Sunday, January 30, 2011

Posada Won't Take Demotion Standing Up

Jorge Posada, the New York Yankees newly appointed DH has been pretty quiet this off-season regarding his status on the team.  The veteran backstop is set to report to spring training in a couple of weeks but won't be leaving his catcher's mitt and chest protector behind.  All reports that his days behind the plate are through are premature according to Posada.

"I'll catch. I'll catch.  I'll catch this year," the Core Four charter member said.  "I'll DH and then they're going to want me to catch one of those days.  I'm keeping an open mind.  I would love to catch.  I'm training like I always do and if I have to catch I'll catch," said Posada.

These were the first words from Posada since it was made public that the Yankee veteran would be replaced by newly acquired Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli and possibly rookie Jesus Montero.  Montero is the stud prospect the Yankees have protected from trade inquiries and is expected to be the full-time catcher of the future.

The 39 year-old Posada is in the final year of his contract and was informed by GM Brian Cashman that he should expect to be used as the regular designated hitter and "emergency catcher." 

Posada is coming off an injury-plagued season and he batted .248 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI's. He had surgery on his left knee in November but insists the joint is "one-hundred percent."

It has been a contentious off-season for members of the Yankees Core Four.  First, there was the public contract squabble with the face of the Yankees, Derek Jeter.  It led to the Yankee captain criticizing Cashman for making the shortstop look like the bad guy.  Then last week,  Cashman stated that Jeter will probably finish his storied pinstripe career in centerfield.  Cashman later recanted those words.

Then there was pitcher Andy Pettitte who was put out to pasture when the Yankees  thought they had lassoed Cliff Lee.  Now Lee is a Phillie and Pettitte is still unsigned and considering retirement.

Now comes the insensitive handling of the prideful Posada.  Cashman has to work on his public relations skills, especially with members of that exclusive club. Of the four popular players, only closer Mariano Rivera went through this winter unscathed.

At first, it seemed like Posada accepted his demotion from behind the plate to just batting from the right side of it like a good soldier, but now it sounds like he won't make the move too quietly.

"I can't complain.  I always like to catch.  I'm used to catching, but if they want me to DH to help out the team, you have to do that," said Posada.

Posada understands that you can't play forever.  "We're getting old, " he confessed.  "It's tough, it's a business.  But we understand it."

Even if the nagging bumps and bruises from over a decade of errant balls, collisions and crouching won't keep Posada from getting behind home plate, management probably will. 

Posada isn't taking the role of designated hitter lightly.  He is working with hitting coach Kevin Long for three days this week and said, "I'm coming to spring training as a DH.  I don't know if I'm going to catch in spring training.  I have no idea, to tell you the truth."

While the new DH works on his hitting, Posada won't be putting his catching gear in storage anytime soon.  "I have to keep it broken in, just in case," he said.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brian Cashman Mixes It Up At NYC Saloon

Brian Cashman has been taking a lot of shots this winter.  On Wednesday night, the New York Yankees GM finally got a chance to hand them out when he acted as guest bartender at a New York Pub.

Cashman braved a winter storm to get behind the Manhattan bar called Foley's and try his hand at pouring the perfect Guinness and getting close and personal with Yankee fans.  It was all for fun and a good cause--the Ed Randall's Bat for a Cure.  The charity promotes prostate cancer awareness.

While this wasn't the type of draft he was used to being around, Cashman showed himself to be quite the mixologist.  Maybe he is looking for a new career.  His contract is up after next season.  Throwing out sauced patrons has to be a lot easier than dealing with Scott Boras.

Cashman has been pretty busy this off-season in between rappelling down a building in Connecticut and slinging drinks tonight.  There was that whole Cliff Lee fiasco, the contentious contract talks with Derek Jeter and taking orders from Hank and Hal Steinbrenner over the signing of Rafael Soriano.  If anyone needs a drink, it's Cashman.

The embattled GM handled the happy hour crowd like a pro.  The fans left more than monetary tips in his jar and were thirsty for more than a brewski.  "Trade Joba," a fan suggested.  "Who's the fifth starter?,"  chimed another.  Cashman did what every good barkeep does, he smiled, drew another stout and told a joke...So Derek Jeter walks into centerfield...

They should have called the drink special of the night the "Flimsy Rotation."  It goes something like this: 1-part CC, 1-part Hughes, 1-part Burnett and garnish with Nova and Mitre.  A little bitter,  and not really that strong.

St. John's Basketball Team Is Already On The Bubble

Nobody was rooting harder for 15th-ranked Notre Dame to upset #2 Pittsburgh on Monday night the the St. John's University's men's basketball team.  The players gathered in the home locker room Monday night, watching the Fighting Irish beat the Panthers and increase the Red Storm's own chances of getting an NCAA Tournament berth this year.

Although the 10 senior Red Storm players were encouraged by the upset, they still know it's a long and hard road to getting the school's first NCAA bid since 2002 and Saturday's disappointing loss to Cincinnati was a shocking reminder how tough life is in the Big East.

It's tough being a St. John's fan these days and very tiring.  The team flirts with a national ranking one week, only to be ranking the next.  A 15-point St. John's lead can slip away faster than a comb through head coach Steve Lavin's hair.  It's all or nothing with this squad.

St. John's (11-7, 4-4) is smack dab in the middle of the Big East schedule and still hanging around.  The senior-laden team is hungry to make their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the goal is realistically in sight.  They have waited four years for this opportunity.

The Big East conference is arguably the toughest in the nation and the Johnnies have a chance to make a huge statement against #21 Georgetown (14-5, 3-4) tonight.  St. John's is currently in ninth place in the 16-team conference.

The Red Storm have the 24th-ranked RPI in the nation and have quality wins against Georgetown, Notre Dame and West Viginia in their noisy arena.  If St. John's can finish in the top half of the Big East, chances are they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Most mock tournament brackets currently have the Red Storm bubbling in.

It's all a big IF.  The Storm came out of the Big East gate on fire.  The team won their first three conference games then dropped four of five--including the disaster against the Bearcats.  There are still 12 games to go and their tight-rope chances sway with every resulting game.

Upcoming, the Red Storm face ranked conference teams Connecticut, Cincinnati, Pitt and solid teams like Marquette as well as stubborn ones like Jersey rivals Rutgers and Seton Hall.  Throw in non-conference foes like Duke and UCLA and the stretch-run looks harder than Gene Keady's stare.

The RPI boost from Notre Dame's upset win over Pitt is nice, but shooting 12-of-26 from the line against Cincy is beyond bad, it's horrific.  The poor free-throw shooting cost them a crucial win against a ranked opponent.  You get to the tournament by winning, not watching other teams get the 'W'.

It is only January and the Red Storm have to worry about 'must win' games.  If the team plans a second half surge, they have to get down to basics--making free throws and less turnovers.  These guys are seniors, they should know.

Lavin knows how to get teams into the Big Dance.  He took six of the seven teams he coached at UCLA to the NCAA's, including five to the Sweet 16 and another to the round of 8.

