Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is Anyone Excited About The Harbaugh Bowl?

I'm not excited about the Harbaugh Bowl.  In fact, I couldn't care less.

I don't like either team, I don't like any players on either team, and I don't like either coach.  I also don't passionately dislike either team or either coach.  I respect both teams, and their players.  They are good teams.  Not amazing teams.  Not elite.  Not the best teams in their respective conferences.  But because of some lucky breaks and some weird plays, one of the Harbaughs will be a champion, and the other will pretend to be happy for him.

I still think the 3 best teams in the NFL are New England, Denver, and Green Bay, and I would put Seattle narrowly ahead of San Fran for #4.  I'm not convinced Baltimore is a top 10 team, given their injuries and inconsistency.  But alas, Denver's Rahim Moore made one of the worst plays in NFL history, and Baltimore is in the Super Bowl, and now Ray Lewis's legacy is being way overstated.

Now, two of the least likable Hall of Famers of our generation, Lewis and Randy Moss, will square off, and one of them will weep and rejoice and retire a champion.

It's been that kind of season. The kind that makes you want to gag.

It's fitting that this unpredictable, somewhat deplorable season, full of replacement refs, concussions, bounties, PEDs, everyone-hating-the-Commissioner, a botched hail mary call that screwed up the entire playoff scenario, and all sorts of other unpleasantries will end with a generally unlikable team hoisting the Lombardi.

Of course, this season had its high points.  Many of them, actually.  AP and Calvin had two of the greatest seasons ever for their positions, Peyton was incredible for a new team with a new neck, Luck and Griffin (and Russell Wilson) highlighted one of the best rookie classes ever, 3 pass rushing phenoms from the 2011 draft (Von Miller, Aldon Smith, JJ Watt) made runs at the sack record, and we got to enjoy Cutler, Roethlisberger and Eli all missing the playoffs. Despite the Lions' horrendous year and all the aforementioned gadflies, it really was a fantastic football season.

It's been a weird postseason in a lot of ways, with Hall of Fame quarterbacks left in the dust along the way.  Remarkably, I now sit at 129-129-11 against the spread, with one game to go.  One game to determine whether I'm above .500 or below .500 for the entire season.  And fittingly, it's a game I can't seem to muster up any interest in.

There are plenty of storylines aside from the Harbaughs and Ray Lewis.  There's the question of Flacco becoming ''elite," (excuse me while I puke and stab a voodoo doll of Ron Jaworski), there's Colin Kaepernick exploding from complete unknown to household name superstar in 2 months, there's the best middle linebacker of the past 5 years (Patrick Willis) against the best middle linebacker of the past 25 years (Lewis) in a game that makes everyone wonder if maybe middle linebacker isn't a more important position than we thought, and there's a bunch of utterly unlikable guys like Michael Crabtree and Terrell Suggs just being douches that nobody likes.   There's also Alex Smith, the nice guy who got benched for the phenom, and needs to keep being nice in order to cash in for a major payday in a few months.

Like I said, I don't like either team.  I'm inclined to cheer for San Fran, for a few reasons.
1. I kind of like Justin Smith.  Great player, totally dominant, doesn't draw attention to himself.
2. Joe Staley went to Rockford High School. That's cool I guess.
3. I mildly dislike Kaepernick a little less than I mildly dislike Flacco.  
4. I am so sick of Jim Schwartz that I've actually come to appreciate Jim Harbaugh's handshake antics.
5. I've always had a soft spot for Vernon Davis, even though by all observational accounts he's a jerk.
6. San Fran is the better team, and I like when the better team wins the Super Bowl.

On the flip side, I'd like to see Baltimore win, because I know the Steelers are cheering for San Fran.

The line is set at San Fran by 4.5, which I think is too high.  Because of the coaching matchup and the defensive nature of both teams, I think points will be tough to come by, and scores will be quickly answered.  San Fran might be able to pull away if Kaepernick plays mistake-free, but I don't see that happening.  I see something like 13-10 at halftime, millions of bored fans losing interest, and then a crazy second half that features six touchdowns and the final is 37-34 in OT.  With San Fran coming out on top.

