Going On Hiatus …

A combination of travel plans, a family event and a visit from old friends – from back in grad school days – assures that there will be no more rants this month.

My best guess is that I will be back on the air sometime between 1 June and 3 June.

Please come back then.

Stay well, all.

The Ongoing Mess At UNC

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from a reader with a link to an article in the Charlotte News & Observer dealing with the appearance that the UNC Women’s Basketball program will be the recipient of NCAA sanctions while the men’s basketball program and the football program skate with regard to the academic fraud situation there. Here are the salient parts of that e-mail:

“Perhaps this could be a rant topic for you.

“I’m a fairly cynical guy, so I can’t say I’m surprised that the two flagship revenue sports are completely clean, but women’s basketball is dirty.

“I’m also reminded of something I once read along the lines of ‘every time Auburn football has a bad year, they fire their basketball coach.’”

I suspect that the reader’s cynicism sensors have picked up a strong signal here but it is not clear to me where the responsibility for making UNC Women’s Basketball the scapegoat for the 20+ years of academic fraud perpetrated there belongs. I suggest that everyone read the report in its entirety to get a flavor of the current state of play. I will summarize it briefly here and try to identify some of the “bad guys” here:

    It is pretty obvious that UNC offered sham courses that provided academic credits – and high grades – to students who never met with professors or attended a single class. Stats show that an extraordinarily high percentage of the students taking those courses were football players and men’s basketball players.

    The fact that all students could enroll in these sham courses – and some non-athletes did – and could obtain credit for those courses means that the blame for the existence of those courses extends beyond the athletic department. The fact that the faculty and the administration of the university tolerated the existence of those sham courses is an indelible stain on the academic standing of the university itself.

    I do not believe that any of the head coaches in any of the sports at UNC suggested the creation of these sham courses nor do I believe any of them knew about them or worked to sustain them.

    I would not be shocked to learn that some assistant coaches and other athletic administrators/academic counsellors knew what was going on and that those folks actively kept information from head coaches to provide a sense of “plausible denial”.

Meanwhile, the NCAA finds itself in an interesting situation. There are no real “impermissible benefits” here; these sham courses were open to all students and these sham courses were used by the student body at large. No athletes had access to anything that was denied to any student enrolled at UNC. The NCAA mandates that students have a specific grade-point average and that they take a sufficient number of courses per academic year to be eligible. The NCAA does not – and they cannot and they should not – be an arbiter of what course content must prevail in each course taken by every athlete such that it is worthy of academic credit and inclusion in a grade-point average calculation.

However, the overriding purpose of all those NCAA rules and regulations is to prevent one school from having an on-field advantage over other schools. One way for a school to gain such an advantage is to use players who might not be really academically eligible and one way around that it to give those players A’s in courses that have no content.

Moreover, the NCAA faces the unenviable task of figuring out how to sanction teams that play for a school that is widely recognized and widely followed in both football and men’s basketball – where most of the money comes from. No matter what decision the mavens there come up with, there will be shrill voices of protest out and about in the land. That being the case, maybe the mavens will take this opportunity to get it right and punish as many of the ne’er-do-wells as it can find and to punish them severely.

The fact that I am 99% sure that is NOT what the mavens will do demonstrates my level of cynicism here…

Earlier this week, Jayson Stark wrote for ESPN.com about the delays caused by MLB’s replay rule(s). He provided data and made some suggestions. I would like to comment on them here:

    Replay delays in 2016 so far average 1 minute and 55 seconds. That is an increase over 2015 and 2014. Delays in 2014 were 1 minute 46 seconds and in 2015 were 1 minute 51 seconds. These delays are the costs associated with “getting it right”.

    So far this year, 42.5% of the replay reviews resulted in a change in the call made on the field. If the last overturned call benefited your favorite team, maybe you find that rate of return on the time spent acceptable. Personally, I do not.

    Stark suggests putting a time limit on the managers who pop up onto the top of the dugout step and wait for a signal from their “replay review mavens” with regard to the value of going out to protest. That is a hidden form of delay that precedes almost every replay challenge. I think the time should be zero. If the manager hits the top step, there should be a replay AND there should be a limit on the number of replays he can demand.

    Stark suggests that reviews should start before a challenge is made on close plays. MLB insists that is happening. Somehow, that does not pass the smell test because if it did, at least once you would see the umpire go over to the stands and put on the headset and hear the answer to the challenge immediately. He would then take off the headset in less than 2 seconds and make the ruling. Maybe MLB thinks it is happening and/or that it ought to happen, but I cannot believe it is.

    Stark suggests having a 5th umpire on every crew and that the 5th umpire would rotate into the review booth in that park for every game. Maybe that is a good idea and maybe it isn’t. I do know the umpires’ union would love the idea.

I think Jayson Stark’s best suggestion is that MLB stop reviewing “The Utley Rule”. He says umpires should make the call and that is it. That would eliminate a ton of replays all of which take a lot of time because the “slide play” and the “neighborhood play” are often ones involving inches and tenths of seconds. The reviews are lengthy and the number of challenges to base running plays at second base are significant. If MLB were to go along with that suggestion – and I think it is a good one – they could use their replays after the game to grade umpires on the correctness of their calls at second base on such plays. I can promise you that the umpires’ union would hate that idea.

Baseball games take a long time and there are too many segments of a baseball game where there is no action. Anything that will minimize – or get rid of – the 5-minute delays to scrutinize a replay as if it were the Zapruder Film is worth doing.

Finally, here is a baseball item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“David Ortiz stole a base for just the 16th time in his career. He caught the second basemen and shortstop playing Words With Friends.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The NBA Salary Cap Increases…

Today will be a tidying up day… Let me start with a report I read that said the NBA salary cap will jump from about $72M per team this year to approximately $90M next year as a result of ginormous new TV contracts kicking in. That is good news for the owners and the players; there is more money for all to share. I am not so sure however that this is completely beneficial for fans.

In addition to seeing “superstar salaries” go through the roof over the next 24 months, the other thing you are likely to see is that “role players” and “bench players” will also get big raises. Instead of that genre of player making somewhere between $2.5M and $4M per year as they tend to do today, they are going to start earning $5M and up. That is great for their personal exchequer but it also presents them with a dilemma that has practical implications.

    If “Sixth-Man Sam” is making $2.5M today and he gets a minor strain in his oblique, he may or may not tell the coach that he needs to sit out a game or two. If he is making $5M a year, he might be far more inclined to sit out with even a minor ailment because:

      a. He wants to maximize the likelihood that he will play like a $5M player when he on the court and not look like a guy the Front Office made a mistake on.

      b. He wants to maximize his stat lines because there is always another contract negotiation coming up and for “Sixth-Man Sam” the likelihood is that he does not have a 7-year deal.

I am not implying that players should play hurt no matter what; of course they should not. Nonetheless, when there are big paydays at stake, a player is logically inclined to consider every minor problem in the context of it possibly becoming a major problem. If that sort of mindset prevails, then the fans are going to watch more and more games where players sit it out. The fans who pay to go to the arenas will see more games where teams participate without their full roster and the fans who tune in to see the games on TV will watch more games of the same type. The salary cap explosion might not be a great deal for the fans…

Another downside of the cap expansion is that it comes as a result of the explosion in TV rights fees that the NBA collects. Sadly, that assures that any revolutionary thinking on the part of the league to shorten the season will be squashed immediately. There is no way the league would even consider putting a control on the flow of TV cash into its coffers; TV is major component of the revenue so putting as much content on TV is the mandate for the league.

Sadly, from a fan’s perspective, what the NBA really needs is to cut down on the number of meaningless games – say 95% of the ones played before Feb 1st – and increase the number of games it shows to fans that really matter. I have been thinking about ways to do that – without simply cutting back on the regular season and thereby removing content from the networks – and all I have come up with so far are half-baked ideas. But I shall continue to contemplate this issue and hope to have a reasonable proposal to offer somewhere down the road.

In other NBA happenings, the Memphis Grizzlies fired Dave Joerger as their coach and the Sacramento Kings snapped him up 2 days later. Joerger had been with the Grizzlies for 3 seasons and his cumulative record there was 147-99 with playoff appearances in all 3 seasons. Now, Joerger takes his coaching skill to Sacramento where he gets to try to get along with “Boogie” Cousins and crew. Oh, and he also gets to deal with a mercurial and meddlesome owner too. Consider:

    The last time the Kings made the playoffs was in 2006. That year the team fired Rick Adelman as the coach.

    Joerger is the eighth coach of the Kings since the start of the 2007 season. Only Paul Westphal managed to stay there for the equivalent of 2 full seasons (He coached 171 games).

    “Boogie Cousins arrived in 2010 – with Westphal in charge. Since his arrival in town, the Kings have gone through 5 head coaches and Joerger is the 6th.

