One of the best listeners the Doug & Wolf Show has e-mailed me a few questions leading up to the draft. Brother Murph knows his stuff and always brings passion to the table.
Why is it considered a 'reach' taking an offensive guard in the top-10 picks of the 1st round, particularly if the player is as talented as Chance Warmack seems to be (and NO, I DON'T want the Cards to pick him if one of the top three left tackles are still available...and I think the Cards should try to move up somehow, even to #2 or #3 to ensure they get one).
Drafting a guard in the top 10 is like drafting a running back in the top 10. Guards and running backs are closely tied to running the football and running the football in the NFL is currently not en vogue. The emphasis is on throwing the ball and when you throw the ball, you better have tackles that can hold up on the edges.
The premium is on tackles and so shall it be. In many pass protections used, one of the tackles will be turned loose and placed on an island with no help, while guards often times receive help inside or have the presence of help to either side between the tackle and center. Slide and Base protection (most of the time) are examples of these types of protections.
I know teams that refuse to draft college guards. There are many general managers in the league that draft tackles and convert them to guards because on average, they have better feet, better frames and are largely better athletes. That's why their college teams put them out there in the first place -- to hold up against the speedier, more athletic edge rushers.
So, knowing tackles have a premium placed on them for the reasons mentioned above, how does that manifest itself at the tactical level?
If you take a guard high in the draft and receive All-Pro play from that guard, you're set, right? You've improved your offensive line!
Great, your interior pass pro is awesome -- that high-dollar, highly-touted guard of yours is holding up well and your QB is sacked because a tackle broke down on the edge. You're running the ball well -- your guard is an excellent run-blocker -- but, like all teams, you get yourself into a 3rd & Obvious pass situation. Again, the guard is protecting his gap, holding up well, keeping his eye on his responsibility on the second-level, and your Q is sacked because your tackle got beat on a spin move.
In the end, the reason why guards don't get drafted in the top 10 unless they're the Walter Payton of their position is because they don't IMPACT a game -- positively or negatively -- to the degree that a tackle does.
Just as running backs have been marginalized and their value reduced in today's NFL, so have offensive guards. It doesn't mean they don't have value -- they do. It only means they don't have as much value as tackles.
We will never forget Newtown. The unspeakable horror and the events of that day left this nation speechless and hopeless. Although nothing will top the horror of that day, the Boston bombings during the 117th Boston Marathon -- where an eight-year-old boy lost his life -- have filled us with the same sentiment.
The sporting world has changed forever. Just as traveling by aircraft has been forever changed in this country, security at sporting events will never be the same. And we better get used to it because this type of thing will continue as copycat nut jobs filled with hate have been given insidious inspiration.
This type of thing can never be prevented completely; that's the truth of the matter. We live in a free society and our liberties are taken seriously, but the reason why these types of attacks on our way of life will never end has nothing to do with giving up liberties and freedom and everything to do with hatred and opportunity.
The opportunity will always be there for those that hate. People will always congregate and where people congregate -- opportunity to kill and maim presents itself. In the name of God, King, Country, and Cause, there are those that butcher men, woman and children.
And so shall it ever be.
Law enforcement, federal authorities and government agencies have to be perfect every day in order to prevent these types of terrorist attacks and nobody is perfect. As former Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman said, "Terrorists need to be lucky one day, law enforcement need to be lucky and good every day."
So what do we do?
Refuse to be broken. The answer is that simple. We dig our heels in, square our jaws and refuse to be controlled by those that would harm us or destroy our way of life. We remain vigilant and aware but we must never allow ourselves to live in fear. When that happens, terror has won.
Evil is alive and well in the 21st century and that evil wants to alter who we are and how we live. We need to prepare our hearts and minds for more of this and understand that it can get much, much worse.
Flying airplanes into buildings and setting off bombs during a marathon are horrific occurrences, but we tend to believe these terrorist acts can only happen in high-profile cities like New York and Boston. But are we ready for suicide bombers or bombs like what we saw in Boston to start detonating in convenience stores, pharmacies, restaurants, parades or county fairs in Smalltown USA?
My definition of evil has always been to take something that is beautiful and make it ugly. Our way of life is beautiful. At the core of every terrorist plot is the desire to take life, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and make it ugly.
And that certainly applies to what happened in Boston.
Goran Dragic is a leader in the Suns locker room, but I wonder if he can lead this team?
Leadership comes in many forms, but in the world of sports, there are only three ways leadership manifests itself. Teams can have a player that leads by example, they can have players that verbally assert themselves while they lead by example. Or teams can have kings in the locker room -- players that speak to the team, lead by doing and privately front up teammates. These kings hold other players accountable.
Every team needs at least one king in every locker room. But unlike feudalism, locker rooms often have more than one king.
The Suns are looking for that king -- the player they can build their franchise around that will lead by doing, speak to the team with the authority of one whom does and, when appropriate, enter into a dead-level stare with a teammate in private.