Switching gears, it's almost time to talk about the NFL Draft.   There's been a lot of shuffling of coaches and initially I was going to write a lengthy disposition about that.  But I lost interest when all the hirings were no-names who are bound to be fired in 2 years.  Only two new coaches are interesting to me:  Chip Kelly, who takes his wildly innovative offensive scheme to Philadelphia, and Andy Reid, who inherits a pretty talented roster and the #1 overall pick in Kansas City.  All the other 6 new coaches should be considered dead ducks until their teams start winning.

I'm a little surprised we didn't see more rumors about teams chasing Gruden, Cowher or Saban.  Maybe that will happen next offseason.  Or maybe those guys are happy where they are.  Either way, we should have another 8 coaches fired next December, so this fun little process can happen all over again.

As far as the draft goes, we're still a long way from clarity.  It looked like Geno Smith (QB from West Virginia) would be the #1 pick, but a five-game losing streak really sunk his chances and left a lot of people wondering if he can win in the NFL.  Matt Barkley (USC's QB) started the year as the presumptive favorite for the top pick, and now he might have fallen out of the 1st round completely with a shoulder injury and a 6-loss season.

So who goes #1?  Amazingly, that decision will be totally up to this creep. 

My guess would be Luke Joeckel, the tackle from A&M.  It's probably between him and Geno at this point, and it will depend what the Chiefs can do to address the QB position.  Alex Smith, Michael Vick, Matt Flynn, and Tim Tebow will be their options.  Pretty slim pickings.  It actually wouldn't shock me if Reid stayed with Matt Cassel and waited until next year to find his quarterback.  Kind of like what Jim Harbaugh did with Alex Smith.  Just saying, it wouldn't shock me.

The next 5 or 6 picks could all be defense.  After Joeckel, there isn't really an elite offensive prospect in this class. No WR or RB that resembles a top 10 pick.  It all depends on where the QBs end up. With a myriad of teams in the top 10 needing to find their franchise quarterback, including Jacksonville (#2), Oakland (#3), Philly (#4), Cleveland (#6), Arizona (#7), Buffalo (#8), and the Jets (#9),  you could see some hideous reaches and some preposterous trades.  Geno and Barkley are very possible in the top 10.  Maybe NC State's Mike Glennon and Arkansas's Tyler Wilson as well.  Probably not Florida State's EJ Manuel, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, or Tennessee's Tyler Bray, but who knows.   All of those guys have 1st round potential, but could make bargains in the 2nd or even 3rd.

The Lions pick at #5, and now that Manti Te'o is out of the question, it will either be a defensive end or a cornerback.  There's only one cornerback that makes sense - Dee Milliner - who I still hope they'll pick.  But I think Schwart'z affinity for defensive lineman will lead them to take a DE.  It'll be justifiable, because Avril is on his way out the door, as is Lawrence Jackson.  I thought VandenBosch was done, but now that the Lions' have hired a coordinator who called KVB his "favorite player," my guess is we'll have to endure another season of the red-eyed monster being overmatched and ineffective.

The glaring, gaping, heinous hole in the secondary won't matter to Schwartz as much as it matters to me, and the Lions will choose their favorite pass rusher.  Someone fast enough to chase the QB but big enough to stop the run.  Many current mock drafts have them taking A&M's Damontre Moore or Florida State's Bjoren Werner, but Georgia's Jarvis Jones might also be an option.  Of those, none have blown me away on tape.  They are look like good players, with Werner probably the most NFL-ready. But none look as good as Dee Milliner.

I really think Milliner will be an immediate star in the NFL.  I think he'll make multiple Pro Bowls, he'll shut down elite receivers, and he might end up being the next Revis.  Unfortunately, I think he'll do that for a team that isn't the Lions.  A year from now, Detroit be stuck with a logjam of overpaid defensive linemen while trying to figure out who their next coach will be.

Go Tigers.  Go Harbaugh.

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