"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: MUSBERGER HEADING TO VEGAS, ROETHLISBERGER NURSING HIS WOUNDS, JAMES LOOKING FOR HELP, TIGER'S BACK

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Brent Musberger Leaving Play By Play Duties: I was a freshman in college in 1975 and the first weekend at school was the beginning of the NFL season. As Redskins fans, my dorm mates and I huddled around a small black and white television to tune into what we thought would be another boring pre-game show on CBS, at that time the network that broadcast the NFC games. But instead, we heard a new voice say "You're looking live at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC" and instantly knew something very different was happening and 12:30 pm on Sundays would never be the same. Musberger, along with Irv Cross and former Miss America Phyllis George brought an entertainment aspect to the program that mesmerized the nation. The host was young, dynamic, smart and captivating. Irv Cross brought a player's perspective and Phyllis George brought, well, Phyllis George. One year later, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder would be the first to actually pick games against the spread, something we take for granted today. The groundbreaking show was our introduction to one of the most enduring sports broadcasting figures in history. Today, ESPN announced that Tuesday night's Kentucky - Georgia basketball game on the SEC Network would be the last broadcast for legendary announcer Brent Musberger. Whether it was football, tennis, basketball, baseball or golf, Musberger brought something special to the big events on CBS until he was fired in 1990. He didn't miss a beat, quickly ending up at ABC and shortly thereafter on ESPN as part of the Disney tandem of networks. When I think of iconic broadcasters, it's a pretty short list. Vin Scully, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Verne Lundquist and Brent Musberger immediately come to mind. Initially, he added tremendous value to the network for his ability to pitch prime time programming, making each new show sound like the one that would literally change your life. Later, it was his preparation and professionalism that were particularly noticeable to me. Put me at a table with Keith, Al, Verne, Brent, Vin and a couple of bottles of wine and I wouldn't wish for anything else for the rest of my life. The stories those guys could tell must be amazing. But unlike Keith Jackson and Vin Scully, Musberger isn't retiring, but instead heading to Las Vegas to start a sports handicapping business. I guess he must have learned some secrets from Jimmy The Greek way back in the day, huh?

Big Ben Hinting At Retirement? Is Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just frustrated and banged up after his team's loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, or is there more afoot here? Big Ben recently stated that he was going to reflect on this past season and  ponder the next one, if there was one. Given the amount of punishment Roethlisberger has endured over the course of his thirteen year career, it's not inconceivable that he could be pondering retirement. In an interview that I conducted with Leigh Steinberg earlier this week, he laid out a very grim picture of the damage repeated hits to the head inflict. With three young children, probably a pretty secure financial situation and his still moderately good health, is there really any reason for the two-time Super Bowl champ to return for more physical punishment? Only he knows the answer to that question, but it really wouldn't surprise me if Big Ben decided to hang it up. In a recent article in "Sports Illustrated", Roethlisberger was portrayed as someone who tolerated more than sought the spotlight. If his competitive drive has been diminished, what else does he need to prove? His resume is probably already worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame. Is the preparation necessary to get ready for another grueling 16 game season worth placing himself at risk for serious personal injury?

Help Wanted: Backup Guard for Lebron James: Apparently, Cleveland Cavalier great Lebron James is a bit frustrated that his team has lost four of their last six games, with the superstar forced to play excessive minutes in the process. Before the season, you see, guard Matthew Dellavedova accepted a nice offer from the Milwaukee Bucks and since then small forward J.R. Smith has gone down with an injury, leaving only Kyrie Irving and Lebron to distribute the basketball. The trade deadline is less than a month away, but that's still plenty of time for Cavs' GM David Griffin to make a deal. I guess Lebron is wanting to make sure the guys in the front office have a clear picture of the needs of the team. Really? This is a GM that has done a pretty good job of getting the right pieces to the puzzle, including signing and keeping Kevin Love, bringing in the now injured Smith and adding a role player or two along the way. Center Chris "Birdman" Anderson, who was with The King in Miami, would have given the team better rebounding, but he's out for the season with a torn ACL. On this morning's "Mike and Mike Show" on ESPN, Stephen A. Smith was critical of James for being so public with his frustration because it would just drive up the price of any players that Griffin chose to work a trade for. I tend to agree. It's one thing to speculate what your trading partner's urgency is, another to know with certainty that they're desperate to appease the best player on the planet so they have a shot at a second consecutive title, probably having to face either the Warriors or Spurs in the Finals. My feeling is, inflated value or not, Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert will find a way to get one or more deals done to bring much needed help to ensure James gets to his seventh consecutive Finals, if not capturing another championship.

