The Criminals in College Sports Debate

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

College football coaches are always on the lookout for the next possible gridiron superstar.

Each coach’s wish list is different, but the criteria is almost always the same – speed, smarts, and size usually rule the day.

So where does an intangible like character come into play?

Every program would love to have a guy like Tim Tebow in their locker room. He was a good player with a solid moral foundation to back it up. He was a leader on the field and off, and became the poster child for the ‘good guy’ in college football.

But while Tebow was hoisted up as the pristine face of the Florida Gators, the rest of their football program were certainly no Eagle Scouts. Since 2005, 25 different players from the Gators have been arrested, including 12 charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors.

Florida is not the only program to deal with criminal activity from its players, either.

Every year we hear more reports about college athletes who find themselves involved in illegal matters that can make Ohio State’s tattoos and Brigham Young’s honor code violations sound like a church bake sale.

As further evidence of this growing problem in college sports, a recent study has uncovered that there is an alarming number of student athletes with criminal records, specifically among the ranks of the top programs.

Because these athletes become high profile representatives of high profile schools, does it make sense for those universities to dig even further into the respective pasts of their prospective recruits?

Should Universities in the NCAA examine the juvenile records of those students they intend to recruit?

Our resident Loyal Homer believes that universities absolutely should begin examining those juvenile records, while Sports Geek feels that they should not.

Is this a viable way to clean up the game and its programs? We are about to find out…

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The 2010 NFL Draft QB Success Debate… Number One Pick For A Reason

May 7, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

It’s going to be interesting to see how history looks back on the quarterback class of the 2010 NFL Draft. Obviously, the big four (Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, and Tim Tebow) will be heavily scrutinized. Amazingly, despite being temporarily slotted in as a third string quarterback, Tebow posted the hottest selling jersey in the NFL in April. But he isn’t going to be the best quarterback of this class. None of the writers at The Sports Debates beileve that. When all is said and done, Sam Bradford will be the best quarterback of the class of 2010.

With all the fuss about how far Clausen dropped and how Tebow was picked a little early, people tend to forget about Bradford. At least that is the impression I have. And that would be a huge mistake.

Like Tebow, Bradford was a winner in college. Not to the extent that Tebow was, as Bradford’s Sooners never got over that hump. But, in two full seasons as a starter (2007 and 2008), Bradford was 23-5. Obviously, we know he won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 with gaudy passing numbers. And he was surrounded by talent on his Sooner teams.

It’s going to be interesting to see his transition from a spread offense to a pro-style offense. He appears to be a smart guy, though, and early indications are that he isn’t afraid to take control of the huddle. At Rams rookie minicamp last week Bradford took charge of the offense with relative ease, and that is something coach Steve Spagnuolo was looking for rather intently.

Despite his injury-plagued 2009 campaign in Norman, I’m still convinced this guy has the strongest arm. At this pro day back in March, he showed off his accuracy, completing an amazing 62 of 63 passes, which had all the pro scouts in attendance drooling. That type of accuracy is what separates him from the rest, and it’s what got him to the position of being the number one pick. Many have compared Bradford to legendary Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman. They both actually have Oklahoma roots. That isn’t bad company, is it Sam?

There is one thing that Bradford can claim without much question, and that is the fact that he plays on the worst team. Bleacher Fan may disagree, but the Rams are much worse than the Browns, and obviously are worse than the Panthers and Broncos. The Rams are terrible. Awful. An embarrassment of Detroit Lions proportions. Last season’s number one pick, Matthew Stafford, had to deal with the same situation when he was drafted by the Lions. It’s going to be tough on Bradford, just as it was on Stafford. But at least he had Calvin Johnson to throw to. Bradford doesn’t even have that. However, expect Bradford to eventually move the Rams on up. He may experience growing pains early on, but when we look back on this class in 20 years, we’ll all agree that Sam Bradford was the best of the bunch.

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The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Carroll Does Well in First Draft

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

The three-day marathon called the NFL Draft is finally over. I was skeptical at first, but I must admit, going against what I argued not too long ago… the three day format was a success. I was proven wrong. I probably watched more draft coverage this year than ever before. And apparently I am not alone, as ESPN had record ratings. However, today we are going to recap the draft and debate which team had the best overall draft. How did your team fare? Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan are making two good choices as Babe is now a big Jimmy Clausen fan, and Bleacher Fan will join millions of others with his man crush on Tim Tebow. I, however, am going in a different direction. I am headed out West where Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks had themselves a very good draft.