I think Goran Dragic could be that guy, but I'm not sure. He leads by example, he is a doer and has the respect of his teammates for how consistently he competes and produces, yet I wonder if his English has developed enough where he can command the room AND speak to a teammate in an authoritative way?
Based on what I have seen from him this year, shining in the middle of Planet Orange going dark, the Suns have struck gold with Dragic. And if he continues to develop his communicative skills the way he has developed his physical skills, he will be the player the Suns build this franchise around.
Professional athletes spend so many hours working on their bodies, getting physically conditioned to withstand the rigors of their sport, and very little time on strengthening their minds.
Trevor Cahill is a fascinating case in point. I wrote about Cahill on Monday. His troubles with starting games and getting out of the first inning without giving up a run (or runs) has turned the mound at Chase Field into the largest, dirtiest couch Dr. Phil could ever conceive.
It's not just finding his arm slot or release point; it's not just about discovering how and where his sinker is going to break on any given night; and it's not just about walking hitters early and then grooving pitches to make the base-on-balls monster go away. It's also about the little bugs that creep into the corners of the mind and permeate the psyche.
I wonder if Cahill has over-corrected his thinking as he prepares to take the ball? I wonder if Cahill walks to the mound in the first inning repeating the positives over and over again? I wonder if he tells himself to just relax? I wonder if he reminds himself of how many times he has done this, how good his stuff is, how naturally his ball sinks, how he's building this first inning thing up in his own mind, and how it's just a Chase Field phase he's going through? I wonder?
I wonder if his laid-back personality is also contributing to his first inning malaise? And if this is the case, I wonder if he can fix it?
Honestly, Trevor Cahill makes me want to gouge my eyes out. He has excellent stuff and you wonder how anybody could put any crooked numbers up on this guy, let alone in the first inning!
But that's exactly what the Pirates did in the first game of their three-game series with the Diamondbacks. The Pirates put a crooked three up in the first inning on Cahill. And this has been the way of things for Cahill in a D-backs uniform.
Last year, he had an ERA of over 5.00 and an inordinate amount of walks in the first inning. When compared to all the other innings pitched after the first, it's like Trevor Cahill is two different pitchers.
Watching Cahill pitch frustrates me because his stuff is filthy. His ball moves so much it's hard to fathom but he gets himself in trouble often, especially with walks, and gives up runs early.
I used to believe it was because he wasn't ready to go. I used to believe he didn't bring the requisite amount of intensity to his starts and that was why teams got to him early.
I no longer believe this.
Cahill struggles early because he's trying to find his arm slot and release point. The ball movement he gets varies from start to start, which is why he struggles early. I don't think Cahill knows how his ball is going to go until he's 20 or more pitches into the start.
Unfortunately for the D-backs, this has cost them some games and it happened again against Pittsburgh. And the worse thing about it is I don't think there's anything Cahill can do about it.
Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti had no choice. Trying to rehab Mike Rice as opposed to firing him on the spot is indefensible. Tim Pernetti did the honorable thing and stepped down, knowing he should have overridden school officials and fired Mike Rice.
But the plot thickened when we discovered that Tim Pernetti said he was told he couldn't fire Mike Rice. And if that is true, President Robert Barchi needs to resign for trying to rehab Mike Rice instead of dismissing him on the spot.
Something stinks here, Robert Barchi, and it makes me think of samurai. It's a good thing Mr. Barchi isn't a samurai, because seppuku, ritual suicide, would be his only alternative.
How does he justify accepting Tim Pernetti's resignation while not submitting his own? Mr. Barchi made the decision to try and rehab Mike Rice according to the interpretation of school policy. Even if it was the correct interpretation of school policy, which I doubt, the samurai sword, the tanto, needs to be passed to Robert Barchi for his negligence in this matter.
Game three of the Diamondbacks' opening series turned into the paragon example of why Kevin Towers and the D-backs believe they will be contenders in 2013. Many baseball pundits and sabermetricians scoffed at the Justin Upton trade and believed the Diamondbacks were foolish for making it.
Well, grinders unite! Moneyball may prove Kevin Towers wrong by the end of the season, but "Muddyball" was on display for all to see Wednesday night as the D-backs won the rubber game of the series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 10-9 in 16 innings.
They never quit. When Martin Prado told Doug and I that he respected the guys in the clubhouse -- Willie Bloomquist, Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero -- and that he was excited to play with these guys because they would fight you for 27 outs and that it felt like home, I gained even more respect for Prado.
That belief, that statement came to life for me Wednesday night while watching these grinders battle. The D-backs came back to either tie up the score or win the game no less than four times. They refused to quit.
And everybody seemed to make a contribution; this was also one of the things Gibby and Towers have been speaking about all spring: depth 1 thru 8.
As if on cue, Cliff Pennington, the D-backs number eight hitter in the lineup, went 3-for-6 with two walks and hit a walk-off single to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the 16th inning. And this after going hitless in his first 11 at-bats of the series and not getting his first hit until extra innings of game three!
