Friday, August 28, 2009

USC Tabs Freshman Barkley As Starting QB

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll made a surprise move yesterday when he announced that true freshman Matt Barkley would open the season as the starting quarterback. This is shocking for multiple reasons, the least of which might be that a true freshman has never opened the season as a starter for the Trojans. What is also interesting about this move is that a year ago everyone assumed that Barkley would be redshirted in 2009, since USC starting quarterback Mark Sanchez had one more year of eligibility. That all changed when Sanchez left early and went to the NFL. Now the 4th ranked Trojans, whose measure of success is measured in Championships, will rely on a 19 year old to lead them back to the promised land.

Barkely wasn't handed the job when Sanchez left, he had to beat out two other quarterbacks who both saw time last season. Redshirted Junior Mitch Mustain was Sanchez's primary backup in 2008 and saw time in six games. Redshirted Sophomore Aaron Corp entered the spring as the heir apparent to Sanchez, but missed time this summer with a knee injury that allowed Barkley to vault ahead to the top spot. While Barkley may be the top freshman quarterback recruit according to ESPN, he has to battle with two former top prospects. Both Corp and Mustain were 5-star recruits when they entered college, and Mustain was also considered the top prospect in nation.

I actually feel a little bad for Mustain since this is the 2nd time a team has buried him on the depth chart. In 2006 the Springdale High School Arkansas product chose his home state Razorbacks. He started 8 games that season and threw for 894 yards with 10 touchdowns, before being replaced late in the season by Sophomore Casey Dick. Mustain transferred after the season to USC, due to the benching and the fact that the Razorbacks stuck with a run-oriented offense (Mustain's H.S. coach was the offensive coordinator, but left due to disagreements with head coach Houston Nutt). Mustain had to sit out 2007 and be redshirted, but seemed likely to take over for Sanchez when he left. Now after four years of college, Mustain with two years of eligibility left, Mustain is passed over again, this time by a freshman.

Barkley won't have to wait long to prove that he is worthy of the number one status. USC goes to Columbus for a Top 10 match-up with the Buckeyes on Sept. 12th. If Barkley beats Ohio State then Pete Carroll will look like a genius and the Trojans will look unstoppable. If Barkley struggles, Carroll could be second guessed since that loss could knock USC out of the National Championship picture. If he needs to make a change Carroll has some good options, but right now the most prestigious open QB job in the nation goes to the new kid on the block.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Favre-Vikings Rift, Real or a Media Creation?

Its been one week and already the stories about Favre being a problem in the Vikings locker room have started. I find this story to be more of the circus that comes with the Brett Favre saga, than an actual issue in the locker room. The report basically states that some players think that either Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels would give Minnesota a better chance to win. If you ask every single player in camp (remember there are still 80 players in camp right now) I'm sure you'll find a player or three that have a differing opinion. I bet if you ask every player you will find some who think Chester Taylor deserves a few extra carries, or that Percy Harvin should be the number 1 wideout.

This just seems like such a ridiculous story how can anyone say with a straight face that Jackson or Rosenfels would improve the Vikings number in the win column over Favre? Rosenfels has shown himself to be a capable backup and could have been a solid starter, but he's not who I want leading an offense down by 5 with two minutes to go. Jackson has been given opportunities to start and so far its been a mixed bag. His indecision and erratic play, are the reason the Vikes traded for Rosenfels and signed Favre in the first place. Jackson couldn't beat out Gus Frerotte last season, yet now he is suddenly a better option than Favre? Come on, this might not be the Brett Favre of old, but do we really want to bet against him? I'd still have him among the top-10 quarterbacks in the league for this next season.

