Archive for January, 2010

Senate Votes Along Party Lines to Raise Debt Limit

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

CongressAs everyone discussed President Obama and the State of the Union speech on Thursday, the Senate voted 60-39 to raise the nation’s debt limit to $14.3 trillion — an increase of almost $2 trillion. The vote went purely along party lines. Obviously they couldn’t wait for newly elected Scott Brown to make his way to Washington. And the democrats knew they had to get it passed quickly. They also knew they had to raise it by at least $1.9 trillion or they’d risk having to vote for ANOTHER increase before the elections this fall. And that just wouldn’t be good politics now would it.

There was amazingly little press coverage. But of course why would the press be interested in such boring things as our nation’s debt when it could be talking about the iPad, Toyota or Lady Gaga.

Our nation’s debt should be one of our biggest concerns right now, and Congress just wants to keep on spending. The President talked about a new jobs bill that would cost billions of dollars. The last one worked so well. The President talked about a spending freeze on a very small percentage of the government’s overall budget, but that wouldn’t start till 2011. The President promised to veto bills filled with pork. He hasn’t. I guess his definition of pork and mine are a bit different.

Here are my thoughts on our debt and debt ceiling posted in mid-December.

Eddie Money Sings National Anthem at KU

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Eddie MoneyAs a teenager in the ’80s I was a huge Eddie Money fan. He sang the national anthem at the KU-MU game last night and I missed it. Got a kick out of this story from the Journal-World:

National recording artist Eddie Money sang the national anthem.

Money, who lives in southern California, had the time of his life attending his first KU basketball game.

“I’m in Allen Fieldhouse. This is where Wilt Chamberlain played. I just saw Danny Manning. I had a chance to meet Gale Sayers. I’m in heaven,” exclaimed Money, whose hits include “Take Me Home Tonight,” “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Shakin’” and “Baby Hold On.”

Money, 60, said in a pregame interview with the Journal-World that he was nervous about singing the anthem.

“I played with the (Rolling) Stones, and I wasn’t nervous like I am now,” he said. “The only song I get nervous about singing is the Star-Spangled Banner. I sang it at a Chiefs game a couple years ago when they played the Raiders. This is the highlight of my life.

“My son goes to junior college. I wish he was here today to see how beautiful the girls are who go to school in the Midwest. I’ve been to UCLA, all over the place. The prettiest girls in the country are right here.”

Money, by the way, performed the national anthem at the Liberty Bowl, which is when he “ran into some friends who are from KU.” They had his agent contact KU about singing the anthem at a game.

Can Scott Brown Help President Obama Get Re-Elected?

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

So much going on, and so little time to write about it. Healthcare reform appears to be dead. Obama is going after the banks. The tragedy in Haiti. The bickering on the left over the loss in Massachusetts. The gloating from the right over the win in Massachusetts. Conan O’Brien’s $45 million settlement with NBC. But a thought crossed my mind this last week. Can Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts actually help President Obama get re-elected in 2012? And the answer is yes.

Bill ClintonLearning from History
Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 after receiving only 43 percent of the popular vote. He entered his first term on shaky ground. He wasn’t well liked by democrats or republicans in Congress. And he certainly didn’t have much public support on his side. Dick Morris has often told the story about how President Clinton had wanted to work with both sides of the aisle in Congress, but was quickly pulled aside by democratic leaders and told no. Democrats controlled Congress, and for the first time in a dozen years controlled the White House. This was their time to push their agenda.

During the first two years of his presidency, Clinton is probably best known for his failures in healthcare reform (socialized medicine) and allowing gays in the military. The American people spoke loudly against these two liberal policy initiatives and voted the democrats out of Congress in 1994. Clinton’s support remained low.

Does any of this sound similar to our current situation? It should.

