Archive for November, 2009

Chiefs at Chargers

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

I certainly didn’t predict that the Chiefs would beat the Steelers. And I find it almost as unlikely that the Chiefs will beat the Chargers tomorrow. Almost.

Darren SprolesChargers Offense
Phillip Rivers throws one of the best deep balls in the game. But he also seems to think he can throw it whenever he wants, which occasionally gets him in trouble. The Chargers offense is ranked #16 in the league. And their running game has been largely ineffective, where they rank #29, rushing for only 87.9 yards per game. LaDanian Tomlinson is past his prime (458 yards, 3.4 yards per carry). And while Darren Sproles might be explosive, he’s not an every down back (210 yards, 3.5 yards per carry). The Chargers are bound to make some yards through the  air, but the Chiefs are very capable of shutting down the Chargers running game. What the Chargers do well is score points. They’re tied for #5 in the league scoring 26.9 points per game.

Chargers Defense
The Chargers defense was struggling early this year. Before playing the Chiefs in October, the Chargers were giving up 27.2 points per game. Since playing the Chiefs, the Chargers are giving up only 13.8 points per game. They’re getting pressure on the quarterback. And they’re disrupting the offense.

The Chiefs can’t afford to get in a shootout with San Diego. And nobody has been able to keep the Chargers off the scoreboard. Their lowest output of the season is 21 points. The Chiefs formula for success is the same as last week. Make some plays on special teams, and take the ball away from the Chargers.

Prediction: Chargers 27, Chiefs 13

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KU Football: Thank You Seniors

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Kerry Meier and Todd ReesingHappy Thanksgiving everybody.

With the 2009 KU football season winding down, it seems like an appropriate time to give thanks to three of our seniors: Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp. This weekend may be the end of an era at KU depending on the decision with coach Mangino. But instead, today let’s focus on these three young men who have brought so much joy to KU football fans.

Reesing, Meier and Sharp have epitomized the resurgence of football in Lawrence, and have lead one of the most explosive offenses in the country the last couple of years. But not only that, these three young men have embodied class and work ethic. All have succeeded in ways that nobody could have predicted.

Jake SharpJake Sharp from Salina, Kansas, is the boy who was supposed to be too small to play running back in college. He’s only proven to be the spark plug that has kept our ground game running. In his sophomore year, he combined with Brandon McAnderson to create dual-headed threat in our backfield. He was the lightning to McAnderson’s thunder. Last year the coaching staff looked for a solution at running back before figuring out that the solution was there all along. Once Mangino committed to Sharp as the man, Jake rewarded KU with another excellent season. He has rushed for more than 1800 yards in his career, and as a receiver has added another 500 yards of offense.

Kerry Meier comes from a family of football players, and was recruited to be our quarterback. He looks the part, and probably would have become a fine quarterback in his own right. He put up pretty good numbers as a freshman before losing the job to Reesing his sophomore year. Meier has now developed into one of the premier wide receivers in the country, and looks poised to continue his career in the NFL.

And then there’s Todd Reesing. The little guy from Texas who has the presence like few others. He’s the heart that has pushed this team beyond expectations. He has been compared to Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. He has made plays in and out of the pocket that have amazed us for three years. And he’s a bright kid, set to double major at KU in finance and economics.

Whatever happens to these three after the Missouri game on Saturday, I would just like to say thank you. And thank you to the entire senior class. You have made us proud to be Jayhawk football fans again.

Support For Health Care Reform Continues to Fall

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

According to a new post on Rasmussen Reports:

“Just 38% of voters now favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s the lowest level of support measured for the plan in nearly two dozen tracking polls conducted since June.”

The report goes on to say, “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% now oppose the plan… Intensity remains stronger among those who oppose the push to change the nation’s health care system: 21% Strongly Favor the plan while 43% are Strongly Opposed.”

As Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “The most important fundamental is that 68% of American voters have health insurance coverage they rate good or excellent. … Most of these voters approach the health care reform debate fearing that they have more to lose than to gain.”

AFC West News and Notes

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Now that we’re past the half way point of the season, let’s take another look around the AFC West. Here are my predictions from earlier this year.

San Diego Chargers
Prediction: 9-7
Current Record: 7-3
Momentum: have won five straight

The Chargers have the most talent in the division. And that talent is winning. I’m not a fan of head coach Norv Turner, but the Chargers are playing pretty good ball. And their remaining schedule is fairly soft with games against the Chiefs, Browns, Cowboys, Bengals, Titans and Redskins. At this point, 11-5 looks very attainable for San Diego.

Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction: 6-10
Current Record: 3-7
Momentum: have won three of their last five

The Chiefs started out by playing poorly, and dropped very winnable games against Oakland and Dallas. They do seem to be getting better. And they have a few more winnable games in front of them. Their remaining schedule includes the Chargers, Broncos, Bills, Browns, Bengals and another game against the Broncos. If they can go 3-3 over the last six they’ll end up 6-10 and have a lot to build on heading into the off season.

Denver Broncos
Prediction: 5-11
Current Record: 6-4
Momentum: have lost four straight

Do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of the wheels coming off the Broncos bandwagon. With games left againt the Giants, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Eagles and Chiefs again, Denver is facing several more losses. I think at this point they’ll hit 8-8. Pretty disappointing after starting the season 6-0.

Oakland Raiders
Prediction: 3-13
Current Record: 3-7
Momentum: the benching of JaMarcus Russel may create some momentum for the Raiders

The Raiders have some talent, but have been incredibly limited by the play of their quarterbacks. It doesn’t say much when you have to turn to Bruce Gradkowski to give your team a spark. I listened to Trent Green talk about JaMarcus Russel the other day. Russel’s mechanics are awful, and his attitude appears to be worse. He has not put in the effort to become even a competent quarterback. The Raiders have some tough choices ahead. And with games left against the Cowboys, Steelers, Redskins, Broncos, Browns and Ravens, it appears that Oakland will be lucky to scrape out another win or two.

Thoughts on Mangino

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Mark Mangino and KU FootballMark Mangino became the head football coach of the Kansas Jayhawks in 2002, taking over for the fired Terry Allen. Allen always seemed like a really good guy. He just wasn’t a good enough recruiter or coach to have success at this level.

Mangino: The Coach
As head coach of the Jayhawks, Mangino has compiled a record of 50-46. He has taken the Jayhawks to bowl games three of the last four years, winning all three. He has brought national acclaim to a struggling program. A program with little tradition. He won numerous coach of the year honors following the 2007 season after leading his team to a 12-1 record and a win in the 2008 Orange Bowl. He has made game day fun in Lawrence. Memorial Stadium is full for virtually every home game. This means that the football program is generating a lot of revenue for the university.

Many critics have pointed out that if you take away the fabulous 2007 season, then his overall record is only 38-45. This seems like a silly point to me. If you take away his first season instead, where he went 2-10 with players recruited by Allen’s staff, his record becomes 48-36.

This year the team has either underachieved, or they just don’t have enough talent. Maybe a little of both. I suspect that lack of talent on the offensive line has limited the offense greatly. And a lack of skilled linebackers has killed the defense. The Jayhawks will finish with either a 5-7 or at best a 6-6 record after they fall to the Longhorns tonight. A disappointing season after beginning with high expectations.

But it would be unfair to say that Mangino has not been a positive influence on KU football. The football program has enjoyed a lot of success under Mangino.

Mangino: The Man
This is where things get a bit more interesting. Stories have floated around Lawrence for years. Mangino is just not a very nice man. He’s verbally abusive to his players, his staff, and just about anybody who gets in his way, including the KU parking police.

There have been reports of possible physical abuse. But it sounds like the physical abuse is tantamount to poking a player in the chest. I think Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant would roll over in their graves upon hearing that poking a young man in the chest would be considered physical abuse. Maybe there’s still more to learn, but I’ll be surprised if there are any significant stories to be told that have not already been revealed about physical abuse within the program.

But what I find distasteful in these stories, if they’re true, is the personal nature of his verbal attacks. It appears that Mangino has made numerous comments to his players over the years that cross the line of simple human decency. There’s no justification for statements to a young man about going back home so he can get shot with his “homies”. These statements cross the line.

What makes this difficult for KU at this point is that this is nothing new. Kansas has been putting up with this behavior from Mangino for years. And truthfully, while for me it crosses the line, it doesn’t cross the line by very much. Many successful coaches are hard on their players. It’s part of how they motivate them. But I assume that most of them do not resort to such personal attacks to attempt to motivate their players.

Lew Perkins: A Decision to be Made
When Perkins extended Mangino’s contract a couple years ago, it’s clear that KU was well aware of Mangino’s shortcomings. There’s plenty of room in the contract to consider Mangino’s behavior as “just cause” to terminate his contract. (Here’s some interesting information from KUSports.com on Mangino’s contract.) I’ve also heard that KU has a relatively small buyout in the contract. Lew is a smart man. I can only assume that he’s already got a short list of head coaching candidates, and that he has people quietly speaking with a few of these candidates already. I can’t imagine letting Mangino go without a plan in place to replace him.

