In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Amy Reynolds, asks our panel three questions: Will the Packers re-claim the NFC North despite the temporary loss of QB Aaron Rodgers, can Roger Federer be considered the greatest men’s tennis player of all time with middling records against his contemporaries, and which NFL coach is most deserving of being fired?
1. Aaron Rodgers will be out of action for at least the next three or four games with a collarbone injury. Are the Packers still likely to make the playoffs?
Andrew: The Packers are definitely in trouble, but not necessarily out. Although the loss to the Eagles hurt, they have two easy matchups against teams with a combined record of 5-13 to help them get back on track. If they win those games — which the Packers are heavily favored in — then they will be sitting at 7-4 before facing a tough Lions team. Following that difficult conference game, Green Bay plays the 2-6 Falcons at home — just in case Rodgers isn’t back in time. Although the Packers will certainly end the season with a winning record, it will come down to the division standings. Currently, they are in close competition with the Bears and the Lions for first place. Their season will ultimately come down to how those teams do. While the Packers will remain competitive, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Packers to end the season 9-7 and not make the playoffs.
Joe: With Aaron Rodgers out and the Packers offense looking abysmal, I think it is safe to say at this point that the Packers will not make the playoffs. To start in the NFC North, the Packers already have a one-game deficit to make up and a game against the Lions coming up in a few weeks. Presumably, that game will be played without Rodgers, meaning if they lose that game they will be behind two games to Detroit, and Detroit will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. As for the Wild Card, Carolina and San Francisco both hold a game lead over Green Bay, and with San Fransisco already beating them head-to-head this year, the Packers are in deep trouble if they want to return to the playoffs this season.
Peter: The Packers have no chance at winning without Aaron Rodgers, who has been able to mask an injury-depleted roster already limited by a mediocre run game and defense. That means they will have a three- or- four game deficit by Rodgers’s return, and will have already lost the tiebreaker with the Lions, who Green Bay plays in Detroit without Rodgers. In the hyper-competitive NFC North that leaves them on the outside looking in. The Chicago Bears are good, and Detroit is one of the most complete teams in the NFC. Nobody can stop deep threat Calvin Johnson: He has 904 yards and keeps Detroit in every game, as we saw with his miracle fourth quarter against Dallas. Just as important is how absurdly easy Detroit’s schedule is — other than a home game against the Rodgers-less Packers, the Lions’ final six opponents have a combined 17-37 record, or a 31 percent win percentage. That leaves the Packers needing to out-win some combination of San Fransisco — who has won the tiebreaker against Green Bay — Carolina and Chicago for a Wild Card spot. It’s too tall an order for Green Bay, who will miss the playoffs.
Peter gets 3 points for his analysis of Detroit’s schedule, Andrew gets 2 points for not being a negative Nancy, and Joe gets 1 point for being the least specific.
2. Roger Federer has a losing lifetime record against two of his main three rivals — Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — and is barely over .500 against the third, Novak Djokovic. Does this lack of success against the top players of his time mean he can still be considered the greatest of all time?
Andrew: The main goal of any tennis player is to be number one in the world and win a Grand Slam title. Not only has Federer done this, but he has also spent the most weeks atop the rankings and won the most Grand Slam titles in tennis history. In addition to championships, his consistency has been incredible and at one point reached 20 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals, shattering the previous record of 10. The problem with this question is that people are now seeing Federer on the decline when he is losing a lot of matches to the likes of Djokovic and Murray, making the head-to-head record skewed. During Federer’s prime from 2004-2006, the Swiss Maestro went 247-15 and won eight majors. At that time, both Djokovic and Murray had a combined record of 0-3 against him. As for Nadal, he is without a doubt the greatest clay-court player of all time. His 60-1 French Open record and 293-21 record on clay will probably never be matched. That said, Federer is better on the other surfaces. Although Nadal holds a 22-10 overall record against Federer, a majority of the matches were on clay. After considering everything, Federer is still the greatest of all time because at his prime no one came close. Even with Federer on the decline, he is still currently ranked top-10 in the world and a constant major threat.
