No Sleep Till Football

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4 Downs: Gunner, Peyton, UNC & the Patriots

Cool stuff going on with football right now so it’s time for 4 downs!

1st Down: #1 High School QB in USA picks………………………….INDIANA?

By now you’ve heard that Columbus, IN native Gunner Kiel verbally committed to Kevin Wilson and his staff at Indiana University. This is arguably the greatest recruit in Indiana football history so it’s a huge story and mind-boggling at that. From what I’ve read, Kiel had his choices down to Indiana, Alabama & Missouri and came away wearing BIG RED! A few things went into that decision. That Wilson was Sam Bradford’s coach at Oklahoma is a big deal. Also the desire to stay close to home is a big deal. Columbus is only about 45 minutes east of Bloomington. Kiel’s older brother Dusty is actually projected as the starting QB for the Hoosiers in 2011. It’s hard to believe that Kiel chose Indiana over Alabama, but Kiel also had offers from practically everyone and was also mulling offers from Tennessee & Notre Dame. Historically, this is a huge announcement for Indiana. It sounds incredible, but this might be the 2nd biggest thing in Indiana football history behind their 1967 Rose Bowl appearance where they lost to USC 14-3.

Now the question becomes how does this affect the Hoosiers in the big picture? Let’s be honest. Wilson never comes close to Kiel if he hadn’t of been the OC at Oklahoma when Bradford comes through. Wilson never comes close to Kiel if the best QB recruit in the nation doesn’t reside in the Hoosier State. If Kiel was from Illinois or Ohio or Kentucky, he certainly isn’t coming to Bloomington. Luck is a part of life however, and Wilson certainly gets a HUGE boost to momentum with this much light on the IU football program. What’ll be interesting now is how he uses this to his advantage. Can Kiel’s commitment cause a mini-windfall at IU to up the overall talent level? Can Wilson use the 3-years he’ll have of Kiel to the best of his abilities and turn Indiana around? Being in the “Leaders” division with Ohio St., Wisconsin and Penn St. isn’t easy, BUT Indiana could use some momentum here given the transitions that are happening. Ohio St. is under NCAA sanctions and has uncertainty at head coach. Penn St. certainly has a cloudy future in regards to their head coaching because you never know when Joe Paterno might step down, if he ever does! Wisconsin is always going to be tough and I really like Brett Bielema, but Wisconsin isn’t a powerful force in the recruiting world. It wouldn’t take a HUGE LEAP to get Indiana above Purdue, Northwestern & Illinois.

Look, successful seasons in Bloomington are measured in 7-5 records or 8-4 records, but could Wilson really be the “RIGHT” guy at Indiana? He’s going to bring an offense that will be fairly new to the Big 10, and could his offensive schemes be enough of an “inefficiency” to turn Indiana’s football fortunes around? It’s tough to say, but with what looks like an excellent in hire in Wilson followed by an historical commitment, there are a lot more reasons to tune into IU football this year then in MANY years past.

2nd Down: Peyton Manning’s New Contract Too Big for Colts?

This is getting a lot of publicity here locally because the rumor mill is turning and it’s saying Manning’s new deal is going to be in the $20 million per year range. The questions surround Indianapolis’s ability to field a competitive team with so much money going to one single player. Some of the talk was based around LB Clint Session signing with the Jaguars and the lack of conversation surrounding Joseph Addai’s status and Indy’s inability to keep either moving forward. Session was actually the 2nd LB Jacksonville picked up as they signed former Bills LB Paul Poslusnzy.

There are a million different angles on this one. I’ll go through 2-3. The first is that with a tighter salary cap, a huge amount of money going to Manning means less to go around in building a competitive team. The Jags are rebuilding their LB core and they’ve always been a very difficult team for Indianapolis to beat. That isn’t going to get any easier this year especially if Indy has an even WORSE time trying to run on them. Tennessee signed Matt Hasselbeck to play QB. While Hasselbeck’s best days are behind him, he’s a solid veteran QB with a pretty good offense at his disposal. The Texans are in the lead for free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Houston had significant problems in their secondary. Asomugha fixes a lot of those, and keep in mind that Houston is going to be VERY VERY improved on defense with Wade Phillips taking over at DC. I’m not entirely sure Indianapolis can stay the same while everyone else in the AFC South gets significantly better and hope to continue their era of dominance. Even if they do somehow make the playoffs, the team will have taken some beatings along the way only to look up and be facing the Jets, Steelers, Patriots or Ravens in the 1st round. EEK. So one way to look at this is wondering about the competitiveness of the Colts should so much money be focused in on QB to the actual detriment of the team.

