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Thursday, March 31, 2005 

Send in the lawyers

Today, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority accepted the Jets bid of $720 million for air rights on the MTA's rail yards on Manhattan's West Side. Cablevision's (i.e. Charles Dolan's) $760 million bid was rejected, even though their proposal for a park, housing, library, and public school would have not required any public money. The Jets are expecting $600 million from the city and state to help build the stadium. Plus, the Jets will only pay $280 million themselves - the rest of the $720 million comes from private developers who get the rights to the "excess" land outside the stadium.

The Cablevision offer was doomed from the start. Too many politicans are behind the Jets stadium proposal, who drew support from three different internal constituencies: those who want to bring football back to New York City, those who are backers of the Olympics effort, and those who want the chance to divvy up that $600 million in public funds and reward their friends and supporters.

Of course, there are already lawsuits filed, so while the Jets have won the bidding, can they win the court battles?

Sunday, March 27, 2005 

Pro Bowl Blues

As I've stated before, I have no interest in the Pro Bowl. But at the NFL meetings this week, an innovative proposal was floated. Miami wants to become part of a permanent Super Bowl rotation, and is willing to build a pavillion at Pro Player Stadium and host an NFL-styled theme park for the two weeks leading up to the big game. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stated that it would create a two-week "festival of football", and that the Pro Bowl would be played at the same stadium the week before the Super Bowl. A couple of thoughts come to mind:

1. The Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii must be losing its appeal to the league's high rollers and advertisers. After two weeks of partying at the Super Bowl, maybe none of them are game for a long flight.

2. This plan could also turn the Pro Bowl into a Super Bowl preview show if the NFL awarded the TV rights to the same network. None of the players from the AFC and NFC championship teams would play (they seldom play in Hawaii anyway), but I'm sure the league would mandate that the teams arrive in time to take part in interviews during the game. On a weekend where NFL fans are starved for football, it has the potential to increase ratings (though that might not be saying much). NBC already counter-programs on that weekend with the opening of the Arena Football season in an attempt to lure in casual football fans. An enhanced Pro Bowl can't be worse, and the game would lose its anti-climatic feel.

 

Los Angeles Cardinals?

Today's Boston Globe has a note about the San Francisco-Arizona game scheduled for Mexico City in October. Arizona gave up a home game because they average about 36,000 fans, while the NFL is hoping for 100,000 to show up in Mexico. If I were a Cardinal fan, I'd worry about them relocating soon. I doubt the NFL will let them move to Los Angeles, as the poor management of the Bidwell family is legendary. But if Dennis Green turns them around, who knows? It's probably more likely that another team (like the Colts) moves to LA, and the Cardinals shop themselves as a replacement.

 

Booknotes

Saw an interesting book while perusing Barnes & Noble yesterday (the "brick-n-mortar" version, not the web site). The Sporting News pro football draft encyclopedia lists every NFL draft by year, by team, and by player, with an all-time alphabetical list at the end of the book. It's an interesting idea, though I didn't spend 25 bucks to buy it. I normally wait for reference books to hit the bargain book bin before buying them. I figure I can find the information on the web somewhere if I really need it, and hard-copy reference books become out-of-date the minute they are printed. Case in point: copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica 2004 Almanac weren't exactly selling briskly yesterday, even at the low, low price of $2.98 (~75% off).

Friday, March 25, 2005 

Start spreading the news (maybe)

The NFL owners officially awarded the 2010 Super Bowl to New York yesterday, if the Jets can get their $1.7 billion stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan. There are still major hurdles. First, Jets owner Woody Johnson needs to outbid Charles Dolan (of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision) for the land to build the stadium. Then they need public approval for state and local funding, which is not exactly a slam dunk even with the potential of hosting the Olympics in 2012.

