In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Peter Fiorilla, challenges Sports Assistant Chris Molicki, Staff Writer Mike Pietroforte and Correspondent Kevin Black to answer questions about whether the Tebow trade will be good for the Jets, how the suspensions from BountyGate will affect the Saints this season and who will win the vastly different NL this year.
1. Tim Tebow’s trade to the Jets has garnered a lot of criticism, especially since incumbent QB Mark Sanchez just signed a hefty contract extension in the offseason. Sanchez will be under more pressure than ever, and the Jets may have created a future QB controversy by bringing in Tebow. Was getting Tebow a good football decision for the Jets, or should they have let him go somewhere else?
CM: I don’t understand why people hate this move, because I love it. This is a great low-risk, high-reward move for the Jets. With Tebow, you get a capable backup who will be able to run the Wildcat under offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, play multiple positions, and push Mark Sanchez to become the quarterback that everyone is expecting him to be. Tebow will also be a great locker room presence as a leader for a team who clearly had some difficulty in that area last season. Plus, the Jets only gave up a fourth round pick for him, it was well worth it. Yes, there will be plenty of fans screaming for Tebow and plenty of pressure for Sanchez, but if he can’t handle it, he may just not be good enough. This was a great move for New York and, although they need to fill plenty of other holes, this is a good start.
MP: Getting Tebow will be a good football decision for the Jets as long as they are very clear on what their intentions for Tebow and Sanchez are. Sanchez was under some fire this past season from both the fans and even his own teammates regarding his work habits. Expect Tebow to light a fire under Sanchez, by presenting some kind of competition on the practice field. In addition to being a quality BACKUP quarterback, Tebow could be very valuable if used correctly for gadget-plays or third and short situations. In order to prevent the trade from blowing up in their face the Jets need to make sure that the fans know that their starter will be Mark Sanchez. I still don’t think that Tebow is a capable starting quarterback, and if the Jets make it seem as though he has an option to contend or be their starter, they leave the window open for the team to be perceived as a debacle by the fans and the media. From a football standpoint, this could be a useful pickup, but this could also prove to be a mistake.
KB: I think the thing we are forgetting with the Sanchez situation is that he really is on a short leash despite his deal — 2012 and 2013 were his “do or die” years anyway if you believe what you had heard previously. So even though they signed that deal, they could get out of it just as quickly due to opt-outs. But what they did in trading for Tebow was hopefully light a fire under Sanchez. Regardless I think it’s still a bad decision because the Jets are not the place that he is seriously going to develop. He wants to be a true quarterback and not some gimmick wildcat QB every now and then. He would not work as hard as he does to be a QB if he did not believe it possible. He needed to go to a place where he could develop himself into more of a QB, but the Jets looked at the number of wins he had and how they could make a splash in the N.Y. media in any other month but when it counts (something they have yet to learn from the Giants). If this move was to make the team better, they still have a ways to go.
PF: Chris gets 3 points for noting the Jets did not end up paying much for a QB who can play in the wildcat system and has a good locker room presence. Michael gets 2 points for pointing out that Tebow can be a quality addition if the Jets make it clear he is their No. 2 QB. Kevin gets 1 point because if Tebow did not want to be a gimmick in the Wildcat system, he would have gone to Jacksonville or somewhere else instead of N.Y.
2. The Saints are paying for institutionalizing a bounty system, with several assistant coaches and head coach Sean Payton being suspended for as long as the entire NFL season. What will the lasting effects of BountyGate be, and are the Saints still the favorites to win the NFC South?
CM: The lasting effects of this event will be good. There is absolutely no place in football for bounties, especially when the sport has been more concerned about players’ health than ever. Because Roger Goodell came down so strongly on the Saints, the rest of the NFL has gotten the message and won’t consider any of this nonsense, making the league better. As for the Saints, they’re still the favorite to win the South. Losing Sean Payton is a huge blow, so it hurts their title chances, but Drew Brees is a monster and basically a coach on the field. He will continue to run the Saints’ high-powered offense to perfection. Plus, with New Orleans basically being unbeatable at home, they look more popular than Atlanta, whose quarterback has yet to break out, or upstart Carolina, whose breakout quarterback is really the only thing going for them.