On the other hand, the Colts without #18 might be a 3-13 football team. The backup QB right now is Curtis Painter who would immediately become the worst starting QB in the NFL. The Colts just signed former 49ers draft pick QB Nate Davis. To say the Colts have the worst QB depth in the NFL is an understatement. If Manning can’t play, then the Colts have a hard time beating the Bengals…..or the Panthers! With Peyton and a collection of NFL castoffs, they’ve got a better than average chance of making the playoffs. Giving him $20MM might be counterproductive to winning a Super Bowl for want of championship players surrounding Manning, but not having Manning at all means the Colts immediately become one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Speaking of Super Bowls, I think if you have ANY IDEA ABOUT THE GAME OF FOOTBALL, you know that Jim Caldwell is NEVER going to win a Super Bowl. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I’d be willing to bet my house on it. This of course is a Bill Polian & Jim Irsay problem. A problem I’ve been harping about for a LONG LONG time. I’m not sure Manning can go anywhere else at this point in his career. He’s enough of a football historian to understand the importance of sticking with one organization. I’m pretty confident every football team in the NFL would gladly jump at making Manning their #1 QB with the possible exception of both New England & Green Bay, but Manning has spent a professional lifetime cultivating a particular image. Spurning the Colts to become a heel wouldn’t be in his master plan, however entertaining it might be for football fans. Manning pretty much has to stay with the Colts. Meaning Manning is never going to win another Super Bowl unless Jim Caldwell is gone and Indianapolis brings in a legitimate head coach.

Of course this leads us back to the contract. If Manning inherently knows Indianapolis can’t win a Super Bowl with the head coach they have (He has to know this!) then why not get as large a payday as he possibly can? If Peyton can’t win another championship then his only motivations can be money, statistics, and the continual legacy he’s building. That’s it. It’s a remarkable situation, but one thing is for certain, the Colts will not win another Super Bowl in the Manning Era unless Caldwell goes soon enough for Manning to have some left in the tank.

3rd Down: North Carolina fires HC Butch Davis

This is a very interesting story. When the NCAA told UNC they wouldn’t hurt their cause by firing Davis, the Tar Heels obliged and jettisoned Davis with rapidity. The whole John Blake problem combined with the tutor issues were simply too difficult for Carolina to overcome. AD Dick Baddour even stepped down too leaving those in Chapel Hill without a head football coach and an athletic director! It’s a good thing good ol’ Roy is still in Tar Heel blue! Heather Dinich, the ACC blogger for ESPN sums it up nicely here:

“We recognize that $2.7 million may be what this ends up costing us,” chancellor Holden Thorp said, “and I’ve reached the conclusion that even though this is a terrible time, the athletic program will need to pay whatever it is we need to pay to make the separation happen.”

Oh, they’ll pay.

It will cost them fan support.

It will cost them recruits.

It will cost them years.

It will cost them wins.

It will cost them their longtime, loyal athletic director, who announced his resignation effective June 2012.

And the NCAA hasn’t even begun to levy sanctions for nine major violations.

North Carolina is in deeper than any other program in the country right now. Overnight, it went from a team reloading on both sides and capable of contending for the Coastal Division to a program completely in rebuilding mode. Dave Hooker of ESPN Recruiting wrote about how many UNC recruits are sticking with their commitments.

A word of advice, guys? Run. As in, 40-yard fast.

We’re talking about a year with an interim coach. Another season with a first-year head coach, who more than likely will be facing a postseason ban. A minimum of three more years until that staff recruits and develops the kinds of players the new coach wants in his system — which will be a challenge because it would be shocking if the NCAA didn’t hand out some form of scholarship reductions.

WOW. I think Davis is a terrific coach and recruiter. He should have won that national championship with Miami-FL that Larry Coker won when Davis left for the NFL. He probably should have stayed at Miami-FL instead of jumping ship. I thought he was an outstanding hire for North Carolina. At the time I thought after the Carl Torbush & John Bunting eras, Davis was a welcome sight that had the ability to lead UNC to ACC titles. It wouldn’t be easy, but you can get high end talent to Chapel Hill and Davis had the ability to recruit that high end talent.

For whatever reason, the Tar Heels could never quite make it over the hump while Davis was there. Davis was able to line up outstanding talent on the defensive side of the football, but he had some troubles finding a legitimate QB that could fill the role Ken Dorsey did on his Miami-FL teams. All in all I thought it was only a matter of time before Davis’s offensive talent caught up with the talent he had on defense. Now we’ll never find out.

This of course puts North Carolina WAY BEHIND. As Dinich points out, this is the type of problem that will probably set North Carolina football back for years. It’s not a coaching job at anyone with ambition is going to want, and to be honest, UNC is a stepping stone job. Mack Brown used it to get to Texas. If there is an up and coming football coach, he most likely won’t want to wind up at Carolina because he can’t necessarily show his coaching prowess with some limitations as the NCAA will put on the program.