It seems unwise to be building a stadium in Manhattan for several reasons. The cost of security for high-profile events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics is so high that it offsets a lot of the benefits. (Think gridlock.) Yesterday, the AP reported that Patriots owner Bob Kraft was in favor of New York's bid because:

It will be a great economic catalyst to the city... The last Super Bowl in Jacksonville and the one before it in Houston and next year in Detroit creates tremendous exposure and tremendous economic opportunities.

I bet New Yorkers were excited to see their city compared with Jacksonville, Houston, and Detroit. Those cities need the exposure, New York doesn't. New York would be better off investing money in schools and infrastructure than in an expensive new stadium. Just the land alone would cost the Jets more than twice the money it cost Kraft to build Gillette Stadium for his Patriots.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 

Golden Boy

This is the last part of a four part look at the quarterbacks behind the modern NFL dynasties. Today we examine Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Their relationship parallels Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Montana and Brady were late-round picks from legendary schools (3rd Notre Dame, 6th Michigan), while Marino and Manning were first-round picks from good, but lesser known, schools (Pittsburgh, Tennessee). Marino and Manning both set TD records (Marino 48 in 1984, Manning 49 this season), and then lost to Montana and Brady, respectively, in the playoffs that year.

Brady and Manning also share some characteristics, such as their durability: neither has missed a start since winning the starting job. And neither of them will remind you of Michael Vick in the pocket.

But that's where the similarities end. Let's start with their regular season statistics so far:


Tom Brady
Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
2000 1 1 3 33.3 6 0 0
2001 15 264 413 63.9 2843 18 12
2002 16 373 601 62.1 3764 28 14
2003 16 317 527 60.2 3620 23 12
2004 16 288 474 60.8 3692 28 14
Tot 64 1243 2018 61.6 13925 97 52
Avg* 16 311 505 61.6 3480 24 13
*not including 2000 season


Peyton Manning
Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
1998 16 326 575 56.7 3739 26 28
1999 16 331 533 62.1 4135 26 15
2000 16 357 571 62.5 4413 33 15
2001 16 343 547 62.7 4131 26 23
2002 16 392 591 66.3 4200 27 19
2003 16 379 566 67.0 4267 29 10
2004 16 336 497 67.6 4557 49 10
Tot 112 2464 3880 63.5 29442 216 120
Avg 16 352 554 63.5 4206 31 17


Two things stood out when I looked at these numbers:

1. Brady made more big plays this year, without losing efficiency. With the addition of Corey Dillon, the Patriots ran the ball more, resulting in 53 less passing attempts this season. But Brady still completed over 60 percent of his passes, and passed for slightly more yards than in 2003. His TD-INT ratio remained at about 2:1, which is consistent with the rest of his career.

2. Manning is becoming more accurate as he gets older. I was surprised that his completion percentage numbers jumped from approximately 62 percent from 1999-2001 to about 67 percent from 2002-2004. Manning's big INT numbers as a rookie and in 2001 offset his spectacular 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio last year, but there is no denying his numbers are phenomenal.

Unless Manning's career is cut short, he will break every major passing record. He is certainly one of the top QBs of all-time, and you would have to rank him ahead of Brady. But when you compare their playoff statistics, it is a different story:

W-L Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
Brady 9-0 190 304 62.5 1951 11 3
Manning 3-5 171 284 60.2 2171 14 8
in 5 losses 100 195 51.3 1033 2 7

Note that four of Manning's INTs came in the 2003 AFC Championship game against the Patriots, which skews the data a bit. Also, Brady's "perfect" postseason record is somewhat overrated, since if the 2002 Patriots had won a tie-breaker and made the playoffs, I have a tough time imagining them winning the Super Bowl that year.

But that does not change how different their post-season records are. Peyton Manning's three wins included two at home against Denver, and one at Kansas City. Only the Chiefs game was close (38-31). By comparison, Brady has won two AFC Championship games on the road in Pittsburgh. He also engineered several clutch drives, beginning in the snow against Oakland in 2001, and culminating in two Super Bowl winning drives against St. Louis and Carolina. Manning has lost 3 playoff games by 10 points or less, and it's not because of the Indy defense - if you throw out the 41-0 blowout against the Jets in 2002, Indy gave up an average of 21.5 points in the other four losses.