Sports Geek and I are long time readers of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. And this morning, he has a fascinating review of the draft and some of the behind the scenes chatter. He and I agree that the Seahawks did a lot to improve their team. With their first pick and the sixth overall, they drafted Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung. Now, I know the average fan can’t name the names of the offensive lineman, but this guy appears to be the real deal. He was a two-time All-American in Stillwater and is rather huge. He is 6-feet 5-inches and weighs 307 pounds. Longtime Seahawk tackle Walter Jones is expected to retire in the coming days, and Seattle expects Okung to just slide right into the tackle position manned by Jones for thirteen years.

With the thirteenth pick safety Earl Thomas out of Texas was selected. Now, some of you Big XII fans should be familiar with Thomas. While he played safety in college, the Seahawks believe he can play some corner if needed, and that’s what separated him from the other safety candidates like former USC Trojan Taylor Mays. Carroll has been under fire from Mays for somehow causing his draft stock to fall. Mays was under the assumption that Carroll may draft him. But, Taylor, you aren’t in sunny California anymore… that’s not how it works outside the fantasy known as the University of Southern California. The training wheels are off!

I really like the second round pick, and 60th overall, of Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate. Sports Geek earlier this year wrote an argument about Tate. It’s hard to argue against some of the things he did in South Bend, and under major scrutiny at that. He’s a little on the small side, but I’ve just got a feeling he could do well in Seattle. I was actually a little surprised he fell all the way to 60.

It was a great first draft for Carroll in Seattle. He filled needs with the first three picks, but he also traded away picks in order to get running backs Leon Washington and LenDale White. If those two guys can stay healthy and focused, they should succeed in the northwest. The NFC West is up for grabs, and this draft will go a long way in helping Seattle compete in the West.

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The Best 2010 NFL Draft Week Debate… Mile High Strategy

April 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Success in the NFL Draft is measured and evaluated twice.

The ultimate measure of success cannot be determined until years after the draft has concluded, when we can take a perspective view afforded only by time and then say with certainty “Yes, this player was a successful draft pick” (i.e. Tom Brady), or “No, this player was a bust.”

Because we don’t have the luxury of foresight, we are left to grade the draft only by the standards we know today. There are essentially two questions to be asked in this regard:

First, did the team select players that can effectively fit the team’s scheme? Second, did the team maximize their draft opportunities to get as much value out of those picks as possible?

By those standards, the Denver Broncos CLEARLY had the best draft of 2010. They formalized a specific plan, and they executed that plan FLAWLESSLY.

To begin with, head coach Josh McDaniels sent a clear message to his team and to the league at large, that he is interested predominately in high-character, high-commitment players. With last year’s departure of Jay Cutler, and now Brandon Marshall in 2010, McDaniels is making it known that there is a certain “quality” of player that he wants on his team.

He held true to that philosophy with his first pick of 2010, when he passed on wide receiver Dez Bryant (who was arguably the most talented receiver in the draft) to instead select Demaryius Thomas out of Georgia Tech. Bryant brings with him a great deal of off-field questions, following a suspension which cost him most of the 2009 season and questions about his “attitude.” While Thomas is no slouch as a wide out, he does not bring as much on-field upside as Bryant has. However, Bryant’s upside ON the field seems to have been outweighed by his OFF-field baggage, and that appears to be all that McDaniels needed to know.

Three picks later, McDaniels backed up his high-character initiative by selecting “Mr. High Character” in Tim Tebow.

The Tebow pick, in my estimation, was THE pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, and I think that McDaniels’ decision to go with Tebow was the PERFECT move for his Denver Broncos. Despite ESPN’s ongoing (Kiper-driven) insistence that this was a bad decision – one that many implied COULD cost McDaniels his career if proven unsuccessful – there is little doubt in my mind that Tebow will be successful in Denver.

I am tired of hearing about Tebow’s supposed inability to fit in the NFL. As I wrote in a previous verdict, Tebow doesn’t have to throw the ball conventionally to be successful. He only has to win, and winning is the one thing that has PROVEN he can do better than just about anybody in the 2010 NFL Draft. He just needed an organization to believe in his ability the way that Urban Meyer and the rest of the Florida Gators program believed. As he said during his post-selection interview, he did not need for EVERY team in the NFL to like him. He just needed to prove to ONE team that he would be successful in the NFL.

Fortunately for Tebow, Josh McDaniels agreed.

Rather than listen to the overblown criticism provided by outlets such as ESPN, McDaniels chose the one player that most exemplified the ideals which he himself prized above all others. The result is that Tebow is once again in an environment where he is being called upon because of his intangible qualities (although I never understood how you could question the “tangibles” of a kid with Tebow’s resume). Just as Urban Meyer believed in the special blend of talent, commitment, and character that Tebow possesses, and built a program designed to maximize those qualities, McDaniels has cast his support for the former Heisman Winner, NCAA record-holder, and two-time national champion (it still fascinates me that people will question his tangibles when he has accomplished so much).