    Good luck to Dave Joerger; he is going to need it. Oh, and I assume his agent made sure that the deal is guaranteed for whenever Joerger gets fired by the Kings.

The last thing I read about the possible move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas painted the local issue as a contest between building a football stadium or expanding the Las Vegas Convention Center. I guess I can understand why Nevada and Las Vegas cannot come up with enough money to do both projects at the same time and given my longstanding skepticism about the worth of building stadiums with public money, I am not about to advocate for one here. However, I would like to make an observation not as a citizen of Las Vegas but as an annual visitor:

    There is a Convention Center in the city near the Westgate Hotel where we often stay. I have not been inside the building but from the outside it looks big enough to house the assembly of NASA’s Space Shuttle and the parking lots around the building look big enough to park at least 10,000 cars – maybe 15,000?

    I recognize that Las Vegas is the home for some of the largest conventions and trade shows in the country. Nonetheless, I am surprised to learn that the current facility is so small and/or so antiquated that it would need an upgrade that would cost even a fraction of what a new football stadium might cost.

Obviously, this is an issue over which the citizenry and the local pols can arm-wrestle for a while. I am not taking sides in this purported struggle.

I will however comment on two things that Raiders’ owner Mark Davis said recently after meeting with some of the Las Vegas pooh-bahs. First he said that he had no intention of using Las Vegas as leverage to squeeze a favorable stadium deal out of the city of Oakland. On this point, I have to say that I believe him because I do not think that there is any way that Oakland could come up with the money to build an acceptable NFL stadium in the near future. I think Davis recognizes that.

However, he also reportedly said that putting the Raiders in Las Vegas would “bring worldwide attention to Las Vegas”. I am not so sure that is the case. In fact, I suspect that “Las Vegas” has greater name recognition worldwide than either “Oakland Raiders” or “National Football League”. That may seem like nit-picking but it does not make a lot of sense to me to try to sell the folks in Las Vegas on a “billion-dollar expenditure” on the basis that it will help Las Vegas be more widely known.

Finally, here is Bob Molinaro cutting directly to the chase in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“This year’s model: Reportedly, Caitlyn Jenner will appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated this summer – ‘wrapped in nothing but an American flag and her Olympic medal,’ as one story put it. It will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jenner’s golden decathlon performance at the Montreal Games. For some, the cover will help show how far we’ve come as a society. For others, it will demonstrate the lengths to which a magazine will go to move product.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Sports Betting – A Growth Industry…

Anyone who has read these rants for more than a short while knows where I stand with regard to sports betting:

    It should be legalized, regulated and taxed.

    Banning it is a feckless exercise because making it illegal drives it underground much the same way Prohibition drove the manufacture and sales of alcohol underground.

    People are going to wager on sporting contests despite any sort of government intervention that might be acceptable in the US social/political system.

So with those biases on the table, here is some data that might get some of the tight-asses who think that gambling is the work of the Devil to think again. A recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that the sports betting industry has been growing very rapidly in recent years and that it could be a $5B per year “industry” in Nevada very soon. Here is the trend for the sports betting handle over recent times:

    2006: $2.4B
    2012: $3.0B
    2015: $4.2B

You can see the trend there…

Some folks attribute the explosive growth recently to the use of mobile aps by the sportsbooks. Maybe that is it or maybe it is the fascination with fantasy sports – and daily fantasy sports – that has focused attention on the opportunities to wager on individual sporting outcomes. There are myriad people who play fantasy sports regularly who have never put down a wager on a single sporting event; in a sense, fantasy sports may be the “gateway drug” to sports wagering. Let me give you one vignette that will not “prove” that statement but will give you an indication as to why I am thinking along these lines.

    I have a neighbor who is a big sports fan. He is into fantasy baseball and fantasy football up to his armpits. Every reader here knows that I do not play fantasy sports but he surely does. I know that he is in at least 2 fantasy baseball leagues this year and last Fall/Winter he was in at least 3 different fantasy football leagues. He is not averse to wagering money on the outcome of those fantasy league endeavors.

    About 6 weeks ago, he asked me to explain how “half-points worked” because he saw a line on a basketball game that had one team favored by 3.5 points. He had no idea what that meant because he knew for sure that there was no such thing as a half-point shot in basketball. After I explained that to him and he understood he had another question for me.

    He wanted to know what it meant when odds were listed as -110 or +140. He is an intelligent and educated man so explaining this to him was not difficult but he is in his 60s and he had never encountered either the “half-point concept” for a spread or the common expression of odds on a money-line. [Aside: I was tempted to tell him about Total Lines but thought at that point I might overload his synapses. That lesson is deferred to some later date.]

My point here is that I believe there is a large untapped market for legal sports wagering in the US over and above the HUGE market that is already tapped by the illegal sports betting environment. There is plenty of room for growth in sports betting and the only real question is this:

    Will the growth be in the “legal sector” where it is regulated and taxed – – or – –

    Not?

In that Las Vegas Review-Journal article cited above, there are data for some recent wagering events:

    Super Bowl 50 last February had a handle of $132.5M. That is a 33% increase over the past 3 years.

    March Madness 2016 had a handle estimated at $200M. The exact figures are still being tallied in Nevada and will be reported soon.

    The Mayweather/Pacquiao fight last year had a handle of $80M all by itself.

A little over 50 years ago, Bob Dylan wrote and sang that The Times they Are a-Changin’. At the time, Dylan was talking about social change and different attitudes with regard to racism; however, today the same concept applies because the times NEED to be a-Changin’ with regard to sports betting in the US.

Now with that polemic as a backdrop, let me inform you that there are lines posted as of today for each and every NFL game for the upcoming 2016 season. That is correct; you can get down on any and all of the 256 games because a company – CG Technology – has posted lines for each game. The company provides tech support to about a dozen sportsbooks in Las Vegas including many that you have heard of and possibly visited in your times there. Yes, I realize that betting on games at this point when the first important and debilitating injury of the 2016 season has not yet happened is tantamount to playing the lottery with smaller payoffs. Nonetheless, the lines are out there if you care to go and find them – and to wager on them if you must.

For the purposes of today’s rant, I will simply list a couple of the biggest point spreads in these “Future Lines” – and from those spreads I think we can spot a perception that is out there:

    Niners at Seahawks – 14 – Sept 25 – Largest spread on the board now
    Niners at Panthers – 11.5 – Sept 18 – Second largest spread on the board now
    Browns at Bengals – 11.5 – Oct 23 – You thought the Browns would dominate?
    Niners at Cards – 10.5 – Nov 13 – Looks like a bad year for SF…

Finally, this next item needs a bit of a set-up. The 420 Games are a “series of unique athletic events taking place in CA, CO, WA & OR that promote the healthy and responsible use of cannabis.” All of the events somehow involve feature a 4.20 mile course and there is a beer tasting garden set up by a brewery in Petaluma, CA, educational speeches and of course lots of music. After the 420 Games had concluded, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times:

“The 420 Games — “The Olympics for Stoners” — took place March 26 on the Santa Monica (Calif.) Pier, but not without controversy.

“Apparently three contestants were stripped of gold medals when they passed a drug test.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………

The Obverse Of Leicester City in the EPL…

I doubt there are many folks who have more than a casual interest in sports who have not heard about Leicester City’s improbable season. They are the English Premier League champs sitting 10 points ahead of second-place Tottenham with only one game to play. The team has plans to reward its fans with a free beer and free Pizza Hut pizza; anyone with a ticket to the final game gets both. It is a great feel-good story but it masks the real drama that remains in the EPL season. There are deep feelings of unease, angst and apprehension down at the bottom of the table in “The Relegation Zone”. Here is the deal:

    Aston Villa is guaranteed to be relegated to the English Football Championship next year. They have played 37 games this season and have won only 3 of them.

    The bottom three teams get relegated; that leaves two more teams – and sets of fans – in a state of high anxiety. Here is the situation as of this morning:

      Norwich City is next to last in the table with 31 points – but they have 2 games still to play

      Three from the bottom at the moment is Newcastle with 34 points. They have only one more game.

      Four up from the bottom – but not out of the woods – is Sunderland with 35 points and still 2 games to play.

    In the EPL, a team gets 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. That means any one of these teams can make it out of the Relegation Zone when the day of reckoning comes in a week or so.

By the way, in case you are not familiar with the geography of northeastern England, Newcastle and Sunderland are about 20 miles apart. There is a long-standing rivalry going back more than 100 years. If things stay the way they are now, Newcastle will not be playing Sunderland twice in the EPL next year…

Greg Cote had this mention of Leicester City’s EPL champion ship season in the Miami Herald recently:

“Leicester City won the first EPL championship in its history against 5,000-to-1 odds. Coincidentally, those were the same odds against the Dolphins’ No. 1 selection being pictured draft-night wearing a bong gas mask.”