No one knows the future, but until Manning wins a Super Bowl or two, he'll continue to remind everyone of Dan Marino. On the other hand, even if Brady starts to struggle, he'll be linked forever with Joe Montana. Not bad company in either case.


QB Super Bowls Won (or Lost)
Brady 36, 38, 39
Manning None
Note: MVP in bold


Note on References: All statistics taken from Pro Football Reference. Play-by-Play taken from the nfl.com website.

Saturday, March 19, 2005 

New comments system

After realizing that the Blogger comments feature left a lot to be desired, I signed up with Haloscan to use their commenting and trackback feature. The downside is some extra ads, but the upside is that readers will not need a Blogger account to leave comments.

 

Some Change will do you good

I love it when a player takes control of his career and fires an agent that will not listen to him. The latest example is Plaxico Burress, who signed with the Giants on Thursday after rejecting nearly the same offer a week earlier. After the Giants failed to make a counter-offer, Burress switched agents.

Tom Coughlin must think Burress is the answer to provide Eli Manning a big target who can stretch the field. The argument is that Burress only caught 35 passes last season, but played in the Steelers ground-orientated offense. However, that didn't stop his teammate Hines Ward from making the All-Pro second team. Ward also had a much better postseason, with 100+ yards and a TD in both of Pittsburgh's playoff games (10-105 vs. Jets, 5-109 vs. Patriots), compared to a total of just 5 catches for 65 yards and one TD for Burress. I just wonder if Burress' big seasons in 2001-2002 were a mirage, since he was a disappointment prior to that and mediocre since.

 

Surf and Turf

There's an interesting football-related feature at Andrew Clem's Baseball site. His site includes a complete historical list of Major League Baseball stadiums, but also provides a cross-reference of baseball stadiums used by football teams (and vice versa). Every stadium has its own diagram, which are more detailed than you might expect. Check it out.

Monday, March 14, 2005 

Thank You

Today marks one year since I started this blog. Last year was a busy one for me, and I never did post as often as I had planned. But I have had a lot of fun doing it, and I hope to do a lot more with the blog this year.

You may have noticed some small changes to the blog over the past few weeks. The links section has been updated and expanded, and now links to some of my favorite blogs, including Baseball Musings, which inspired me to start Onside Kicks in the first place and is still the best sports blog on the net. I have also activated comments now that Blogger provides a better interface.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 13, 2005 

How 'bout that Cowboy?

This is part three of a four part look at the quarterbacks behind the modern NFL dynasties.

It is tough to compare Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly. Both QBs had a great running back behind them, though Emmitt Smith gets an edge over Thurman Thomas in their respective primes. But Dallas had a much better offensive line, and could control the game on the ground and using their defense. Buffalo relied on Jim Kelly to outscore the other team. Comparing their career statistics is bit misleading, since Kelly began his career in the USFL while Aikman's career was cut short by a series of concussions.


GP Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
Aikman 165 2898 4715 61.5 32942 165 141
Kelly 160 2874 4779 60.1 35467 237 175


I was surprised how eerily similar these numbers are. Kelly has a big edge in TDs and a better TD-INT ratio, but I would have thought the difference in completion percentage and yardage would have been larger (in Aikman's and Kelly's favor, respectively).

Kelly was the starter from the minute he arrived in Buffalo from the USFL. The Bills were coming off back-to-back 2-14 seasons and proceeded to go 4-12 with Kelly in 1986. But Marv Levy was hired 9 games into the season and slowly turned the team around. The addition of Thomas in 1988 put the Bills over the top and made them a consistent playoff team. Together with Andre Reed, they provided a great offensive supporting cast for the "K-gun" offense which featured the no-huddle and a quick strike offense.

