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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday Night Meltdown, NFL Integrity Issues (9.25.12)

How many times this past weekend did you hear, "After review, the previous ruling on the field has been reversed"? This phrase acted like a broken record all weekend.

At one point, my television market showed challenges taking place during both the FOX and CBS broadcasts. With challenges taking place all over the league, I'm sure other markets dealt with the same delays.

In a rather comical manner, the Saints-Chiefs game featured five reversed calls. Yes, five. With the phrase constantly repeating itself, I began to wonder if NFL coaches deserve more challenge opportunities.

With replacement officials making so many mistakes, how will coaches know which blatant mistakes to challenge?

I guess one referee found a way to circumvent that problem.

The 49ers-Vikings game took an interesting turn when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh duped the replacement refs into awarding him two challenges in a span of six plays despite lacking a necessary timeout in order to be able to challenge either play.

Both games served as a microcosm of the incompetency of the replacement referees. Incorrect rulings, procedures, and interpretations plagued the games and delayed the action.

Overall, the refs were once again atrocious.

And that was just on Sunday.

Fast forward to "Monday Night Football," the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks matchup. For the second week in a row, the primetime matchup featured some serious controversy regarding the replacement referees.

Let's just skip past the numerous incorrect calls throughout the game and focus on the final play.

You know what play I'm talking about.

Just in case, I'll give you the rundown.

The final play featured a Hail Mary pass. Trailing 12-7 with eight seconds remaining in the game, Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, took the snap, scrambled, bought some time, and heaved the ball about 40 yards toward the end zone. As the ball flew to the left corner of the end zone, five Packers defenders surrounded one Seahawks receiver.

Then the madness began.

As the ball began to descend, that one Seahawks receiver, Golden Tate, got away with a blatant push on the back of a Packers defender that could have easily been ruled an offensive pass interference. The push went unnoticed by the officials.

Maybe the no-call on this sequence was actually the right call, but a no-call still implies that something, by rule, should have been called. On Tuesday, the NFL officially released this statement, "While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay." So there's the first mistake, a missed call that would have awarded Green Bay the victory.

Following the push, M.D. Jennings, the safety for the Packers, appeared to come down with the ball for an interception. Jennings caught the ball at the highest point with two hands, thus establishing the fact that he gained possession of the ball first. As Jennings fell to the ground, Tate was able to wrap one arm around Jennings in an attempt to gain possession of the ball. With the ball pinned to his chest, Jennings clearly gained possession prior to Tate's attempt to snag the ball.

Prior is the key word. Simultaneous possession awards the tie to the offense. However, simultaneous possession only comes into play at the initial point of reception. If a player establishes possession first, simultaneous possession no longer determines who caught the ball. Here is the official NFL rulebook on the matter, "It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control."

Throughout the catching process, Jennings possessed two hands on the ball. After grabbing the ball with two hands, Jennings pulled the ball into his chest. After finally reaching the ground with one foot, Jennings held possession of the ball with two hands. On the other hand, Tate initially held just one hand, his left, on the ball. As Jennings came to the ground with two hands on the ball, Tate's right hand gripped Jennings' right forearm. After clutching Jennings for a while, Tate's right hand flailed and he readjusted by wrapping his right arm around Jennings arms. Tate never held two hands on the ball until each player fell onto the ground and rolled.

After a couple seconds of hesitation, two officials ran in to make the call. Both officials looked down at the rolling players, then into the eyes of his fellow official, and then each gave the call simultaneously. One waved his arms in an action that resembles a touchback, indicating an interception and change of possession, thus ensuring the Packers a victory. However, this back judge was overruled by the side judge who threw each arm up in the air to rule the play a touchdown, thus awarding a victory to the Seahawks. By ruling the play a touchdown, the side judge deemed the play a matter of simultaneous possession. This ruling marks the second mistake by the officials, and it is ultimately the reason for the Packers' defeat.

With indecision and a lack of clarity surrounding the play, the officials made their third mistake by not organizing a crew conference. In a play of this magnitude, the officials should have convened, traded perspectives, fully soaked in all of the information, and then allowed the head referee to adjudicate the play. Instead, Lance Easley, the side judge, jumped the gun and signaled the touchdown, thus creating a definitive ruling on the field and making it that much more difficult to later overturn the call through instant replay. By failing to follow the standard operating procedure, Easley served to highlight another substandard officiating blunder.

