1. The Chicago Bears recently hired Mike Martz to be their offensive coordinator. Is Martz the mentor quarterback who Jay Cutler needs to elevate his game and make the Bears offense the “Greatest Show on Sod”?
GRM: It’s funny that the same guy who criticized Cutler’s attitude after his season opening loss to Green Bay is going to be his offensive coordinator now. Regardless, Martz is a coordinator who has had tremendous success making potent offenses (“Greatest Show on Turf” just to name one). However, the pieces just aren’t there to make this offense the best even in its own division. Cutler will still be working with a young and unimpressive corps of receivers, and without a consistent running back to establish a running game I don’t see this offense flying very high. I think Martz will certainly improve the offense as a whole, but that’s about it.
MO: Cutler’s woes were more than just thanks to former Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner. The entire offense was abysmal last year for “Da Bears.” From the underachieving offensive line to the pathetic run game led by Matt Forte, and not to mention the reliance on no-name receivers, Chicago’s offense was … well … offensive, and not in a good way. The hire of Martz was solely based on his reputation. Martz has the stigma of a football genius, and he does have a positive history with Lovie Smith dating back to the “Greatest Show on Turf” days. However, despite his accolades, Martz was simply the best available choice in this situation. He had come out on record and said he really wanted this job, and appeared desperate in the process. He can certainly do no worse than the Bears did on offense last season, and that always allows potential for success. Despite last year’s terrible offense, Cutler has proven he is a good quarterback, and he can’t do much worse in 2010. He will bounce back next year, and if the line and running game plays as it did before Cutler arrived, then Martz may reap all the benefits, whether it was his doing or not.
ML: First of all, I don’t think that Mike Martz is the right hire for this team. Martz will bring to Chicago a pass-happy offense that loves to get the ball down the field. However I don’t think that the Bears offensive personnel fits that style. Matt Forte is by far their best offensive weapon and this type of offense will not utilize him as much as it should. As far as Jay Cutler goes, it doesn’t matter who you bring in, Cutler will have a hard time working with him. He has shown that he cannot get along with coaches throughout his career, especially during his time in Denver. I think if Cutler has patience and they bring in a receiver, he could improve. But this team is headed in the wrong offensive direction.
BG: Garrett gets 3 for pointing out the Bears lack of a consistent running or passing game. O’Donnell gets 2 for labeling Martz as the best option out there and for using the term “Da Bears.” Mike gets 1 for giving just a little too much credit to Matt Forte.
2. Lane Kiffin recently got the verbal commitment of a 13-year old quarterback from Delaware. Is Kiffin a recruiting genius or proving that he wasn’t worthy of the University of South California (USC) job?
GRM: Time will tell if this recruitment will be a sign of genius or just a publicity stunt to make him look like the right man for the job in USC. However, there’s no guarantee that Evan Berry will join his brother when he graduates high school. Look back to 1998, when an eighth-grader named Chris Leak verbally commited to Wake Forest because of his brother, but ended up leaving for the University of Florida when his brother left for the University of Tennessee. So who knows if this verbal commitment even pays off in the long run? If the kid turns out to be a superstar when he finally does reach puberty, then it looks like Kiffin is a recruitment genius. If not, then he took a risk and he pays the price for it.
MO: First of all, much of the credit of this “find” has to be placed on 13-year-old David Sills’ personal quarterback coach Steve Clarkson, who has also coached other USC quarterbacks in their youth, such as Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart. His longstanding relationship with Kiffin also contributed to Kiffin’s offer of a scholarship to Stills, as the former Tennessee head coach did not actually seek out this kid until he was told about him. But in terms of recruiting as a whole, this is who Kiffin is — a glory hound. He wants to silence his critics since his days in Oakland, and be viewed as an upstanding head coach in a high-profile situation. That’s why he left Tennessee. He knows the advantage of having a program as prestigious as USC at his fingertips, and he knows how easily he will be able to attract three, four-and five-star recruits. Want proof? He even cut his hours of recruiting down to 12-15 per week. Despite that, he has the best recruiting class of 2010, according to Rivals.com, and he ended up with the most five-star high schoolers committing to be a Trojan. Kiffin is a very smart man, and for all intents and purposes, is a recruiting genius. How do you get the best recruits? Go to the school that gets the best. It was a brilliant move by a man who simply knows how to get to the top — by any means necessary.
ML: Well, before I get into whether Lane Kiffin is a genius or an idiot, let me start off by saying that this is not the first time we have seen this in college football. When he was head coach for Wake Forest, now Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell recruited Chris Leak as a middle school player. It has happened before and I have a feeling it will happen again in the future. However I think Lane Kiffin and all of these coaches are not making the most of their recruiting time. The kid hasn’t finished growing yet and at that age, you never know how good he’s really going to be. If Kiffin wants to be successful at USC, he needs to focus on developing Matt Barkley and his No. 1 incoming recruiting class and get USC back to the National Championship.
BG: O’Donnell gets 3 for stating that Kiffin is becoming a genius by taking advantage of the perks that come with being the head honcho at USC. Mike gets 2 for arguing that Stills is a waste of time right now and Garrett 1 for talking about the wrong kid.
3. The New Jersey Devils recently acquired left winger Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers. Will adding Kovalchuk give the Devils the edge they need to beat out the Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the East?
GRM: I rarely follow hockey except during the playoffs so I will answer this question armed only with my fresh knowledge of the NHL provided by SportsCenter. The Devils offense has been struggling to score goals lately so they went out and got a great winger in Ilya Kovalchuk. Add a great scorer to an already excellent defense and the Devils look in prime position to pass the Capitals for first place in the East and make a run at the Stanley Cup.
MO: It’s obvious what Kovalchuk brings to the table for the Devils — a winger who can produce scoring on whatever line he’s placed on. The former No. 1 pick of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2001 already has 60 points this season, and that is exactly what New Jersey needed to compliment their tops-in-the-league scoring defense. Kovalchuk will provide that spark the Devils have lacked in many of their games this season, because the offense has often times been stagnant and hard-pressed for goals in key situations. However, the Capitals and Penguins are just too good for the Devils to handle this season. Washington has run off 14 wins in a row and counting, and the Penguins clearly look like the defending champions with how hot they have been as well. If New Jersey is going to secure its first Stanley Cup since 2003, they are going to have to channel those conversions of scoring at the right time. If the team decides to place Kovalchuk on the same line as Zach Parise and Travis Zajac as coach Jacques Lemaire has hinted at, that line may be too top heavy to keep a balance on offense, and the output could suffer. The key will be keeping that balance of offense and defense, and although Kovalchuk certainly helps their chances of doing that, the two teams they are chasing are just too good this year.
ML: Devils fans, including myself, have to be excited about bringing Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. This is the first time in a long time that Lou Lamoriello brought Jersey a big-time goal scorer like Kovalchuk. The Devils are normally a defensive-minded team that wins by scrounging out a couple of cheap goals and relying on Martin Brodeur to carry the team. Kovalchuk now brings offensive firepower that they haven’t had in recent years. However, Devils fans need to be patient. It will take time for Kovalchuk to create chemistry with his line-mates and for the Devils to adjust to a new style of play. I think this acquisition though will certainly put them up there with Washington and Pittsburgh, if not past them.
BG: I was very tempted to give Garrett 3 for making me laugh, but I’m giving it to O’Donnell for pointing out the Capitals dominance this season. Mike gets 2 for acknowledging that Kovalchuk will need time to adjust in New Jersey. Garrett, your answer made me laugh, but you get 1 for lack of hockey knowledge.
O’Donnell wins 8 – 5 – 5