By comparison, the Dallas Cowboys were an overnight success. After falling to 3-13 in 1987, new owner Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry and brought in Jimmy Johnson, whose brash personality was Landry's polar opposite. The team bottomed out at 1-15 in his first season, but that gave the Cowboys the right to draft two top QBs - Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft, and Troy Aikman in the regular draft as the top pick. The two QBs battled for the starting job in 1989, as Aikman struggled to complete 52.9% of his passes and was intercepted 18 times while throwing just 9 TDs). Aikman got the job as the Cowboys went 7-9, but Johnson got the biggest prize of all when he traded RB Herschel Walker to the Vikings in mid-season and walked off with a basketful of draft choices. Of course, the real prize came in the following draft, when the Cowboys selected RB Emmitt Smith.

Jim Kelly's best chance for a Super Bowl win came in his first try after the 1990 season. A close win over the Dolphins followed by a 51-3 rout of the Raiders made the Bills favored to win Super Bowl XXV. But the Giants defense coached by Bill Belichick shut down Kelly while Bill Parcells' game plan worked to perfection. With Kelly on the sidelines, RB Ottis Anderson controlled the clock. Still, the Bills could have won, but Scott Norwood missed the potential game winner at the final gun for a 20-19 loss. The following year added more frustration, as Buffalo lost to unheralded Mark Rypien and the Washington Redskins 37-24.

But in 1992, the Bills felt that the third time would be the charm, even though they failed to win the AFC East for the first time in five years. Backup QB Frank Reich had come off the bench to rally the Bills in their Wildcard Game against the Houston Oilers, sparking the largest comeback in playoff history and a 41-38 overtime win. Lopsided wins against the Steelers and Dolphins followed, but they were still underdogs in the Super Bowl. Their opponents were Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys had made the playoffs for the first time in 6 years in 1991, but got trounced in the second round by the Lions 38-6. In 1992, the Cowboys won the NFC East, and defeated the Eagles and 49ers to reach the Super Bowl. Aikman was superb in the big game, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and 4 TDs on the way to winning MVP honors. Dallas built a 28-10 halftime lead en route to a 52-17 rout.

After three straight Super Bowl losses by the Bills, nobody was surprised the next season when Dallas was heavily favored to win the rematch in Super Bowl XXVIII. But the Bills built a 13-6 halftime lead, and it looked like Jim Kelly might get his ring. Then Emmitt Smith took over, and the Cowboys shutout the Bills 24-0 in the second half and romped 30-13 for their second straight title. Smith got the MVP this time, as Dallas was conservative and Aikman was less impressive than his Super Bowl debut the year before (19-27, 207, 0 TD, 1 INT). This was the end of the line for the Bills, who never even reached the AFC Conference championship game again.

But Aikman and the Cowboys were far from finished, even though Jimmy Johnson left the team after the season. With Barry Switzer at the helm, the Cowboys lost to the 49ers in the 1994 NFC title game, in which Aikman threw for 380 yards and 2 TDs but was intercepted 3 times. Aikman got back to the top the following season, as the Cowboys defeated the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX 27-17. Neither offense played well, and Aikman had unimpressive numbers again (15-23, 209, 1 TD, 0 INT), but the Cowboys became the first team to win 3 Super Bowls in 4 years.

Both Aikman and Kelly struggled with injuries in the final years of their careers, and Aikman never returned to the NFC Conference championship game after his last Super Bowl either. Troy Aikman never gets his due alongside Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, mostly because of Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys defense, but Aikman's composure and sure-handed leadership made him the perfect QB for the turbulent Cowboys of the 1990's.


QB Super Bowls Won (or Lost)
Aikman 27, 28, 30
Kelly 25, 26, 27 ,28
Note: MVP in bold


Note on References: All statistics taken from Pro Football Reference and the The Pro Football Encyclopedia, Macmillian, 1997.

Saturday, March 12, 2005 

Flutie done?