Lavin has acknowledged all the talk about bracketologies,  RPI's  and all the other factors swirling around his team; variables which get a team into the NCAA Tournament.  The head coach, after spending six years at a broadcast table until this season, is taking it one game at a time.

"We have eleven single-game seasons," said Lavin.  "Everyone wants to participate in the NCAA Tournament, but understanding how to get there is the important part."

Everyone is talking about next year's Red Storm recruiting class and how great a job Lavin did.  The coach can only play the hand he was dealt but the glory days start now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rex Ryan Tells Jets To Behave. Antonio and Santonio Don't Get Message.

Rex Ryan said yesterday he wants his players to tone it down during the off-season and even cited his own naughty behavior as what not to do.  The gentler, kinder head coach of the New York Jets, who last year was fined by the Jets for flipping off Dolphins fans at an MMA event in Florida, "challenged" his team to play nice when they are away from the team.

In December, a foot-fetish video the coach allegedly made with his wife hit the Internet and caused a stir.

"I told them to hold each other accountable and you represent yourself, you also represent this organization on and off the field," Ryan said.  "I have to be mindful of that as well, obviously, with my past history.  Be proud to be a Jet because I know I am."

Ryan may have been feeling contrite the day after the Jets fell short in a valiant come-from-behind effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game and and wanted to send his team to the off-season with those precarious words.

Apparently, wide-receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie didn't get the head coach's edict.

The two players, who are both free agents, didn't waste time before calling out the team and their union reps, respectively.  Boy, that feel-good Jets feeling lasted a whole day.

Cromartie used the same seven-letter word he called Tom Brady to describe both the NFL management and Player's Association leaders in their dealing with their unsettled labor meetings concerning the collective bargaining agreement.

"You got our head union rep acting like an ass----," said the controversial Cromartie.  "They got their guys acting like ass-----.  So they need to get their s--- together and just get it done.  Honestly, I don't care if they get mad at me or not," he added.

"To me, you need to stop b------- about it.  If you want to say that you want to get into a room and meet, then do it," he continued.  "Don't just talk about it."

Losing the AFC Championship Game for the second year in-a-row must have gotten to the the soon-to-be restricted free-agent Holmes as well.  He wasn't so happy with the Jets offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer.

Holmes openly questioned the Schott's questionable play calling and use of the wide receiver after Sunday's loss..

"Ask Coach Schottenheimer what was the reason behind [me sitting out the start of the game]," said the disgruntled Holmes.  "I had to just go with the game plan.  That's the way things were called at the time, and that's what I had to do."

Ryan backed up his OC by saying Holmes' comments were out of order but understood the receivers anger.

"That's not the way I like to operate,"  the head coach said,  "But [Holmes' comments] were just raw.  That's the emotion of the time."  Dr. Phil couldn't have handled it better.

Ryan may have a harder time explaining Schottenheimer's major fail with his rally-killing calls at the Steelers' two-yard line, trailing 24-10 with four downs in hand.

Three downs later, with a fourth and goal from the one, Schottsie gives the ball to LaDanian Tomlinson--who had already rushed for a grand total of 12 yards--instead of the power back Shonn Greene.  Greene stands on the sideline and watches LT get stuffed at the line.  Momentum gone for the Jets and ball back to the Steelers.

The soft-spoken Greene must have gotten Ryan's New Age Jets tweet.  He didn't say anything.

While the Jets put on a new happy face and put all their sex scandals,  DUI's,  trash talking and "Hard Knocks" behind them,  New Yorkers gets bored.

The Giants folded like...well the Giants in December and the Knicks are regressing back into the Nets. And hockey, who cares?

The 2010 Jets will be missed especially Rex Ryan.  No more giving fingers in bars or tickling feet on YouTube.  It's a sadder world to think that we'll only have the new thinner and pacifying version of Rex Ryan playing patty-cake with everyone.

From "Hard Knocks" to "Love Taps."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ex-Idiots Manny and Johnny Reunite In Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Rays, who lost more than a few key players this off-season, have reloaded their depleted line-up with a couple of familiar faces from the AL East--Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  The former Boston Red Sox teammates and ex-Idiots will be signed to one year deals pending physicals.  The Rays may want to throw in a head examination for the enigmatic Ramirez to see what's under those dreads.

Both Damon and Ramirez were being considered by the New York Yankees this winter but, with the signing of Andruw Jones the other day, their fourth outfielder position looks capably filled.

Damon and Ramirez were teammates for four years in Boston and were two members of the self-proclaimed Idiots squad who won four games in a row to beat the Yankees in the classic 2004 ALCS.

The 37 year-old Damon bent a lot of Boston fans noses by joining the hated Yankees from 2006-09 after being unceremoniously released  by the Sox.  He spent 2010 with the Tigers.

Ramirez spent a few contentious years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, after his lease on his Red Sox padded cell ran out, and split the 2010 season between the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.  The troubled DH has seen his numbers decline in recent years and in 2009 he failed the league's Performance Enhancing Drug policy and was suspended for 50 games.  The 38 year-old Ramirez has been dogged recently by numerous injuries and may see more time on the DL than as the DH.

The 2010 AL East Champion Rays, the Yankees and the Red Sox continue to play a comical game of roster-chess by trading and picking up each other's players.

Boston added former-Ray Carl Crawford, who was desired by the Yankees, to their team and the Yankees signed the Rays relief pitcher Rafael Soriano last week.  Now the Rays pick up two experienced, but aging,  AL East warriors from their adversaries' glory days, hoping to keep the three-way rivalry alive.

The durable Damon signed for a salary of $5.25 million plus attendance incentives--not an easy task at fan-starved Tropicana field--that bring his total earnings to $6 mil.  I wouldn't spend that extra $750,000 just yet Johnny.

Ramirez signed for a flat $2 million.  A far cry from his $20 million years in Boston.

The Red Sox have dominated the free-agent market this off-season while adding power, speed and youth.  The Yankees have chipped away at nagging problems but still look a lot like last years team without a strong starting rotation. Advantage to Boston.

Now the Rays are flexing whatever financial muscle they can muster to show their three-year mini-dynasty wasn't a flash-in-the-pan and they will continue to give the other teams in the division a run for their money in 2011.

Can't wait for the love-fest at Fenway Park on April 11 when the Rays visit Boston.  It'll be an Idiot's delight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Could Soriano Save Brian Cashman's Off Off-Season?

It hasn't been the best of times for New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman in recent months.  It started after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by the Texas Rangers. Since then,  Cashman has been rejected, accused, jerked around, questioned and now, overruled.

At Christmas, Cashman rappelled down the Landmark Building in Stamford, Connecticut.  He must have the same dangling feeling right now in the Yankees front office.

The signing of set-up man Rafael Soriano was the first significant addition to the team after a winter of rejections.  It may be the only saving grace for the Yankees dismal off-season acquisitions--but it did not come without controversy.

The battered GM admitted he recommended the Yankees pass on signing the 31 year-old Soriano, but said he was overruled by ownership.  Soriano has 88 career saves over eight seasons.  45 of them last year.