Finally, the action that made the Broncos so successful with the 2010 draft was not the fact that they simply picked good players that fit their organization. It was the manner in which they got those players. Thanks to brilliant draft-day maneuvering, the Broncos flitted across the draft board all day long, only stopping to make a pick when they felt it suited their needs best. They essentially decided for themselves when they would pick, and it didn’t matter if it was their turn or not. When they wanted to make something happen, they made it happen. They traded back in the draft, then forward again, all to put themselves in the best possible position to get the players they WANTED and NEEDED without having to overpay.

The Denver Broncos had the best draft of 2010 for one reason – they went into the draft with a clearly defined plan, and they stuck to that plan. While we will not be able to judge the ultimate success or failure of the 2010 NFL Draft for many years to come, one thing is certain – no team executed their plan better than did the Denver Broncos. For that reason alone, I give them an A+!

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The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Pre-Draft Story Drought

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The NFL Draft kicked off yesterday and I could not have been more lukewarm about it. You have probably heard the expression “No news, is good news”, but that is not really the case for a football fan around the NFL Draft. There just was not that much to get excited about. Aside from, Brandon Marshall’s deal to the Dolphins and Donovan McNabb’s in-division trade to the Redskins, things have pretty much been a total yawnfest. The biggest story leading up to this NFL Draft was the lack of stories leading up to the NFL Draft.

Ben Roethlisberger did more than his fair share to try and stir up NFL storylines and prompt trade talk, but the deal never got done. Although Big Ben did not verbally demand a trade out of Pittsburgh, his actions sure did. After putting himself in compromising situation after situation, the Steelers’ QB made himself increasingly expendable, and when the news broke just days ago that he was going to be suspended for six games during the 2010 season, he really gave the Steelers a reason to let him go. There were plenty of teams who would have benefited from the on-field talents of Roethlisberger under center (and he is sure to keep the local legal team busy with defense cases), but only the Oakland Raiders emerged as serious suitors. It seemed like the Oakland Raiders were a logical match who would surely jump at the opportunity to acquire a quarterback with a Super Bowl winning pedigree, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. Maybe the Raiders thought they could get off cheaper trying to draft a quarterback or maybe they were just trying to protect the co-ed population in the greater Oakland area, but it seems that Big Ben will be back in Pittsburgh in 2010 after his suspension runs its course.

There was hope that things might pick up after Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins. Many thought that this was a sign of wilder wheeling and dealing to come, but again… nothing. There There was some minor speculation that Washington might sign free agent Terrell Owens, which is a deal I wish had gone down because it would have been supremely entertaining. Watching McNabb and TO team up again while both are trying to prove they are still elite competitors would have been either an unbelievable comeback story for the once dynamic duo, or a delicious train wreck of epic proportions. Either way the public would have gotten to enjoy the show, but are instead left wondering about what might have been.

Another Redskin, Albert Haynesworth, got the rumor mill going as well this off season, as trade talk emerged about a potential return to Tennessee for the former Titan. Despite cashing in on a huge payday last season signing with Washington, Haynesworth seemed to have no interest in adjusting to the Redskins’ defensive schemes. There was talk that he might make his way back to Tennessee in time to mix up the draft board for the two teams and potentially add some more drama to the draft. But like every other rumored move lately it did not happen. The big man may still rumble back in to the Music City, but he’ll do so after the kickoff of the NFL draft.

I really did not see this wave of inactivity coming. Usually the NFL is abuzz with pre-draft stories and big moves. Picks and players swapping teams set the tone for an entertaining draft, but this year it was all quiet on the football front leading up to draft day.

In the end, the draft itself proved to be far more exciting (with Cowboys trading up to get Dez Bryant and Tim Tebow being drafted above Jimmy Clausen) than any pre-draft story.

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The Tim Tebow as a Pro QB Debate… Winning May Not Be Everything, But it is Something

March 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

If sporting events were played on paper, rather than on the field, then we would be getting ready for a Final Four that, besides Duke, also featured Kentucky, Syracuse, and Kansas. Instead we are all getting ready to watch one featuring Butler, Michigan State, and West Virginia. Projection is an inexact science, and as Babe Ruthless points out in his argument, analysts get it wrong just as often as (if not more than) they get it right. Likewise, the challenge of projecting an unproven athlete’s success is just as much guesswork as it is science.

That is why debates such as these are so much fun. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to prediction and projection, there is only speculation. Only Tim Tebow can ultimately decide if he will be a successful NFL quarterback. All the breakdowns and analysis in the world will not change that inevitable outcome. Still, it does not stop us from trying our hardest at predicting the future!

