain professional status.

How things have changed. The Red Wings have made the playoffs 19 straight years and Branden's never seen his local NHL team ever miss the postseason. I hope Branden doesn't miss a post-season game and with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland in charge, they're in good hands to keep the winning tradition in tact.

As for the Coyotes, even though their national appearances are at the Joe Louis Arena, any exposure figures to give them a boost!

If Jerry Reinsdorf is successful in purchasing the franchise and he's able to negotiate a sensible lease at the Jobing.com Arena, then Bettman looks like a genius for persevering and keeping this franchise afloat.

Even though the Coyotes have lost hundreds of millions of dollars and the greatest icon in hockey, I believe that if Reinsdorf lands this team, like the Chicago Bulls & White Sox, I'd predict they would be a consistent winner and championship contender. If the Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes could hoist the Stanley Cup, there is no reason that Coyotes shouldn't be able to celebrate as well.

By the same token, if Reinsdorf is unable to save this franchise, then Bettman may find himself out of options and it will end up moving to another market with a fresh start and new ownership. Although I'm not a gambler, the safe money is on Reinsdorf to make it work and $180 Million for a stadium won't become a waste of money.

Since the White Sox train in Glendale at Camelback Ranch with the LA Dodgers and the Bulls make an annual appearance to face the Phoenix Suns, there is no doubt that Reinsdorf can multi-task without shoveling snow.

It would be an unbelievable accomplishment if he's able to win a championship in three major sports leagues, the NBA, MLB and the NHL.

But please Jerry, don't let the fans throw snakes on the ice. They give me an edgy feeling and even NBC Play By Play Commentator Mike Emrick said that he could handle octopuses but hated snakes.

Yet, for now, the Red Wings get a "Major Assist" in putting the once dormant Coyotes on the Hockey Map. The Coyotes even employ former Red Wings Announcer Dave Strader, who was at the beginning of the Red Wings long playoff run.

On Sunday, NBC will once again remind us that they couldn't be happier to have their "Real Business Parter" The Detroit Red Wings making another run at the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings won four Stanley Cups in an 11-year span and have made the playoffs in 25 of the last 27.

In a year where the Butler Bulldogs made it to the NCAA Mens Basketball Championship Game, the Coyotes success is just another feel good story and we're just four months into the new decade.

Scott Morganroth's Blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

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