Prior to the breakdown between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, the NFL required 10 years of officiating experience with at least five years of experience in major-college football.

Easley's lack of experience clearly jumped to the forefront with his decision to rule the play a touchdown before convening with his fellow crew. With just just four years of officiating experience, and none above the Division III level, I'm not sure if Easley is qualified to be making that ruling.

Easley could have consulted the back judge, Derrick Rhone-Dunne. Dunne, the official that correctly ruled an interception, has nine years of experience in Division I, II, and III — it's not the required 10, but it's a lot better than just four. The head referee, Wayne Elliot, has 21 years of experience in Division II and III. Judging from the experience at hand, it seems like Easley should have conferred with his fellow crew members — big mistake.

Then there's the fourth mistake, the failed replay review. Contrary to popular belief, simultaneous possession can be reviewed — it cannot be reviewed between the goal lines, but in the end zone it is up for review. The touchdown ruling by Easley indicated his belief that the play featured a simultaneous catch. Tate clearly didn't catch the ball all to himself, so Easley must have felt that the catch was simultaneous. After assessing the replay, the officials could have overturned the call and ruled the play an interception. Instead, they stuck with the ruling on the field, a touchdown. How they failed to see Jennings catch the ball first and establish himself as the player with possession is beyond comprehension.

During the replay, the officials failed to find the "100% indisputable evidence" needed to overturn the ruling on the field. Despite possessing the ability to replay the controversial play with slow motion and several viewpoints that seemed to favor Green Bay, it was all for naught because of the need for "100% indisputable evidence."

After a weekend full of "After review, the previous ruling on the field has been reversed," the biggest review of them all came up short. I'm not even sure if the officials realized that they could in fact change the ruling to an interception. Who knows if they understand the rulebook to the extent that simultaneous possession can be reviewed when it occurs in the end zone.

In the end, there were four mistakes on just one play. Tally that up with all of the mistakes throughout the weekend and the first couple weeks of this NFL season, and it all points to a massive failure on behalf of the NFL. Why the NFL? Because the NFL is employing replacement officials. The officials are clearly unprepared to officiate the game, yet here they are deciding outcomes.

What can you say?

Well, first, how about, "Let's get some real officials back out there."

A pretty simple concept, right? Unfortunately, the NFL is the most arrogant league in professional sports due to the fact that it is a multi-billion dollar empire. Something like this isn't going to change anything regarding negotiations. If you truly believe that the real officials will have a deal in hand by this Thursday, then you are far too trusting in the NFL.

Sadly, I don't believe that this game will impact negotiations between the NFL and the NFLRA. The NFL knew something like this could happen when they allowed this labor impasse to occur, so it's not like they are blindsided by this. They surely have considered the possibility that a replacement referee could blow a call and directly impact a game. If they didn't, they are naive, and if they did, they just don't care. Either way, it's disgusting.

You could also say, "I'm going to stop watching the NFL."

While that is a noble concept, its reality is implausible. As Steve Young stated following the prior Monday Night Football matchup between the Broncos-Falcons, "Everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand." You aren't going to stop watching the NFL, and you know it. You may be disgusted, but you won't stop — and it's not your fault, we all enjoy watching professional football, and for the time being, this is professional football.

The most damaging sequence just happened to the NFL, but it won't matter. Until the owners begin to lose money, or a high profile owner is knocked out of the playoffs by a blown call — looking at you Jerry Jones — nothing is going to change.

Here we have it, an actual outcome of an NFL game decided by a dubious call made by a replacement official. One call decided a game. One incorrect call. Is the NFL going to change the record of either team involved after the fact? Nope. Is the NFL going to admit fault? Certainly not. Can the NFL do anything at all about the mistake? Yes, but they won't.

The integrity of the NFL just shattered, but it doesn't matter — to the owners at least. Even with a fan backlash, people will still watch in astounding numbers, and revenue will continue to pour into the owners' pockets.

This blown call is full of ramifications, but it hardly effects the owners.

Instead, it effects the Green Bay Packers. They are now sitting at 1-2 instead of 2-1. This loss may impact their chances to win their division or even make the playoffs. We all expect Green Bay to make the playoffs, but as it currently stands, they are sitting in third place in their division.

Conversely, now the Seattle Seahawks are 2-1 instead of 1-2. Along with seven other teams, they carry the third best record in the NFC. This game truly increases Seattle's chances of making the playoffs.

Furthermore, this blown call effects the oddsmakers.

According to reports, an estimated $250 million swung on that final call. One oddsmaker, Danny Sheridan of USA Today, had the highest estimate at over $1 billion! The Packers, three and a half point favorites, would have covered the spread with a five point victory, 12-7. Instead, the Seahawks won by two, 12-14. According to the percentage bet in Vegas, around 75% of bets were placed in favor of the Packers. That's a lot of money lost on one call. Those fortunate enough to have bet on Seattle are jumping for joy, but those who bet on the Packers must feel cheated.

Gamblers weren't the only people to experience the effect of the blown call. Fantasy football owners also felt the repercussions. According to ESPN, over 67,000 ESPN fantasy matchups were decided by that one play. That's a lot of teams experiencing a win or loss due to the Packers defense/special teams or Golden Tate. Considering Tate is owned in just 1.3% of ESPN leagues, let's just say that a lot of people experienced shattering defeat as the Packers defense missed out on a sure interception and then lost fantasy points because the Seahawks scored — the Packers D/ST is owned in 85.1% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Considering the fallout of this call, the biggest effect deals with the integrity of the NFL. NBA conspiracy theorists have been saying for years that the NBA is fixed. Questionable calls, lotteries, and outcomes have all been thrown out there. After the Tim Donaghy scandal, the NBA had to deal with a legitimate claim regarding the integrity of the NBA. Well, who's to say that these refs haven't been compromised?

We already know that the NFL hasn't done a great job with their background checks. One official was assigned to a Saints game despite the fact that he has expressed a lifelong fandom to the Saints — he even had pictures of himself in Saints' gear on his Facebook. This official wasn't pulled from the game until ESPN analyst, Chris Mortensen, notified the league. Another official worked a Seahawks game in Week 1 against the Cardinals despite officiating Seahawks' regular-season practices for the past three years — he was paid by the Seahawks for those practices, and I happen to remember a lot of questionable calls late in that game.

Who's to say that these replacement officials haven't been targeted by powerful individuals? I'm confident that these incompetent officials are just that, incompetent, but who knows for sure? Their time in the NFL is temporary, and their opportunity to make bank is now or never. There's no doubt that dubious calls have shifted many NFL games. Maybe there's a correlation.

Overall, the integrity of the NFL is under fire. Player safety and on-field play are taking a backseat to labor negotiations. Money rules all. Who's to say it doesn't rule the replacement officials? And if you don't want to believe in that angle, there's still the fact that unqualified officials are deciding the outcome of NFL games. If that isn't enough of an attack on the integrity of the NFL, then I don't know what is. These teams get sixteen chances, and Green Bay just lost one of those chances.

How many more games like this one can the NFL stand? Well, if it means not paying top dollar for real referees, I'm guessing quite a few more.

Asterisk season, anyone?

In the most damning moment of this NFL season, integrity was called upon in order to conclude the game. Unfortunately, the NFL seems to have a selective conscience regarding integrity. After Seattle and Green Bay each left the field following the officiating fiasco, both squads were called upon to come back out and finish the game — you know, since integrity demanded an extra point kick.

Obviously, the NFL needs to maintain the integrity of the game, it's just funny how they are choosing to do so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The NFL Doesn't Care that Replacement Officials are Terrible (9.18.12)

A mountain of evidence is piling in regard to the incompetency of NFL replacement officials, but don't expect the NFL and the NFL Referees Association to come up with an agreement any time soon.

After Week 1, the consensus seemed to state, "Hey, the replacements aren't so bad, they didn't screw up anything major."

Maybe the replacement officials didn't truly alter an outcome of a game in Week 1, but can you imagine a regular official crew awarding a team four timeouts in a single half?

That's what happened in the matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Trailing by four points on the final drive of the game, Seattle was able to call their fourth timeout of the second half — three is the maximum per half. With 30 seconds remaining in the game, the officials deliberated for a couple of minutes before incorrectly deciding that Seattle could in fact call their fourth timeout of the half.

Simply put, the referees did not understand that Seattle burned their third and final timeout two plays prior when Doug Baldwin, a receiver, went down with an injury. When a player is injured and cannot continue play with under two minutes remaining, a timeout must be taken or a delay of game penalty will occur — this rule is to prevent players from faking injuries in order to receive free timeouts late in games.

Failing to understand such a simple rule nearly swung the outcome of the game. Despite receiving the extra timeout, the Seahawks failed to capitalize as the Cardinals hung in tough and executed an outstanding goal line stand to win the game.

But imagine if the Cardinals had lost. Imagine if the time saved with the extra timeout had ended up allowing the Seahawks just enough time to win the game. Hell, it almost did. Three different Seahawks got their hands on the ball in the end zone, and all three dropped the ball. Disaster may have been averted, but the situation should have never even occurred.

Despite the timeout hiccup, and a couple other mistakes (the block in the back flag that was then picked up during the Green Bay/San Francisco game), Week 1 seemed to feature decent officiating from the replacement officials.

However, in Week 2, blatant mistakes popped up across the entire league.

Mike Pereira, a former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL, provides great analysis for Fox Sports due to his understanding of the NFL rulebook. In one segment, Pereira broke down some failed calls by the replacement officials, and in one of his articles, Pereira opens with this strong statement, "I'm officially over it."

Pereira isn't the only one "over it." Despite risking fines, players have also began to give their opinions of the shoddy officiating.

Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis both criticized the officials following the Baltimore Ravens loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Flacco called one offensive pass interference call "crazy," and Lewis stated, "How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? [...] I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it."

On the other side, following some confusion from the referees that led to the two-minute warning occurring twice, Michael Vick had to sit and wait as an obvious forward pass was ruled a fumble. Following the replay, the call was overturned, but that didn't stop Vick from commenting, "It's extra stress when you have to sit there and wait. The one thing you don't want to do, you don't want to put the game in the officials' hands."

The worst call of Week 2 may have been a phantom pass interference call against cornerback Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor played some elite defense as he shadowed every move made by receiver Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets. Despite failing to even touch Holmes, Taylor was penalized. What's alarming about the penalty is the fact that Holmes was blown up on the play by the safety, Ryan Clark. Clark made an absolutely legal play on the ball, but it almost seemed like the referees felt that something needed to be called once they threw their flags on the ground, so they called pass interference. It was as if they didn't want to be embarrassed by having to pick the flag up, so they went with pass interference after they realized that the hit was clean.

Even further, player safety also came into question due to mistakes by the replacement officials. On one such instance, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith, scrambled out of the pocket and gave himself up with a feet-first slide after he reached the first down marker. As Smith went to the ground, the safety for the Detroit Lions, John Wendling, laid a forearm blow to Smith's head. The hit ended up causing Smith to suffer a cut across the upper bridge of his nose that led to a stream of blood. Everyone knows that quarterbacks are pretty much untouchable, yet this obvious personal foul went uncalled. When a quarterback slides feet-first, he is no longer considered a ball carrier, and he is not supposed to be hit, yet Wendling was able to sneak in a nice shot to Smith's head. If you think a sliding quarterback isn't vulnerable, watch this clip of Trent Green from a few years back.

Then there was Golden Tate's huge block on Sean Lee. Tate, a receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, noticed his quarterback scrambling, so he peeled off his route and laid a blindside hit on the pursuing linebacker of the Dallas Cowboys. Tate decleated Lee with the tremendous hit, and Lee sat out the rest of the game. No penalty was called on the block, and even more upsetting for Dallas fans was the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson benefited on an extremely weak personal foul call as he was touched about an inch out of bounds on that very same play. While I am not sure if the block was legal or not, I do know that I would have been more comfortable with actual referees assessing the situation. The block was clearly a blindside hit, and I'm pretty sure that blindside hits are currently deemed illegal. Some claim that the hit was also helmet to helmet, but I don't see it. Either way, Lee could have suffered brain trauma on such a play. Let's just say that replacement officials may not be the most qualified to handle such a situation.

Overall, the officiating on Sunday for Week 2 was full of mistakes, misinterpretations, and inconsistencies, but that wouldn't be the worst of it.