The Zika virus has gotten a lot attention by the UN World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control here in the US. The consequences of a Zika infection are serious indeed and the prevalence of the virus – for the moment – is in warm climates because the mosquito that is the disease vector is a warm weather insect. The virus can cause pregnant women – or women who become pregnant after encountering the virus – to give birth to severely impaired children. Two countries – Brazil and El Salvador – have suggested to the women in those countries to avoid getting pregnant until at least 2018 so that eradication of the insects and medical advances can catch up to the consequences of the virus.

Earlier, that caused some female competitors to wonder if Zika was a sufficient threat to have them opt not to participate in the Rio Olympics this summer. Men too can be infected and some male athletes wondered aloud if going to Rio was a good idea. I have not read any reports of widespread “defections” from the Olympic ranks, but it was a subject that came up. I mention this because the Zika virus has caused a change of venue in another sport – MLB.

The Pirates and Marlins had scheduled two games in Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico for 30-31 May. Puerto Rico has had confirmed cases of Zika; here is what the CDC website says about Puerto Rico:

“Local mosquito transmission of Zika virus infection (Zika) has been reported in Puerto Rico. Local mosquito transmission means that mosquitoes in the area are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people.”

The players, the MLBPA, MLB and the teams came to the decision to play those games in Miami instead of in Puerto Rico at the end of the month. As Shakespeare said:

“The better part of valor is discretion…”

Of course, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took the announcement of the change of venue and wondered about its ultimate efficacy:

“Marlins’ May 30-31 games vs. Pirates will not be played Puerto Rico as scheduled because of threat of Zika virus there. Instead the games will be played at Marlins Park, because of course we have no mosquitos in South Florida (!)”

The FIFA Ethics Committee [/chuckle] has something called “the adjudicatory chamber”. If that does not sound like a “star chamber” then I must be seriously off mark here. In any event, that “adjudicatory chamber” handed down two edicts recently and banished for life two individuals who plead guilty in the US to charges of “racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.” The two men were senior figures in the world of Latin American soccer:

    Sergio Jadue was formerly the VP of CONMEBOL (the South American Football Association) and the former President of the Chilean Football Association.

    Luis Bedoya was also a former VP of CONMEBOL and the former President of the Colombian Football Association.

Without going into the details of what they did or did not do, the edict bans these men from virtually any association with football (national or international) for life. Presumably, they can still go and buy a ticket and watch a game if they so choose, but nothing much beyond that.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Nebraska’s bowling team is ranked No. 1 in the nation.

“Who says the Cornhuskers no longer get to play in meaningful bowl games?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Kentucky Derby Weekend

Greg Cote summed up the status of horseracing as an element of the sports cosmos in 2016 with this observation in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“Nyquist wins Kentucky Derby as gates open on Triple Crown season: Nyquist showed why he was the betting favorite in Saturday’s 142nd Kentucky Derby. Still, most thoroughbred experts predict we likely won’t see an end this year to the Triple Crown drought stretching all the way back to 2015.”

We had some folks over to the house on Saturday to watch the race – and to have some mint juleps and some wine and some really nice food. None of our guests could name a single horse in the race – not even Nyquist. There was a time when one of THE prime assignments at a newspaper was “the beat writer for horseracing”. Those days are long – oh-so-long gone…

Evidently, the sportswriters who intimated – or said outright – that the Red Sox were merely saving face when they said Pablo Sandoval had a shoulder injury were incorrect. The story now is that Sandoval will undergo surgery on his left shoulder and that in all probability he will miss the rest of the 2016 season. Just so no one thinks that they need to start a GoFundMe campaign for Sandoval, he will still collect on his $17M guaranteed salary this year – – but will miss out on the potential for any performance bonuses. Prior to his injury, Sandoval went to the plate 7 times; he got 1 walk and that was it. I suspect that is not enough to trigger any of his bonus clauses.

This is only the second year of Sandoval’s guaranteed 5-year deal with the Red Sox. Here are his salaries for the future:

    2017: $17M
    2018: $18M
    2019: $18M

    Oh, and if Sandoval does not eat himself out of MLB by the end of the 2019 season there is a – snicker if you will – club option in the contract for the 2020 season at $17M (with a $5M buyout).

Unless he gets that shoulder fixed properly AND he finds a way to shed about 40-50 lbs and get into some sort of athletic condition, that contract will have to go in the Pantheon of Bad Sports Contracts. Once again, Greg Cote summarized the essence of this situation with a single brief comment in the Miami Herald:

“Yes, Pablo Sandoval played only three games for the Red Sox and was 0-for-6 before season-ending surgery. However, in that short time he did lead all AL batters in second helpings”

While I am in the mode of quoting sportswriters on current events in baseball, consider this one from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Striking out: As another MLB season with expanded replay unfolds, there’s still very little about the review system I like. After almost every close call, a manager pops out of the dugout in an obvious delaying tactic while his instant-replay gremlin analyzes the video and assesses the odds of winning a challenge. Is this baseball’s idea of keeping the games moving?”

He is right, you know.

I am sure you have heard more than enough about Eagles’ QB, Sam Bradford, being miffed at the team for trading up to take a QB with the #2 pick in the draft and how he went home and refused to participate in the team’s voluntary off-season activities. The only question in my mind is this:

    Is he being a petulant child or this this utterly infantile behavior?

However, the story gained just a tad of panache last week when Terrell Owens said that Bradford’s behavior was that of a coward. In case you think I am making that up, here is a link to the report. When I read this, here is what went through my mind:

    How desperately must this man want to see his name in the papers? He is also the guy who laments that the NFL has “blackballed him” because no team will give him a tryout when they need to replace a WR in mid-season. So, here he goes out of his way to remind everyone in every NFL Front Office why he has been labeled a locker room cancer…

    Cue Bugs Bunny: What a maroon.

Fans on the South Side of Chicago have a treat awaiting them when they go to a White Sox game at US Cellular Field. No, this is not some fat-laced sandwich concoction or a “death-by-carbos” dish. No here is what the White Sox have as a fan offering:

    The Boozy Snow Cone: What’s in a name, you say? This is crushed ice with flavored snow cone syrup PLUS vodka.

    I wonder if sales spike in those games where the Sox are trailing by 6 runs after the first two innings…?

Finally, here is an observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“I read that former Major League Baseball player Clarence Blethen is the only player to bite himself in the butt. As claims to greatness go, I’m labeling this rather lame.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

NBA Stuff Today

With the NBA Playoffs in full bloom – and with all the blowout games so far, that full bloom is polluting the air with tons of pollen indeed – there have been more than a couple of games that were decided in the final minutes when the officials “swallowed their whistles”. After issuing pabulum comments in the wake of the first couple of these events, the NBA did acknowledge that officials ignored 5 different fouls in the final moments of a Spurs/Thunder contest. The prevailing narrative in support of the “swallow the whistle philosophy” has been:

    The referees do not want to be the ones to decide the game outcome; that should be done by the players.

Here is my problem with that narrative:

    By not making those calls in the final moments of a game that should be called because the on-court actions are fouls, the referees are in fact deciding the outcome of the game by not enforcing the rules in the book.

Let me be clear here. I am not suggesting that we are looking at a 2016 outbreak of “Tim Donaghy Influenza”; if long-term NBA conspiracy theorists want to include these recent events into their decades-long narrative about Front Office edicts over who wins and loses specific playoff games, so be it. Nonetheless, the recent spate of “no-calls” or “missed calls” has been so widespread that I have begun to wonder if the NBA has sent its officials to some sort of joint training program with WWE referees.

I do not agree with the idea that officials should change the way they call a basketball game in the final moments with only one exception:

    If there are two minutes to play in any game – regular season or playoffs – and one team is winning by 35 points, the only time I would blow a whistle would be if the ball went out of bounds or if a foul occurred that was so egregious that it might draw a personal foul penalty in the NFL.

In the circumstance above, the idea is to get the game over with. The only calls that need to be made there are ones that maintain order. However, if the score difference is 3 points and there are 30 seconds left on the clock, every foul and every violation may be critical calls with regard to the outcome. If the “players are to decide the outcome” then the officials have to make all of the proper calls to enable the players to do so.

Speaking of the NBA Playoffs, there is a story that I find uplifting in and among the stories about poor officiating. Chris Bosh has a blood clot on one of his lungs and clots in his leg. The pulmonary condition was diagnosed more than a year ago and he has missed a lot of playing time last year; the leg clots were detected this year and he has been out of action for a couple of months. These conditions are not like a blown-out knee when can be rehabbed with a lot of work; blood clots may be treated and controlled, but when/if they break loose, they can be fatal. He has a condition that could kill him – not “kill his career”; I mean kill his body.