Cashman, who was given full control of baseball operations in 2005, said the signing will help the team but was against it because of the financial commitment and draft pick considerations.  Cashman insisted all winter that these factors would be deal breakers.  The Steinbrenners thought otherwise.

 "It's not my team.  I don't own it. They [Hal and Hank Steinbrenner] do," said the GM at Soriano's press conference.  "I'm a big boy.  In any job you better be prepared for every decision to not go your way."

Cashman continued by saying there were "internal debates and discussions" on how to proceed.  "Ultimately, Hal's in charge of making the final call in what he feels is the best direction at that time frame.  He made that call.  This is Hal Steinbrenner's and his family's franchise.  It's not mine and it's never been, obviously," he said.  "But this is not something that was done without me being aware of it.  I had my say," he made clear.

Being overruled by the boss (or Boss' sons) is not so bad as compared to the other career lows of Cashman's miserable recent winter.  It has been rough.

First, the whole Cliff Lee fiasco ended with the highly desired pitcher spurning Cashman's front-runner status and refusing the Yankees record-breaking contract to return to the Philadelphia Phillies.  For millions of dollars less!  It was a supernova implosion in the Yankee Universe.

Then, there was the drawn out he-said/they-said squabble over Derek Jeter's contract talks, culminating with the face of the Yankees calling out the team brass for leaking details of the negotiations to the press.  The future Hall of Famer was not so happy with Cashman and made it public.

Combine those ulcer-inducing episodes with the pressure to replace Lee with another top-notch starter and playing pattycake with 'will he or won't he return' Andy Pettitte.  Pettitte is still flapping in the wind.

The GM meekly admitted he even had discussions with Carl Pavano's agent about bringing back the loathed Yankee castaway and the PR nightmare it would cause.  Yankee fans could only hope the Steinbrenner boys would have overruled that move too.

Yesterday,  Cashman was thrust into the awkward position of introducing to the press a player he didn't even want.  If Soriano's press conference was any indication, Cashman probably told the party planner to use a Mets budget  The event was franks and beans compared to the festive soirees given to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira or even Curtis Granderson at their intros.  You would think the Yankees would give the give their new 3-year, $35 million possible successor to Mariano Rivera a better coming out bash. 

The modest fete had none of the Steinbrenners or star players present and, instead of the Legends Room, it was held in the less opulent conference room.  Oh yeah, there was an interpreter and a table of coffee and donuts on the side.

Now, the only thing left for Cashman to do now is convincingly promote his new relief pitcher who makes "closer's money."

Cashman began by acknowledging that Soriano led the AL in saves last season for the Tampa Bay Rays and the righthander gives the Yankees a "dynamic punch" in the later innings.  Wow.

"Let me put it this way, I think 29 GMs would love their owner to force Rafael Soriano down their throat," said Cashman.  "It doesn't mean that I was right, or that it's the best approach, but it's who I am and still am.  But we are better in 2011 for this, there's no doubt about it."

Cashman, whose contract runs out this year,  made it clear he doesn't think the Steinbrenners have started a trend by overruling his input.  " If I have 10 recommendations, nine or ten get followed, but not every one of them," he reasoned.

Soriano, arguably,  does give the Yankees one of the best bullpens in the league.   Cashman can also take comfort in the fact that even though the team didn't get Lee or outfielder Carl Crawford, the Steinbrenners have a little George in them and will spend whatever it takes to help the team and save face.  Even overspend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jersey Gov Says Jets Belong To Them. What About It?

If the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers insist on being as cuddly as Regis and Kelly, before the teams clash in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, then leave it up to the Governor of New Jersey to stir things up.

A war across the Hudson River broke out yesterday after the Garden State's Gov. Chris Christie claimed the Jets belonged to New York in name only and that where the team actually plays is in the New Meadowlands Stadium, in East Rutherford, in his state.  So that makes them New Jersey's team.

Funny.  Nobody was banging on Woody Johnson's door and claiming the Jets as it's own while Eric Mangini was coaching the team.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumped on Christie's bold statement faster than he would a cigarette smoker cooking with salt and trans fat.  Lucky it wasn't a snow storm or we'd still be waiting for a reply.

Christie--who is as outspoken as Jets head coach Rex Ryan with a girth to match--asked, "Today when they are practicing, where are they practicing?  New Jersey."

"And when they play their home games, where do they play?  New Jersey.  And where do most of the players live?  In New Jersey," he bragged.  Pure Rex Ryan.

 To which, that closeted New England fan, Bloomberg shot back by saying the Jets were formed in New York, bred in the Polo Grounds and then played their games at Shea Stadium.

"We can all root for the Jets, but they don't call him Turnpike Joe," said the defensive mayor, referring to legendary Jets quarterback "Broadway Joe" Namath.

That was then, this is now reasoned the  stubborn Gov.

Even Ryan jumped into the fray if, surprisingly, only as peacemaker.

"There's enough of the Jets to go around, " reasoned the guy who never let anyone cut in front of him at the all-you-can-eat buffet table before his lap-band surgery.

New Jersey. A hot bed of popularity and hilarity these days.  The birthplace of Sinatra, Springsteen, Nicholson and Joe Theisman.  Even Pia Zadora comes from the land of the best pizza (it's the water), diners, Atlantic City and "The Sopranos."

If any state deserves the loud and obnoxious Jets though, its Jersey.  The state can wholly lay claim to the pitiful Nets and their .45 cent tickets and the long-forgotten Devils.  And not the Jersey Devil demonizing people in the barren Pinelands.  It might even find more warm bodies in that desolate stretch of forest then languishing in the near-empty seats at the Prudential Center.

Yeah, Jersey has it's Shore and Housewives and, if anyone could have combined those towering cultural pillars with football, it would be the Jets.  Gang Green did it with "Hard Knocks" last summer on HBO.

And if you've ever enjoyed (or been called as a witness to) a Jersey Transit train ride from the Meadowlands after a Jets game (hide the women, children and Patriots jerseys) you might smell another bad reality show mixed with the stench of beer on the trip.

While Christie and Bloomberg fire salvos across the river, the Jets players have keeping their mouths shut for once.

Not so the mayor.  He asked New Yorkers to "put aside rivalries and focus on what's truly important."  City dwellers were sure he wasn't talking about snow removal or rising crime and debt.  "I'm talking about the Jets winning the AFC Championship on Sunday," said Bloomberg.

Whichever state owns the Jets is a moot point.  This is still Giants territory and all of the green lights in Times Square and beaming on the Empire State Building can't cover up the Giants blue.

New Jersey.  You can have the Jets.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will Joba Chamberlain Start Or Will He Depart?

Today, Yankee GM Brian Cashman called Joba Chamberlain a "bullpen guy."  The only problem is he didn't say for what team.  Chamberlain, the one-time gem of Yankee pitching prospects just signed a one-year contract with the team, but now his future as a Yankee doesn't look so shiny.

On Monday, the up-and-down reliever signed a one-year deal worth $1.4 million to avoid arbitration and instead of giving him job security, it makes him valuable trade bait.

Last week's signing of former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Rafael Soriano to a three-year deal worth $35 million now makes the big righthander expendable.

