Wednesday, March 21, 2012

my reaction to peyton signing

There’s a great scene, possibly my favorite from the entire series, in the “Election Day (Part 2)” episode of “The West Wing”.

Vice Presidential nominee Leo McGarry (D-Ill) has collapsed of a heart attack and died shortly after 8pm CT on Election Night.  And now the Santos (D-Tex*) campaign, in the fight of its life, has to figure out how to handle Leo’s death.

(*: loved, loved, loved the way the “West Wing” writers had set up the final season … right up until John Spencer died in real life.  So rather than (as planned) give the election to Senator Vinick, they had Congressman Santos win in a closer electoral vote than Bush v Gore.  (And kudos to the writing staff for figuring out a way to actually get closer than 271-267.)  I always hated how “Election Day” ended – there isn’t a shot in hell an essentially pro-choice, pro-tax-the-rich Republican from California with a history of competence and moderation would ever lose in a general election.  Especially to an inept social conservative who has proven a failure time and time again, despite his obvious moral standing.  Ask Ronald Wilson Reagan if you don’t believe me.)

Cue the advisors around nominee Santos’ room all arguing for different things.  Santos wants to go public, but not before talking to his opponent, Senator Vinick.  The chair of the DNC wants to sit on the news for as long as possible, because California was in play, and this might drive it squarely into the Vinick win column.

After a couple minutes of “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” debate, Janeane Garofolo’s character Lew (supposed to be the Paul Begala of the campaign) finally stands up and screams “People?  Please!  May I remind you how stupid this argument is considering we haven’t won the damned election yet!”

The denver broncos, my most hated professional sports team, on Tuesday made the news from Monday official, and signed free agent Peyton Manning to a 5 year deal to quarterback the team.  And the response was predictable.  “Whoa, this makes denver the favorites (to win the division)!  And this virtually makes them a lock (for the playoffs!)”

So let me respond in my best voice possible: people?  Please!  May I remind you the denver broncos haven’t won the damned division yet?  They haven’t even won a game!  There’s still (at least) 960 minutes of legitimate football to be played, (at least) 120 of which are against Your Kansas City (cue arrowhead crowd voice) CHIEFS!  The last time I checked, denver wasn’t all that good.  Had either of Succup’s blocked field goals against oakland been good, the Chiefs, not denver, would be your defending divisional champs.

Did you watch that team down the stretch?  No really – did you actually watch the denver broncos?  Yeah, tim tebow had a great playoff game.  He was ATROCIOUS in virtually every other start.  They lost 42-3 to Detroit … at home.  New England blew them out of the building.  They “qualified” for the playoffs by losing three straight, the last two to a Bills team that had lost 7 in a row entering the game, and a Chiefs team playing for nothing but pride.

Secondly … uum, who’s going to cover the opponents receiving threats?  champ bailey is my age.  Now, I will never have mr. bailey’s athletic skills (if I did, I sure as all hell wouldn’t be sitting here typing this post), but he’s 35!  You really think a 35 year old corner knocked in the head a couple times a year for two straight decades is capable of shutting down D Bowe, Mike Wallace, or Marques Colston (all of whom face denver this upcoming season)? 

Or even darrius heyward-bey for that matter, who Brandon Carr* couldn’t come within 10 feet of covering in the defeat that handed the division to oakland?

(*: the number one reason Carr is now a Cowboy, in my (rarely) humble opinion, is that bomb to open overtime.  Pioli can't get it out of his head.  In his defense?  I can't either.)

Furthermore, set aside the whole fact that it’s Peyton Manning, a Hall of Fame quarterback no doubt … and realize that rarely, if ever, does signing the best player on the market (or at least the biggest name on the market) equate to on-field results!

Sometimes, it goes perfectly according to plan, albeit with a hiccup or three along the way.  Brett Hull’s first season with the Dallas Stars saw the Stars finally break through against the Big Two of Detroit and Colorado, and win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup.  (The Stars made it back to the Finals in 2000 as well, before losing to the Devils).  Certainly Deion Sanders came through – twice, in 1994 with the 49ers, and the following season with the Cowboys.  Add in a supporting role Ray Bourque on the Avalanche in 2001, who definitely got the Avs over the pain of losing the prior two Western Finals to Dallas.

And perhaps the most direct “yup, he FLAT OUT won us a championship” acquisition of a lifetime, Jack Morris with the Twins in 1991.

Sometimes, it eventually goes according to plan, and the superstar you imported eventually has a huge role in winning a championship.  The Rangers in Mark Messier’s second season.  The Packers in Reggie White’s fourth season.  Drew Brees in season four in New Orleans.

Sometimes, that veteran acquisition gets you JUST short of your goal.  Chiefs fans know this, via (pick one) Joe Montana or Marcus Allen in 1993.  Kurt Warner in the desert in 2008.  Barry Bonds in San Francisco, “Dick” Gannon in oakland, Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre on the (when the roof is down) frozen astroturf of the Metrodome.  I don’t pretend to speak for broncos fans, because they’re as useless to me as the toe jam in my socks*.  But I’m guessing, an AFC Title Game loss this year, next at the most, sounds pretty good right now.