Chris Bosh is on medication and he wants to play for the Heat in the playoffs. The team can obviously benefit from having his talent available to them in the playoffs, but the team has refused to put him on the active roster. The Miami Heat is acting contrary to its short-term interests and in favor of Bosh’s long-term interests and the team’s long-term interests too. That sort of behavior is not prevalent in the world of professional sports and I find it laudatory.

Well, I am on an NBA track today, so let me tell you about another story that came out earlier this week. Recall that the NBA decided on a “trial program” to allow teams to sport a 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch patch on their uniforms bearing a sponsor’s logo. Well, earlier this week, the league informed the teams about what sorts of sponsors were permissible and what sorts of sponsors were impermissible. According to a report on CBSSports.com, here are the ones that are not going to be allowed:

    Alcohol: An interesting banishment here – teams can sell beer in the arenas but cannot wear a 6.25 square inch patch that has a beer brand logo on it. Hmmm…

    Tobacco: Perfectly understandable. Some will decry this as overly politically correct; I think those pronouncements are silly.

    Politics: Perfectly understandable. Might someone take this to the Supreme Court claiming the patch is “protected political expression”? I hope not.

    Media company: Understandable. They do not want patches for “Network X” on players while the games are on “Network Y”.

    Nike competitors: Understandable. Nike has the contract to make all the uniforms and display the Swoosh; they do not need mixed messages there.

    Gambling: Another interesting banishment. FanDuel has “partnerships” with about half the teams in the NBA so will Fan Duel – and or Draft Kings – be allowed to buy a team’s patch?

As is always the case, making a list of things that are not allowed opens the door to things that are not on the list but might be out of line with the sort of image that the league might want to maintain. For example:

    Condoms
    Bordellos
    PETA
    Colon Cleansers
    Westboro Baptist Church – – I could go on here but you get the idea…

Finally, let me close with a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding an NBA player from times past:

“Astronaut Scott Kelly has returned from a year in space only to learn he is two inches taller than when he left.

“Somewhere Muggsy Bogues is saying, ‘Now they tell me.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Bad Meat…

Earlier this week, the NFL and the NFLPA sent a warning note to all NFL players with the logo of both organizations at the top. Here is the text of that warning note:

“There is evidence that some meat produced in China and Mexico may be contaminated with clenbuterol, an anabolic agent which is banned by the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. Consuming large quantities of meat while visiting those particular countries may result in a positive test for clenbuterol in violation of the Policy.

“Players are warned to be aware of this issue when traveling to Mexico and China. Please take caution if you decide to consume meat and understand that you do so at your own risk.

“Please remember that as stated in the NFL Policy for Performance-enhancing Substances: ‘Players are responsible for what is in their bodies.’”

I am not about to go off on a tangent here wondering why the FDA is not issuing such a general notice and/or why meat imports from either country do not have a warning sticker on them when they are in our supermarkets. These are not politically-oriented rants; these are sports rants. So, I would prefer to point out two things here:

    According to the official NFL schedule recently released, on Monday, 21 November 2016, the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Texans will tee it up for MNF in Mexico City. I suspect that neither team will be flying into Mexico City the morning of the game; the NFL has other rules on the books that require visiting teams to be in the game city at least a day ahead of time; in this case where neither team is playing in its home venue, I presume that rule applies to both teams. Therefore:

      Are all the players supposed to “go vegetarian” for the time they are on site preparing for the MNF game? Or …

      Are both teams supposed to pack in their own meat products for team consumption? Or …

      Are players on those two teams going to “get a pass” in case they test for clenbuterol two weeks after that game?

    Oh, here is another one … The NFL maven in charge of expanding the brand internationally also said that he wants teams to figure out how to stage NFL exhibitions in China. About a month ago, he suggested that the NFL was committed to playing a regular season game in China in 2018. I think the same three questions would obtain in that situation.

Well, it happened. Leicester City clinched the title in the English Premier League for this season. The team that was 5,000 to 1 to win the league when play began last Fall is indeed the league champ. You will hear and read loads of things about how they accomplished this and how improbable it was and what a great feel-good story it is. I want to focus on the money…

CBSSports.com reports that Leicester City could earn $218M by winning this championship. Here is the link to that report and the number cited is an estimate from a sports marketing entity in Europe. However, it is important to note that Leicester City only graduated to the EPL in 2014 after spending ten years in the Champions League in England – the highest of the “minor leagues” there. Only once in the club’s 132-year history have they finished as high as 2nd in the Premier League and that was back in 1929.

Last year – their first season in the EPL after promotion – was a rocky one. They were mired deep in the relegation zone with 9 games to play but the team won 7 of their final 9 games to finish comfortably in 14th place in the EPL Table. [Aside: The teams that finish 18th, 19th and 20th are the ones that are relegated to the Champions League each year.] Oddsmakers were unimpressed by those final 9 games last year and set the odds on Leicester City at 5000 to 1 to win the EPL this year – and now bookmakers are paying out huge sums.

According to this report from CBSSports.com, bookmakers in England alone will lose $11.4M on these payouts. Some of the books in England mitigated some of their losses by paying off bettors before the end of the season at reduced odds; other bettors chose to hang on and will collect the full amount of their wagers. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the total damage done to sportsbooks in England and in Nevada will be $15M and this report indicates some of the early wagers placed in Las Vegas on Leicester City.

Leicester City’s win here reinforces a fundamental belief deep in the psyche of every gambler:

    Low probability events happen every day…

Finally, I said above that these are sports rants and not political rants. Nonetheless, sometimes sports and politics intersect as with this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Meanwhile, Bobby Knight introduced Donald Trump at an Indiana rally.

“At first, everyone thought Knight was just another protester when he threw a chair and kicked the Gatorade cooler.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter Two

Now that your eyeballs have stopped spinning in their sockets from yesterday’s lengthy – and often turgid – offering, let me get back to business. [Aside: I promise this will not be nearly as long as yesterday.] I recognize that folks will differ on some of the judgment calls I made yesterday regarding individual players. I also recognize that some folks would prefer to use something other than a 4-point scale to categorize the individual players. I have no intention – or interest – in trying to convince anyone that my way is the only way to do this or even the best way out of many ways to do this.

Having said that, the categorizations I proposed and populated yesterday represent the way I think about this issue. Now, if I am going to try to expand on the outcomes of taking QBs in the first round of the NFL Draft, I will certainly be in the best position to do so if I start from my own way of thinking about the subject. As they say on the car ads on TV:

“Your mileage may vary…”

Based on yesterday’s data dump, there have been 80 quarterbacks selected in the first rounds of the NFL Drafts since 1980 – not counting the 2016 draft that happened last week. In case you did not do the counting – and assuming that I counted correctly – here is the distribution of QBs in my 4 categories:

    There were 18 Franchise Players
    There were 15 Good Players
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

The first thing that I notice about those statements above is that they do not represent anything resembling a “normal distribution”. There are about as many Busts as there are entries in the “Top 2” categories. If I were to collapse the categories to a 3-point scale and combine the Franchise Players and the Good Players into one category – let me call it Worthwhile Selections – the distribution would look like this:

    There were 33 Worthwhile Selections
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

To use a baseball analogy, that looks like a “Dave Kingman Distribution”. Teams either hit a home run with a first round pick or they strike out. However, with all of the scouting and scrutiny and analysis that goes into these sorts of selections, it is not intuitively obvious to me how that is the outcome. However, I have a hypothesis here …

First, I am not trying to take sides in the ongoing argument about whether “modern analytics” is superior to the “old eyeball test”. I believe that both schools of thought have merit and have limitations. My suggested explanation for this “boom-or-bust” distribution of draft outcomes takes into account teams that may favor either methodology in terms of building their draft board.

Here is the basis of my hypothesis:

    College football is fundamentally a different game situation from NFL football.

The game itself is basically the same in terms of the size of the field and the length of the game and the majority of the rules that govern the game. However, the on-field aspects of college football and NFL football are quite different in much the same way that college football is different from high school football or Pop Warner football. Today, I just want to consider differences between college and pro football because that is where I believe the vagaries of the selection process reside.

I believe that the enormous difference in the overall talent level between college games and NFL games creates a distortion that is difficult to compensate for whether a team is using advanced analytics or grizzled veteran scouting reports. Focusing only on the quarterback position here, a college quarterback will sometimes face a defense that has no one on the field with sufficient athletic ability ever to play in the NFL. If that quarterback is from Lake Woebegone High School – and therefore above average like every other kid in that school system – he ought to look pretty good. He should have a nice stat sheet for the advanced analytics folks to feed to their algorithms and he should look “poised” “dominant” and “in command” to the veteran scout up there in the booth.