At this point, Mangino certainly appears to be a lame duck. I expect him to finish out the season, but this appears to be the end for Mangino in Lawrence. This national attention will hurt Mangino’s ability to recruit. Other coaches will use this against him. Fans and alumni might put up with a bully while they’re winning. But it’s harder to justify keeping one around when they’re losing. Perkins made a great hire with Bill Self replacing Roy Williams. Here’s hoping he makes another great choice for our football program.

Chiefs to Face Steelers without Bowe

Friday, November 20th, 2009

It’s difficult to see how this game will be competitive. The Steelers at 6-3 are among the best in the NFL. Pittsburgh is ranked #2 in total defense, and #1 against the run. Not a good formula for the Chiefs who must find a way to run the ball in order to keep some pressure off of Matt Cassel. Jamaal Charles ran well against the Raiders last week. This will be a much tougher challenge. And the Chiefs will be playing the next four weeks without wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Though personally I doubt it will matter much this week.

Ben RoethlisbergerOffensively the Steelers are ranked #9. Uncharacteristically, they’ve struggled a bit running the ball this season. But Ben Roethlisberger has become one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league. For a big man he has great pocket awareness, and makes plays on the move. Where the Steelers have slipped the last few years has been along their offensive line. They give up some sacks, and have had trouble run blocking. A lot of their yardage on the ground has come from Willie Parker making plays out of nothing. But Parker has been hurt and ineffective this year. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall, like most rookies, is still inconsistent.

The Chiefs have won two of their last four, which I did predict here! And I think they’ve got a couple wins still in them this year. I haven’t given up on them.

But can the Chiefs beat the Steelers? Sure. When you see the Raiders beat the Eagles, the Redskins beat the Broncos, or the Rams hang tough with the Saints, anything is possible. But this matchup looks bad for Kansas City. To call the Chiefs offensively challenged is polite. It will require a few turnovers from the Steelers and possibly some big plays from special teams to keep the Chiefs in the game. That’s not my expectation.

Prediction: Steelers 34, Chiefs 6

Quick Hits from November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Wow. Lots going on in local sports the last couple of days.

Mark Mangino and KU FootballMark Mangino and KU Football
Kansas Athletic Director Lew Perkins, responding to complaints from current and former players, held a private meeting with the entire KU football team. It appears that he will conduct an investigation into complaints of verbal and possible physical abuse of the players.

The most interesting take I’ve seen is by Star columnist Jason Whitlock relating Mangino’s weight problems to his anger problems. I’m not always a fan of Jason’s writing, but this is worth the read. (See Jason’s article here.) I’m not sure that I agree with Jason. But I’m not entirely sure that I don’t.

Mangino is a bully. We’ve known for years that he berates his players and assistant coaches. A bully is often tolerated while they’re winning. See Bill Parcells and Bobby Knight. But once they start losing, all hell breaks loose. I guess I’m not surprised.

At this point my expectation is that Mangino, who is just a few games away from becoming the winningest coach in KU football history, will not be a Jayhawk next year.

LJ Becomes a Bengal
Cincinnati is an interesting landing spot for Larry Johnson. Just a couple of years ago, the Bengals were in disarray. Players were getting arrested. The team was infested with bad attitudes. They acknowledged their mistakes, and worked to clean up the team. Now they’re 7-2 and the surprise of the NFL. So what do they do? They sign Larry Johnson.

LJ is low risk financially. The Chiefs are on the hook for most of his money. The Bengals signed him to a league minimum contract. But as we well know, he’s not low risk. He carries a ton of personal baggage. Though he can probably stay on good behavior long enough to finish the season with the Bengals.

LJ had some interesting things to say about Kansas City. (“It was a relationship that was souring in Kansas City, and being in a small market,” Johnson said, “every little thing I say is going to be blown up to mythical proportions. (Scott) Pioli and Todd (Haley) felt it was the best way to silence the whole situation was to let me go.”) I guess somehow it’s our fault that he’s stupid.

Dwayne Bowe Suspended
Bowe showed up at training camp this year 30 pounds over weight. We know now how he lost the weight so quickly. Bowe has been suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy by taking diuretics to lose weight. Great job Dwayne.

Zack Wins Cy Young Award
In a landslide, Kansas City’s own Zack Greinke wins the American League Cy Young Award. Zack certainly earned it. Many of us were a little worried that the tarnish from the Royals would somehow rub off on Greinke. Though I did predict this win weeks ago.

Support for the Public Option

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

A friend of mine wrote to me: “You can google Public Option Opinion Polls and find some that say up to 76% of Americans support the aforementioned Public Option.”

