1. As the New York Giants knelt their way to a victory last weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers proceeded to run over the Giants’ line and knock Eli Manning to the ground. Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin was outraged but Bucs’ coach Greg Schiano stood firmly by his decision. Did Schiano break an unwritten rule of football? Or was his team simply playing the game to the final bell?
AG: Football is a tough, hard-fought sport for 60 minutes. NOT 59. I was always taught to play until the final whistle. Pertaining to the issue between Schiano and Coughlin, I personally don’t care about “proper etiquette.” Tampa Bay is paying Schiano $3 million annually to win football games, not to be liked by his opponents. Coughlin’s main problem with the Buccaneers’ decision was that one of his players could have been hurt. But how is that different than any other play in football? Once the game begins, the players are on their own and risk getting injured. This aggressiveness almost paid off, as it caught the Giants off guard and nearly forced a fumble. If Eli Manning had turned the ball over and Tampa Bay ended up winning the game, the story today would be totally different and perhaps more NFL teams would adopt this strategy.
JC: I compare this situation somewhat to a blowout in baseball. If a manager is leading a game by double digits, he tells his team to stop stealing bases. Now take that situation and add in the chance that players can get hurt as a result. As much as I would love to sit here and applaud Schiano for making his players play hard for all 60 minutes, I just simply cannot do so. Schiano did indeed break an unwritten football rule in this instance, primarily because what he did not only caught the Giants off guard, but could have resulted in an injury as well. There comes a point in a football game where you have lost, and this could occur even before the 60 minutes is up. It has been an unwritten rule ever since the kneel down began — when the losing team can no longer get the ball back, the game is over.
BM: I don’t mind a team playing the entire game out, within reason if a coach didn’t want to just accept defeat, as long as he and his players don’t do anything dirty in trying to prevent the loss. I’m sorry that Coughlin was startled by Schiano’s move, but how do you get enraged at anything that’s within the rules of the game and is not intended to hurt someone? Schiano presumably thought there was at least a small chance of recovering the ball and evening the score. And if he did, he has every right to go for it on that play. I’m not a big fan of this play, but don’t tell me Schiano violated some sacred ground of football. The football gods should be far more concerned about the overprotection of the quarterback, than about Eli Manning getting knocked on his ass.
Brendan gets 3 points for noting that the game was still winnable. Andrew gets 2 for mentioning that Schiano isn’t looking to make friends here. Joe gets 1 for considering the possibility of injury.
2. After seeing the mistakes by the infamous “replacement refs” in Week 2, can the NFL stand to not pay the union referees for another week or so?
AG: The NFL could truly care less about whether they pay the union referees or not. Unfortunately for the fans, the NFL is a business, and they are all about making money. So think about it, we may be frustrated with the replacement refs, but it does not change the fact that we still watch football. No matter what decision the NFL makes, it will not make a difference with their fan revenue. This is because we will still continue to buy tickets, jerseys and other memorabilia. In fact, the substitute officials are actually much more cost effective for the NFL, because they are making much less per game than the union referees. That being said, these new refs are ruining the integrity of the game and something must be done. Whether the NFL decides to do anything about it, however, could mean we may just have to let nature take its course. Just don’t hold your breath though, because we may be waiting awhile.
JC: The problem with the replacement officials is not necessarily that they are terrible. The problem is that they are the replacement officials. Anything they do can and will be magnified, dissected and in most cases unfairly judged because people simply don’t want them there. With that being said, I think it would be in the NFL’s best interest to work harder to bring back the original officials. Even putting aside the fact that I miss Ed Hochuli’s gun show every Sunday, the decision has to be made with the fans in mind. Every decision the NFL ever makes is for the fans. Just this year, they moved the 4:05 games back 20 minutes to 4:25. Why? So the fans can catch as much action as possible. We now have a Thursday night game every week. Why? So the fans can now watch the NFL three days a week instead of two. So, regardless of how good or bad the replacement officials are performing, if the fans want them out, it is the NFL’s responsibility to get them out. Sure, they can stand not bringing the originals back, but it should always be in their best interest to continue pleasing the best fan base in all of sports.