On Monday Night Football, the replacement officials stood front and center in front of a national audience in the prime time slot.

The first quarter of the Denver Broncos versus Atlanta Falcons took an hour in itself. One tempo draining moment in the first quarter took over six minutes for the referees to decide. On the second to last play of the quarter, Knowshon Moreno, running back for the Broncos, fumbled the ball. Following the fumble, the referees lost control of the game. Possession was awarded to the Falcons despite the fact that a Broncos player emerged from the pile with the ball in his hands — maybe he ripped it out late, but usually possession is awarded to the team that emerges from the pile with the ball. Then, players from both teams came onto the field and began to engage in scuffles, with one referee almost getting clocked with a thrown punch intended for a player. In a hilarious moment, the head official came out and stated, "Personal foul, number 93, red." Is this a high school game or what? Red? I guess Atlanta was too difficult to say. Six minutes after the fumble, the game resumed — there was no official replay, so the delay is hard to explain (it took over three minutes to resume play after the head official called the personal foul on "red").

At one point early in the second quarter, play-by-play man Mike Tirico stated, "Honestly. It's embarrassing. The command and control of this game is gone." Jon Gruden chirped in later in the second quarter with this statement, "I think these pass interference calls need to jump off the screen at you. Let's see Carter, number 32, working against Julio Jones. I don't see that anywhere. I just don't understand how they can call pass interference on Carter."

With over 16 penalties called in the first half, time dragged on as it took over two hours for the first half to conclude. The officials considerably lightened up in the second half, as just five penalties were called, and the half finished within 90 minutes.

Despite the increased pace in the second half, the referees would once again muck up the game early in the third quarter. After a defensive holding call on Denver's cornerback, Champ Bailey, the referees failed to tack on five yards following a scramble from quarterback Matt Ryan. Pushing Denver into the ropes with a no-huddle attack, Ryan lined up his offense to take the snap for the next play. As the ball was about to be snapped, the referees ran in and stopped play. Three minutes after the initial holding penalty, play resumed. During the delay, Gruden stated, "Matt Ryan, he's not happy with this slow down by the officials [...] this administration is more than just where the ball is just spotted, it's ruining the momentum of the game and it's affecting the outcome, I believe. It might not look like it right now, but this is really to Denver's advantage, so they can get their breath." Despite the delay, Ryan and the Falcons punched in a touchdown with a throw to Roddy White two plays later.

After numerous delays, deliberations, phantom calls, misinterpretations, incorrect calls, and a general lack of authority, Monday Night Football clearly exhibited the ineptitude of the replacement officials on a grand stage — at one point they gave Denver five free yards with an incorrect spot of the ball. No one is blaming them for their effort, and it's not their fault that the NFL is unwilling to negotiate with the NFL Referees Association. But, clearly, these replacement officials are not getting the job done at an acceptable level. The integrity of the NFL is truly questionable right now. These replacement officials are Division II and III guys, they aren't even the top dogs from college football. How can the NFL allow such unqualified officials to call these games?

In fact, one replacement official had pictures of himself in Saints gear on his Facebook, yet he was scheduled to work Week 2's Saints vs Panthers game. It wasn't until ESPN reporter, Chris Mortensen, reported the official to the NFL that the official was pulled from the game. I guess background checks aren't standard procedure when it comes to NFL officiating.

To come full circle, let me explain my opening statement — scroll up and look at it again. Actually, I'll let a Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young, explain it. 

Following the Monday Night Football debacle, Young blasted the NFL with this statement, "Everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There is nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So the bottom line is, they don't care. Player safety doesn't matter in this case. Bring in Division III officials, it doesn't matter. Because in the end, you're still gonna watch the game, we're gonna all complain and moan and gripe [...] doesn't matter." Young continued, "If it affected the desire of the game, they'd come up with a few million dollars."

Young is one of the brightest individuals in football, and his analysis is spot on. Supply and demand dictates this topic, and as long as people continue to tune in, the NFL will still make billions. Is anyone turning the game off due to the shoddy officiating? The cold truth is no. We're all watching. We're all talking about it. In fact, the officiating may be generating even more revenue due to increased interest.