At 42, is Doug Flutie finally done? I suspect that if he wants, he'll get a shot in a training camp somewhere. But I thought I read in the Boston Globe a while back that he promised his teenage daughter she could stay in San Diego with her friends. We'll see what happens.

 

Dysfunctional Greed

Edgerrin James is backing off his comments about that the Colts' offense is a "dysfunctional" family along the lines of the Jackson Five in an article in the Indy Star. But Mike Chappell also writes that James is committed to scoring a big payday, even if that takes a trade.


"It really don't matter with me," James said. "I can play ball wherever. It's only a six-month job. It's pretty easy to go for six months.

"If there is an opportunity where I can get somewhere and . . . I can get a deal and get myself settled in for the next five, six years, I prefer that."


"It's only a six-month job." I wonder if the Patriots players feel that way. Yesterday, Chappell wrote that the four most likely landing spots for James are Arizona, Miami, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco. All four are in warm climates, which he'd probably enjoy, but none of them are likely to compete for the Super Bowl. So it looks like this is another case of "follow the money".

Sunday, March 06, 2005 

Follow you, Follow me

I like Cleveland's acquisition of Trent Dilfer yesterday, although the 4th round pick could be a bit pricy if Dilfer ends up holding a clipboard. Dilfer has the experience to start if Romeo Crennel wants to focus on rebuilding the rest of the team, but also brings a good presence to the locker room and can mentor a young QB.

 

Revenge of the Smurfs

Washington finally traded Laveraneus Coles back to the New York Jets yesterday for Santana Moss. With the Redskins shopping Rod Gardner, it looks like Joe Gibbs is trying assemble a fleet of small, speedy receivers like he did back in the late 1980's.

 

Joe Cool

This is part two of a four part look at the quarterbacks behind the modern NFL dynasties. Today's we look at Joe Montana and Dan Marino.

When I was a kid, if we played football, which wasn't very often, everyone wanted to be Joe Montana. He personified cool in the pocket. He never got rattled. And he always made the big play in the biggest games, or so it seemed. Montana and the San Francisco 49ers didn't win the Super Bowl every year, but it just seemed that way. From the time Montana took over the QB job full time in 1981, through his last season as the starter in 1990, San Francisco won 10 or more games every season except the strike year (3-6 in 1982). They were 4-2 in NFC Championship games and 4-0 in Super Bowls. Not bad for a third-round pick from Notre Dame.

Montana's first title was unexpected, since the 49ers hadn't even made the playoffs in nine years before qualifying in 1981. In fact, San Francisco had made the playoffs just 4 times in their history, first in 1957 with a loss to the Detroit Lions, then three straight years from 1970 to 1972, losing to the Dallas Cowboys each time.

In 1981, San Francisco beat the New York Giants in a classic Montana game (20-31, 304, 2TD, 1INT), then exorcised some demons by upsetting the Cowboys 28-27 on the famous catch by Dwight Clark. The Super Bowl was anti-climatic, with the 49ers taking a 20-0 lead by halftime and holding on for the 26-21 win. This game always brings back memories for me, since it was the first NFL game I ever saw live on TV.

The 49ers failed to make the playoffs the following year, then lost to Washington in the 1983 NFC Championship game. But in 1984, Montana and the 49ers steamrolled the league, compiling a 15-1 record and adding two convincing playoff wins against the Giants (21-10) and Bears (23-0). Then they prepared to "host" the Super Bowl at nearby Palo Alto against Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.

Marino was nearly the opposite of Montana. Although he was drafted "last" in the heralded QB class of 1983, Marino set NFL records in 1984 with 48 TDs and 5084 yards passing. His 64.2 completion percentage and average 9.0 yards per attempt were pretty good too. Super Bowl XIX was no contest. Marino and the Dolphins took 10-7 lead in the first quarter, then the 49ers took over. While the Dolphins went three-and-out on their next 3 series (Marino was 1-6, 4 yards and the Dolphins ran the ball 3 times for -3 yards) the 49ers scored 3 touchdowns and put the game away. Montana threw for 331 yards and 3 TDs and ran for a fourth. Marino was just 29-for-50 with a TD and 2 INTs, and the Dolphins completely abandoned the run - 9 carries for 25 yards.