It’s definitely odd. At the age of 59, Davis is still young enough to resurface somewhere, but you wonder if he’ll simply take some TV analyst job and call it a career. As for North Carolina, who knows where it ends? Clearly they won’t be competitive for some time to come and this clearly benefits the surrounding schools and the SEC now that they won’t have to compete with the Tar Heels for potential recruits. The question now becomes when, if ever, North Carolina football becomes relevant again?

4th Down: Patriots Taking on Reclamation Projects

It’s been an interesting couple of days with the Patriots bringing in Chad Ochocinco & Albert Haynesworth into the fold. These are serious reclamation projects, but it’s interesting to see the Patriots bring them in. Obviously both players are All-Pro caliber talents and the Patriots feel like they are bringing them on the cheap in the hopes that both guys want to play hard to rehabilitate their image. This is something I think interesting that the Patriots are one of the few teams that can get away with. Obviously Bill Belichick believes in his system & structure that if the players buy in, then the Patriots got a couple of great players on the cheap that can propel them even further towards a Super Bowl title. There aren’t many coaches in the NFL with that much cache. I think Mike Tomlin probably has this. Probably Sean Payton and maybe Mike Montgomery now in Green Bay. I think Rex Ryan has this type of swagger too as a head coach, but outside of those 4 guys, which NFL teams could take monumental risks to team chemistry?

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Think about what you need to make all of this work. First you need a Hall-of-Fame head coach. They don’t exactly grow on trees. If you asked me which head coaches in the NFL currently could win a Super Bowl, I’d give you the ones that already have like Belichick. Tomlin, Payton & Montgomery. Now if you ask me which head coaches right now could win Super Bowls, and I think the list doesn’t get much longer. I’d throw Rex Ryan on there. I’d also throw on John Harbaugh, Mike Smith, Jim Schwarz, Jim Harbaugh and possibly Ken Whisenhunt & Jason Garrett. Think about that for a minute. The only teams with a decent shot at winning the Super Bowl are:

New England Patriots
New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons
Detroit Lions
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals
Dallas Cowboys

That’s it and only a few of those coaches could probably pull off bringing in guys like Ochocinco & Haynesworth and still come out unscathed.

The next thing you need is for that particular coach to have had success. This narrows the group down a bit to Belichick, Tomlin, Ryan, John Harbaugh, Montgomery, Payton & Smith. If you are talking ultimate success over a great length of time then all you really have left is Belichick and Tomlin. Thus the only organizations that could potentially pull something like this off are Pittsburgh & New England.

The last thing you need is the guts to pull the trigger. I don’t think there is anyone in the NFL with bigger balls than Bill Belichick. It’s that simple. Pittsburgh is a big deal, but they seem somewhat risk averse so I think going with supposed malcontents isn’t really their style necessarily unless they are one of their own. The Patriots have a huge track record with these guys. Corey Dillon. Randy Moss. Rodney Harrison. Now Chad Johnson & Albert Haynesworth.

It’s certainly a market inefficiency and you have to feel pretty lucky as a Patriots fan to be potentially the only organization that can maximize this inefficiency without worry of destroying the intrinsic harmony of that locker room. Bill Belichick is the best for a reason. This is simply another example of the millions as to why he deserves the crown.

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July 28, 2011 - Posted by | Indiana, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, North Carolina, Peyton Manning

3 Comments »

  1. Kiel to IU is one of the biggest underdog recruiting efforts of all time. GO IU!!!

    The Manning problem. I agree with the Caldwell situation. The only thing that could over come this is for Manning to drastically reduce his salary so that the team can sign enough talent to over come the coaching. I am not a guy that thinks that PM should take less than the market offers. I am just saying that is the only way the Colts get another SB under Caldwell.

    Comment by BigTimber | July 29, 2011 | Reply

  2. I saw this right after I posted the above comment.

    http://www.indystar.com/article/20110729/SPORTS03/110729013/Manning-Irsay-don-t-need-NFL-s-highest-paid-player?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|IndyStar.com

    Comment by BigTimber | July 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. I will say that I don't believe the Colts can acquire enough talent to overcome the MASSIVE coaching deficit that exists with Jim Caldwell.

    To a degree it almost seems as if Manning is now a victim of history. He's simply played for a horrible organization personified by Bill Polian as the GM. What can he really do? Coming out in the 1998 draft it was either Indianapolis or San Diego.

    Did he really get the right situation? Probably not. The Chargers with Manning & Marty Schottenheimer probably win more than 1 Super Bowl. Maybe not.

    Manning also gets a bit unlucky by playing in the Bill Belichick in New England Era. That's SO TOUGH.

    The problem too is now later in his career you have Rex Ryan and the Jets too. Not to mention a decade's worth of dominance by the Steelers.

    That's pretty tough. The Colts got incredibly lucky with Peyton, but they put their lot in with Dungy & Caldwell and Manning will pay a price regarding his legacy.

    Comment by College Football Mafia | July 29, 2011 | Reply


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