It’s time to kick ass or chew bubblegum. And gosh darn it, we just don’t like gum here at The Signal. In the Around The Dorm Finals, sports editor James Queally tries to grab the title before retiring, but he has stiff competition from staff writer Duncan Slobodzian and former editor/ninja Brandon Lee. opinions editor Mike O’Donnell refs as this trio debates the Eagles’ woes, the Tar Heels’ dominance and Brock Lesnar’s title win.
1. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles these days. Some say Donovan McNabb should go, some say Andy Reid should go, some say both and some say neither. Which of those options (or another option not mentioned) would solve the Eagles’ problems of futility in the NFC East?
DS: Both. You have to start cleaning house if you want anything substantial to change, especially long-term. McNabb has always been Reid’s guy, perhaps by default, but he was never quite able to help the Eagles break through and secure that coveted championship ring. The Birds’ window of Super Bowl opportunity has slammed shut. The odd team out of the playoffs from the NFC East a season ago, they look about as inconsistent as possible this season. The front office invested in the future with the drafting of University of Houston-product Kevin Kolb a couple of years ago, and it’s high time they look to get some returns on that investment. While the climate of the Eagles’ “market” is far from as turbulent as Wall Street’s, it’s headed in that direction – and tying the Bengals sure doesn’t help. Let McNabb and Reid play out this lost season and do some spring cleaning come 2009.
JQ: Since his string of injuries, McNabb has become an up-and-down quarterback, prone to the occasional stinker – like his performances against the Bengals and Ravens. It takes him a game or two to snap out of it, as he showed on Turkey Day against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals. While he’s still a solid quarterback, his reduced mobility, constant injury liability and tendency to suck at a moment’s notice signal the end of his time in Philly. The Eagles looked their best in the post-cripple McNabb era in 2006. Jeff Garcia managed an offense that focused its attack on the run, aided by quick slant and slot passes that helped sustain drives. That formula seems to be working for the Giants. I’m not a big fan of Reid, but when you tack on Kolb’s shortcomings, the Eagles might do best to snatch up a talented veteran backup quarterback like Byron Leftwich.
BL: Dr. Robotnik – I mean, Andy Reid -should go. McNabb is still the best quarterback the Eagles have. Reid’s play calling and personnel decisions are the factors hurting the Eagles. The Eagles have about a 60 to 40 percent pass-run differential and no power running game. Third or fourth and short has been killing this team, which does not have a power back or a fullback. With a better running game, McNabb can make a few mistakes here and there and doesn’t have to throw for three touchdowns and 300 yards every game. Without a good running game, safeties and linebackers can cheat back from the line of scrimmage and prepare for the pass. A good running game would force eight in the box and open up the field for the former Pro Bowl quarterback.
MO: I’ve got to give Brandon the 3 on this one. The Eagles have been absolutely awful on third and fourth and short, and they need to figure out why this is such a big issue. Also, I like that you pointed out the impact of their lack of a power running game. Queally’s taking the 2 here. I like how you pointed out the team’s success with Garcia, although I don’t know if another oft-injured quarterback like Leftwich would be the answer. Duncan, you were the worst of three solid answers. 1 point.
2. University of North Carolina is dominating college basketball these days, and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. After taking down Notre Dame in the Maui Invitational title game, they look to be unstoppable. Is any team going to take them down before they cruise to a National Championship? Why?
DS: Pretty much all of the top-flight basketball teams are going to look invincible this time of year, seeing as conference play is still a relatively distant consideration. The early part of teams’ season schedules is, by design, to make teams like North Carolina appear unbeatable. That said, they have looked very impressive in handling a (ranked, unlike the football Fighting Irish) Notre Dame team on a neutral court. They are returning four of their best upperclassmen who play more than a prominent role in what they do offensively and otherwise. It’s a rarity for teams to bring their stars back for a third and fourth year, but head coach Roy Williams has done just that. I’ll play the odds and say the Tar Heels suffer at least one hiccup en route to March Madness, but at this point I have to handicap them as heavy favorites.