I have long contended that Clinton was more a creature of politics than a creature of ideals. Despite his other shortcomings, I’ve always believed that Clinton wanted what was best for the country. I think it was more important to him to get good work accomplished, than it was to promote a specific “liberal” or “moderate” or “conservative” agenda. He worked closely with the new republican leadership in Congress on welfare reform and several other policy initiatives. And in convincing fashion won re-election in 1996. This time Clinton received more than 49% of the popular vote. While not a majority, keep in mind that Ross Perot received more than 8% of the popular vote (down from about 19% in ’92). Clinton beat his republican adversary Bob Dole by nearly 10 points.

In ’94, Bill Clinton looked like a one-term president. But after moving to the middle and working with Congress in a bipartisan manner, Clinton easily won re-election in ’96.

Barack ObamaPresident Obama Has a Choice
It is certainly true that President Obama entered office with significantly more public support than Bill Clinton. But like Clinton, Obama has bowed to the powers that be in Congress. A democratically controlled Congress. He’s allowed Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to dictate the direction of policy initiatives, from the budget and economic stimulus, to healthcare reform. There has been no attempt at “transparency” or “bipartisanship” coming out of Washington as Obama had promised on the campaign trail. The stimulus hasn’t worked. People are out of work. The budget and size of the federal government is spiraling out of control. The deficit is ballooning. People still don’t support socialized medicine. And Americans are angry.

The republicans have already taken a few special elections from the democrats with wins in New Hampshire, Virginia and now Massachusetts. And they will most certainly pickup seats in both the senate and the house later this year. But this brings us back to President Obama. Is he a creature of politics like Bill Clinton? Or a creature of ideals glued to a liberal agenda? The liberals might be able to explain away the losses in New Hampshire and Virginia, but Massachusetts was a significant blow to the democrats. Will Scott Brown’s victory be a wake-up call to the President?

If this week was any indication, it appears that President Obama will continue to blame others for our current situation. I’ve never found the blame game very appealing. But to Obama and his inner circle, the economy is still Bush’s fault. And the failure to pass healthcare reform was because of misinformation spread by rightwing organizations. In Obama’s world, American voters who oppose Obama-care are misguided and misinformed.

The President’s State of the Union speech this week will give us a glimpse into how Obama plans to spend his next few years. He still has time to alter the course of his agenda and win a second term. The clock is ticking.

JoPo on the Royals

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I’m glad that Joe Posnanski is still contributing to the Star. He remains one of my favorite sports writers. This last week the Royals signed outfielder Rick Ankiel. The signing makes little sense to me. And it appears, has JoPo just as confused.

Here’s just a snippet of Joe’s article:

It is troubling that Dayton Moore’s entirely sensible plan for success — find young players, develop them, bring them to the big leagues — seems to be spinning in the mud. If you are going to be that kind of organization, you actually have to be that kind of organization. I don’t know if Jason Kendall, Scott Podsednik, José Guillen, Rick Ankiel, Yuniesky Betancourt, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz and so on are blocking any promising younger players from the big leagues.

But I guess that’s the point: If they are blocking younger talents, then the Royals are doing a lousy job of developing players.

And if they are not blocking younger talents, then the Royals are doing a lousy job of developing players.

Picking the Colts and Saints, More NFL Notes

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

It’s a good thing I’m not a gambling man. Last weekend my teams went 2-2. But I went against my gut picking teams coached by Norv Turner and Wade Phillips. I won’t do that again.

Jets at Colts: The Jets showed some real grit against the Chargers. Great defense and a great running attack. Brian Schottenheimer has really developed into a fine offensive coordinator. But the Jets probably don’t beat the Chargers if kicker Nate Kaeding doesn’t puke all over the field and miss three field goals. The Colts on the other hand bottled up the Ravens running attack and controlled their game from start to finish. Look for another Colts win, and another trip for Peyton Manning to the Super Bowl. Prediction: Colts 24, Jets 13

New Orleans Saints Drew BreesVikings at Saints: A much tougher game to pick as both teams played very well last weekend. The Vikings defensive front four manhandled the Cowboys, and Brett Favre continues to make plays in the passing game. Yet the Saints have looked like the team of destiny most of the year. They put 45 points in the Cardinals, while holding Arizona to only 14 points. It appears that the Saints defense is getting healthy at the right time. And Drew Brees is maybe the best quarterback in the NFL not named Peyton Manning. Brees is uncanny in his accuracy. And he’s certainly the heart and soul of the Saints. I’m not jumping ship now. Prediction: Saints 27, Vikings 24

Dallas Cowboys: I thought it was interesting that the pre-game story on the Cowboys was all about how Dallas had gotten rid of all of the problems in the locker room, and that they were now a “team”. Yet immediately following the game wide receiver Roy Williams was pissed off because of how few passes have gone his way this season. Sounds like team first to me.

