Under new GM Scott Pioli, the Kansas City Chiefs have become a sort of western outpost of former New England Patriots this offseason. Not that this is a bad thing, of course; the former Pats VP had what some might call a “pretty good track record” out in Boston, and the Chiefs have been going nowhere for the better part of the past two decades.
One of Pioli’s biggest acquisitions this offseason was Patriots QB Matt Cassel, who was thrust into the spotlight last year after - we’re getting to the point here - Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard became Boston Public Enemy Number One by shredding dreamboat QB Tom Brady’s knee. Earlier this year, SbB’s Tom “5k” Fornelli said that Cassel should be thanking Pollard for giving him the opportunity to show his stuff.
Well, however Cassel went about thanking Pollard, it clearly didn’t impress him, as Pollard almost shredded his new, less-dreamy-but-still-starting QB’s knee last week in practice. Oops.
Last season turned out to be a pretty magical one for Matt Cassel. He went from being a career backup to guys like Matt Leinart while at USC and Tom Brady while playing for the Patriots, to the starting quarterback in New England, finishing 11-5 and just missing the playoffs. He was then rewarded for being competent by getting franchised by the Patriots to the tune of $14.65 million to back up Brady again next season.
Then Matt was traded over the weekend to the Kansas City Chiefs, which is pretty ironic when you think about it After all, the only reason Cassel got a chance to play in 2008 was because the Chiefs’ Bernard Pollard took out Tom Brady’s knee in Week One, ending the Golden Boy’s season. So now that Cassel and Pollard are teammates, Matt knows what he has to do.
Word has been leaking from Denver after the Matt Cassel trade to the Chiefs that Cassel was almost a Bronco, part of a three-way trade that would have sent incumbent Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler to Tampa. That would have been the first time a Pro Bowl quarterback under the age of 30 was traded since [ERROR: The Elias Sports Bureau does not work for SbB.].
Cutler said he had spoken with teammates Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley, Tony Scheffler and Casey Wiegmann, among others, about his trade. “I know they love playing for me and I love playing for them,” Cutler said. “There’s going to be a lot of problems if they try to trade me. Well, they’ve already tried to trade me, but if they trade me for sure.”
The rumored Matt Cassel to Kansas City deal is official, and it turns out it was a package deal, shipping both Cassel and former Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for draft pick compensation. So the Pats got some good draft picks back, right? Nope. In exchange for a guy who emerged as arguably the best backup quarterback in the league and a Pro Bowl linebacker (and not even the team’s old one), New England received a single, second-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. No. 34, to be more specific. Wait, what?
(Is this man secretly the reason behind the Cassel-Vrabel trade?)
If anyone can come up with a compelling reason why this trade makes sense, we’d love to hear it. As far as we can tell, Scott Pioli left New England to take over a struggling franchise and Bill Belichick was so worried that his legacy for mentoring bright minds was being soiled that he sent two of his best assets to Kansas City as a way to ensure Pioli won’t fail. Why else would New England give up one of the team’s most beloved assets — Vrabel — and another guy who could have commanded two first round draft picks if they’d let another team come and sign him? Salary cap space is sure to be cited time and again, but we think there might be another reason for the deal: Julius Peppers.
Matt Cassel might be a Patriot (at least until they trade him), but he apparently wasn’t ready to break out his bayonet for a swordfight at a Super Bowl party. According to the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (who apparently had sources deep inside the restrooms at all parties), one drunken fan decided to “write his name in the snow” - but substituting the back of Cassel’s leg for snow.
I can guarantee you that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to Tom Brady. In fact, Brady probably hasn’t had to use a public bathroom with the unwashed masses since his rookie year. (As with all famous people, he has access to special, secret restrooms at all stadiums, complete with golden bidets, seat warmers on the toilets and free caviar at the wash stations instead of sticks of Extra gum.)
Now you can add Simeon Rice to the list of players lining up to rip Gruden, and the former Bucs Pro Bowler isn’t pulling any punches. In an interview with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on Sirius NFL Radio, Rice went off on Gruden, running down a laundry list of players who hate him, and shredding his character like a rat going through an old stack of magazines in your garage:
“How I feel personally? I could tell you that, too. I think he’s a scumbag,” Rice said. “I think he’s a scumbag personally. That’s when he’s telling you one thing and… You know what he told me? ‘Simeon you’ll be here in the next five years.’ I got injured [and] this man’s never said one word to me. I won a Super Bowl for you. I got 13 sacks, 12, 15 every year for you. I balled. I got injured [and] you let me go like it was nothing.”