Joe: Roger Federer can certainly be considered to be the greatest of all time. He has won numerous Grand Slam titles, and it is important to remember that these three players — Djokovic, Nadal and Murray — all emerged toward the ladder stage of his career. It would be fair to argue that in his prime, Federer would have been better than all three of these guys, as he was better than everyone else at the best point.
Peter: Nadal recently said he is “the first one who says (Federer) is the greatest player in history,” and with good reason. On most surfaces, Federer is dominant by all standards, including against the contemporary greats. The gray area only exists if you exclusively compare Nadal and Federer on clay, on which Nadal is the master. But even though clay is Federer’s weakest surface, he has still won 10 finals on clay and reached 11 more, an incredible accomplishment that shows his diverse skill set. And the fact that he has had to go up against players like Nadal, Murray and Djokovic so often, yet still has the most majors in history, further establishes Federer as the best. No one else in tennis history from Rod Laver to Pete Sampras, has ever had to contend with a generation as talented as this one, especially in his mid-30s.
Andrew wins for discussing Federer’s Grand Slam titles, Peter gets 2 for saying Federer excels on most surfaces, and Joe gets 1 for saying Federer played his rivals late in his career.
3. There have been a lot of disappointing teams in the NFL this year, from the Tom Coughlin-led Giants to Greg Schiano’s Buccaneers. If you could fire any coach right now, who would it be and why?
Andrew: Although Coughlin and Schiano are both having terrible seasons, they each should have the opportunity to finish out the year. Despite the Giants’ dreadful record, they are currently on a three-game win streak and in the weak NFC East, a playoff berth is still not impossible. As for the young Tampa team, they lack experience that has cost them, losing four of their eight games by three points or less. Give Schiano time, and the Buccaneers will fare better in the close games. This is why the coach who should be fired is Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. After being 7-4 and a near lock for the playoffs last year, the Steelers have completely lost it, losing nine of their last 12 games. There is no reason a team with Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu along with several quality support players should be struggling. The problem with the Steelers starts from the leader, and a lack of leadership. Pittsburgh needs change, and the firing of Tomlin might be the best thing.
Joe: I’m firing the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith. The guy has never shown he has what it takes to compete with big-time coaches come playoff time, and this year is just spiraling out of control for him and his 2-7 Falcons. Although they have experienced numerous injuries to big offensive players this year, what has Mike Smith really done in his tenure with Atlanta? Yes, he’s posted great regular season records, but one win in the postseason (and a lucky won at that)? All the blame for Atlanta’s postseason struggles over the past few seasons has fallen at the feet of quarterback Matt Ryan, but maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere to explain the Falcons’ struggles.
Peter: The most obvious coach to be fired right now is also the most deserving by far of losing his job: Schiano, whose Bucs are the last winless team in the NFL. There is only a little bit of shame in being the leader of a terrible team, though, which the Jaguars, Falcons and Giants also are. Some of the blame for that can also be put on the personnel, general manager and ownership. But Schiano’s Bucs have not only been bad, they have also been an embarrassment to the NFL thanks to off-the-field antics and a culture of fear that should no longer exist in pro sports. Schiano’s players hate him: One player said playing in Tampa Bay is “like being in Cuba.” They accused him of rigging the captaincy election in pre-season, are unhappy about how the Bucs coaching staff yells at players for showing sportsmanship, believe he fired an assistant coach because of anger issues and have a myriad of other issues with his drill seargaent-like mentality, which angers and drains pro athletes rather than motivating them. If it was up to me, Schiano would be out today.
Peter wins for discussing Schiano’s off-the-field antics, Joe gets 2 points for discussing Smith’s history with the Falcons, and Andrew gets 1 point for choosing Mike Tomlin.
Peter wins Around the Dorm, 8-6-4