I have seen this same stat repeated on the news. So I googled it. If you google that exact phrase, the first result is titled “New Poll: 77 Percent Support “Choice” Of Public Option”. It links to a Huffington Post article from August. The survey was done by a company called SurveyUSA that I’m unfamiliar with. I didn’t see any newer polls with similar results. But they certainly might be out there.

Here’s what else I found.

According to Gallup on October 21, 50% think that a public option should be included in the reform bill, and 46% do not:

Gallup Poll with Public Option

And according to the Washington Post / ABC Poll from October 20, 57% support the public option:

Washington Post Public Option Poll

I’m always skeptical of polls. Take it from somebody with a background in marketing, they can be manipulated. The polls I mentioned a few days ago have tracked opinion over time. I tend to find these a bit more trustworthy since if there are any built-in biases in the poll, hopefully that bias is consistent over time.

And truthfully, I think this is irrelevant.

One, I don’t think some Americans completely understand what the “public option” means. According to pollster Frank Luntz, if you replace the phrase “public option” with “government option”, the numbers in support of the option drops. Notice that Nancy Pelosi recently rebranded it to the be the “consumer option”. Why? I’m sure there’s some poll out there that says that a “consumer option” is more favorable when compared to a “public option”. Which really just means that the person polled doesn’t understand the difference in the first place.

And two, if the public option is really just the path to a single payer, government run system as I believe, then support of the public option becomes irrelevant. (See my post here about the public option.) People are strongly opposed to government run health care. And they should be.

One last comment. What do we continue to hear from supporters of the public option? That it is necessary to create competition in order to drive down insurance premiums. However, these bills continue to prohibit insurance companies from competing across state lines. We allow insurance companies in other industries (auto, life, home) to compete across state lines. Why not health insurance?

The answer is easy. The endgame is not the public option. The endgame is government run health care. The public option is just the road that gets us there.

More in U.S. Say Health Coverage Is Not Gov’t. Responsibility

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Just a couple of years ago, according to Gallup, 69% of those polled said that making sure that all Americans had healthcare coverage was the government’s responsibility. That number has dropped by 22 points. Today, Americans no longer think that this is the government’s responsibility. (See Gallup’s complete story here.)

Gallup Poll on Healthcare

This is a significant swing in public opinion over the last two years. And I think it’s easily explained.

1. In general, we are a giving people. And we want problems fixed. We’ve been told for years that we have a significant problem in our country. Health care is too expensive, and too many people are uninsured. And since individually we can do little to solve this problem, we believe that our government should fix this problem.

2. Most people do believe that health care is a right, and that we all deserve the same high quality of care.

3. On the surface, government run health care, or a public option, sounds fine. After all, this will solve our problems. Won’t it?

But as Americans learn more about government run health care, or even the public option, they don’t want it.

Overwhelmingly, Americans do NOT want to replace our current system with a government run system:

Gallup Poll on Replacing Healthcare System

I continue to believe that the “public option” will lead us to government run health care.

Americans have watched how the government has mismanaged two wars, mismanaged our economy, and has failed to save or create jobs despite spending our money like a drunken sailor. We do not want government run health care. Unfortunately, Congress and the White House has decided that they know better.

The healthcare bill that recently passed the House is atrocious. It will not fix our health care problems. It will only further hurt our economy and destroy job creation. And put our country further in debt.

Jayhawks Roll Hofstra, X Debuts

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Xavier HenryIn his freshman regular season debut, Xavier Henry scores 27 in what looked like an effortless performance. He is the most polished freshman I’ve seen in a Kansas jersey. It’s early, but he certainly looks as good as advertised. His 27 points are the most ever by a Kansas freshman in their debut performance. (Wilt scored 52 but was officially a sophomore.)

I’ve also been impressed with the other freshmen, forward Thomas Robinson and guard Elijah Johnson. They will make more of an impact this year than I thought. The best news for them is that they will not be asked to contribute as significantly as last year’s freshmen Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins. Robinson and Johnson will have less pressure to perform early in their careers. Though I think they may be more developed than last year’s freshmen were at this point.

No matter what happens Jayhawk fans, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Note: During the preseason game against Pittsburg State the other night, they showed a group of young men in street clothes sitting on the bench. Who were they? Jeff Withey, Brady Morningstar, C.J. Henry, Mario Little and Travis Releford. Wow. That’s a competent starting lineup for most college basketball programs. Most of these guys would be starting for most of the teams in the Big 12.

It’s almost not even fair. Almost.