The 25 year-old Chamberlain has been shuttled between being a starter to middle or short relief--all with limited success--since being signed by the Yankees in 2007.

The "Joba Rules," designed to preserve the flamethrower's arm, ironically,  could have ruined his career in pinstripes.  The "rules" commanded that the young pitcher would not pitch on consecutive days and he would accrue an additional days rest after each inning pitched.  It led to Chamberlain never finding a stride or a steady position.

Chamberlain comes into this year's spring training with his stock at an all time low.  The Yankees bullpen is now considered one of the strongest in baseball with Dave Robertson and Pedro Feliciano being the bridge between the starters and the set-up man Soriano, who then hands the ball to closer Mariano Rivera and his indefatigable arm.  There now seems to be little room for an inconsistent component like Joba.

Meanwhile, the starting rotation begins with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett as the big three and Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre rounding out the five.  If Joba stands any chance of making it on the team, it would be after battling it out with Nova and Mitre for a starter's position.  If Andy Pettitte decides to pull a Favre and return for one more year, Chamberlain is pretty much the sixth wheel.

Chamberlain's versatility may have led to his downfall.  The Yankees never knew where to use him.  They played head games with him, and last year's attempt at using him as Rivera's set-up man was a disaster.  It left the Yankees wondering about his abilities and Chamberlain doubting himself.

For every fist-pumping Chamberlain strikeout, there were too many high fives by the other team.  Even his sweaty and courageous rookie relief effort in the insect-infested 2007 ALCS against the Indians turned into a loss.  If his career has been anything, its been like those midges buzzing aimlessly  all over that Cleveland field.

Chamberlain, who had the talent to be a starter, a set-up man or closer now seems to only mop up during routs or long lost games.

This makes the one-time phenom perfect trade bait for the Yankees to score an experienced four or five starter.  His arm still has life--thanks, Joba Rules--and he'll come relatively cheap. As it stands now, Chamberlain can only wait and see if either Nova,  Mitre or (not inconceivably) Burnett implodes.  Otherwise he'll be accruing splinters on the bench.

It's sad to see a young talent like Chamberlain languish as a Yankee.   With Soriano on deck as Rivera's most likely replacement in two years, it wouldn't help the Yankees to keep Chamberlain.  A change of scenery might do the Nebraskan good, and Cashman could get the fourth starter he needs.  A win-win for the Yankees and Chamberlain.

NY Jets Plane Gets Green Light To Buzz Empire State Building

On Sunday night, the New York Jets charter flight was given permission by Newark Airport to divert the plane's scheduled route home and get a bird's eye view of the Empire State Building, which was lit up in the team's colors.

According to the New York Post, the Jets plane altered its route to get closer to the city's tallest building which was illuminated in Jets green and white lights.

The Jets were returning to New Jersey after defeating the New England Patriots,  when the captain asked the tower, "If it's [the Empire State Building] green and white, these guys actually want to get as close as we could to see it."   The air traffic controllers in the tower--about 10 miles south of the New Meadowlands Stadium--must have been shy of depressed Giants fans and granted the Jets team it's wish with this exchange.

NEWARK TOWER:  Tower advises it is lit up.  You're flying one-niner zero visual approach.

JETS:  You guys are awesome.  And I will tell you later who said that.  190 headed to see the building.

TOWER:  Go Jets!

JETS:  Go Jets!

The desire to get close and personal with the green and white landmark came from none other than the controversial Jets head coach Rex Ryan, according to sources.

The route change down the Hudson River required special permission to fly into LaGuardia Airport's airspace.  FAA's spokesperson, Jim Peters, said, "No other flights were affected."

This kind of special fly-by request is not uncommon.  "Its kind of cool," said a spokeperson for the Air Traffic Controllers Association in Newark.  "It wasn't a typical flight path, but it does happen," he said.

TOWER:  Continental 915 taking you down the west side of the building down the Hudson .

JETS:  It's beautiful.

TOWER:  Continental 915, Empire State Building should be at 11 o'clock.

JETS:  Yeah, we got 200 people looking at it.  Looks pretty  nice too.

JETS:  Really appreciate it guys.

TOWER:  Glad to do it.

Jets GM,  Mike Tannenbaum said, "For the Empire State Building to be lit green and white was already special.  Then for everyone involved to allow us to have a view on our way back was a great ending to our trip and something the team will always remember," he said.

 At approach, the tower announced "Clear to land for the champion New York Jets," moments before Continental charter flight 915 touched down in Newark at 10:53 p.m.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Will Rex Ryan Get 'Personal" With Roethlisberger?

It's hard to believe the soft and cuddly person on the podium yesterday, extolling the virtues of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, was New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  Ryan, who had been the NFL's version of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, was now speaking fondly of last week's vanquished foes and acted like Dr. Phil when asked about the upcoming AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No war of words between the Jets and Steelers.  The only blip on the No Fun League's Polly Purebred meter came from Patriots receiver Deion Branch who called the New York team "embarrassing" and "classless."  That's pretty tame stuff in the Jets universe.

The Jets head coach has been saying 'it's personal' about a lot of things the past few weeks beginning with the foot-fetish videos, which popped up on YouTube, and calling out opposing team's proven leaders the week before they meet.  Now the boastful Ryan has become...boring.  It makes one wonder why he would tone it down and tinker with success now?

Ryan and the Jets have been winning after targeting a prominent person on the opposing team and turning it into a personal vendetta.  Could the Jets actually respect the Steelers or are they afraid?

First, it was Ryan's old thorn-in-the-shorts tormentor Peyton Manning of the Colts who got the Jets skipper yapping.  Then last week, it was Mr. Personality, Belichick and a side order of Tom Brady, who got Ryan riled.  The Jets won both games.

The closest Ryan got to insulting anyone yesterday, after showering the Steelers with everything but candy and flowers, was ask whom he was gunning for this Sunday.

"Give me somebody you want to call out," said Ryan.  "I guess Hines Ward, Casey Hampton."

The Steelers wide receiver and nose tackle make good adversaries but what about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?

The Jets have had one of the toughest roads to the Super Bowl.  If they succeed, they will have faced, and beaten, the holy trinity of NFL quarterbacks--Manning, Brady and now Roethlisberger.  No small feat, but that task just got bigger--a lot bigger.

Big Ben is the largest and strongest quarterback of the three and could set up the fiercest challenge for the Jets defense.

Roethlisberger may not have the statistical clout of the the other two but he makes up for it in pure size and toughness.  The brutish, 6'5", 240-pound Steeler can flick a pass 50 yards, can pound the defense on the ground and improvise a play-in-progress with the best of them.  The Jets D will have their hands full.

"You can't prepare for what he naturally does," said defensive-end Trevor Price.  "How do you prepare to tackle a guy as big as a polar bear?"  How do you prepare for a guy who wants to win like he wants to win?"

Ryan agrees.  He said, "I've never seen a guy take the hits he can take and also make people miss the way he does and be as accurate on the run."

The Jets beat the Steelers 22-17 on December 19 in Pittsburgh by executing their "Plaster Rules."  It was a zone scheme which turned into man-to-man coverage after Roethlisberger was chase out of the pocket.  On the plays where Pittsburgh started in a man coverage, it usually ended with Steelers gaining large chunks of yardage.