Tiger Woods: New Clubs, New Swing: Even at the age of 41, Tiger Woods is still indisputably the biggest draw in golf. It's been a year and a half since he last teed it up in an official tour event, and you'd think from today's coverage that he was the only guy in the field. Regular readers of my blog will know I'm unabashedly a huge Woods fan, primarily because I focus on action on the course, field and court. The former number one in the world and winner of fourteen majors brings a new swing and a new club sponsor to Torre Pines for the Farmer's Insurance Open. Woods announced today that he has signed with Taylor Made to play their metal woods, irons and wedges. He'll continue to wear his Tiger Woods branded Nike apparel, but the deal has to be a shot in the arm for Taylor Made. The clubs aren't the only thing new about his game. Tiger's swing is clearly less violent, which should place significantly less stress on his surgically repaired back. I'm not expecting a lot from Woods this week, a made cut probably the most he can hope for, if for no other reason than to be able to get four competitive rounds under his belt. He tees off at 1:40 pm EST Thursday, and I'm betting The Golf Channel alters their coverage to make sure his first tee shot is shown live. Nothing against Jordan, Jason, Dustin, Rory, Justins (Rose and Thomas) and the other young guns, but it's good to have Tiger Woods back on tour.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Monday, January 16, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP: ACC BETTER THAN THE SEC, AT LEAST FOR NOW?

It's been an entire week since the College Football national championship game, won in scintillating fashion by Clemson. The Tigers finished the season the way they started, by defeating an SEC West team from the state of Alabama. That's a pretty good way to bookend the season, especially given the SEC's dominance in the recent past. Since 1992 and the advent of at least a partial attempt to pit the top two teams together in a championship game, the SEC has a total of 17 appearances, with twelve wins, including seven straight from 2006 to 2012 What's even more impressive is that those appearances are spread out over five teams, all of which played in at least two of those games. Only the Big 12 had more than two teams represented, and one of those was Nebraska, now in the Big Ten. Of course, these results are skewed in a way, because until the advent of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 didn't participate, choosing instead to maintain their annual meeting in the Rose Bowl. Nonetheless, it's still an impressive showing by SEC teams.

The last four years have painted a little different picture. Suddenly, the ACC, after over a decade of absence from the championship game (remember, Miami was in the Big East when it made its last appearance following the 2002 season), has had a resurgence, tying the SEC with three appearances and one-upping them with two championships. In addition, this past season saw the ACC run up a record of 10 - 4 against the SEC, winning an impressive four out of five in the postseason. What does this say about the relative strength of the two leagues? Since I have close ties to both Virginia Tech and Arkansas, I tend to watch a lot of games involving teams from both conferences. My take is that the SEC just had a bit of a down year, while the ACC is benefiting from longer tenured coaches or in the case of Virginia Tech, new energy at a solid program. Teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State that had seen their programs rise recently in both talent and results, were in more of a rebuilding year. Unlike Alabama and LSU, and to a lesser extent Florida, which tend to reload rather than rebuild, the other schools in the conference tend to ride a couple of decent recruiting classes to three or four successful seasons before having to replace key players. This is especially true of Mississippi State, which had to replace an almost singular talent in Dak Prescott. We need look no further than the rookie QB's performance with Dallas this season to appreciate what he brought to Starkville. 
The SEC East was breaking in new coaches at key schools like Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri. LSU, meanwhile, was dealing with the circus surrounding their handling of the Les Miles era.

I believe the anomaly isn't so much that the ACC is more competitive against the SEC, it's that it was off the radar from a national perspective for much of the first decade of the new millenium. Mark Richt's presence at Miami, what Dabo Swinney is doing for a traditionally strong program at Clemson, Jimbo Fisher's commitment to keep Florida State in the spotlight, Bobby Petrino's always dangerous offense at Louisville, the aforementioned revitalization of Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente and the always difficult offensive scheme of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech have all emerged to bring the ACC back to national prominence. I also believe that the ACC is making a better effort, at least at the top, of focusing more on improving their out of conference schedules. The addition of Notre Dame's commitment to play five ACC teams every season, bolsters, at least on paper, the pedigree of the ACC. For instance, in addition to Notre Dame, Virginia Tech took on Tennessee in the Battle at Bristol. Clemson opened at Auburn and finished the season against South Carolina. Pittsburgh took on Penn State and Oklahoma State, while North Carolina played Georgia and Illinois to open the season. True, Boston College, Syracuse and some others played embarrassingly weak non-conference slates, but half the SEC did as well.