In a subtle jab at the officials Young started his criticism with this statement, "I can say this because the league officials have gone to sleep." After poking at the longevity of the game, Young then swung for the knockout, and I'm glad he did. It's great to hear someone of Young's stature in the NFL call out the league for hypocrisy.

Remember how much Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, supposedly cared about player safety throughout these past couple years?

Remember all the rule changes regarding hits to the head, concussions, kick returns, etc?

Well those things don't matter anymore because the most qualified personnel to enforce those new safety measures aren't employed by Goodell anymore. It all comes down to money. Goodell didn't care about concussions until he realized that lawsuits were coming due to CTE (pushed to the forefront by player suicides). Prior to 2007, the NFL officially claimed that there were no links between concussions and cognitive decline. Now he's showing his true colors by employing scabs. Yes, scabs. NFL referees probably don't deserve pensions for working part-time, but hey, supply and demand. They are the best at what they do, and they are scarce, thus making them valuable. Goodell views the officials as commodities rather than necessities, and it comes at the expense of his players, his league, and the fans of his sport.

We're all dupes, but hey, I like football and so do you. The only way the officials will be back anytime soon is if massive viewership dips, causing a decline in revenue from licensing and ads, or if the officials cave in. The former is nearly impossible, and the latter is a stubborn process that is going to take time.

So get used to it, the replacement officials are terrible and there's nothing that can be done about it. Unless an all out brawl takes place on the field, these officials are here to stay.

Maybe someone needs to sign Ron Artest in order to end this mess.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Madden Friendly Wagers (9.12.12)

It's been about two weeks since Madden NFL 13 hit store shelves, and by now, if you are a regular Madden gamer, I'm sure you have a copy.

In fact, Madden NFL 13 set all sorts of records for HD consoles as it sold 1.65 million units within its first week, and 900,000 copies on the first day of its release.

Madden has had such an impact fiscally, that the stock for EA jumped up 3.6%. Even further, some analysts expect EA's Microsoft console revenue to increase by 9% compared to last year, a figure that may be modest considering Madden's huge opening numbers.

With sales going through the roof, online play has also increased significantly. EA has reported a 31% increase in the number of online games played in the first week of the release date when compared to last year — over 24 million online contests.

With online play booming, Madden offers gamers all over the world a chance to face off against each other in a battle of football simulation glory.

One such battle caught my attention, and it was so entertaining, I figured I'd post about it.

Mike Lockyer, a host for the YouTube channel "NOC'd UP" faced off against T.J. Ward, the starting strong safety for the Cleveland Browns. Each had an advanced copy of Madden. With the use of Skype, they were able to battle online while also engaging in some friendly banter.

The two made some friendly wagers for specific situations, and these wagers added a humorous realm to the world of Madden. The ability to see each other's reactions was classic, and I think this may be the future of online gaming. Imagine playing a friendly game with a buddy of yours and having some great side bets, like first guy to throw a pick or fumble the ball has to shotgun a beer — the way I've been spanking some of my buddies, I'd have them hammered by halftime.

If you've ever played Madden online with a headset, you know how awesome it is when you make a huge play and your opponent lets out a huge groan of frustration. Imagine being able to see the pain in your opponent's face as you pick six him — it has to be awesome.

Anyways, let me rundown some of the highlights of the match between Lockyer and Ward.

To start the match, Lockyer brimmed with confidence. In his promo for the matchup he stated, "You see, I like to see the face of my opponent as I rain touchdowns on them." Right off the bat, I knew Lockyer was going to get smashed.

After discussing some of the improvements of the game, and stating that he had engaged in some matches with Joe Haden and Phil Taylor (members of the Browns), Ward scored early in the game with a 60-yard rushing touchdown by Trent Richardson. In a single back, two wideout, two tight end set, Ward hit a hole on the right and took it the distance without being touched. Lockyer immediately stated, "Oh that's so horrible," as he put two hands on his head in obvious frustration, leading Ward to let out a hearty laugh. For giving up the first touchdown, Lockyer had to do 25 pushups — he knocked them out like a champ.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lockyer asked Ward to give his best impression of the "It's in the game!" guy — Ward gave a decent impression, but Lockyer nailed it spot on, so much so that I think the "EA Sports, it's in the game!" guy may have to worry about his job.