The Jets rough-and-tumble road to Dallas must continue through a solid Steelers team.  The Jets have exorcised the ghosts of their arch-enemies-- the Colts and the Patriots.  Now they face the daunting task of beating an experienced and playoff-tested  team.  Can they do it without puffing out their chests and flapping their gums? It seems unlikely.

If anyone can find a way to rile the Steelers with trash talk, it is Ryan. Many have called him and his team loud-mouthed braggarts.  The Jets 4-1 playoff record over the past two seasons have been partially attributed to the blustery head coach whom his players adore.  Many have called the Jets uncouth but they seem to be winning when everyone expects them to lose.

The Jets have been winning by getting under the other team's skin and making it 'personal'.  The bragging, mocking and seven-letter words are what set the tone for this squad.  Something just doesn't seem right with this new fuzzy-puppy version of the team.

The NFL is probably happy about the eerie quiet.  The networks, not so much.

Anyway, there are still five days to go.  An eternity in Rex Ryan press conferences.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rex Ryan Is A Ophiuchus

People have called New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan many things--some too vile to be put in print.  Now you can add Ophiuchus to that list.  It's not as bad a word as it sounds.

New Age freaks and superstitious fools had their world turned upside down the other day when it was revealed that the western version of the Zodiac is wrong and after over 2,000 years of following the twelve astrological signs a new one has popped up--The Serpent Bearer or more formally known as Ophiuchus.   Serpentarian would be better.  It rolls off the tongue easier, but you can't argue with those Babylonians.

Ryan, who blessed this world on a 13th of December, is now one of the many people scrambling to reschedule weddings, change their pre-picked, lucky Lotto numbers or having that giant crab tattoo removed from their back.

Compatible signs are now combustible ones.  "What was your sign?" is the new "What's your sign?"  Destinies have been altered by the earth's gravitational pull.  Even Dionne Warwick is in hiding.

The sign, which comes after Scorpio and before Sagittarius, fills the astrological dates between Nov. 23 and Dec. 17.

Ophiuchus is associated with the healer Asclepius who was skilled at bringing the dead back to life [insert Jets reference here] and originated after Hades was angered by his talent he had Zeus kill old Asclepius with a lightning bolt.  I see fate in the Jets stars. Didn't LaDanian Tomlinson wear a lightning bolt on his helmet at one time?

Ryan is good company with people who now have to change their personality traits and astrological sign to a man grasping a snake because of a wobble in the earth's axis.  Brad Pitt, Brittney Spears and Ozzy Osbourne are all members of the 13th sign.  Even Ryan's nemesis, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, has gone from the ram-headed Aries to a mellower Pisces.

A quick glance at the characteristics of the Ophiuchus seem to show a person who is a good overseer of work and is ambitious, modest and optimistic.  Nice positive attributes but, after more research, the zodiac charts claim the Ophi (short version) wants fame--either grand or misunderstood.  Hmm...sounding a little more like our brash coach.  There's more.

The serpent holder is partial to outrageous behavior, green is an Ophi's lucky color and the No. 12 [Tom Brady?] holds great significance.  It's true.  It's all there on the horoscope chart and, after more delving, we find the Ophiuchus is partial to sweater vests and soft, tiny feet.

Jeanne Dixon, I'm now a believer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lawrence Taylor Pleads Guilty To Two Misdemeanor Sex Charges

Former NFL great Lawrence Taylor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges for sexual misconduct today in a Rockland County, New York courthouse.  The ex-New York Giant will be sentenced in March and is most likely looking at 3-6 years of probation with no jail time.

Taylor was arrested for his role in a teenage prostitution bust at a Holiday Inn last May 6.  He admitted paying $300 to a teenage girl for sex.  He claimed he believed the girl was 19 years-old.  The District Attorney's Office charged Taylor with "improper sexual conduct involving an underage girl."

In court, Taylor admitted he knows now that the girl was 16 years-old at the time.

Taylor plead guilty to 1 count of sexual misconduct and 1 count of patronizing a prostitute in the 3rd degree.

Outside the courthouse Taylor had no comment but his attorney, Arthur Aidala, said the Hall of Fame linebacker "wants to put it behind him" and is satisfied that the case "ended swiftly."  He said Taylor acknowledged that the girl was 16 but his client "was lied to."

Taylor will be sentenced in March.  The judge will probably show leniency because Taylor is cooperating with authorities to break up a sex-trafficking operation involving the young girl's pimp.

In addition to the probationary period and monetary fine, Taylor will have to register as a sex offender.

Yankees Jeter Will Be Hitting and Pettitte Might Be Sitting

It looks like Derek Jeter will be getting an early jump on the 2011 season by heading down to Tampa in two weeks to work out with New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long--three weeks before the start of spring training.

When last seen Jeter was happily splashing around the Caribbean with his girl Minka Kelly.  This was after a disappointing season as a player and an early exit from the playoffs.   The year was capped off with a mockery of drawn out contract negotiations with the Yankees.  The turbulent contract talks had Jeter--normally a company man--suggesting, after the new contract was signed, that the team leaked information during the talks to make the Yankee star look like the bad guy.  All in all, it wasn't the best of times for the face of the team and future Hall of Famer.

Jeter, doesn't need to be reminded about his below-standard season and is looking to remedy his .270 average--a monstrous 30 points below his career number.

Long has worked with other players during the off-season but never with Jeter.  "He wants to get going," said Long from his home in Arizona.  " We're well on our way to getting that [Jeter's low average] taken care of and seeing if we can't speed up the process with him a little bit," he said.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee taking last season not sitting down.  Long will piling on the frequent flier miles after he spent time in Los Angeles working with outfielder Nick Swisher.  Next week he will be in New York working with first-baseman Mark Teixeira before heading down to Miami to work with third-baseman Alex Rodriquez and newly-appointed DH Jorge Posada.

Long is prepared to correct any problems which caused Jeter to put up the worst numbers of his solid career.

"I think we found something with his stride and the direction of his stride and going up and down with his stride instead of gaining distance and going in," said the hitting coach.  "We're going to keep it as simple as possible."

While Jeter gets a jump on his new three-year deal, things don't look so good for the Yankees and their veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte.

GM Brian Cashman has been dropping subtle hints since October that the free-agent Pettitte was straddling the fence on whether or not to pitch another season with the Yankees.  Yesterday Cashman may have let the cat out of the bag after he said the lefthander "has chosen at this stage at least, not to start in 2011."

"Don't count on me," is what Pettitte told Cashman.

The Yankee GM tried clarify Pettitte's statement by saying, " I don't think he's determined if he's officially finished or not , but he's chosen at this stage at least not to start in 2011. If that ever changes, he'll call us," said Cashman.  "We're not going to hound him or bother him," he said.

Pettitte has pulled this will he or won't he act before.  The Yankees, who did not add a big-time starter to the rotation this off-season, are probably hoping for the 38 year-old Pettitte's return.