(*: there is one family of broncos fans I have no issues with, and welcome with open arms to any tailgate(s) that might involve their team.  You know who you are.  Also, I’d beat to a bloody pulp any idiot fan who tried to get physical with you, versus keeping it a healthy verbal spar.  And also, I’d happily trade the toe jam in my sock for just ONE SHOT at bringing Lamar’s Trophy home again in my life.  Hell, I might trade ten years off my life for that one shot.  (chuck wollery voice) Win, lose, or draw – I’d be thrilled with just ONE more shot at it.  denver fan in my Nielsen demographic, you have NO idea how lucky you are.  SIX AFC Title games since 1986*****.  Nearly all of them memorable.  And oh yeah, two Lombardi Trophies.  Again, I’d give up quite a bit to have one shot at it, let alone six.)

(*****: brain fart!  "The Drive" at Cleveland in 86, "The Fumble" in denver in 87, "The Rematch" with the Browns (3rd time in 4 years) in 1989, the "Gary Kubiak start" in Buffalo in 1991, "The Worst Day Of My Life" in 1997, the Jets pounding in 1998 ... and the one I forgot, jake "the fake" plummer's title shot in 2005.  That's, uum, seven.  Versus KC's one in Buffalo in 1993.  As I noted in the 2006 Thanksgiving Week picks column, I hate denver for a very good reason: they're usually better than the team I fork over a couple grand to every year.  Excuse me while I light myself on fire and bash my head into a glass mirror ...)

But most of the time?  This is a bad idea.  Just think back to the last few championship teams in sports.  Did trading for Randy Moss put the 2007 Patriots over the top?  (Spare me the “well, the Patriots opened 18-0” bunk.  They’d have gone 19-0 if Moss doesn’t half ass Brady’s final pass in the Super Bowl defeat.)  Did Nnamde Asomough even get the Eagles into the playoffs (nope)?   Did signing Cliff Lee make last year’s Phillies rotation unbeatable (nope)?  Did signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh (and re-signing Dwayne Wade) lead to the “3 titles” LeBron predicted it would?  (Not yet, but in the interest of fairness, I wouldn’t bet again Mr. James being proven right when his contract is up five years from now).  And who can forget such visionary and brilliant quarterback signings like Scott Mitchell (Lions; led them to three playoff berths in four years, and lost all three games once he got there), Neil O’Donnell (Jets, got his coach fired less than a year later), Elvis Grbac (0-1 in his one playoff game as a Chief; 1-1 as a Raven), Drew Bledsoe (was benched by the Cowboys after seven games), or “insert a Redskins signing here”?

The point here is not to rip the broncos for doing what every team in their position would (or should) do, and that includes the Chiefs, who incredibly (and if this isn’t the strangest draft fact currently going, I have no idea what could be) haven’t used a first round pick to draft a quarterback since 1983*.  To be fair, they have traded a first round pick twice for a quarterback, and in both cases the deal worked well until January rolled around (Joe Montana, Trent Green).  And it’s a testament to Peyton Manning (or, more likely, a damnation of his competition) that the three finalists for his services all either (a) drafted their current starting QB in the last two years, or (b) gave up a first round pick in the last two years for their starting QB.

(*: two months ago, I wanted the Chiefs to throw a ridiculous, front-loaded offer at Drew Brees.  In the words of Jack Dawson on board the HMS Titanic: “when you got nothing?  You got nothing to lose!”  In light of today’s ridiculous putdown of the Saints franchise by the most out-of-control, possibly-has-lost-it commissioner this side of David Stern.  And at least Mr. Stern has a competent assistant to take the keys away.)

This might work for denver.  If you put a cap gun to my head and made me bet a brain injury on how this will play out … I’d be on Manning having some success in denver, but failing to reach the Super Bowl.

To those in a state of panic over the developments of the last 36 hours?  People?  Please!  The denver broncos haven’t won the damned division yet!  They’ve gotta get through us (and the raiders, and the Chargers, and have fun with that first place schedule guys, I know we’ll enjoy having Buffalo instead of Miami, and Indy instead of Houston, because please, ask us Chiefs fans what having the Patriots on the schedule (as opposed to the Jets, or the Steelers as opposed to the Bengals, means to your final outcome. )

Yes, signing Peyton Manning makes the denver broncos a better football team.  But Peyton Manning is not the difference between denver raising their third Lombardi Trophy or not*.  I have my doubts he’s even the difference between them going .500 again, or taking a step forward and winning the division outright.

(*: I actually ask this in a serious tone, because I have no clue what the answer is: is patrick j bowlen capable of delivering another “this one’s for john!” exclamation of vomit-inducing glee at this point?  I hope he is.  I may hate him and his team with a passion, but no one deserves to go through what pat is dealing with.  (the lovely kellie voice) so he’s in your prayers?  (stevo response voice) hell no he’s not.)

Only five times in the last decade has a team reached a Super Bowl with someone whose rookie rights they didn’t acquire on Draft Day.  Brad Johnson and Rich Gannon in 2002.  Jake Delhomme in 2003.  Kurt Warner in 2008 (who’d not only been there twice before … uuh, how to put this delicately … his team went 9-6-1.  Even Matt Cassel has managed better than that in terms of record – TWICE! – at the Pro level.)  And Drew Brees in 2009. 

While that doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs … it also lumps the broncos in that unevienable position with us.  I just wish anyone other than horsie face himself was calling the shots out there.  john elway may be a lot of things, but he’s not stupid.  If he’s investing $100 million in manning, I’m concerned.

But he hasn’t won the damned division yet … and the polls are still open in California for another 90 minutes ...

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