Sure, there are a few teams every year that can field a defense with 5 NFL quality athletes but none of them puts 11 defenders of that caliber on the field. So, a young QB who was a standout in college still has never seen or had to deal with opposition that is nearly as competent as the ones he will face in the NFL. The performance of many college QBs “looks better than it is” to the eyes of a scout and the stat lines gathered up by many college QBs “produce numbers that will never be close to duplicated” when faced with NFL defenses. My point here is that the evaluation process is inherently flawed no matter which approach a team chooses. The basis of that inherent flaw is the fundamental difference between college football and NFL football.

    [Aside: I believe this is the same “problem” that faces the “analysts” who assign five-star ratings to high school players as they graduate to college football and why so many five-star recruits turn out to be something less than that.]

If my hypothesis is correct, that would explain to some degree why teams drafting QBs in the first round have a roughly equal chance of making a Worthwhile Selection (41.25%) as they do in drafting a Bust (38.75%). The reason you are not likely to read many reports that champion this hypothesis is that the logical consequence of this hypothesis being correct has significant economic consequences – none of them positive – for segments of the sporting world:

    All the folks who spend months trumpeting their “draft boards” on radio and TV leading from the kickoff of the college season to late April would lose stature – – and income.

    All the folks who produce Mock Drafts – there is at least one out already for the 2017 NFL Draft! – would have to do so in sotto voce.

    All the folks who earn their livings traveling to college campuses to watch practices and then college games and talking to coaches might see their expense accounts curtailed.

There is little reason for lots of people even to think along the lines presented here. That does not mean they are right any more than it means I am right. I said what I put forth is a hypothesis not a law.

Another aspect of the drafting of first round QBs that is interesting based on the data from yesterday is that there are good years for QBs and there are bad years for QBs. However, the “bad years for QBs” break down into two categories:

    Bad Year Alpha: No QBs taken in the first round at all indicates that whatever methods of analysis were used to evaluate the crop of eligible QBs in that year found all of them “wanting”.

    Bad Year Beta: Teams that took a QB in the first round got a bust – no matter where they took their QB in the first round.

There were 4 Bad Year Alphas:

    1984: Despite the fact that no QBs went in the first round, there were 3 QBs taken in later rounds who had significant success:

      Boomer Esiason (Round 2) and Jeff Hostetler (Round 3) both took teams to the Super Bowl game.

      Jay Schroeder (Round 3) took a team to the AFC Championship game.

    1985: The best NFL QBs from this crop were Randall Cunningham (Round 2) and Doug Flutie (Round 11).

    1988: Stan Humphries (Round 6) led the Chargers to the Super Bowl once.

    1996: In retrospect, there is a good reason no team took a QB in the first round this year. When you have to debate “Who was the best QB taken this year?” and your choices are Danny Kannel and Tony Banks …

Call those “Bad Year Alphas” bleak all you want, the six Bad Year Betas listed below are much worse because in those years, teams that needed QB help spent a valuable asset – a first round pick – and no matter who they chose, they came up dry.

    1981: The Packers used the #6 overall pick on Rich Campbell. I must confess that I had forgotten the name “Rich Campbell” in the context of “football player” at either the college or NFL level until I did the research to write yesterday’s data compilation.

    1991: The Seahawks took Dan McGwire at #16 and the Raiders took Todd Marinovich at #24. Not only did both of them miss badly with those picks, they managed to pass on Brett Favre who was drafted in Round 2.

    1992: The Bengals took David Klingler at #6 and the Broncos took Tommy Maddox at # 25. Neither team got much of a return on their investment here…

    1997: The Niners took Jim Druckenmiller at #26. If he was the answer for the Niners, I do not know what the question was…

    2002: Talk about a Bad Year Beta for first round QBs… I doubt that anyone unrelated by blood to these three draftees would suggest that they had laudable NFL careers:

      David Carr #1 to the Texans
      Joey Harrington #3 to the Lions
      Patrick Ramsey #32 to the Skins

    2007: The Raiders spent the overall #1 pick on JaMarcus Russell and the Browns used the #22 pick to take Brady Quinn. That is simply depressing…

Before I wrap this up, allow me to let a bit of sunshine into the discussion here. There were banner years/vintage crops of NFL QBs in 3 of the drafts over the last 35 years. The first round in those years was highly productive:

    1983: John Elway, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino

    1995: Steve McNair and Kerry Collins

    2004: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The data suggest that taking a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft is a gamble. Sometimes it hits and the return on “investment” is huge; other times you go home with a hole in your pocket. Therefore, it seems appropriate at this point to offer up a few observations that folks have made with regard to the subject of gambling:

“In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win.” (George Bernard Shaw)

And …

“Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.” (John Dewey)

And …

“Luck never gives; it only lends.” (Swedish Proverb)

And …

“A gambler never makes the same mistake twice. It’s usually three or more times.” (Unknown) [Aside: the Browns have drafted a QB in the first round of the draft 4 times since 1999 and all of them have been Busts.]

Finally, I hope these last two Topical Rants have been satisfactory to “david” whose comment 6 weeks ago got me started. I enjoyed the data compilation and the fact that the data got me thinking about why only about 40% of first round QBs turn out to be Good Players or Franchise Players was a plus. So, let me say that if any other readers have thoughts about what might be interesting topics in the future, I remain happy to entertain them.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter One

Back on 16 March 2016, a reader signed in as “david” suggested – in a comment – that I do a review of quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft who did little or nothing for the team that took them. Here is his comment in full:

“You should do a piece on first round qb’s that have bombed out after confuting little or nothing to the team that drafted them. It would be an interesting trip down memory lane!”

That sounded like a good idea – and a lot of research work. So, I thought about how to do something meaningful along those lines while committing myself to a reasonable expenditure of effort. I knew from the outset that I was not going to go back to the mid-1930s and look at every NFL Draft in history. I will leave that sort of thing to the team of Mel Kiper, Sr. and Mel Kiper, Jr.

Here is what I decided to try to do. I would look at all of the NFL Drafts back to 1980 and specifically look at each QB taken in the first round year by year. I will categorize those quarterbacks in 4 groupings:

    Franchise Player
    Good Player
    Straphanger
    Bust

I would then try to point out QBs who went below Round 1 who turned out – possibly – to fit in either of the top two categories here and I will look to see if any great players at other positions were taken a pick or two below any of the Round 1 QBs who were a Bust. The reason for that sort of “piling on” is to demonstrate what benefit may have accrued to the team making the bad selection.

So, with those ground rules, let me begin this trip down Memory Lane in 1980:

    Overall #15: Marc Wilson – Oakland Raiders: He was with the Raiders for 8 years and then the Pats for another 2 years. The fact that he lasted 10 years in the league means he could not have been a Bust but he was nothing more than a Straphanger. Over his career he threw 86 TDs and 102 INTs. Meh!

    Overall #28: Mark Malone – Pittsburgh Steelers: He lasted 7 years with the Steelers and then 1 year each with the Chargers and the Jets. Like Wilson, he was a Straphanger based on longevity in the league. For his career, he threw 60 TDs and 81 INTs.

    Probably the best QB taken that year below the first round was Eric Hipple in the 4th round by the Detroit Lions.

In 1981:

    Overall #6: Rich Campbell – Green Bay Packers: He was with the Packers for 4 seasons starting 0 games and appearing in only 7 games. I think you would have to say he was a Bust taken with the #6 pick in the first round.

      Two picks later, the Niners took Ronnie Lott who managed to go on to a Hall of Fame career…

    In later rounds in that draft, Neil Lomax went in the 2nd round and Wade Wilson went in the 8th round. They were probably the cream of the QB crop that year.

Moving ahead to 1982:

    Overall #4: Art Schlichter – Baltimore Colts: If I have to justify to you why I put Schlichter in the “Bust” category, you probably should not read on much further.

      Just 4 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Mike Munchak who was a Hall of Fame quality OL for 12 years and just 6 picks later the LA Raiders took Marcus Allen who too went on to a Hall of Fame career.

    Overall #5: Jim McMahon – Chicago Bears: He won a Super Bowl with “Da Bears” and was in the NFL for 15 seasons with 6 different teams. He was certainly a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of that draft, there were no good QBs taken; perhaps the best of that lot was Mike Pagel – also taken by the Colts in Round 4.

Let me just say that the 1983 NFL Draft was a vintage year for QBs:

    Overall #1: John Elway – Baltimore Colts traded to Denver Broncos: Clearly a Franchise Player and a Hall of Fame inductee, John Elway is certainly one of the Top Ten QBs ever to play in the NFL – and maybe one of the Top Three.