With that in mind, Loyal Homer is absolutely correct. College success is not a predictor for NFL success. However, it should also be noted that having an unconventional throwing motion is also not a predictor for failure. Just because a quarterback entering the NFL is not considered a pure “passer” does not mean that he will fail.

Bernie Kosar, one of the most successful quarterbacks of the 1980s had a side-arm delivery when he threw the ball. If I were coaching Pop Warner and I saw a kid trying to mimic Kosar’s motion, I would a) cringe, and b) work with him in trying to correct it. However, Kosar made it work.

Another more recent example of a quarterback who has found success in the NFL without relying on a strong passing game is Ben Roethlisberger.

When the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2005 it was not on the arm of Roethlisberger. During the season, he threw the ball only 268 times that season. By comparison, there were 25 other quarterbacks in the NFL that season with more than 300 passing attempts, led by Brett Favre who had more than 600. Of those completions, Roethlisberger accounted for only 2,385 passing yards (behind 20 other quarterbacks) and 17 touchdowns (behind 13 other quarterbacks).

Even though Roethlisberger was not called upon to be a “passer” in 2005, he helped lead his team to the Super Bowl and is now considered one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game today.

I am not trying to draw comparisons between Roethlisberger and Tebow (I actually think that is the LAST person Tebow would want to be compared with right now). I am simply bringing up the point that a quarterback can be successful without having to rely on a fundamentally “sound” passing game.

It is for that reason that I am awarding the debate to Babe Ruthless.

As Babe Ruthless points out, Tebow possesses other intangible qualities that CAN translate from college into professional success. Namely, he is a WINNER and a proven LEADER (qualities that many people in the NFL severely lack).

You can coach a player on how to change his throwing mechanics. You can help him to study film and learn how to read defenses better. You can teach him how to change his grip on the ball to allow for a cleaner release. But you CANNOT teach him how to be a winner or a leader.

Is Tebow a good fit for EVERY team in the NFL? No, but what quarterback is? That does not automatically mean he is a BAD fit for every team. It may take a few years before he is ready to actually run an NFL offense while he perfects his new and improved throwing style, and that is okay. Aaron Rodgers did not start right out of the gate and he has been one of the best quarterbacks of the past two seasons. However, when the time finally does come and Tebow walks out onto the field one Sunday afternoon, the coach can be confident in the fact that his quarterback knows how to win.

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The Tim Tebow as a Pro QB Debate

March 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Despite Thom Brennaman’s recommendations, I have not yet had the opportunity to improve my life with twenty minutes – or even just five minutes – in Tim Tebow’s presence. What I have had the opportunity to do is to watch Tebow go on to complete one of the greatest careers in the history of college football. He has won a Heisman Trophy, has been named the AP Player of the Year, and has broken several college football records, all capped off with two BCS National Championships.

In addition to his remarkable performance on the field, Tebow is generally regarded as a person of high character. But even with his on-field dominance and all around good-guy persona, there has not been a more polarizing character coming out of the college football ranks for a very long time.

There is just no such thing as a middle-of-the-road opinion on Tim Tebow. Whether fan, analyst, scout, or player, EVERYONE has an opinion on Tebow – and they are almost ALL extreme.

Even now, as we get ready for the NFL Draft (which is only one month away) the Tim Tebow debate continues to rage on, and it has NFL analysts and scouts chiming-in with their assessment of Tebow.

Following a highly-publicized Senior Bowl performance where Tebow was clearly uncomfortable while running a “pro-style” offense, his draft projection came into question. Many scouts and analysts in the anti-Tebow camp have discussed the problems in Tebow’s throwing mechanics, citing that as a major obstacle that will prevent him from becoming a successful NFL quarterback. They have been very vocal about criticizing his play, arguing that his success in the college game will not translate into NFL success. Adding to that criticism are the recent comments from a former Florida Gators teammate of Tebow’s, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who implied that Tebow was not a “real” quarterback.

For his part, Tebow has put forth a great amount of effort in changing his throwing motion, but many question whether or not it will be enough.

On the flip side of this issue are many other well-respected voices in the NFL who believe that Tebow has proven himself a winner. They whole-heartedly believe Tebow will be a success in the NFL ranks. Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy even went so far as to use the word “great” in his assessment of how Tebow will perform as a pro.

Now it is time for The Sports Debates to weigh-in on the Tebow debate: Will Tim Tebow be successful as a quarterback in the NFL?

Babe Ruthless will argue on Tebow’s behalf by trying to prove that Tebow will make the transition into the NFL and become a successful quarterback. Loyal Homer will argue to the contrary, providing evidence that Tebow will not find success among the professional ranks.

Finally, before we begin, let us all bow our heads and pray

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