BM: I honestly don’t think it makes that big of a difference in the game. I’ve never finished a game saying, “Wow, the referees were just excellent today.” It is impossible to get every call right and they have a pretty difficult job. Plus, if they do well, you just don’t notice them at all. So all of this talk about the replacement refs is overblown, because they actually aren’t much different than the union refs they’re replacing and much of the difference that exists is probably a result of the intense pressure that is on them. If you don’t remember the atrocious calls that have been made by refs in the past, you need to think harder. About a quarter of the games I’ve watched in life have had at least one major “are you kidding me?” moment. I mean, on pass interference and roughing the passer calls alone I have gone out of my mind. It sucks when refs cause your team to lose, but it happens all the time. The league won’t fall apart if the replacements stick around.
Joe gets 3 for mentioning that the replacements are getting flack mostly because they are replacements. Andrew gets 2 for pointing out the fault of the NFL. Brendan gets 1 for saying that having the replacement refs doesn’t affect the game very much.
3. With the NBA season right around the corner and a number of big moves happening in the Eastern Conference, give me your top five teams in the East entering this season.
AG: I am not jumping on the bandwagon yet, but the Miami Heat are clearly the favorites in the East for a reason. As the defending champions, their big three look to be nearly unstoppable once again this season. Not too far behind them are the Chicago Bulls. Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose back make an immediate impact. Add in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and this team is solid. Remember, that Chicago came into the season as the top team in the East, but couldn’t keep it up when Rose got injured. As for the third seed, the Celtics are experienced, not old. The loss of Ray Allen will not affect Boston as much as some think. During the postseason, if it were not for injuries, he would not have taken the court. And let’s not forget about Rondo, Garnett and their captain Pierce. Talk about a triple threat. The Pacers may not have a star player, but they are a very complete and deep team. With a lot of young players on their roster, they will definitely improve. My surprise pick, taking the fifth spot, is the Brooklyn Nets. The addition of Joe Johnson will significantly help out Deron Williams, who is arguably one of the best point guards in the league.
JC: This is a near impossible question to me due to many of the changes and injuries that’ll ultimately affect the outcome of the East, but here goes nothing. The only lock to me in this top five is clearly the Miami Heat. They are the only team in the conference that can afford losing their best player and probably still comfortably finish in the top two. They’re the defending champs, and LeBron has finally proven he can do it all. Here’s where it gets hairy. In no particular order, my remaining four teams are Brooklyn, Indiana, Atlanta and Philadelphia. Here’s why: Brooklyn is the most improved team in the NBA, and they sure need to be to go from 22 under to a top-five seed in the East, but they are much deeper than just Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Indiana is probably the closest thing to the second “lock” of the top five. After finishing third last year, they return their starting five and add capable backups in DJ Augustin and Gerald Green. Atlanta loses Joe Johnson, but brings in Devin Harris to solidify the backcourt. Don’t forget, Devin was a 16-point, seven-assist per game all-star a mere three seasons ago. And finally Philly. They were a major facilitator in the biggest trade of the offseason, but I’d say they made out pretty nicely themselves. Not only did they bring in Bynum in the trade, but also made a splash in free agency signing Dorrell Wright and Nick Young to help out the bench — not to mention Evan Turner is a rising star in the NBA.
BM: Heat, Nets, Bulls, Pacers and Celtics. In that order. The Heat are the obvious choice in the East and it seems that they’re likely in a three-team race for the championship right now. I don’t think there is any arguing their supremacy as they have just gotten better over the past year. The Nets are obviously a better team this year, but how much better? A lot. Sure they didn’t get Howard, but they have Joe Johnson, as well a full season of both Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace. Their starting five is going to light it up, plus they’ve got a decent bench. The Nets will take advantage of all of the non-elite teams in the league and land among the best in the East. The Bulls will surprise people with their play, and if Rose comes back healthy before the playoffs, they could beat anyone outside of Miami. The Pacers are a solid team and they should be in the top half of the conference this year after retaining Hibbert. It’s time for them to pass the Celtics, who are done being at the top of the East after a solid five-year run.
Joe gets 3 points for considering all the variables after this offseason. Brendan gets 2 for taking D. Rose’s injury into account, and giving the Pacers the leg up on the Celtics. Andrew gets 1 for mentioning Ray Allen’s departure.
Joe wins Around the Dorm 7-6-5.