    Overall #7: Todd Blackledge – KC Chiefs: I would have to put Blackledge in the “Bust Category” given where he was taken and which other QBs were still on the board when the Chiefs took him. He hung around for 7 seasons but only appeared in 46 games. For his career, his completion percentage was only 48.1%

      Just 2 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Bruce Matthews who merely spent the next 19 seasons as an anchor of the Oilers’/Titans’ offensive lines and made it to the Hall of Fame.

    Overall #14: Jim Kelly – Buffalo Bills: He may never have won a Super Bowl but he was the QB of a team that went there 4 years in a row and he is in the Hall of Fame. Obviously, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #15: Tony Eason – New England Patriots: He had an 8-year career and was the starting QB for the Pats in the Super Bowl against the Bears – which did not end well for the Pats. Nonetheless, I would have to categorize him as a Straphanger.

    Overall #24: Ken O’Brien – NY Jets: He had a 10-year career, 9 of which were with the Jets. He threw 128 TDs in his career against 98 INTs. I would put him on the list of Good Players.

    Overall #27: Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins: He is very deservedly in the Hall of Fame and therefore fits in here as a Franchise Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1983 NFL Draft, the next QB taken was not until the 5th round. Babe Laufenberg was taken in Round 6 and became “famous” in DC as an “Exhibition Game Wonderboy” and Gary Kubiak was taken in Round 8 and went on to a long backup-QB career and now a Super Bowl winning coach.

After the bonanza of QBs the year before, here is what happened in 1984:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 38th pick; it was Boomer Esiason by the Cincy Bengals. Jeff Hostetler and Jay Schroeder were both taken in Round 3 that year.

In 1985:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft once again.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 37th pick; it was Randall Cunningham by the Philly Eagles.

    Way down in Round 11 with the 285th overall pick, the LA Rams took Doug Flutie…

Now on to 1986:

Overall #3: Jim Everett – Houston Oilers: Everett spent most of his 11-year career with the LA Rams. He was a Good Player; for his career he threw 203 TDs to 175 INTs and completed 57.7% of his passes for his career.

Overall #12: Chuck Long – Detroit Lions: He was in the NFL 6 years but only appeared in 26 games. He started 21 games and the team record in those games was 4-17. His stats are underwhelming and even giving him some leeway because he played for the Lions, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

    Surprisingly, since the Lions are as hexed a franchise as there is, they did not miss out on any Hall of Fame quality players near their pick of Chuck Long in the 1986 draft. John Williams was available; he went to the Seahawks where he had a 10-year career with 2 Pro Bowl years.

In the later rounds of the 1986 draft, Bubby Brister went in the 3rd round to the Steelers. Mark Rypien went in the 6th round to the Skins; he had one GREAT year and won a Super Bowl with the Skins.

In 1987:

    Overall #1: Vinny Testaverde – Tampa Bay Bucs: Simply based on the fact that he played NFL football for 21 years – he started 6 games for the Panthers in 2007 at age 44 – I have to categorize him as a Good Player.

    Overall #6: Kelly Stouffer – St. Louis Cardinals: He played parts of 4 seasons for the Seahawks and for his career he threw 7 TDs and 19 INTs. I think you have to call him a Bust.

      Three picks after Stouffer, the Eagles picked Jerome Brown who had an excellent career cut short by a fatal traffic incident and four picks after Stouffer the Steelers took Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson.

    Overall #13: Chris Miller – Atlanta Falcons: He was in the NFL for 10 seasons – 7 of which were with the Falcons. He threw 123 TDs and only 102 INTs but unless you are one of the Falcon Faithful, I suspect you cannot recall any critical moment in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #26: Jim Harbaugh – Chicago Bears: He was in the NFL for 14 years started in 5 playoff games; threw more TDs than INTs and completed 58.8% of his throws. He was a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1987 draft, the New England Patriots took Rich Gannon in Round 4. He was a 4-time Pro Bowl selection and was All Pro 3 times in his career and he was the QB for the Raiders in the Super Bowl. In Round 10, the Green Bay Packers took Don Majkowski whose “claim to fame” is that when he was injured, the guy who took over his job was someone named Bret Favre…

Moving ahead to 1988:

    There were no QBs taken in Round 1 in 1988. In fact, there were no QBs taken in Round 2 that year either.

    The first QB taken was in Round 3; it was Tom Tupa taken by the Phoenix Cardinals. Tupa would have a much longer career as a punter in the NFL than as a QB.

    Perhaps the best QB in this draft was Stan Humphries taken in Round 6 by the Skins. Humphries was the QB of the Chargers’ team that was the AFC Champion in 1994.

The 1989 NFL Draft was a good one overall if not rich in QBs:

    Overall #1: Troy Aikman – Dallas Cowboys: He is a multiple Super Bowl winner and a member of the Hall of Fame. Clearly, he is a Franchise Player.

      The pick after Aikman was monumental bust, Tony Mandarich.

      However, after Manderich, the next 3 players taken all wound up in the Hall of Fame – Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

    In the later rounds, the QB who had the “best” NFL career was Rodney Peete.

In 1990:

    Overall #1: Jeff George – Indiana Colts: From his right shoulder to the fingertips on his right hand, Jeff George was a great QB. His problem is that he wore out his welcome on 5 teams between 1990 and 2001. His physical skills are too great to call him a Bust but his behavior demands that he be nothing more than a Straphanger.

    Overall #7: Andre Ware – Detroit Lions: He was on the Lions’ roster for 4 seasons. In that time, he started 6 games and produced no stats that made anyone sit up and take notice. He was a Bust.

      10 picks later in the 1990 NFL Draft, the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith who had more than an excellent career in the NFL.

    In the later rounds, Neil O’Donnell went to the Steelers in Round 3. Scott Mitchell went to the Dolphins in Round 4. John Friez went to the Chargers in Round 6.

If the 1990 draft looked like slim pickings at QB, just wait until you see 1991:

    Overall #16: Dan McGwire – Seattle Seahawks: One of his claims to fame is that he is Mark McGwire’s brother. He was on the Seahawks’ roster for 4 years and then he played 1 game for the Dolphins. He appeared in 13 games and started 5. I cannot convince myself that he was anything other than a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Cincy Bengals took DE, Alfred Williams who registered 59.5 sacks over his career.

    Overall #24: Todd Marinovich – LA Raiders: He was on the Raiders’ roster for 2 years and did nothing notable on the field. Off the field, he had more than a few substance abuse issues. He was clearly a Bust.

      One pick after Marinovich was taken, the Niners took DL Ted Washington who was an anchor at that position for years.

    In the later rounds of the 1991 draft, the Atlanta Falcons took Brett Favre in the 2nd round and then traded him away to Green Bay a year later.

The QB drought continued into 1992:

    Overall #6: David Klingler – Cincy Bengals: In six years in the NFL, Klingler started 24 games and his record in those games was 4-20. Need I say more…? He was a Bust.

      Two picks later the Atlanta Falcons selected Bob Whitfield who was an excellent OT over a career that spanned 220 games.

    Overall #25: Tommy Maddox – Denver Broncos: He did nothing for the Broncos, the Rams or the Giants before being ushered out of the NFL for about 5 years. He was a star QB in the XFL and then played for the Steelers for a couple of years. His best season was in 2002 when he started 11 games and led the Steelers to a 7-3-1 record in those games. Overall, I would call him a Bust as a first round pick.

      Six picks later, the Bengals took Carl Pickens who was a stalwart WR over a 129 game NFL career.

    In the later rounds of the 1992 draft, the QBs who had the “best careers” were probably Craig Ericson and/or Jeff Blake. See what I mean about a QB drought…?

Moving on to 1993:

    Overall #1: Drew Bledsoe – New England Patriots: Over a 14-year NFL career, Bledsoe averaged 230 yards per game passing and threw 251 TDs as opposed to 206 INTs. He once threw for 4555 yards in a single season. He led the Pats to the Super Bowl against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I would say he was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #2: Rick Mirer – Seattle Seahawks: He spent 4 years with the Seahawks and one year with the Bears before bouncing around to several other teams. His 50 TDs compared to 76 INTs is not very good; his 24-44 record in games that he started at QB is not very good either. Had he played a bit longer, I would have called him a Straphanger but with his short career and his being the overall #2 pick, I have to label him a Bust.

      Six picks after the Seahawks took Mirer, the New Orleans Saints selected OT Willie Roaf who was a dominant OT for 189 games and is now a member of the Hall of Fame.

    In the later rounds of the 1993 draft, the Packers took Mark Brunell in the 5th round; that was a “value pick”. In the 8th round, the Chargers took Trent Green.

Turning the page to 1994:

    Overall #3: Washington Skins – Heath Shuler: He was a Bust – plain and simple as that. Too add insult to injury, several years after the NFL bid him goodbye, Shuler returned to DC as a member of the US Congress whereupon he reprised his non-performing behavior.