Even if Pettitte does return to baseball, it could be in another uniform.  The Texas native desires to be near his family and reportedly has not been working out during the off-season--which he normally does.

Pettitte has repeatedly claimed that if he does return, it would only be in Yankee pinstripes.

The lack of big-name pickup during the off-season pick-up could sway Pettitte.  He pitched 21 games last season and finished 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA.  The Yankees are looking at an average starting rotation, even with Pettitte, with little help on the horizon.

Pettitte confessed in 2008 to using human growth hormone will be a star witness in the government's case against his old teammate and buddy,  Roger Clemens this summer.

Clemens trial--which the former pitcher is accused of lying under oath about using steroids and HGH--is scheduled for July and could put a considerable amount of stress and a limit on Pettitte's time.  I'm sure Pettitte would rather face the potent Red Sox lineup then to be cross-examined by Clemens tough-as-a-cowboy's saddle, attorney Rusty Hardin.

Cashman says he is ready to push forward, with or without Pettitte.  "I'm actively out there," the GM said.  "It's a very thin market to be flying in right now.  That's why we may have to rely on our strong farm system a little bit sooner than we expected."

All signs seem to point to a Pettitte retirement but, for now, Cashman better get down on the farm sooner anyway.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mass Fish Deaths Do Not Bode Well For Chicago Bears

Thousands of small dead herrings are floating up on the lakefronts in Chicago.  The latest case of unexplained mass-animal deaths are puzzling environmentalists but, even more importantly, it should worry the Chicago Bears who face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.  If I were a betting man, I would check out the following facts.

Over the past few months, and mostly the past few weeks, the bizarre events of mass-animal deaths have plagued the country and world---just in time for the time for college bowl games and the NFL playoffs.  And the results are monumentally odds-breaking.

Never mind what the scientists and religious zealots preach, ask your local bookie what he thinks of all the "prophecies."  Since December 30, there have been four major mass-deaths and they seem to have affected the outcome of important games involving the regional team.

Go back to December 30 and 31 when 100,000 fish were found dead in an Arkansas river and then over 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky.  Four days later the Arkansas Razorbacks (-3 1/2) almost upset Ohio State in one of the greatest comebacks in Sugar Bowl history but lost after their QB threw a pass right into the arms of a Buckeye defensive end and lose, 31-26.  A double whammy.

Fast forward to January 3 when 2 million dead fish were found floating in the Chesapeake Bay.  The next night Virginia Tech (-3 1/2) is routed by Stanford.  It's not even close.

On January 4 about 500 more blackbirds are found dead in Louisiana.  I don't have to remind you about  how the defending world champions, the New Orleans Saints fared against double-digit under dogs, the Seattle Seahawks.  The 41-36 win by the Seahawks (7-9) was one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.

Now those same Seahawks come into Chicago as 10-point underdogs on Sunday and the ominous dead gizzard shad have appeared lifeless on the Windy City's beaches and shores.  Just wait for the point spread to shrink.

Over the past few months, the "Aflockalypse" has occurred in other areas and look at the results.

2,000 dead bats show up cold as Dixie beer in Texas.  How 'bout them 'Boys?

Thousands of ducks mysteriously die in Minnesota and you can look back at the Vikings' tumultuous season.  Oh, and you thought it was Brett Favre's fault.

The Carolina coastline was covered with millions of jellyfish and starfish which inexplicably ended up dead before the football season even started.  The Panthers never had a chance.

There was even the horrible sight of thousands of turtle doves falling from the skies over Italy right after the holidays.  Italian zoo officials blamed the birds deaths on "massive indigestion" after overeating.  Here in America, we call it the "Rex Ryan Syndrome."  Other experts believe it was mass suicide after the seasonal birds couldn't find work after the 12 Days of Christmas.

Scientists have blamed the mass-deaths on everything from the North Pole's magnetic field to that old apocalyptic panic button--global warming. In New York, Mets fans blame it on the Yankees.

Even so, if the Chicago area doesn't want any more mass-deaths ( i.e. fans jumping out windows) on their hands, don't bet on the home team.

Maybe some Almighty above is trying to tell us something with these unusual occurrences.  Something all mankind should heed:  Take the Seahawks and ten points.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rex Ryan Or Bill Belichick: It's Hard To Like Either

Rex Ryan, is at it again.  The larger-than-life head coach of the New York Jets has opened the castle gates for war, against the New England Patriots in this Sunday's AFC Divisional game, by specifically targeting head coach Bill Belichick and calling it 'personal.'  This routine is getting boring.

Ryan called out the three-time Super Bowl winning coach by repeating his tired mantra, the P-Word.

"This week, this is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan," the rotund Jets coach said, " There's no question.  It's personal.  It's about him and myself, and that's what it's going to come down to."

"Personal."  We've heard that word come from Ryan's mouth too many times the past couple of weeks.

First, "It's personal" was repeated six times by Ryan at a press conference when news of a foot-fetish video, allegedly narrated by the head coach, was brought up.  The usually boisterous Ryan hid under the P-Word like a grilled suspect would plead the fifth. 

Next it was Ryan's tireless quest to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts had him uttering those those words.  Ryan was tired of losing to the quarterback and used the P-Word as motivation for his team.

Now, Ryan kicks the shins of Belichick, as the Jets prepare to face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium this Sunday, and calls it motivation.  Again, it's "personal."

Belichick, ever the, ahem,  jester, uncharacteristically volleyed back, " I might have a little quickness on him," he joked.  "He probably has a little strength and power on me."  That's about as much comedy styling as you'll get with the dour coach wearing his trademark dingy hoodie.

Ryan has uttered inflammatory words at the Patriots coach a few times.  Before their first game against the Patriots, he said, "I'm not here to kiss Belichick's rings." Even after last month's 45-3 beat down, Ryan came out with this tidbit, "Trust me, we will remember this."  Really?  How could you forget?

I can't think of any two people it's harder to root for.  It's like deciding who would you rather be stuck in an elevator with: Rosie O'Donnell or Joy Behar?  I'd rather be stuck in a locked men's room with a drunken Andy Dick if I had to make the decision between any of them.

Ryan's season long escapades have been widely publicized from his foul-mouthed episodes on "Hard Knocks," his wig-wearing press conference,  his handling of criminally-charged Jets players to the kinky foot tapes.  He continues to rock the boat and claims it takes the pressure off his team.  Picking on a coach with a 15-5 playoff record sounds like plopping a fatter early-season Ryan on the shoulders of the Jets.  Oh yeah, Ryan did finally exorcise the Manning demons last week--even though the Colts had 18 players listed on the injured reserve.

At the opposite end of the publicity-seeking spectrum is the hooded, personality-void, Belichick.  The sour-puss coach says about as much as the mute guy in Penn and Teller and he is about as funny as Dane Cook.  Belichick's insincere, two-finger handshake with former Jets coach Eric Mangini told you everything you care to know about the future Hall of Famer.  Everyone calls the Pats coach a genius but too many of his CIA tactics come into question. Remember the Spygate scandal?