On Lockyer's first play from scrimmage, he let out a telling tale about his Madden capabilities by stating, "Oh your defense is moving, I'm so terrified, I don't even want to hike the ball." Well, as it turns out, Lockyer did hike the ball, and Matt Forte fumbled it on a run up the right side of the line. Since he fumbled, Lockyer then had to give himself a wet willy — somewhere Delonte West is smiling. Ward capitalized on the turnover by converting a one yard touchdown rush with Richardson.

On the ensuing possession, Ward revealed an interesting insight, stating, "Hey, I think they got some of our real defenses on here." After a 10-yard run by Forte up the left side, Lockyer let out a classic Madden celebration, stating, "Uhh! Forte's a beast!" along with a fist pump for good measure. Ward calmly let Lockyer gloat, and two plays later he picked him off. In a true Madden moment of agony, Lockyer actually knew that his decision to force the ball over the middle was a horrible idea, and he let out a "Oh God, bad idea" as Cutler was winding up to throw the ball.

Since he threw an interception, Lockyer had to sing "Call Me Maybe." Lockyer seemed to know the words, and he even unleashed a little dance to go with it, causing Ward to laugh but then state, "Alright, alright, that's enough."

A few plays later, Lockyer got to gloat as he picked off a Weeden throw over the middle. Lockyer told Ward, "You better look up the lyrics to 'Call Me Maybe,'" and Ward noticeably pulled out his iPhone and gave his rendition — hilarious.

Then Lockyer capitalized on a "Why I hate Madden" moment (strong language warning). As a defensive lineman chased Cutler, Lockyer rolled out left, faced his own end zone, performed a 180 spin, threw off his back foot across his body, and hit Brandon Marshall on a post pattern for a touchdown on the right side of the field in double coverage to make the score 14-7 — Ward was upset to say the least.

On the following possession, Lockyer experienced the pain that every Madden gamer has experienced at least once — a defensive back dropped a sure pick six in the flats. Filled with excitement as the ball traveled in the air, Lockyer soon experienced agony as he stated, "That would have been it! Oh that could have tied it!" Ward capitalized on the dropped pick in true Madden fashion by unleashing a bomb to Josh Cribbs in the final 35 seconds of the half for a 60-yard gain that setup a Greg Little touchdown, making the score 21-7. In a sarcastic manner, Lockyer stated, "I'm actually letting you get ahead, cuz I like the uh, thrill of a comeback" — a line every Madden gamer has stated at least once.

Lockyer's frustration began to mount in the third quarter. Following two off target passes by Cutler, Lockyer let out, "Jay Cutler, you piece of s***" — I'm sure Bears' fans have repeated that line thousands of times (although Cutler looked pretty awesome in Week 1). Because he cursed, Lockyer had to keep a bar of soap in his mouth during the next play. With soap up in his grill, Lockyer converted a huge fourth down, much to his delight, and he released with a thunderous "Whooo!"

Later in the drive, Lockyer revealed a sentiment known by every Madden gamer, stating, "I don't know how quarterbacks do it man, I'm stressed out and I'm playing a video game." It's true, think about the stress a single game of Madden can cause. We all know that it's just a video game, yet sometimes it can really put a person on edge. I can attest to being in pretty crappy moods after suffering a heartbreaking defeat, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

After stalling on his drive at the 23-yard line, Lockyer decided to fake a field goal. Instead of hitting the open man that would have guaranteed a first down, Lockyer got greedy and threw the deep out route. His receiver caught the ball at the one, but he had one foot out of bounds on the sideline, making the pass an incomplete. Lockyer let out a hilarious diatribe, "Why is that always happening? Why is he not throwing the ball like a champion!" Lockyer, in his fury, didn't realize that Cutler wasn't actually the quarterback, instead the second string quarterback made the play since he was the holder on the field goal attempt.

In the fourth quarter, neither player scored, and Lockyer lamented in the final minute, "I'm very defeated, I feel very sad, [...] I'm gonna work on it though, your bye week comes, I want a rematch." With 37 seconds left, Lockyer tossed one last heave to the end zone. Ward picked it off, causing Lockyer to claim, "I got greedy, I got frustrated, I'm very angry." Lockyer then let out a huge grunt of frustration, much to the delight of Ward who busted up laughing.