If this was week 8 and the Vikings were off to a 3-5 start then maybe I buy this story as an actual problem. But one week after Favre arrives in camp, this story seems to be more show than substance. I'm sure there are a few Viking players who have been put off by the hoopla surrounding Favre this off season. But as much if not more blame should be placed on the Vikings organization, than Favre for that debacle. This seems to be more of a sensationalist story, than anything really affecting the day to day activities of Vikings. I mean one person reportedly said Favre had caused a "schism" in the Vikings locker room. Really, a "schism" that's the best way to describe the effect Favre has had after one week? Not a division, disagreement or split, its a 'schism'. This has to be one of the worse cases of hyperbole I've ever seen. There might be issues, but that is way too extreme of a label to use to describe them. I think we should let Favre and the Vikings play football, and stop scrutinizing their every move.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"March" Madness

Apparently the first demonstration in Philadelphia about Michael Vick, is for Michael Vick. The local chapter of the NAACP along with other civil rights groups are planning to 'march' on Lincoln Financial Center when Vick takes the field tomorrow.
"We believe Michael Vick has served his time, paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance and the animal rights groups want to hold him hostage for the rest of his life," J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday. "We think that's patently unfair. It denies Michael Vick's basic civil rights, denies him his ability to make a living."
Look this would make sense if Vick's civil rights had been or were going to be infringed upon. Michael Vick may have served his jail sentence and done what was required by the court, but his record wasn't expunged. The fact that people and animal rights activists may want to protest against Michael Vick is their civil right (it should be noted that so far there hasn't been any major call to protest/boycott Vick and the Eagles). Also, even if they do exercise their Freedom of Speech, Michael Vick wasn't banished from the NFL. Had he been expelled from the league Vick had opportunities to play in other professional football leagues, such as the UFL and CFL. Furthermore, playing in professional sports leagues has always been seen as a privilege not a 'right'. And to have that privilege one must live by a standard set forth by the league. Michael Vick failed in his responsibility to live up the standard (not to mention basic nature principles of not killing dogs). He deserves whatever punishment is handed down. Also, if Vick's chosen profession was a lawyer, teacher, doctor or any number of other jobs he would have lost his license because of his conviction. Vick is actually getting preferential treatment for being a professional athlete than what he'd have to deal with in the "real world".

I think this 'preemptive march' is a bit excessive. If you are a Vick supporter defend him, and if you are a Vick hater, boycott him that is your right. But to attack each other on baseless claims is cheap and petty. The problem with this demonstration is that its being had for the wrong reasons. To suggest that Vick's accusers and detractors are 'denying Vick his basic civil rights', is scurrilous and malicious and that is one 'right' that these supporters don't have.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chargers Lock up Rivers For 6 Years

Its been a good off season to be a quarterback, as Phillip Rivers is set to become the third QB to sign an extension averaging at least $10 million (not to mention the monster rookie salaries for Stafford and Sanchez). Rivers deal will guarantee him about $38 million, and have a total value of $92 million over the next 6 years. While it doesn't exceed Eli Manning's new deal (6 years $97.5 million) in overall value, it does give Rivers the leg up in one area, guaranteed money (Manning only has about $35 million guaranteed). These two players will always be linked to one another after the draft day drama that ensued in 2004. Five years later Rivers still can't get the best of Manning. Rivers has the stats, but Manning has the all important ring (plus the money).

San Diego had to make this deal to lock up Rivers. Last year he was one of the top quarterbacks in the league and he was entering the final year of his rookie deal. Had they not signed him now his price would have only gone up. Although they could have kept him with a Franchise tag next year, it would have cost well over what they will be paying him now. The Chargers did a good job not panicking and overpaying Rivers. Given his stats there is a case to be made that he should have made more or at least just as much as Manning did in his deal. San Diego held firm and saved themselves a few million for their trouble.

Rivers will now need to take the Chargers to the next level and bring home a Super Bowl victory to show that he really is a "Franchise Quarterback". This deal also shows how 2004 may be close to replacing 1983 as the "Year of the Quarterback". With all the respect in the world to Elway, Marino, and Kelly, they could very well be out'classed' (bad pun I know). Though they are three Hall of Famers, set records and went to a combined 10 Super Bowls, the class of '83 managed to win just two rings (both by Elway). Already the class of 2004 have won 3 of the 5 Super Bowls since they were drafted (2 by Ben Roethlisberger to go along with Manning's) and they are just getting started. Roethlisberger, Manning and and Rivers are among the elite quarterbacks in the league (not to mention highest paid), and all lead perennial playoff contenders. When its all said and done, the 2004 draft class will shape the first two decades of the 21st century, more than '83 class shaped the 80's and 90's.