Most folks figured this would be the first of many Montana-Marino Super Bowls, but it never happened again. The Dolphins were too one-dimensional, relying on Marino and the Marks brothers (Duper, Clayton) for all the offense and neglecting to build a solid defense. For the rest of his career, Marino would build awe-inspiring numbers, but would lose his only two other AFC Championship games to New England in 1985 and Buffalo in 1992 by lopsided margins.

Meanwhile, Montana built his legend. After being bounced from the playoffs in their opening game for three straight years, including an embarrassing 49-3 loss to the Giants in 1986, the 49ers returned to the Super Bowl with a vengeance in 1988. A 10-6 regular season record didn't look that impressive at first glance, but 34-9 and 28-3 blowout wins against Minnesota and Chicago made them favorites for a third Super Bowl title. Playing against a re-tooled Cincinnati team, San Francisco struggled early, and the Bengals held leads of 13-6 and 16-13 in the fourth quarter. But Montana's clutch play was never better. After Stanford Jennings had broken a 6-6 tie with a 93 yard kickoff return TD, Montana needed just four plays to drive 85 yards and tie the game:

SF15 1-10 Montana 31 pass to Rice
SF46 1-10 Montana 40 pass to Craig
CI14 1-10 Montana pass to Taylor almost intercepted
CI14 2-10 Montana 14 pass to Rice, TD

Lewis Billups dropped a sure interception that may have changed history - San Francisco hadn't scored a TD yet in the game, and Mike Cofer had already missed a 19 yard FG. If Cincinnati was able to keep the lead at 13-9 or 13-6, who knows if "the drive" ever happens?

But what did happen was that the 49ers tied the game, forced a Cincinnati punt, then Cofer missed a 49-yard FG while Jim Breech made a 40-yarder for the Bengals. It was 16-13 Cincinnati with 3:20 left. The rest is history: 92 yards on 11 plays, Montana 8 for 9 on the drive, and the final TD to John Taylor to win the game. Even though Jerry Rice set records with 11 catches for 215 yards, I still thought Montana should have won his third Super Bowl MVP. He certainly had the stats: 23-36, 357, 2 TD 0 INT, and his fourth quarter was probably the best clutch performance in the first 35 years of Super Bowl history.

By comparison, Super Bowl XXIV the following year was a walk in the park. There's not much to say about a 55-10 blowout, but here goes: Montana was 22 for 29 for 297 yards and 5 TDs, in a game where the 49ers out gained the Broncos 461-167; it was total domination.

Unlike the Bradshaw vs. Tarkenton comparison I made last time, the Montana vs. Marino one is easier for me to comment on because I watched nearly all of Montana and Marino's careers, while the 1970s were largely before my time. I have no doubt that Montana would have won at least one Super Bowl if he was on the Dolphins, but Marino would never have fit Bill Walsh's system in San Francisco. Montana threw for 11 TDs in his four Super Bowls without throwing an interception. He just didn't make mistakes on the biggest stage in football. Marino was a great player, but I saw him play a lot of average games, even against mediocre teams (like the Patriots for most of his era). He was a lot like Brett Favre in that he could be great or make a big mistake. A comparison of their TD-INT ratios is telling:

TD-INT Reg. Season Playoffs
Marino 420-252 (1.67:1) 32-24 (1.33:1)
Montana 273-139 (1.96:1) 44-21 (2.10:1)

Montana rose to the occasion in big games; Marino did not, and since the Dolphins offense was so one-dimensional, it doomed their chances. Marino had the better regular season career statistics, but Montana is the legendary QB.