JQ: You don’t have to look far down the rankings to find the team that has the best chance to upend them. The number two Connecticut Huskies are a solid all-around team that can score and shoot on par with the Tar Heels, and they have somebody who can nullify Tyler Hansbrough – 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet. The big – I mean, huge – man is developing himself as a skilled player and a giant, and we’ve all seen how much trouble Hansbrough has against bigger, physical centers. Most experts believe Hansbrough is too small and too finesse-minded to match up with NBA centers, and Thabeet is a dead ringer for Hakeem Olajuwon. We’ve seen Hansbrough stopped by big men at the D-I level before. He was a non-factor in UNC’s 2006 Final Four tilt with Georgetown, where Roy Hibbert locked him up successfully. Slowing Hansbrough is the key to stopping UNC, and that’s exactly what University of Connecticut can do.
BL: Right now, UNC is unstoppable. If the team continues its stellar play, the championship pretty much belongs to them. The team is 6-0 and is ranked number one in the AP and USA/ESPN polls. The team achieved most of its early success without its best player Hansbrough. Even with Hansbrough out, the team has been dominating games by an average margin of 20.8 points. Yes, UNC lost 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller for the season but 6-foot-10 freshman Ed Davis has filled in nicely for Zeller. The Tar Heels have six players averaging double figures with junior Ty Lawson running the show and averaging more than six assists a game. UNC has it all: inside game, outside game, hustle and great experienced leaders in Hansbrough and Lawson. UNC will be the team to beat.
MO: The 3 goes to Duncan. UNC may not be truly tested until they hit their conference schedule and tougher games. Queally, I’ve got 2 for you for giving me a team who could very well compete with them from start to finish. UConn looks very good, indeed. Brandon, you told me stuff I already know. 1 for you.
3. Just a few weeks ago, former WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar dominated UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture to win the gold. Is it good for UFC and the MMA business that a former WWE talent beat one of UFC’s most powerful players?
DS: Someone infinitely wiser than me once said, “Fighters fight.” Lesnar didn’t even have to reconfigure his approach all that much, seeing as he packs an immensely powerful punch. The fight was not only good for ultimate fighting, but it has the potential to generate renewed interest in the sport by welcoming a newfound fan base. The Kimbo Slice experiment appears to have been an abject failure, but the cream will always rise to the top. The real talent is sorted out, quite visibly, from the artificial or hype-driven variety inside the octagon. Lesnar proved himself to be a member of the former camp with his decisive technical knockout of Couture. The UFC is now in perfect position to capture this public relations dream by marketing a potential superstar. Everyone who’s anyone in the world of MMA will invariably be intrigued to see where Lesnar can take it from here.
JQ: It’s certainly not as bad as a guy who looks like he just walked out of a New Found Glory concert knocking out Kimbo Slice in 14 seconds and putting EliteXC out of business. Lesnar is not just a former Monday Night Raw mainstay. He’s a three-time NCAA national champion in wrestling, a born fighter. He also dropped an aged, off-peak Couture who hadn’t defended that belt in a year. His WWE status has no bearing here. The fact that they gave him a title match with a 2-1 record after he lost to Frank Mir is the problem. For this ploy for mainstream attention to work, Lesnar cannot stumble in his first title defense, which will be against Mir or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, two guys proficient in submissions, Lesnar’s main weakness. If he holds on to the belt and becomes the undisputed heavyweight champ and adds Mir to his list of victims, then the reign will be legit and look good for UFC. But if he flops, it will look like UFC threw Lesnar at Couture to create some hype.
BL: I think it’s great for UFC and the MMA business. Lesnar won the 2000 NCAA wrestling championship, the WWE championship and is now the UFC champion. Lesnar is a freak of an athlete and even had a stint with the Minnesota Vikings. The fact that this new face beat one of UFC’s best will only attract more attention to UFC and MMA. The next great promotion will be a Lesnar vs. Couture rematch or a search for who can beat Lesnar. Now, wherever Lesnar goes, there will be tons of publicity and business. This is a great business opportunity for UFC and MMA
MO: Queally gets the 3 here. I’m a WWE guy more than a UFC guy, and I know WWE superstars are much more visibly popular than UFC fighters. You basically brought Duncan’s and Brandon’s answers and combined them nicely. Duncan grabs the 2 for mentioning that Lesnar’s rise to the top could be huge publicity-wise, but failure to not mention his past WWE prominence as reason for that gets you 2. Brandon gets 1 for talking about the publicity but not really delving deep enough as to why.
Queally is the 2008 Fall AtD Champion 7-6-5