November 13, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Cassel’s in the clouds compared to early expectations
by Dave Long

Other than a blip on the screen at the beginning of the year when Tom Brady went down, football has flown under the radar in this space thanks mainly to the baseball season. That’s kind of weird when you realize I like football a lot more than baseball. And while my friend the Red Sox lover Pete Tarrier (line) is usually in denial when I say this, it’s ditto for the Pats over the Sox too, where it ain’t even close.

So with the season nine games in, it’s time to rectify that situation with a variety of thoughts on the subject as the Patriots ready themselves for playing in real football weather as the stretch run for the playoffs looms on the horizon. So here goes:

I know I’m nit-picking here, but, starting with the Super Bowl, I would say the three worst game-management games by Coach B in the Belichick era have come in the last nine games, when mental mistakes have contributed to losses to the Giants, Chargers and Indy 10 days ago.

But as a counter, here’s In Bill We Trust version 1121.0: you have to give it to him for sticking with Matt Cassel after that pre-season when most in the crowd wanted someone (anyone) else backing up Brady in 2008. I know I did.

And while on that subject, here’s the above-the-Tarrier-Line stat offering of the week. It compares Brady’s first nine games as a starter to Cassel’s. Brady had 14 TD passes to Cassel’s seven, but in yards (1,806 to 1,800), interceptions (7-7) and quarterback rating (86.5 to 83.9) it’s a virtual wash. Plus it’s dead even in the standings at 6-3. The only real difference is that Brady was turning around a team that was 0-2 when he took over and 5-11 the year before, while Cassel had the pressure of replacing the production of a QB who threw 50 TD passes the year before. So you tell me — who’s had the more impressive first nine games?

Another reason to like Barack Obama. He told Chris (can you smell the rubber) Berman during half-time of Monday Night Football on the eve of the election he favored a college football playoff for I-A. Still I doubt it will move my friend Not So Liberal Lou DeMato, who’s the last holdout on the planet without a financial interest in seeing the antiquated bowl system go the away.

Wonder if he’d still be against it if Ron Paul came out strongly for one.

If you don’t think the BCS system is stupid, then tell me how USC dropped from fifth to seventh in the rankings the day after it won 51-0? I don’t care if Washington is terrible, it’s a conference opponent they have to play and a big-time program.

I’ll point out to those on the left trying to blame this on him too, the Bush administration had nothing to do with propping up the current Bowl system. After all, GW’s a baseball guy — which you could easily tell when he was in the ESPN booth with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on opening day in Washington last April. And in the current spirit of bipartisan cooperation let me tell all he was very good that night.

Anyone know that the point man on the Wall Street socialistic bailout, Treasury Secretary (just call me) Hank Paulson, played college football in Hanover during Dartmouth’s heyday in the 1960s? He was good enough to be an All-East offensive tackle in 1967 and a starter on its undefeated Lambert Trophy-winning team that was a landslide winner in voting over national powers Penn State and Syracuse for best team in the East in 1965. That says how much college football has changed since those days.

He also gave Dartmouth two million bucks a while back to establish the Robert L. Blackman Endowed Coaching Position in memory of the man behind their great success. 

Football 101 Quiz: Anyone besides UL political maven John DiStaso and me know what local politico was manager of those great Dartmouth teams Paulson starred for?

While not quite an “I told-you so,” it’s close. I have said for many years in limited use the single wing formation — last seen in the NFL in the 1940s — could succeed in the NFL today. Those I said it to said it was a relic of the past. But that’s exactly what a number of teams are messing with after the Dolphins flummoxed the Patriots with it in Week Three.

That should tell you that sooner or later everything comes back into fashion — though when bell bottoms make their comeback, I still ain’t wearing them.

With the Packers just 4-5 after Sunday’s loss and the Jets 6-3 and the highest-scoring team in the AFC, do you think Green Bay regrets being so stubborn this summer in the Brett Favre fiasco?

I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but the playoff race in the AFC is really going to be a scramble. Especially now that Indy is playing like, well, Indy. As it stands today, the Pats, Steelers, Titans and Broncos would be in, with the wild card race having the Ravens and Jets at 6-3, Colts, Dolphins and Bills at 5-4 and Jaguars and Chargers at 4-5.

However, if this were The Tonight Show in the days when Paulson was banging heads with Cornell and Yale, Ed McMahon would ask Johnny Carson, “How bad is it, Johnny?” and Carson would say, “The AFC West is so bad, the Denver Broncos are in first place despite giving up more points than all but two teams in football and having scored 27 less than they’ve allowed.”

Football 101 Answer: The manager of those great Dartmouth teams in the mid-’60s was none other than Concord attorney to the GOP’s political stars, good guy Tom (have no) Rath.

How come no one is asking if the Titans can go undefeated? It was all the rage this time last year. Probably because the Patriots were blowing everyone out with a spectacular offensive display, while Tennessee does it with defense — which makes them more likely to do it in my opinion.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont

10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat