The state of the sports world currently calls for a random, classic Larry King style post. Here goes:
- An early report states that the Packers are firing defensive coordinator Bob Sanders. By all accounts, Sanders is an excellent human being. Unfortunately, his defensive tactics, while occasionally very effective, are somewhat simplistic and predictable, and he hasn't shown much ingenuity or flexibility during games. With workaholic players and coaches flooding the league, more and more it feels like you need a defensive scheme that will confuse the other side. The Packers haven't had that. So it's probably time to try something new. What'll be especially interesting to see is who replaces Sanders, and what kind of defense that coach will bring. And, of course, how much personnel turnover the new system will require and how quickly the players will be able to pick up the new scheme. Remember, one of the worst defenses in recent Packer history came in the first (and only) year of a new d-coordinator (Bob Slowik).
- If reports are true, Sanders will be joining Packers Special Teams coach Mike Stock on the way out of town. The sextagenarian Stock opted to retire a few days ago. This was probably a good reading of the tea leaves, as the Packers' kickoff coverage unit was awful this season and directly contributed to some close losses, particularly the loss at Chicago and the home loss to Carolina. Plus, Crosby seems to have stalled in his development, and some of the blame for the atrocious decision to release punter Jon Ryan and rely on (and stick with) the horrid Derrick Frost fell on Stock's shoulders. Of course, some blame must go to Thompson, who jettisoned Ryan, stuck with Frost for more than half the season, and released several special teams leaders, like Tracy White. Hopefully, he learned some lessons as well. Trivia-- did you know Stock had been the head coach at Brown?
- This year's Badger men's basketball team just doesn't let you get comfortable, do they? After a very solid victory over a pretty darn good Michigan team in Ann Arbor, they have to duke out a close one against Penn State in Madison. Yeesh. PSU is definitely improved over last season (although it'll probably be a one-year blip, as Pringle and Cornley are seniors), but still. A double digit victory would have been nice.
- Speaking of UW hoops, does it just feel like every game some guy goes off from long range against the Badgers? I mean, there was that swingman from Va Tech (6 for 9), this guard from San Diego (5 for 8), McShneal from Marquette (4 for 7), Zack Novak at Michigan (5 for 8), and on Saturday, Stanley Pringle (4 for 6, with all the makes in the second half). Last season the Badgers were at the top of the league in three defense, and were in the top 25 nationally. This year they're in the middle of pack nationally--174th out of 340 odd teams. They lost Michael Flowers, who was a great perimeter shot contestor, and the line has been moved back, which might actually have increased the shooting percentage on long-range attempts by creating more space (and by reducing the raw number of threes taken). Anyhow, the numbers (and personnel) say they're worse on the perimeter defensively compared to last season. But at the same time, I can't remember a lot of uncontested threes. It seems like guys (especially the guy at Va Tech) have just been on fire at times. So maybe it's luck? Whatever it is, I hope it turns around.
- Speaking of random stats, here's Ken Pomeroy's statistical summary of Wisconsin's season so far. Things look fine offensively, though you'd like them to grab a few more offensive boards and shoot a little better from the line. And the lack of steals and turnovers will always be a black mark against UW's defense, as they're far more focused on avoiding stupid fouls than nabbing stray passes. (Flowers' departure also hurts here though.) But what really sticks out is the opponent's free throw percentage-- against us, opposing teams are nailing their free throws. Totally weird. (The Texas loss and their ridiculous free throw shooting come to mind.) Hopefully, that rate will return a bit closer to the mean sometime soon.
- Did anyone reading this not love watching the Cowboys look like total garbage 8 days ago? Man, that was hilarious. And they can't get much better-- they gave away almost their entire 2009 draft for Roy Williams, the receiver, "offensive guru" Jason Garrett may very well abandon his head-coaching apprenticeship for a real gig somewhere else, and the front office still has the team-killing headache of Terrell Owens and the underperforming nuisance of Pacman Jones to deal with. That's totally the way you want to transition to a billion dollar stadium (one built with $475 million of tax money) that still has a stupid hole in the roof, where you'll be asking many fans to cough up 100 grand for a personal seat license. And it's not like the economy is not awesome or like the wealthy have seen their net worths shrink by half. Oh wait. Smooth moves, Skeletor. And it couldn't happen to a nicer, more humble guy.
- The playoffs have been very odd so far. Arizona winning a game? In the playoffs? The Dolts get a bunch of lucky scores, but still can't beat the 8-8 Chargers and their formerly sieve-like defense, even with LT on the sidelines? Weirdness. The ViQueens lines looked pretty dominant against the Eagles, but they give up two huge plays and thus lose. Fitting that their special teams looked like garbage, as it has all season. (They tied the record for most punt return touchdowns given up in a season-- thanks in large part to the Pack's Will Blackmon.) Personally, I'm rooting for Jimmy Leonhard and the Ravens. Even with the lack of talent on offense, at least they try to be entertaining on that side of the ball, employing lots of bizarre shenanigans.
- Did anyone else laugh when former Ohio A&M cover boy Ted Ginn, Jr. dropped the (admittedly stressed) exchange on that fourth quarter end around, effectively sealing the Dolphins' playoff loss? Thank goodness the AFC East has been eliminated from the postseason. That division was dreadfully overrated this season, mostly due to a flaccid schedule. As you can tell, I'm not a fan of the national media's East Coast-centricity.
- I still can't bring myself to write about the UW football team. The beatdown is too fresh, the program seems adrift, wandering in the wilderness, as it were. Maybe I'll hold out until national signing day, hoping for some encouraging developments.