      With the next pick after Heath Shuler, the New England Patriots took Willie McGinnest. He was anything but a Bust…

    Overall #6: Trent Dilfer – Tampa Bay Bucs: He was neither great nor awful for the Bucs over the first 6 years of his career. In 2000 he stepped in for an injured Tony Banks at QB and the Ravens went on to win Super Bowl XXXV. He was a backup in Seattle for 4 seasons and then was the starter for Cleveland for most of 2006. Overall, I would label him a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds that year, the next QB taken went in the 4th round. His name was Perry Klein and he went to the Falcons. If his name rings no bells for you, that might be because he never completed a pass in an NFL game. Probably the most accomplished QB in the late rounds of the 1994 draft was Gus Frerotte taken by the Skins in the 7th round. This was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1995:

    Overall #3: Steve McNair – Houston Oilers: Over his long career, he threw 174 TDs and only 119 INTs. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Kerry Collins – Carolina: He had an 18-year career in the NFL with 6 teams. He led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game and the Giants to the Super Bowl game against the Ravens. I would call him a Franchise Player. If you were to argue vehemently that he should be “downgraded” to a Good Player, I would offer token resistance.

    In the later rounds of the 1995 draft, Todd Collins went to the Bills in the 2nd round and Kordell Stewart went to the Steelers in the 2nd round.

Moving on to 1996:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

    In the later rounds, Tony Banks was the first QB taken; he went in the 2nd round to the St. Louis Rams. Banks was the most accomplished QB in this year’s draft. Probably the second most accomplished QB was Danny Kannel who went in the 4th round to the Giants. Once again, this was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1997:

    Overall #26: Jim Druckenmiller – SF 49ers: He appeared in all of 6 games in his career throwing 1 TD and 4 INTs. I think he is a Bust.

      About 10 picks later, the NY Giants selected Tiki Barber who had a more than adequate NFL career before going on to have a less than adequate broadcasting career.

    In the later rounds, the Arizona Cardinals took Jake Plummer in the 2nd round. Plummer was probably the only QB in this draft of any consequence – unless you count Koy Detmar who as a 7th round pick appeared in 104 NFL games.

QBs were at the top of the draft list in 1998:

    Overall #1: Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts: He is a Franchise Player; there is no need to discuss that further.

    Overall #2: Ryan Leaf – San Diego Chargers: He is a Bust; there is no need to discuss that further.

      Two picks after Ryan Leaf, the Oakland Raiders selected Charles Woodson who is not yet in the Hall of Fame but will be soon enough.

    In the later rounds, the Lions took Charlie Batch in the 2nd round and the Broncos took Brian Griese in the 3rd round. However, the biggest “value pick” that year was the Packers selection of Matt Hasselbeck late in the 6th round.

QBs were once again at the top of the draft list in 1999:

    Overall #1: Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns: He started 59 games for the Browns over 5 seasons and his record in those games was 22-37. Even factoring in that he was taken by an expansion franchise, he was a Bust.

    Overall #2: Donovan McNabb – Philly Eagles: He led the Eagles to the playoffs 7 times and to the Super Bowl once. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #3: Akili Smith – Cincy Bengals: He started 17 games over 4 seasons with the Bengals. His record in those games was 3-14. He was a stone-cold Bust.

      Two of the three QBs taken here were Busts so let us look at what was available soon after these three picks. Well, the next 4 picks in this draft were:

        Edgerrin James
        Ricky Williams
        Tory Holt
        Champ Bailey

      ‘Nuff said…

    Overall #11: Duante Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings: He was a Good Player until he encountered a horrific knee injury.

    Overall #12: Cade McNown – Chicago Bears: He lasted 2 years with the Bears and started 15 games with a record of 3-12. He was a Bust.

      Three picks after McNown, Booger McFarland went to the Bucs and the pick after that was Jevon Kearse who went to the Titans.

    In the later rounds this year, Shaun King was taken in the 2nd round by the Bucs and Aaron Brooks was taken in the 4th round by the Saints. They had the best careers of any other late round QBs in this draft. While neither King nor Brooks had good careers, they were more valuable than Couch, Smith and McNown who were in that first round tsunami of QBs.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2000:

Overall #18: Chad Pennington – NY Jets: He had an 11-year career with the Jets and Dolphins. Overall as a starter, he was 44-37. He was a Good Player.

In the later rounds this year, Tom Brady famously went to the Patriots in the 6th round with the 199th overall pick. The only other late-round QB who had any sort of career other than stop-gap was Marc Bulger taken in the 3rd round.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2001: (Is there an echo here?)

    Overall #1: Michael Vick – Atlanta: Before his conviction involving the dogfighting business, which cost him two years for “violation of the league personal conduct policy” because he was in jail, Vick had 6 productive seasons with the Falcons. Overall, he was a Good Player even though for part of his career he was not a “Good Person”.

    In the later rounds, the Chargers took Drew Brees with the first pick of the 2nd round and Brees continues to have an excellent career through today. Of the other QBs taken, AJ Feeley – taken in the 5th round by the Eagles – probably had the best career.

In 2002:

    Overall #1: David Carr – Houston Texans: He did not have a long or a distinguished career but part of that “failure” has to be attributed to the fact that he played behind a terrible expansion-team offensive line. In his first 4 seasons with the Texans, he was the most-sacked QB in the league for 3 of those seasons; in 2002, he was sacked 76 times in 16 games. As an overall #1 pick, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

      The player taken immediately after David Carr was Julius Peppers by the Carolina Panthers.

    Overall #3: Joey Harrington – Detroit Lions: Clearly, he was a Bust. What surprised me in checking his stats is that he started 76 games in the NFL. If I had guessed prior to peeking at the stats, I would have guessed 30.

      Two picks later, the Chargers selected Quentin Jammer who was a good DB for about 10 years.

    Overall # 32: Patrick Ramsey – Washington Skins: He played on some bad teams; but, importantly, he did not make them much better. He was a Bust.

      The Skins had the rest of the draft to select from instead of Ramsey but did not because – according to Danny Boy Snyder – he had “found” Ramsey at Tulane so the Skins traded up into the first round to get him for the “Owner/Scout”.

    In the later rounds of the 2002 draft, the QB pickings were slim. Josh McCown went in Round 3 to the Arizona Cardinals; while he is not any sort of “difference-maker”, he has had a longer and significantly better career than any of the first-round QBs from this year. David Garrard was taken by the Jags in Round 4; he was the only other QB in this draft of note.

After the bleak results of 2002, things improved – sort of – in 2003:

    Overall #1: Carson Palmer – Cincy Bengals: He is still going strong with the Cardinals; when I look at his career as a whole, I would call him a Franchise Player.

    Overall #7: Byron Leftwich – Jax Jaguars: He was in the NFL through 2012; however, in his 10-year career, he only played in 60 games. He threw 58 TDs and only 42 INTs in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #19: Kyle Boller – Baltimore Ravens: I remember one of the talking heads saying that Boller could throw a football through the uprights from 50 yards away with one knee on the ground. Wonderful – – except QBs never do anything like that. He was Bust.

      Two picks later, the Browns took Jeff Faine who was one of the best centers in the league for about 10 years.

    Overall #22: Rex Grossman – Chicago Bears: I read recently that Grossman is technically not yet retired even though he has not been on an NFL team since 2013. In his 11 seasons, he has led a team to a Super Bowl game (Bears in 2006) but he has only appeared in a total of 54 games in his entire career. I will categorize him as a Straphanger because of that one season in Chicago, but if you want to call him a Bust, be my guest.

    In the later rounds, Seneca Wallace taken by the Seahawks in Round 4 had the most distinguished career.

Things improved significantly for QBs in 2004:

    Overall #1: Eli Manning – San Diego Chargers traded to the NY Giants: He has won 2 Super Bowls; he has thrown 294 TDs and only 199 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #4: Philip Rivers – NY Giants traded to the San Diego Chargers: He has thrown 281 TDs and only 135 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #11: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers: Come on now, of course he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #22: JP Losman – Buffalo Bills: He only played in 45 games in the NFL and in my less-than-kinder moments I sometimes referred to him as “JP Loser-man”. He was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the St. Louis Rams took RB, Steven Jackson, who has gained a total of 11,438 yards to date.

    In the later rounds in 2004, the Falcons took Matt Schaub in the 3rd round. He was the only QB in the later rounds who did anything of note in the NFL.

In 2005:

    Overall #1: Alex Smith – SF 49ers: He is the Rodney Dangerfield of QBs; he is a lot better than his critics make him out to be. As a starter, he is 68-52-1; he has thrown 142 TDs with only 83 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player. If you think he is a Good Player, I will argue that he is a Very Good Player…

    Overall #24: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers: Without question, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #25: Jason Campbell – Washington Skins: The Skins traded up to get him and all they got was a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds, Kyle Orton went in the 4th round to the Bears, Derek Anderson went in the 6th round to the Ravens and Matt Cassel went in the 7th round to the Pats. Of the late round selections this year, Ryan Fitzpatrick went in the 7th round to the Rams and I was surprised to see that he has thrown for more than 23,000 yards in his career.