Neither Belichick or Ryan are really well-liked by anyone but their own players.  They have split their four meeting since Ryan took over as the Jets' head coach and if history is any indicator, the two teams will be charged and ready to go all out for their coaches.

Ryan continues to give his verbal wet-willies to the Patriots.  He couldn't resist criticizing their quarterback, Tom Brady,  for attending to a Broadway play instead of watching the Jets play last Saturday.   Meanwhile as expected, not one mumble has been heard from Belichick.   

"It's a level playing field," Ryan said.  "Now, it's coming down to me raising my level."

Maybe if he was raising his fork in a chili eating competition, I would bet on Ryan.  Oh wait, he had lap-band surgery.  I'll bet on Belichick in that contest too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez Winning as the Jets Odd Couple

New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan and his second year quarterback, Mark Sanchez, may be forming one of the great bromances.  Maybe its not exactly Walsh and Montana,  Holmgren and Favre or Louis and Rick in "Casablanca."  Let's say it is more like Unger and Madison. 

Believe it or not Ryan has won playoff games in more seasons than New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.  Pretty amazing, considering that Coughlin has been around the Meadowlands for seven seasons, while Ryan hopped on board in 2009---the same year the Jets drafted the USC signal-caller.

Now both coaches go in different directions for the second year in a row.

Now,  the disparate partners (Ryan and Sanchez) will pull a Hope and Crosby as they hit the road to New England where they will meet their division rivals, the Patriots next Sunday.

After Saturday's last-second victory against the Indianapolis Colts, 17-16, in an AFC wild card match-up,  the Jets can't afford to rest.  Awaiting them will be the anti-Ryan, Bill Belichick and his better half QB, Tom Brady.

Ryan and Sanchez couldn't be at more opposite ends of the social spectrum.  Sanchez, the second year QB, and Adrian Grenier lookalike,  came to New York with all the perks having a glamorous career as a USC quarterback could provide.  There weren't any shortages of dates with starlets and a shirtless photo-spread in GQ started all the talk about Sanchez living up to being the reincarnation of Joe Namath.

Ryan, on the other hand, came to New York with loud-mouth bravado and a girth to match.  His free-wheeling coaching style made the Jets the focus of a number of scandals, incidents and controversies.  This season alone has been a non-stop collection of Page Six entries.  There was HBO's "Hard Knocks," the Inez Sainz incident, the Braylon Edwards DUI, all the old dirt dug up on former Jets quarterback Bret Favre and finally the foot-fetish video.

Off the field the Jets duo are as different as Times Square and Wall Street.  Ryan has been prone to wearing wigs at press conferences and being photographed giving Dolphin fans the finger in a Florida honky-tonk, while the subdued Sanchez has only lived up to a Broadway Joe reputation by attending musicals on The Great White Way.

While Sanchez shows his affinity for the footlights of Broadway,  Ryan has shown his predilection for just the feet.

Still, Ryan continues to ruffle feathers and incite controversy while proving his large persona is comparable to his coaching ability.

Make no mistake about it, Sanchez has come a long way this season and he is lugging Ryan with him.  It was Sanchez who won the game yesterday at Lukas Oil Field.  His last minute drive has become sort of the norm for the Jets signal caller.  The Colts Peyton Manning almost pulled another last minute victory from his bag of audibles, but the last 53 seconds of the game were all Sanchez's.  He seems to play from behind with a veteran player's panache.

The Jets now know they have a quarterback who can perform in crucial situations and win games if they are close.  Sanchez already has more playoff victories than Namath and is only the second rookie quarterback to win his first two playoff games.  After finally beating the Colts, Sanchez is now 3-1 in playoff games.

The Jets travel to Gillette Stadium to face their nemesis, and arguably the best NFL team, the Patriots as big underdogs.  They have been given about as much of a chance of winning on Sunday as a red-winged black bird has of surviving in Arkansas.

Except for dimming Brady's star by comparing his skills to Manning's last week, Ryan has been relatively quiet since the seven "it's personal" comments regarding the foot-fetish video.  There are still six days for Sexy Rexy to stir up some sort of melodrama.

The road to the Super Bowl gets harder through playoff powerhouse New England.  The Pats thumped the Jets by 42 points last month and, even then, the brash Ryan still had the gall to disrespect Brady. 

Ryan continues to lose pounds and gain bravado, but it is Sanchez  who must take control of this season's third meeting with the Patriots.  The Jets beat a Colts team with 18 players on the injured reserve list.  The only injury the Jets must worry about this Sunday is Brady's bruised ego.  The teams are familiar with each other and have plenty of game film to prove it.

The New York Giants are out of the playoffs...again.  Ryan and Sanchez have the back pages of the local tabloids to themselves.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New York Giants Version of " The Decision": Jacobs or Bradshaw?

The New York Giants have made it clear that there are two things the team won't be losing.  Eli Manning will continue to guide the offense and Tom Coughlin--as announced by co-owner John Mara--will continue to call the shots as head coach from the sidelines.  Now if the team could find a way to get back some of the 45 turnovers they had last season.

The Giants will be spending the second off-season in a row, on their couches, watching the Seattle Seahawks--a team they beat 41-7--take their lowly 7-9 record into the playoffs, then watch the Chicago Bears--a team they crushed--in a playoff game next weekend.  The Giants can only wonder how they turned a 10-6 season into a bad dream.

They could start with the running game.  Brandon Jacobs and  Ahmad Bradshaw combined for over 2,000 yards but the Biggie-Small attack seemed to be ineffective in more games than not.

The remaining two-thirds of the vaunted and successful "Earth, Wind and Fire" Giants backfield of 2008 should be called "Dirt and Air" for the way Jacobs falls to the ground on too many short yardage situations and Bradshaw, because it seems like that is what he's carrying, after dropping the ball at the slightest touch from an opposing linebacker.

For all the gaudy numbers (Bradshaw, 1235 yards and Jacobs, 835 yards) this two-back system seemed like it stalled too many times.  Now Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese must consider their options.  Bradshaw is one of 21 Giant players not under contract for 2011--that is if there is a 2011 season--and Jacobs is in the middle of a four-year contract extension worth $25 million.

The last time Jacobs, 28, was seen he was storming out of the Giants locker room, carrying a torn garbage bag containing his gear like a 270 pound Grinch, cursing at photographers.  The surly and disruptive running back snapped back, "Click, click, click. You're all taking pictures of Brandon Jacobs leaving, wondering if he's going to return.  That will be your caption for tomorrow.  Well, f--- you all."  Maybe Earth knows something we don't.  Players who talk in the first person seem to get traded a lot.

Meanwhile, Bradshaw, 24,--the more versatile back--looked back at a season that fizzled out at the end.  He had two 90 yard performances in the final nine games and four of them were losses.  Never mind the six costly fumbles.  Turnovers--something the Giants (NFL leaders with 41)  can do without.  Eli had 25 but he's still has a job.

Coughlin sat both running backs at some point  during the season and, while Bradshaw took it in stride after he lost the title of No. 1 back, Jacobs turned it into a WikiLeaks conspiracy and pouted on the sideline.  It wasn't until Bradshaw's game-killing fumbles became more frustrating than the one-dimensional Jacobs 3-yard gains that Coughlin started the big man again with some success.