Now, to be fair, Rice had a grand total of one sack in 2007 after being cut by the Buccaneers and didn’t play last year, so it’s not like Rice showed Gruden what a horrible mistake he made by letting him go. But judging by the stories that keep coming out, releasing an injured player who helped you win a Super Bowl without saying a word to him seems to be right up his alley.
Hmm, let’s see: a “offensive genius” head coach whose teams always have lousy defenses; who is about as likable as genital warts and has the personal skills of Jeff Conaway; and who inspires hatred and disloyalty from former and current players. I’m starting to think that Notre Dame could have stuffed Gruden into a sumo suit and swapped him for Charlie Weis, and no one would have known the difference.
But Jon, if it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t just the fact that your players hate you that got you fired. Apparently the fans all hate you as well. So that’s nice.
Oops, they did it again: the Lakers managed to overlook the Charlotte Bobcats and fall 117-110 in double OT. All this with the Bobcats’ best player - Gerald Wallace - missing the overtimes with an injury. The LOS ANGELES TIMES has the gory details of the Lakers’ fifth loss to the Bobcats in their last six meetings. (Really, and these are the title favorites?)
FOOD COURT LUNCH examines “The Hansbrough Effect,” where college basketball analysts laud the hard work and gritty determination of big, white stiffs who will be sure to flop in the NBA. Which gives me another chance to type Kevin Pittsnogle.
Who loves chicken? New Orleans Hornets fans love chicken, especially when they get it for free if the Hornets score 100 points. NOLA.COM has the exciting blow-by-blow as the team sits on 99 with just seconds to go.
TRAVELIN’ LIGHT says that a resort in Aruba is offering vacation packages for fantasy baseball and football drafts. Sure, the resort might have beautiful beaches, world-class food and exciting casinos, but does it have a Bubble Hockey machine and old NES system with RBI Baseball like my garage? I didn’t think so.
If you think you’ve had a rough life, think about Arizona Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett, who found his mother murdered, execution style, when he was 13. And then his father died of cancer four months later. The GANNETT NEWS SERVICE has a moving piece on his relationship with his uncle, who helped him get his life back on track.
The Braves need a power hitter to provide protection for Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Enter Jeff Francoeur and .239 batting average. MLB.COM says that Jones, for one, is thrilled to have “Frenchy” back. Hey, if your other option is Andruw Jones, anything looks good.
Ever nearly kill yourself trying to get that stuck bag of chips dislodged from a vending machine? Me too! Now there’s a video game for you: Adult Swim’s Ultimate Vending Machine Challenge.
It’s not every year that the final regular season of the NFL game means something. NBC flexed their way to the Chargers eliminating the Broncos in a semi-playoff game to capture the AFC West berth into the playoffs. The Dolphins, Vikings, Eagles, and Ravens were the other teams to punch their tickets in the 11th hour, and you know how airlines hate it when you check in late. This leaves our 12 teams arranged for your graphic pleasure as such:
The four divisional games will skip hand in hand toward the Emerald Cigar City in hopes of overcoming the evil flying monkeys known as “losing in the playoffs.” Those swell games begin Saturday. That’s six days. I hope you’ve already found a couch in which to park your butt.
A telltale sign your team is on a roll: two people are open for the same pass. When LaDainian Tomlinson wasn’t going long for the pass, he was passing San Diego native Marcus Allen for career touchdowns, finishing the regular season with 126 for second most all time.
The 52-21 rout of the Broncos creates an 8-8 playoff team for the eighth time in NFL history, and the first time in the AFC since the 1991 New York Jets. While the Chargers are rollin’ like James Brolin, only twice have 8-8 teams won a playoff game, and they both happened in 2004 (Minnesota over Green Bay, St. Louis over Seattle). They will host the 12-4 Colts. Hmm. I wonder if these two teams have played each other in the playoffs before.
