2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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Stafford proves his toughness in wild win over Browns

Even though it pitted two, one-win teams against each other, the Browns-Lions matchup on Sunday produced the most thrilling game of Week 11.

With his team trailing 37-31 with only eight seconds remaining, rookie Matthew Stafford threw a desperation “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone, which was intercepted by Browns safety Brodney Pool. Cleveland started celebrating before Hank Poteat was flagged for pass interference and the ball was placed at the Browns’ 1-yard line for one last un-timed down.

The wild part is that Stafford was hurt on the “Hail Mary” throw after taking a shot after releasing the ball. Daunte Culpepper came in to run the final play but following a time out, Stafford re-entered the game and threw a touchdown to fellow rookie Brandon Pettigrew for the winning score.

Stafford, who finished 26-of-43 for 422 yards and five touchdowns, was in clear pain after the touchdown pass as he grabbed his left shoulder. Apparently he re-entered the game against the advice of team doctors and the Lions originally feared that he had fracture his collarbone. But X-rays revealed otherwise and he’ll likely be a game-time decision for Thanksgiving Day.

For those that haven’t seen Stafford play yet, you’re missing out. He takes tremendous abuse because his offensive line couldn’t block Jabba the Hutt, yet he stands in the face of pressure and delivers passes. He takes lick after lick and continues to get up despite the pounding. If he hasn’t endeared himself to the blue-collar fans in Detroit, I’d be very surprised.

On a side note from this game, Brady Quinn was outstanding. I’ve been highly critical of his play this season, but I’ll be the first to admit that he torched the Lions today. Granted, Detroit’s defense isn’t very good but a quarterback doesn’t throw for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-33 passing on accident. It’s too bad Cleveland’s defense couldn’t sustain the lead Quinn got for them, because he was exceptional.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Culpepper gives Steelers issues in Lions’ loss

Brady

Okay, who played quarterback for the Detroit Lions on Sunday? Because it sure as hell wasn’t Daunte Culpepper.

In the Steelers’ 28-20 win over the Lions on Sunday, somebody resembling Culpepper (wearing Culpepper’s jersey) totaled 282 yards and one touchdown on 23-of-37 passing. Imposter Culpepper also rushed for 44 yards in the loss and actually kept the Lions in contention despite not having receiver Calvin Johnson, who suffered an injury and left the game.

Despite the surprising performance, Culpepper’s decision-making was as brutal as ever, which was evident in his second half interception. He was also sacked seven times and apparently bathed his hands in butter before the game because he fumbled three times. Still, he performed admirably against a tough Pittsburgh defense.

Looking at the stats, it’s amazing that the Steelers didn’t win this game by four touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, while Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 5.1 YPC (despite only gaining 77 rushing yards). But Pittsburgh’s defense allowed Culpepper to keep the chains moving and couldn’t get off the field as Detroit converted 11 of its 18 third down attempts.

I wouldn’t say that the Steelers regressed after their convincing 38-28 win last Sunday night over the Chargers, but Mike Tomlin has to be somewhat disappointed that his team only compiled 82 yards on the ground against a suspect Detroit run defense. (Not to mention his defense allowed Daunte freaking Culpepper to keep this game close in the end.)

2009 NFL Preview: #32 Detroit Lions

Check out all of our 2009 NFL team previews.

Offseason Additions: Julian Peterson (LB); Larry Foote (LB); Phillip Buchanon (CB); Grady Jackson (DT); Bryant Johnson (WR).

Offseason Losses: Leigh Bodden (CB); Shaun McDonald (WR); Mike Fuerry (WR); Shaun Cody (DT); Paris Lenon (LB); George Foster (OT); Dan Orlovsky (QB).

Player to Watch: Louis Delmas, S.
Delmas, the Lions’ second round pick this year, immediately started turning heads in OTAs and continued to impress coaches with his aggressiveness and tenacity throughout training camp (although he did miss time due to a swollen knee). The former Western Michigan product is already drawing comparisons to the Colts’ Bob Sanders, which is quite a compliment considering how accomplished Sanders is. Delmas isn’t afraid of contact and flies to the football. While he needs to develop his pass coverage skills, he might lead the Lions in tackles this season.

Team Strength: There isn’t one positional unit on this team that can be deemed a strength, although wide receiver Calvin Johnson is so good that he can probably carry the moniker on his own. Johnson is a phenomenal athlete and gives the Lions’ offense a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Opposing teams try to blanket him in coverage and he still finds ways to get open and come away with the ball. As long as he stays healthy (he missed two weeks of training camp with a sprained thumb), CJ is in store for another monster season, no matter whom the Lions wind up starting at quarterback.

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The top five best, worst and most improved offensive lines in the NFL

There’s a secret that most good fantasy football owners don’t want you to know: Knowing how good (or how bad) an offensive line is could be the difference between you making the playoffs in your league, and winning the whole damn thing.

The bottom line is that the offensive line is the key to whether or not an offense is going to be successful in any given season. They’re the reason why guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brews are able to rack up terrific passing yards year in and year out, and why Brandon Jacobs, Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson continue to be solid fantasy backs. So knowing which O-lines are quality and which act like revolving doors to their team’s backfield will give you an edge on draft day.

Below is a ranking of the top five best lines, the top five most improved lines and the top five worst lines in the NFL heading into the ’09 season. Use these rankings as a tool to help you make better decisions on draft day and to also aid you when you’re stuck between a couple of players in later rounds.

Granted, we’re not advocating bumping certain players to the top of your pre-draft rankings just based on these rankings. The Lions offensive line is the worst in football, but if Kevin Smith is there for the taking in the 5th round, by all means jump on him. This article is purely meant to be a helpful aid; obviously you still have to use solid judgment on draft day.

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