Pro Bowl: As a kid I looked forward to watching the Pro Bowl every year. It was a blast to see all the great players on the field at the same time. Only a couple of games were televised every week, and there was little opportunity to see many of the players throughout the season. But the Pro Bowl has lost its luster over the years. And I think primarily because now you get to see NFL coverage of every game in such great detail. This year the NFL is playing the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl, which means the players who have been nominated to the Pro Bowl but our bound for the Super Bowl won’t be playing. The Vikings have nine players slotted to play in the Pro Bowl, which means if they make the Super Bowl, that’s a lot of star power missing from the Pro Bowl. I’m not sure this is a very good idea. We’ll see what it does for the ratings.

Bills Hire Chan Gailey: Where did this come from? I like Chan Gailey as a coordinator, but he’s had little success as a head coach. I don’t see the Bills getting better any time soon.

Broncos Part Ways with Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan: I don’t understand this move at all. Denver’s defense has been bad for years. Mike Nolan converted the defense to a 3-4 and really made them competitive this year. And after one year, Nolan’s gone. Can only assume that Noland and head coach Josh McDaniels didn’t get along.

Chargers and LaDanian Tomlinson: I’ve enjoyed watching LT run the ball for years. He’s a class act on and off the field. But he’s no longer an every down back. And as explosive as Darren Sproles can be, he can’t carry the load either. Tomlinson has likely played his last game for San Diego. Look for the Chargers to draft a running back early this year.

Raiders: What’s up in Oakland? Are they firing head coach Tom Cable or not? Lots of rumors that Al Davis is testing the waters and talking to some potential coaches. But word has it that Al Davis wants a coach who will commit to working with quarterback JaMarcus Russell. And any coach willing to make that commitment won’t have a chance. Russell appears to be a complete bust.

Chiefs: And just because I love my Chiefs, I have to say one more time how excited I am about our new coordinators, Weis and Crennel.

GOP Finds Star in Scott Brown

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Massachusetts Senator Scott BrownWhenever I write something political, I feel compelled to explain that I’m a registered independent, and have no love for either political party. I watched Massachusetts’ new senator Scott Brown give his victory speech last night, and couldn’t help but think of Barack Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Barack Obama
As a quick reminder, Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, but it was his impressive speech at the Democratic National Convention that year that catapulted him into the national spotlight. The party knew they finally had found a young, charismatic star, and immediately started to position him for a run at the presidency in 2008. As they say, the rest is history.

Scott Brown
Brown’s rise to prominence has been almost as impressive. Elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1998, Brown served in this capacity until winning a special election in 2004 to fill a vacated seat in the Massachusetts Senate. Last night Brown won in another special election filling Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the U.S. Senate. If you don’t follow national politics it’s difficult to understand what a big win this was for the republicans. Massachusetts hasn’t elected a republican senator since the ’70s. Democrats outnumber republicans in the state by a margin of about 3-1. Few saw this coming until polls the last few weeks showed Brown making a run at democrat Martha Coakley. Last night, Brown was energetic, charismatic, funny and likable. When was the last time you could say that about a republican candidate?

Democrats Beware
I’ve been surprised for months about the democrats’ reaction to the anger in this country. When Nancy Pelosi called the conservative groundswell “astroturf” instead of grassroots, she angered many. When democrats belittled the tea parties as rightwing propaganda, they angered a lot of independents. When democrats criticized everybody who criticized health care reform, they angered a lot of voters. They really don’t seem to get it. Real people are angry in this country. And not just the rightwing extremists as the democrats would like to believe.