G Comp Att PCT Yds TD INT
Montana 192 3409 5391 63.2 40551 273 139
Marino 242 4967 8358 59.4 61361 420 252

One of the most amazing things about Joe Montana and the 49ers was that they never had a great running back, just a series of serviceable ones: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Wendell Tyler, Roger Craig, and fullback Tom Rathman. They are not household names, but they got the job done, largely due to the arm of Montana, the brain of Bill Walsh (and to some extent George Seifert), and the hands and feet of Dwight Clark and later John Taylor and some guy named Jerry Rice.

I don't think Marino could have fit in nearly as well.


QB Super Bowls Won (or Lost)
Montana 16, 19, 23, 24
Marino 19
Note: MVP in bold


Note on References: All statistics taken from Pro Football Reference. Other details taken from The Super Bowl: Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America's Greatest Game, published in 1990 by the NFL and Simon & Schuster.

Saturday, March 05, 2005 

UnBearable

Every year, some great stories come out of free agency. This week, the Patriots offered more money than the Ravens for WR Derrick Mason, but Mason's wife wanted to live in the Maryland area, and that was that. The Patriots could be thin at WR if Troy Brown leaves or retires.

Mason's signing came shortly after Mushin Muhammad agreed to terms with the Bears. Why he wants to play for the Bears is beyond me. Head coach Lovie Smith obviously doesn't believe in Rex Grossman or Chad Hutchinson as his QB, since he's courting Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson, and Jay Fiedler. None of them would excite me much if I were a free agent wide receiver.

Two players I've always liked changed teams this week. RB LaMont Jordan left the Jets for the Raiders, and LB Dexter Coakley was quickly picked up by the Rams after being released by the Cowboys. Jordan has been a part-time back for 4 years behind the seemingly ageless Curtis Martin, and it will be interesting to see how he does in a full-time role. The Jets must feel Martin has plenty left in his tank; they signed the smaller, quicker, Derrick Blaylock away from the Chiefs to fill the roster spot. Blaylock has talent, but is not an every down back.

Coakley became a part time player too last season as Parcells showed his preference for bigger linebackers. Even though he is 32, Coakley depends more on speed than size, so he was smart to stay on turf and sign with the Rams. It might have been smarter for the Rams to get more physical on defense, but Coakley should help.

 

You Know My Name

The Boston Garden is back, sort of. On Thursday, Jeremy Jacobs finally found a real company to put their name on the building formerly known as the Fleet Center when TD BankNorth agreed to pay $6 million a year for the rights. The new name, "TD BankNorth Garden", is certainly a mouthful, and yesterday's Boston Globe was speculating that most folks would just call it the Garden, leaving TD BankNorth with little advertising bang for their buck.

To me, naming rights have to be viewed in two contexts: regional and national. From a regional perspective, TD BankNorth makes an initial splash in the media, and gets several long-term advantages: signage throughout the building, a luxury box for entertaining clients, etc. Whether folks call it just the Garden or not doesn't change those facts. From a personal standpoint, there is a BankNorth branch in my town, but Thursday's announcement was the first time I knew that they had recently sold out to the TD empire and were planning a major expansion in the northeast. (I'm not a BankNorth customer, and I have no ties to the bank, by the way.) Is this going to change my mind the next time I open a bank account? Probably not, but it may convince some New England businesses unhappy about the Fleet/Bank of America merger that they have other options for managing their money.

The nationwide benefits are harder to quantify. Yes, TD BankNorth will get its name mentioned occassionally during game telecasts, though with no NHL and the Celtics rarely on national TV this has questionable value in the short-term. When this trend started, sports fans knew the names of most stadiums, so there was some added prestige benefit. But the fall of Enron and CMGI and other companies diminished that. Plus, with stadium names changing so often, it is impossible to keep track, so I bet no one will notice (or care) if the Patriots are playing in "Bounty Stadium" next season once P&G completes its purchase of Gillette.

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