Can and will the SEC bounce back? Every indication from the past would point to yes. Arkansas, with Bret Bielema in the final year of his contract, should be better with a full season under QB Austin Allen's belt. Missouri, with its strong football tradition, will probably rebound in Barry Odom's second season, building on a season ending win over Arkansas. Will Muschamp at South Carolina and Kirby Smart at Georgia will be in their second year, while Tennessee's Butch Jones will be looking for a way to build on a season that, while not up to early expectations, ended on a positive note with a bowl win over a tough Nebraska team. With just over seven and a half months (but who's counting?) until the 2017 kickoff, we still have a lot of time to speculate. One thing is certain, though, when it comes to the SEC. Alabama is king of the hill, and at the moment it's a long way down the closest challenger!

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.






Thursday, January 12, 2017

LOS ANGELES RAMS GO YOUNG AT HEAD COACH: NOT A GREAT IDEA

The Los Angeles Rams have hired 30 year old Sean McVay, most recently the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, as their head coach. McVay will be the youngest head coach in the history of game. With the track record of young coaches, it appears that McVay will have a difficult time getting the Rams back to respectability. If reports are to be believed, he will need to build a coaching staff that can do a better job of developing quarterbacks, including L.A.'s top pick last year, Jared Goff, who wasn't even active for much of last season. Can a 30 year-old command the kind of respect necessary to manage and motivate 53 professional football players? Recent history would indicate that he probably can't.

Lane Kiffin took over the Oakland Raiders at the age of 31 after a 2 - 14 season. Granted, it was the Raiders, still run by an aging Al Davis who had a propensity for hiring young coaches through the years, including John Madden and Jon Gruden. But Kiffin failed miserably, going 5 - 15 in less than two seasons and has been bouncing around the coaching ranks ever since.

Raheem  Morris was tapped to replace Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay following the 2008 season in which the Bucs finished a respectable 9 - 7. Despite taking over a pretty good team, the 32 year-old Morris could only manage one winning season while going 17 - 31 in three years at the helm.

Back in 1993, Cincinnati hoped to get more out of the Shula name by hiring 32 year-old Dave as their head coach. He inherited a team that had gone 3 - 13 the previous season and even though he bettered that record twice in his tenure with the Bengals, he exited with an overall record of 19 - 52 with his best season a mediocre 7 - 9 in 1995.

Another 32 year-old, Josh McDaniels, followed a long tenure by Mike Shanahan in Denver after the fourteen year head coach was fired following an 8 - 8 season. Despite inheriting a decent team, McDaniels was unable to find success and was fired twelve games into his second season after going 3 - 9 for a two year record of 11 - 17. McDaniels has since found success with the New England Patriots as their offensive coordinator and is reported to be in the running for another head coaching opportunity.

Combined, the four previous youngest head coaches had a combined 62 - 115 record, with only one winning season between them in nine full years and three partial seasons. With the recent history of young coaches being so brutally bad, why would the Rams think they can break the mold? Perhaps in this day and age, there's a perception that experience doesn't matter. But that perception clearly doesn't match the stark reality of a 35% winning percentage. The other thing that is interesting is that only one of these coaches was given more than three seasons to turn things around, indicating to me that there could have been other issues in play. Could it have been lack of maturity and leadership? You think?

I'm not advocating some archaic good old boys' network requiring people to "pay their dues" for inclusion in the head coaching fraternity. I'm just saying that the track record of coaches thirty-two and younger is drastically different than those thirty-four and older. Take a look at the next four youngest coaches that took over since 1990.

Jon Gruden at the age 34, now ESPN's Monday Night Football analyst, turned around the Oakland Raiders in 1998 after a 4 - 12 season in 1997. His record was a respectable 38 - 26 before leaving for Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl against his former team in his first season with the Bucs. He won two more NFC South titles in Tampa before getting fired and finding his way to the broadcast booth.

When Chuck Noll retired in 1992, the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in 34 year-old Bill Cowher to add new life to a team that went 7 - 9 in 1991. Did he ever, winning five division crowns in his first six seasons and getting to the Super Bowl following the 1995 campaign, losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Cowher retired after fifteen seasons, compiling an impressive 149 - 90 -1 record and winning Super Bowl XL.

Coincidentally, Cowher was succeeded by another 34 year-old, current Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin. All Tomlin has done is go 104 - 57 with a Super Bowl title and no losing seasons. Pittsburgh takes on Kansas City this weekend, with the Patriots looming in the AFC title game.

Also at the age of 34, Eric Mangini inherited a 4 - 12 Jets team in 2006 and went 10 -6 in his first season in New York (well, New Jersey technically, but...). He lasted three years and compiled a respectable 23 - 25 record while adding another winning record.

So the contrast is rather dramatic, although it could be argued that the Steelers are one of the top organizations in the league, which gives Cowher and Tomlin a bit of an edge. But the sample size here is large enough to offer up what seems to be a clear differentiation between thirty-two and younger versus thirty-four and older. Which leads me predict that unless something radically changes in Los Angeles, we're likely to see Sean McVay back in the press box calling plays for another team in a two or three years.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Friday, January 6, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP: CLEMSON IN AUGUST, CLEMSON IN JANUARY

For a podcast on this subject go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/01/09/to-the-half-with-matthew-long

In my preseason picks, I chose Clemson to win the college football championship, and I'm not backing away now. Last year's exciting 45 - 40 Alabama win over the Tigers has created a lot of excitement over the rematch and it will be difficult to top last season. Given the one-sided games that have dominated the first eight games of the three playoffs held to this point, it might even be too much to expect a close game that goes down to the wire. Since I've already picked the winner, let me share some other perspectives that might have an impact on the outcome.

Clemson Wants Revenge: It's pretty hard to take a close loss that ultimately hinged on a couple of special teams plays. I remember when Virginia Tech lost to Florida State in 2000 they held the lead in the fourth quarter until Peter Warrick took over for the Seminoles by returning a punt for a touchdown that ended up ending the chances for the Hokies. Last year, Alabama used a perfectly executed onside kick to swing the momentum in their favor. Look for Clemson to have those bases covered (to use a wrong sport metaphor) this time around. It's been thirty-five years since the Tigers have won a national title and these current players have the best chance to do it since, well, last season. Anyway, you get my point, sort of.

Deshaun Watson Wants Revenge: Okay, so I'm repeating myself a bit. I'm sure when Watson watched Lamar Jackson from Louisville lift the Heisman Trophy, he was probably thinking, "Hey, what about me?" Clemson's only loss was by a point to Pittsburgh and Watson threw for almost 4200 yards, completed over 67% of his passes and tossed 38 touchdown passes while rushing for almost 600 yards and eight touchdowns. I don't disagree with Jackson's award, but that's not really my point. The issue is whether it will give the Clemson QB further motivation to show that maybe the voters got it all wrong. I think it will.

Alabama Offensive Coordinator Shakeup: I can make a case either way on this one. I'll start with the argument that Steve Sarkisian replacing outgoing Lane Kiffin a week before the championship probably won't matter. After all, Sark was brought in as a consultant to Nick Saban's Alabama staff since it was widely presumed that Kiffin wouldn't be retained beyond the expiration of his contract the first of February. Kiffin and Sarkisian both come from Pete Carroll's coaching tree so philosophically there's not likely to be a big change, as least not this late in the season. In addition, Sarkisian has been involved in game planning and scheme development since his hiring. Now for the opposite point of view. Regardless of how great a coach and administrator Nick Saban is, Lane Kiffin's status and ultimate departure can't but have been at least a bit of a distraction. And even though Sark has been heavily involved, he hasn't been the one calling the plays and managing the offense on game day.

Alabama Won a Diminished SEC: I'm sure any SEC fans reading this will take exception, but the conference really was down this season. Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State managed even a .500 record. Every team in the SEC West other than Alabama had at least four losses, and all of those other than LSU had at least five. In the East, only one team, Florida, had a winning conference record and they were hardly an offensive juggernaut. Alabama's signature non-conference win was in week one against USC, which went on to get clobbered twice more before making a change at quarterback and running the table the rest of the way. Clemson defeated two SEC teams on the road, plus Florida State, Louisville and Virginia Tech on their way to the playoffs. To say that Alabama was more tested on its way to the final is inaccurate this year, and remember I follow both conferences very closely, with ties to both Virginia Tech and Arkansas.

It's Time For A Change: There is absolutely nothing logical or performance based for this other than my desire to see someone else other than Alabama win. As great as the Crimson Tide is, and there's no denying that should they win they are very deserving of the title, I'd like to see Clemson find a way to prevail Monday night.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.