Republicans Beware
If the republicans think of Brown’s win primarily in terms of the national debate over the economy and health care, they will struggle in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that it’s the candidate that makes the difference. The GOP will certainly gain seats in both the House and the Senate in 2010, but how many will depend on the quality of the candidates, not just the anger of the voters.

Why the Pundits Will Get This Wrong
The national pundits and political activists will be talking for days about Brown’s win against the democrats. The left will be forced to downplay the significance of Brown’s win. It will be interesting to see how they try to spin the loss. They likely will throw Coakley under the bus and talk about what a poor campaign she ran. The right will say that this is a referendum against Obama’s failed economic policies, and against the healthcare legislation currently in Congress. And they’re all partially correct. But many seem to have missed one simple fact. Brown was by far the more likable candidate in Massachusetts. He ran on a fairly populist platform. And independents liked him better.

NFL Playoff Predictions

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

I know, I know. I’m a day late with my predictions. My son’s Pinewood Derby Race has taken up a chunk of my time the last few days. His car, Cheesey Fish, went 2-2 and didn’t make the finals. But the crowd chanted “CHEESE FISH CHEESE FISH” every time he raced. It was a good day at the races.

Now on with the predictions.

New Orleans Saints Drew BreesI’m predicting that the Colts and Saints will win yesterday’s games. Now before you roll your eyes, I’ve been predicting for weeks that the Colts and Saints were my picks for the Super Bowl. They’ve been the best two teams in the league all year despite a few meaningless losses late in the season. They’re both loaded on offense with playmakers all over the field. Manning and Brees right now are the two best quarterbacks in the league. And they have opportunistic defenses. I’m still on the bandwagon. Or bandwagons.

Today’s games are more interesting match-ups to discuss anyway.

Jets at Chargers: The Jets are good where it matters most. In the trenches. Their offensive and defensive lines play very well, and will create problems for the Chargers. For the Jets to have a chance to win, and they do, they must shut down the Chargers running game, and come up with a couple of key interceptions. I’m not sure that LT and Sproles will have much success against the Jets defense. But the bottom line is that the Chargers are just too good at putting points on the board, and the Jets won’t be able to keep up. Prediction: Chargers 28, Jets 17

Minnesota Vikings Jared AllenCowboys at Vikings: Should be a great game. Brett Favre and Jared Allen are two of my favorite players. But the Cowboys seem to have found their mojo. They’ve exercised a few demons with their win last week against the Eagles. But they’ll find a stiffer challenge today when they travel to Minnesota. The Vikings have struggled a bit with deciding what they want to be on offense, and it could cost them today. Prediction: Cowboys 24, Vikings 21

What’s interesting for me with these two picks is that I’ve said for years now that Norv Turner and Wade Phillips were the wrong choices to leat these organizations. But now I’ve got both of them advancing to their respective championship games. I’m not ready to admit I was wrong. They’ll have to win a Super Bowl first.

Next weekend I’ll be picking the Colts and Saints no matter who wins today. And as of right now I’m on the Colts to win it all. But I reserve the right to change my mind on this one before the big game.

I love the NFL.

Chiefs Add Romeo Crennel to Staff

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Romeo CrennelIt’s early January and the Chiefs have already had a very productive off-season. Chiefs fans who look at the additions of Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator and Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator and aren’t excited have become too jaded to look at this for what it is. The Chiefs have hired two of the most successful coordinators of the last decade. I posted weeks ago that the additions of Weis and Crennel should be Chiefs priority number one.

Experience and Success: Weis and Crennel have a combined six Super Bowl rings as coordinators for the New England Patriots. Are there any other teams in the league with this much proven talent at their coordinator positions? And both have been head coaches, which will help Todd Haley greatly as he continues to learn how to be an NFL head coach.

Instant Credibility: Many in the media have written how the Chiefs will have a tough time attracting high-quality free agents to Kansas City. I’ve never bought into this mindset. In my opinion, it’s typically the money that matters. Players go where they’ll be paid the most. Few choose smaller contract offers for a chance to “win it all” with a certain team. Though a few may choose slightly smaller contracts to stay with their current team if they’re comfortable with their current situation. But if you DO buy into this mindset, then feel good that the additions of Weis and Crennel WILL be a selling point for the Chiefs as they talk to free agents.

Not a Lost Year: Watching the 2009 season unfold, it was difficult not to get frustrated. It often felt like a wasted year. But now it starts to feel like the pieces are falling into place. The firing of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey right before the ’09 season looked like a mistake at the time. But with the implementation of Haley’s offense, and now the addition of Charlie Weis as coordinator, the Chiefs will begin this off-season much further along than if they had kept Gailey and fired him after the season. And on defense, the Chiefs had tried to hire Romeo Crennel last year, but the timing just wasn’t right for Crennel. The Chiefs implemented the 3-4, and got a year of the new defense under their belt. Not a very successful year. But a year nonetheless.

What’s Next: The Chiefs still need to dramatically improve their roster. And until there’s some resolution to the collective bargaining agreement, teams will find it difficult to begin their off-season plans. The state of the CBA will tremendously impact free agency this year. But having said that, I still don’t expect the Chiefs to make a huge splash in free agency. I don’t think that’s Pioli’s style. And as I’ve posted before, great teams are built through the draft, not through free agency. But the Chiefs will need to find a few additions in free agency. And they must have a draft that can help this team immediately.

One Down, One to Go — Chiefs Add Weis

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Charlie WeisPeople have speculated for weeks. I wrote a post a month ago that new coordinators should be the top priority for the Chiefs, and had hoped for a reunion of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel in Kansas City. And yesterday, news broke that Weis had accepted a job with the Chiefs to become their offensive coordinator. Good job Chiefs. One down, one to go.

As you recall, the Chiefs fired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey just days before the regular season began. Head coach Todd Haley took over the duties of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and completely revamped the offense. The move was puzzling at the time. And subsequently, the offense struggled mightily. The offensive line was atrocious. Larry Johnson couldn’t run the ball. The line couldn’t protect quarterback Matt Cassel. The Chiefs were having to learn a completely new offense on the fly. And it wasn’t going well.

But as the season progressed, so did the offense. Signs were difficult to see on a week-to-week basis. It’s easy to point to the success that Jamaal Charles had running the ball compared to Larry Johnson, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. Other improvements were materializing. In particular, the offensive line was improving. Wade Smith had replaced the injured Mike Goff at right guard. And after rotating through a few players at right tackle, the team settled in with Ryan O’Callaghan. In the first 10 games of the season, the line gave up 37 sacks (3.7 per game). During the last six games, the line gave up only eight sacks (1.3 per game). In the first half of the season, the line couldn’t open a hole for Johnson. For the last half of the season, Jamaal Charles gained more yards than any back in the league except Chris Johnson. Much of that was due to the speed and elusiveness of Charles. But it was also due to the improved play of the offensive line.

Makes you wonder how much more the offense could have progressed if the Chiefs hadn’t lead the league in dropped passes. If the wide receivers could have hung onto the ball, it’s easy to see where the Chiefs could have picked up another couple wins late in the season.

Now back to Charlie Weis. He is widely considered one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. And he runs virtually an identical offense to Todd Haley. Before the news leaked about the hiring of Weis, here’s what Haley had to say about his old friend: “Charlie would allow us to run the offense we’re running if he were in this mix,’” Haley said. “’I will do everything I can to get the best, bright football minds in a position to help us. Charlie is a bright football mind who I have first-hand experience with. He would be a guy I would consider.”

The transition of the offense from Haley to Weis should be seamless. Now the firing of Gailey, and the move to Haley’s offense, has put the Chiefs in a better position moving into the next season.

Now if only they could find some receivers who could catch the ball. And oh yeah, hire Romeo Crennel to run the defense.

The Key is the Draft

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Great teams are not built through free agency. They’re built through the draft.

A friend of mine asked me the other day, “Why do the Chiefs suck?” And the answer is really pretty straightforward. The Chiefs have done a poor job of drafting and developing talent.