This man is Lonnie Cooper. You’ve never heard of him, unless he was your Secret Santa, or if you are one of nine NBA coaches that called him “my agent” at the start of the season. The NBA called six of those coaches “fired” in a span of 24 days:
The firings began Nov. 22, when P. J. Carlesimo was dismissed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two days later, Eddie Jordan was fired by the Washington Wizards. Sam Mitchell (Toronto) was the next to go, then Randy Wittman (Minnesota) and Maurice Cheeks (Philadelphia). The purge continued Dec. 15, with the Sacramento Kings firing Reggie Theus.
His active clientele still includes Doc Rivers, Jim O’Brien, and Nate McMillan, and Kings interim coach Kenny Natt is his client, too. But to have three of nine coaches make it. Three of nine. Three of nine. Hmm. Maybe Shaq should inquire about his services.
As we gust our way to the finish line:
If you watch closely, you can actually see the string Bill Belichick pulls that gets Matt Cassel’s punt down to the 1-yard line. It’s so nice to see cheating coaches get back to the fundamentals of impish tomfoolery. Funner fact: the last time a Patriots quarterback punted it away: Tom Brady in 2003. And where did his land? Why, the 1-yard line, of course (last item).
LOSER WITH SOCKS notices that Charter Cable subscribers in Montgomery, Alabama will tentatively be without FOX on January 2, but all they’ll miss is the Sugar Bowl. But it’s Friday night. Go and get some friends or throw a Boggle party. Expand your mind, ya’ ingrates.
DEADSPIN has video of Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. He is so jazzed to have his team in the playoffs, he’s willing to slap his wife in the face in the form of a high-five.
STEROID NATION has news of a notable baseball player taking steroids. Just kidding, I said “baseball player” to get your attention because there’s no other way to get people to care about non-baseball players taking steroids. BALCO bigwig Victor Conte details “Sugar” Shane Mosley’s purchases of EPO and anabolic steroids. Would it help your interest if I photoshopped a baseball on top of Mosley’s pectoral muscles?
Oh, it looks like Brad Penny is eversoclose to a one-year deal with the Red Sox, so sayeth FOX SPORTS’ Ken Rosenthal, who can quietly add another point into the non-white player to Boston category.
Sportswriters who cover the Cotton Bowl get their own swag, HUNTSVILLE TIMES’ Paul Gattis notes. When ‘Bama was in the Cotton Bowl in 2005, this valiant sportswriter received, among other things, get free tickets to Frank Caliendo. Ooh, I wonder if he did his John Madden impression? Have you seen it before? OF COURSE YOU HAVE. YOU OWN A TV.
Staying with the OREGONIAN motif, rich nerd Paul Allen doesn’t let his Blazers sleep in his executive bedroom, except for Greg Oden because he’s taller and therefore better than everyone else. Fun fact: Sam Bowie was the only one allowed to play with Larry Weinberg’s Rubik’s cube.
It’s best to just let THE DUGOUT spin out as much as they can on Kyle Farnsworth, for we are all better off for it, even if not everyone knows this.
And finally, a bowl game happened last night. In the Independence Bowl, Northern Illinois fell 17-10 as Louisiana Tech wins their eighth game of thzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Remember when everyone thought the Jets were going to run away with the AFC East after pulling out a gutsy, overtime win in New England? Funny how two disappointing losses in two weeks can change everything. Suddenly, after a shocking 24-14 loss to the woeful 49ers, Brett Favre’s Jets are in a tie atop the AFC East with the Patriots, who rallied just when it looked like they were dead for a 24-21 win in Seattle. Oh, and just to make things more difficult, the Dolphins won, too, which puts all three teams at 8-5, in a dead-even tie at the top.
(Don’t ask Brett who’s going to win. He’s got no idea what’s going on.)
Before you get optimistic that the division might work itself out, realize that the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins really could be headed toward a Big 12 South-style finish. The Jets play the Bills and Seahawks — two teams they should beat — before facing off with the Dolphins in the final game of the season. Of course, the Jets should have beaten both the Broncos at home and 49ers on the road, so a loss wouldn’t be shocking. Miami, meanwhile, gets the red-hot 49ers (a potential loss) and the fairly-horrendous Chiefs before the Dolphins and Jets finish the season with each other.
What’s significant about that? Well, if the Jets win the next two weeks and Miami loses once, a Dolphins victory in the season-finale would put the teams level in victorious and in head-to-head matchups; in that scenario, Miami, New England and New York would all be 1-1 against each other.