Reese now has to make a choice.  The two-back system seems to be in vogue around the NFL, but it doesn't always work.  It's been two years since the Giants made the playoffs and their tag-team running game doesn't seem as dominant as in the past.  This Yin and Yang was unreliable and seemed more like Stumble and Fumble in 2010.

The limited role Jacobs had played may have tweaked his ego and he became a disruptive force in the locker room last season.  He still occasionally goes head first into the turf like a larger version of Ron Dayne and has not lived up to his billing since his contract extension (despite injury concerns) in 2009.  He is due for some big money soon.

Bradshaw had the worst case of fumblitis since Dave Krieg and wore down as the season played out.  Although he is more of a receiving threat than Jacobs and has the ability to break open a game on every play, he was a M*A*S*H Unit of injuries--wrists, ankles--and it showed during that final stretch.  If Coughlin can rid Bradshaw of his poor ball handling--ala Tiki Barber--Bradshaw could be the complete back the Giants need, and one of the best in the league.

Jacobs and Bradshaw, as a duo, and their and down seasons are something the Giants need to address. It's like Superman stuck with Robin.  The big guy needs no sidekick.  Has a team or backfield looked so invincible one week only to fall faster than the Metrodome roof the next?

If the NFL and the player's union do negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, and there is a 2011 season, the Giants should hand the ball to Bradshaw.  Just make sure there is a little Stickum on it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rex Ryan Tugs On Super Manning's Cape

The playoff game this Saturday between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts just got 'personal' and Jets head coach, and alleged foot fancier, Rex Ryan is zeroing in on Colts QB Peyton Manning.   Last year's crushing de-feet (it's just too easy) to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game must have left a lasting footprint in the sand of Ryan's mind.  He is, plain and simple, tired of losing to the Colts.

Ryan ranted yesterday about his track record (he has lost 5 of 6) against the Colts going back to his Baltimore Raven days as a defensive coach.  The brash coach called playing and losing to Manning "personal" and he vowed to "put the shoe on the other foot."  Considering the recent foot fetish video allegedly made by Ryan and his wife making the rounds, it was an unfortunate choice of words.

Wasn't it just last week that the once blustery coach was quietly saying (six times) it was  'personal'  in response to all the questions regarded the foot videos.  Now Ryan is back to his old outrageous self.  If it seems illogical to  goad your arch-nemesis right before the big showdown, you don't know Ryan.  Until the whole foot thing happened, there wasn't a microphone he wouldn't run to.

This might be the right time for Ryan to play Lex Luthor against Peyton's Superman.  While Manning has scorched Ryan's defenses for 12 TDs and only 2 INTs in six games previous games, this year Ryan finally has a better team.

To avoid another loss to Indianapolis, the Jets traded for San Diego cornerback, and Manning's kryptonite, Antonio Cromartie.  The former Charger joins Darelle Revis to form a formidable pair in the corners to foil the Colts short passing game.  They also brought in safety Brodney Pool and former Dolphin foe Jason Taylor.  The Gang Greens all here to stop Supermanning.

"I've waited a full year for this.  We'll see what happens," Ryan said of Saturday's rematch.  "I know I feel confident.  I feel confident in the men around me," he said. 

Ryan kept ratcheting up the heat.  "I don't know when I'm going to beat him, but I want it to be Saturday night," continued Ryan in his best villain imitation, " Peyton Manning has beaten me twice in the playoffs.  That's well-documented.  You've got all the stats.  But this is about this year, and I've waited a whole year for this."

The Jets are facing a Colts team which has won four straight after a series of injuries to key players (17 place on the injured reserve) had people writing them off a month ago.  This is the team's ninth consecutive playoff appearance but, for the first time they look vulnerable. 

Two of Manning's favorite targets, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, are sidelined and the running game has picked up with the return of Joseph Addai but it won't have the Jets running in fear.  Manning has been winging the ball like no other season before.  He attempted a staggering 679 passes but was only sacked an amazing league-low 16 times.

Manning hasn't responded to Ryan's chatter, but he is still the master at countering blitzing schemes like Ryan's.  In the end, Peyton Manning and the Colts will be trying to prove they are worthy too.

Ryan's outburst was relatively tame to some of his other raves in the past. Some say it calls attention to himself and puts pressure on the Jets players.  Ryan's rant doesn't guarantee that the Jets will rise to the occasion or the defense will figure Manning out.  It is a war cry for the redemption he craves and diverts attention from the foot-fetish hoopla.  'Personal' has a totally new context with Ryan now.

The Giants are out of the playoffs.  The Jets are the only football team in New York.  If Ryan can beat the Colts on Saturday, it will be quite a feet.  I couldn't resist.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New York Giants Pack It In, But Coughlin Staying Put.

The New York Giants finally won but, at the same time, lost.  They beat the Washington Redskins 17-14 at the same time the Green Bay Packers were defeating the Chicago Bears.  It was a bittersweet end to the Giants indescribable perplexing season.  The final dagger to the Giants lost season came at 7:06 EST when the score board at FedEx Field tauntingly flashed the score: Packers 10, Bears 3.

The Giants (10-6) season ended with a victory, but it was the 68 minutes before Sunday's game that really charted their destiny.  The 28 point comeback by the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago and last week's blowout at the hands of the Packers really sealed the Giants fate.  They will not be in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.  The Giants have no one to blame but themselves and it looks like the Giants owner sees it that way too.

The calls for head coach Tom Coughlin's head grew over the past few weeks while the Giants were doing their annual version of a swan dive for the third straight season.  Former Pittsburgh Steelers head
coach Bill Cowher's name was tossed around more loosely than an Eli Manning interception.

After yesterday's loss, Giants owner John Mara immediately made it clear Coughlin will be around to finish the final year of his contract and maybe more.  Mara confirmed it by saying "there was never any doubt" Coughlin would be back in 2011.  Looks like New York won't be a Cowher town after all.

The Giants who finished with 10 wins had to watch as the Seattle Seahawks--a team they routed earlier in the season--squeak into the playoffs with a losing record later that evening.  The Seahawks (7-9) won the NFC West by beating the St. Louis Rams yesterday.  The Giants became only the seventh teams with at least 10 wins to not make the playoffs since 1990.

Mara, the Giants co-owner, is sticking with his head coach despite another late season fizzle.  "I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs, " he said, "Everybody in this locker room is disappointed.  But that doesn't mean you blow the whole thing up.  he's still the guy we want as our head coach."

The owner even visited Coughlin after the game and reassured the 61 year old coach.  "Don't listen to all the nonsense.  You're going to be back next season.  We still believe in you and we want you as our coach."

Mara said he knows it's not easy to win ten games.  He has stuck with Coughlin before.  In 2006 the Giants beat the Redskins to get into the playoffs and save Coughlin's job.  The next season the team won the Super Bowl.

The Giants players and Coughlin will have the whole off-season to look back at their mistakes and get the team back into the playoffs next year.  Mara can only hope his belief in his coach will pay off.