Pennington and the D-backs kept their head down and...grinded...all night. And that's what grinders do: grind.
It was one game of one series but if we're keeping score: Muddyball - 1, Moneyball - 0.
There was a day when coaches got physical with their players. There was a day where it was part of coaching. There was a time when coaches drove their players with a whip in one hand and a rod in the other. That time, regrettably, ended in the vicinity of the late 20th century.
College offers young men the opportunity to grow, mature and come of age. The transition from teenager to man is a rough and rocky road, and coaches at the college level often were, and are, on the frontlines of young man's metamorphosis. Many times this transformation requires drastic means to get the attention of players.
Putting hands on a player, grabbing his facemask, kicking him in the butt, pulling him around the field in order to make a point -- a point you wouldn't soon forget -- was commonplace when I attended West Virginia University.
But that was nothing new to me. I had watched my older brother practice at Syracuse University. The coaches screamed and hurled insults at players, roughed them up, dragged them around and got in their faces. And my younger brother would testify to witnessing the same kind of behavior while he was at WVU in the late 80s and early 90s.
It wasn't a big deal for coaches to challenge players in order to make a point, even if it got physical. Players understood that it was nothing personal; it was just what most coaches did and it wasn't frowned upon. He was the coach and you were the player. He was the master artisan and you were his clay.
This kind of coaching didn't break me, turn me into a shrinking flower, or turn me into an angry psychopath (I don't think). In fact, I love and respect the men that taught me, coached me, kicked me in the pants (literally), grabbed my facemask and challenged me to become a man. They wanted me to pay attention, grow, learn and be responsible for my development. In fact, consider this column to be a thank you letter to the men that got in my face, challenged me and helped me strengthen my resolve; and my brothers would say the exact same thing.
Although I realize being politically correct and never hurting little Johnny and his fragile, developing masculinity is reality in the Year of our Lord, 2013, I lament this reality and reject it in front of king and country. You should know this.
But what Mike Rice was doing to his players during practice at Rutgers University was inexcusable, inexplicable and insane. He had to be terminated because he made it personal with his players. He was out of control.
And yet, I have sympathy for Mike Rice. He clearly has anger issues and I hope he'll master his anger and live a productive life. I have sympathy for the young men of his program that endured an out of control coach that made it personal with his players. But more than these, I have sympathy for the young men that no longer experience the harsh hand of a professional coach and the impact that coach could have on his life.
But it's a good thing we're more enlightened than our predecessors, isn't it?
What I love about this team more than anything else is they will fight you to the bitter end. They have a bunch of guys that will play hard for 27 outs and never quit. Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill and company don't need anybody to get them ready to play.
I know who these guys are. I've played against guys like this. Yeah, their faces are different and their names are different and the sport is different but "the thing" that lives inside them I know and have witnessed up close. Bill Boy Bates, Sam Mills, Dave Duerson, Seth Joyner...these guys weren't household names but perish the thought that you weren't ready to play when you lined up across from them because they would hand you your lunch, take it from you, eat it in your face and dare you to do something about it. And that can grind on you; that kind of intensity can wear you down -- especially in a three-game series.
It's not Moneyball, it's muddy-ball. And this experiment by the D-backs makes them the most interesting team in the National League. The baseball world is watching.
According to a recent report, there are 13 teams in the National Football League that have $10 million or more in cap space remaining and teams are into their third week of free agency. It's finally happening: general managers are taking an even-handed approach to free agency.
In view of this collective conservatism, the question is why? That's the $8 million question -- why are GMs taking an even-handed approach to free agency?
Teams are finally understanding championships are not bought...they're earned. Smith Barney not withstanding (Google it, My Young Crunks!), NFL free agency is now a proven bust and GMs know it. The Washington Redskins and the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles doomed free agency.
But the $80 million question is why NFL free agency is a bust? That's a more interesting, intriguing question, isn't it?
The answer is simple.
Football loves the wretched; like a newborn suckling its mother, players consume the essence of the game when they're desperate, downtrodden, forlorn and wretched. Big-time free agents are NOT wretched. Most players are subject to the laws of nature and when you have $20 million in the bank, it's hard to be hungry, forlorn, desperate.
Human nature is the reason why there's little peace, love and joy in the world and human nature is the reason why free agency has been a bust. When we're made comfortable, we consume more and create less. That's who most of us are and who most free agents are. And the only way to abstain from this human law is to face the reality of it, embrace it and remember what it was like to be desperate and let that desperation drive you.
The problem is it's hard to manufacture desperation; you either are desperate or you're not. That's why the focal point of manufactured desperation must be something more than money -- the root of the problem.
Players need to be desperate to prove their worth...to themselves. Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Mike Singletary, Junior Seau and so many other greats of the game were also some of the most humble men I have ever been around. Their humility was steeped in their own failures, not how others perceived their successes. They didn't try to live up to their contracts; they tried to live up to the standards of play they set for themselves and were rarely satisfied with the results.
Free agency has a proven record of failure but it's not a mystery; it's human nature.