After two productive years, things were a bit lean in 2006:

    Overall #3: Vince Young – Tennessee Titans: He only played in 60 games and threw more INTs than TDs. He was a Bust.

      The next pick in this draft was D’Brickashaw Ferguson by the Jets. Ferguson has been a bellwether left tackle through last season.

    Overall #10 Matt Leinart – Arizona Cardinals: Plain and simple, he was a Bust.

    Overall #11 Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears: I was never a Cutler fan coming out of college. The player he reminds me of the most is Jeff George; Cutler has an outstanding arm and for some reason the rest of his being falls short. I will temporize here and declare him a Good Player – and I do not wish to argue about that.

      The Cardinals taking a Bust at #10 missed out on Hlati Ngota taken at #12. Ngota went to the Pro Bowl as a DT 5 times in 10 seasons.

    In the later rounds, Kellen Clemens went to the Jets in Round 2; Tarvaris Jackson went to the Vikes at the end of Round 2; Charlie Whitehurst went to the Chargers in Round 3 and Bruce Gradkowski went to the Bucs in Round 6.

QB pickings did not get much better in 2007:

Overall #1: JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders: I have referred to him as JaCarcass Russell. He was a mortal-lock Bust.

    The next two players taken after Russell were Calvin Johnson (by the Lions) and Joe Thomas (by the Browns). Johnson will go to the Hall of Fame; Thomas is way under-appreciated because he has played for bad teams.

Overall #22: Brady Quinn – Cleveland Browns: He only played in 24 games in a career that lasted until 2012. He was a Bust.

    Six picks later, the Niners took OT Joe Staley who was a critical player on a solid OL and is still a good player.

In the later rounds, you tell me who was the pick of this litter:

    Kevin Kolb – Round 2 to the Eagles
    Drew Stanton – Round 2 to the Lions
    Trent Edwards – Round 3 to the Bills
    Troy Smith – Round 5 to the Ravens
    Tyler Thigpen – Round 7 to the Vikes.

Things got slightly better in 2008:

    Overall #3: Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons: I think he is a Good Player but I realize that many folks think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #18: Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens: He has a Super Bowl ring and he earned it. He is another guy I could put in the Franchise Player category or the Good Player category. I lean toward Good Player.

    In the later rounds in 2008, only Chad Henne (Round 2 to the Dolphins) and Matt Flynn (Round 7 to the Packers) ever did much of anything in the NFL.

In 2009:

    Overall #1: Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions: Playing for the Lions is the NFL version of the Sisyphus Myth. Every season, they start to roll the rock up the hill only to have it roll down and crush them by December – at the latest. Stafford has played very well for very bad teams. He has thrown 163 TDs and only 98 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Mark Sanchez – NY Jets: He was the QB for a defense-led team that made it to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row. He was also the author/creator of the “butt-fumble”. He is not a Bust but he is surely no better than a Straphanger.

    Overall #17: Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Bucs: Sorry, I think he was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Eagles took WR Jeremy Maclin and 4 picks later the Browns took Alex Mack. ‘Nuff said…

    In the later rounds, Keith Null (Round 6 to the Rams) has probably been the most productive QB taken. Yowza!

In 2010:

Overall #1: Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams: He has a good TD/INT record with 78 TDs to only 52 INTs. He seems “injury-prone” and for an overall #1 pick he has been a disappointment. I think he is a Straphanger.

Overall # 22 Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos: To my mind, Tim Tebow is a better running version of Mark Sanchez but a poorer throwing version of Mark Sanchez. The NFL is a passing league and Tebow is not a passer. He made the most of his opportunities but he just does not have the “skill-set” that the NFL of today demands. I will call him a Straphanger knowing full well that many will argue that he is a Bust.

In the later rounds of the 2010 draft, Jimmy Claussen went to the Panthers in the 2nd round; Colt McCoy went to the Browns in the 3rd round and John Skelton went to the Cardinals in the 5th round. Pickings were slim for QBs in 2010.

At this point it starts to get more difficult to assign categories to players other than ones who have already shown that they cannot play dead in a Western movie. Players taken from 2011 through 2015 are still adding to their bodies of work. I will continue to make category assignments, but I reserve the right to change them in a few years after more precincts report in. With that as preamble …

In 2011:

    Overall #1: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers: I think he is a Franchise Player and could be on a career trajectory aimed at Canton, Ohio.

    Overall #8: Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans: Perhaps due to injury or perhaps due to insufficient talent, he is a Bust.

      The next player taken in this draft was Tyron Smith who has been an All-Pro selection and a 3-time Pro Bowl selection at OT for the Cowboys.

    Overall #10: Blaine Gabbert – Jax Jaguars: He was on some horrid teams in Jax behind some porous OLs. I will be generous and label him a Straphanger.

    Overall #12: Christian Ponder – Minnesota Vikes: He did not play in 2015 but I was surprised to learn that he is not yet retired. In any case, he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Rams took DE, Robert Quinn who has been to the Pro Bowl twice already.

    In the later rounds, Andy Dalton went to the Bengals in the 2nd round and Colin Kaepernick went to the Niners in the 2nd round. Neither Dalton nor Kaepernick compare to Cam Newton, but each is better than the other guys taken in the first round. Tyrod Taylor went to the Ravens in Round 6 and may have found a home in Buffalo as a starting QB.

In 2012:

    Overall #1: Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts: I think Luck is a Franchise Player who needs the “luxury” of playing with a competent OL and even a half-decent running game.

    Overall #2: Robert Griffin III – Washington Skins: He was great as a rookie and suffered an injury in a playoff game. Since that moment, he has stunk; there is no polite way to say that. The film from that great rookie year will keep giving him opportunities in the NFL – barring another catastrophic injury – and I think he is destined to be a Straphanger. [Aside: He will play behind a horrid OL in Cleveland this year so my mention of “catastrophic injury” here is not something that is out of the question.]

    Overall #8: Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins: I think he is on the cusp between a Straphanger and a Good Player. For now, I lean toward Straphanger but I can be convinced to change my mind here.

    Overall #22: Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns: Someday, he may rise up and qualify as a Straphanger; as of now, I think he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Steelers took OG, David DeCastro who has already been an All-Pro selection.

    In the later rounds, the Broncos took Brock Osweiler in Round 2; the jury is still out on him. The Seahawks took Russel Wilson in Round 3; he looks like a Franchise Player. The Eagles took Nick Foles in Round 3 and the Skins took Kirk Cousins in Round 4. Overall, 2012 was a good year for QBs…

In 2013:

    Overall #16: EJ Manuel – Buffalo Bills: He has thrown more TDs than INTs but his average passing yards per game is down around 150 yards per game. Maybe I am getting soft in my advanced age, but I will call him a Straphanger for now but can easily see him descending to Bust one of these days.

    In the later rounds, the Jets took Geno Smith in Round 2. The Bucs took Mike Glennon in Round 3; believe it or not, he has thrown 29 TDs against only 15 INTs; when his rookie contract is up, he can leave Tampa and the shadow of Jameis Winston and get a job somewhere else.

In 2014:

Overall #3: Blake Bortles – Jax Jaguars: He needs an OL in front of him; he has been sacked 106 times in his two years in the NFL. I think he is a Good Player.

Overall #22: Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns: This guy’s life is a mess; he is as big a Bust as the one on Dolly Parton.

    The Browns traded up to get Manziel; they could have taken Kelvin Benjamin with that pick and done a lot better.

Overall #32: Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikes: I think he will become a Good Player over the course of his career.

In the later rounds of the 2014 draft, the Raiders took Derek Carr in the 2nd round; the Patriots took Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round and we may well get to see what he has in his arsenal in the first 4 games of the 2016 season if Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension stands. The Bengals took AJ McCarron in the 5th round and he played well when Andy Dalton got hurt last season.

And finally, in 2015:

    Overall #1: Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Bucs: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    Overall #2: Marcus Mariotta – Tennessee Titans: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    None of the other QBs taken in the 2015 draft have played sufficiently in the league to draw any conclusions.

So, these are the fruits of my labor in response to reader “david”. However, it would not be satisfying to leave it here. After all, this just represents a counting exercise with a tad of judgment added on top to give a breakdown. I think there is more to think about here – and I know that this is already longer than most folks would have wished for.

Therefore, there shall be a “Chapter Two” to follow this essay where I make some comments regarding first-round QBs and why – perhaps- we see the data distribution that we see here. Come back tomorrow…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………