Kansas City ChiefsHow Did the Chiefs Get Here?
I have a theory. Are you surprised? I believe that one of the primary reasons that few men have succeeded at being both a head coach and a general manager at the same time is because the two roles have competing goals. A head coach needs to win now to keep his job. A general manager needs to put a system in place to win for the next ten years to keep his job. And it’s difficult to achieve a balance between these two competing goals.

During the early years of Marty Schottenheimer and Carl Peterson, these two strong-willed men balanced each others needs. Marty wanted to play veterans who could help his team win now. Carl wanted to draft and develop players who could help the team over the long haul. They found a balance. The team drafted and developed players such as Derrick Thomas, Tim Grunhard, Will Shields, Dale Carter, Donnie Edwards, Jerome Woods, Tony Gonzalez, David Szott and more. Like all teams, they had their share of misses in the drafts. But they also had their share of hits. Even out of the two Gunther Cunningham drafts, the Chiefs picked John Tait, Greg Wesley and Dante Hall.

When Peterson hired Dick Vermeil in 2001, the Chiefs sold out for the chance to win a Super Bowl. Carl stopped caring about a long-term plan. Vermeil’s plan was to put together a team of veterans and win the Super Bowl within three years. And by his third year he had constructed an offensive juggernaut that lead the team to a 13-3 record. Everyone believed that with just a little more tinkering to their defense, the Chiefs could finally win the big game. Vermeil stayed for two more years, but could never get the Chiefs over that last hurdle.

Why? Because the Chiefs forgot one simple fact: Great teams are not built through free agency. They’re built through the draft.

Vermeil’s Drafts
During the five years with Vermeil at the helm (2001-2005), the Chiefs drafted poorly. Out of these five drafts, the Chiefs drafted only four players who have played significant minutes in Kansas City: Larry Johnson (round 1, 2003), Jared Allen (round 4, 2004), Derrick Johnson (round 1, 2005) and Dustin Colquitt (round 3, 2005). By the beginning of 2007 and Herm Edward’s third season in Kansas City, the Chiefs had only THREE players from Vermeil’s drafts still on their roster (Johnson, Johnson and Colquitt).

Look through the rosters of the best teams in the NFL. Look at the Patriots, the Colts, the Eagles, the Saints, the Chargers. You’ll see something consistent. The majority of the contributors were drafted by their team. And the team has a core of players who are young veterans. Players who are hitting their best years (their late 20s). These teams round out their rosters with a few older veterans, a few young draft picks, and a few free agents. But the core of these teams were drafted by the teams several years earlier. The Chiefs are basically void of a core group of young veterans in their prime.

Free Agency Cannot Fix the Chiefs Ills
The great teams have never been built through free agency. You would think that the Washington Redskins would have learned this by now, but they have not. They continue to spend huge amounts of money signing players like Albert Haynesworth, and they’re still losers.

Last year, the Denver Broncos finished the season 8-8. The Chiefs finished the season 2-14. Both teams fired their head coaches. Denver went out and signed more than a dozen free agents. The Chiefs did not. When the Broncos started the season 6-0, fans and sports writers praised Denver for the signing of their free agents. Fans and sports writers criticized the Chiefs for sitting on the sidelines during free agency.

Today, Denver is likely to beat Kansas City in the season finale. Denver will finish the season 9-7, the Chiefs will be 3-13. Each team improved their record by one game. So how exactly did all the free agent signings help the Broncos?

What Do the Chiefs Need to Do Next?
It won’t make the fans happy, but the Chiefs need to stay the course. General manager Scott Pioli must draft high-quality players. And they must spend the next few years developing these players. While it’s too early to grade Pioli’s 2009 draft, so far the results have been underwhelming. The only rookie to make a significant impact this year has been their seventh round pick, kicker Ryan Succop. Mr. Irrelevant has proven to be a reliable NFL kicker. Other than that, the Chiefs have seen minimal contributions from their most recent draft class. Pioli must do better.

The Chiefs must remember one simple fact: Great teams are not built through free agency. They’re built through the draft.