MP: The Saints are paying a hefty price for their bounty system. They lose one of the best head coaches in the NFL, Sean Payton, for a full year. Their GM is banned for the first eight games of the season, and they will also be losing their second round pick from this year and next year. The loss of the two picks will definitely put a dent in the team’s future, but the loss of their beloved head coach looks to be crippling for this year. The Saints are a very talented team. They’re led by Drew Brees, one of the best passers in the league, they have an explosive offense, and a competent defense, but so much of their success in the past few years has been due to the system implemented by Sean Payton. With the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nipping at their heels, I no longer think the Saints are the favorites to win the NFC South. By losing Sean Payton, the Saints have essentially had their head cut off.
KB: The Saints’ offense will probably still go like clockwork, they have won games without coach Payton before. The problem is going to be the defense and after the individual suspensions take place. Yes, they could rally around these suspensions and still make a season out of it, and the loss of cornerback Tracy Porter to free agency already hurts them, so let’s look elsewhere. Atlanta is in the same boat basically with a good offense and a so-so defense. New coaches are a question mark, especially first-year coaches in the league, so who knows with Tampa. This leaves the Carolina Newtons (Panthers). Yes, they finished poorly even with Cam Newton’s amazing season but if you take a closer look, if not for some key missed field goals in late games, they’d probably finish 8-8 or even better. The defense is OK and nothing really has changed with the core nucleus still in tact. Couple that with the fact that he will be a year wiser and the fact that very rarely does anyone in that division repeat, I think Carolina could surprise everyone and take this division.
PF: Chris gets 3 points for noting that Drew Brees is like an on-field coach, and that the Saints’ punishment might be the end of bounties in the NFL. Kevin gets 2 points for predicting a Panthers division title on the back of ultra-talented QB Cam Newton. Michael gets 1 point for observing that Sean Payton will not be around to implement his system, but not picking a favorite to win the division.
3. The National League looks pretty wide open this year. St. Louis is the defending world champion, the NL West is always up in the air, Philadelphia is always good, and there a few other teams with pennant potential. Who is your pick to win the NL?
CM: There is a lot of parity in the NL. The Brewers and Cardinals have declined and one has to wonder if the Marlins, Diamondbacks, or Giants are really the favorite, so I have to go with the Phillies. The pitching staff is still dominant with the best one-two punch in the game of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, plus Cole Hamels and youngster Vance Worley. Signing Jonathan Papelbon gives them a reliable closer something they didn’t have in the past. Finally, the lineup has a good mix of young talent (John Mayberry and Hunter Pence) and veterans (Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins) to make the Phillies the clear-cut favorite in the inferior National League. They ran into a red hot Cardinal team in the postseason last year, but this year, they have a somewhat easy path to the world series.
MP: A lot of good hitters left the National League this off-season, and a few NL teams made some big moves to bring themselves into the playoff picture. Contenders from the NL Central, like the Brewers and Cardinals, still hold big pieces but lost cornerstones in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. After these large losses, the NL Central almost seems up in the air to me. The Giants have a powerful pitching staff, and the Rockies boast a solid lineup, but I feel like the real threats come from the NL East. The team that made some of the biggest additions is the Miami Marlins, by adding an MVP candidate from last year, Jose Reyes, a shutdown closer, Heath Bell and a veteran starter, Mark Buerhle. The Marlins also brought in a fire-starter manager in Ozzie Guillen to change the culture of the club as they open up their new stadium this year. Other competitors who are sneaking into contention are the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. Both teams return extremely strong cores of young players. The incumbent Phillies are still my favorite to control the NL East; they boast three of the top five starting pitchers in the NL and shored up their bullpen this offseason by adding Jonathan Papelbon. However, injuries to key hitters Chase Utley and Ryan Howard create some offensive worries.
KB: I am going to pick the Miami Marlins to make the jump and get back to World Series. Yes they were huge players in the free agent market and got Jose Reyes, manager Ozzie Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle to add to what was a pretty solid young team that could only get better. St. Louis is weakened by the loss of Albert Pujols and Philly, even with Halladay, is getting a bit up there in the age department and the ever unpredictable-but-solid NL West may have a new team at the top this time around. I think Miami has a real good shot at winning the pennant. Yes, they are going to need some time to gel it together, but with 162 games, you have that luxury and also having that extra wild card helps their chances considering how tough that division really is but regardless I think they will get there by possibly needing that spot. We will see.
PF: Kevin gets 3 points for predicting a Marlins pennant as a reward for bringin in huge free agents and renowned manager Ozzie Guillen. Chris and Michael get 2 points for playing it safe with the Phillies, who have retained an all-star pitching rotation and a quality lineup from year-to-year.
Chris wins this week’s AtD, 8 – 6 – 5.
“My bracket is busted, but I can still win AtD.” — Chris