Since he lost by two touchdowns, 21-7, Lockyer had to dance the "Macarena" with his shirt off. Lockyer hummed the melody and performed the dance as Ward laughed with amusement.

Overall, the match was quite entertaining. There were highs, there were lows, there was humor, there was dourness, there were big plays, small plays, frustrations and exclamations. In the end, Skype and Madden seem like a perfect fit. I think it's time for me to call up one of my buddies.

Furthermore, if you are ever getting beat down by NOfXonME on Xbox LIVE, it's me on the other end. Maybe we can engage in some friendly wagers.

Also, Lockyer, you need some practice my man, and Ward, what do I have to do to get a match with you online? Somebody make this happen, please. I would so be Paul Rudd esque; no way there would be Marshall Faulk on the other end talking smack.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Peyton Manning Solidifies the Denver Broncos as Contenders (9.10.12)

It may have been just one game, but that's more than enough for me to completely buy in on the Peyton Manning era in Denver.

I have been a Broncos fan since I was seven years old. When Mark Brunell and the Jacksonville Jaguars upset my favorite team in the '96 playoffs, I felt my first taste of bitter defeat and failed expectations.

Fortunately, my heartbreak soon turned into massive gloating as the new look Broncos unveiled new uniforms and John Elway and Terrell Davis dominated the league in '97 and '98 for consecutive Super Bowl victories.

However, the party would immediately shut down as if it was 12:00 in Isla Vista and the cops were banging on the door. Elway retired and Davis tore his ACL and MCL while trying to make a tackle following a horrible read that led Brian Griese to throw an interception. Just like that, the glory days vanished.

Following the stellar Hall of Fame career of Elway, the Broncos would feature a carousel at the quarterback position in an attempt to find their next franchise quarterback. Manning marks the sixth quarterback to be "The Guy" for Denver since '99.

Despite finishing 6-10 in his first year as a starter, Griese would turn things around in year two by leading the Broncos to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Griese's efforts earned him his first and only Pro Bowl selection. The Broncos lost to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens, but the future looked bright for the Griese era. After a stellar '00 campaign that featured 19 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions, Griese fell off significantly. In '01, Griese tossed 23 touchdowns compared to 19 interceptions, and the Broncos finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In '02, Griese regressed even further, tossing just 15 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions as the Broncos finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs once again.

Tired of watching Griese regress from such a promising start, the Broncos released him and signed Jake "The Snake" Plummer. Unfortunately, Plummer would miss five games throughout the season, but he was clearly a gamer — the Broncos went 9-2 during his 11 starts. The Broncos finished the '03 season 10-6, but they lost in the Wild Card Playoffs to Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The following season, Plummer led the Broncos to a 10-6 record, but once again Manning and the Colts would knock the Broncos out in the Wild Card Playoffs.

Plummer responded in '05 with his greatest season ever. Plummer tossed 18 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions as he garnered his first and only Pro Bowl selection. The Broncos finished the season 13-3 and they took down the '04 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the Divisional Playoffs. However, in the AFC Conference Championship Game, Plummer struggled, tossing two picks, and the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers won 34-17.

In the '06 season, Plummer struggled mightily and was benched in favor of rookie Jay Cutler. After 11 games, Plummer had thrown 11 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. However, the Broncos were 7-4 at this point. After consecutive losses to divisional opponents, the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, coach Mike Shanahan made the controversial decision to bench Plummer in favor of Cutler. Cutler lost his first two starts, then won two, and then lost a must win game against the San Francisco 49ers in a heartbreaking 26-23 overtime defeat. The Broncos finished the season 9-7 and lost out on a tiebreaker with the Chiefs for the Wild Card spot.

Following the season, Plummer was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instead of suiting up for the Bucs, Plummer decided to retire. Coach Jon Gruden tried to convince Plummer to come out of retirement and start for the Bucs since he was still under contract, but Plummer declined. Despite Plummer's poor play, I will always blame Shanahan for throwing away that '06 season.

Shanahan may have loved Cutler's arm strength and potential, but '07 would not turn out well. Cutler finished the season with decent numbers as he threw 20 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions, but the Broncos finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a consecutive season. The season never offered even a glimpse of the playoffs, and it was disheartening to consider that just two seasons prior the Broncos were a game away from the Super Bowl.

In '08, Cutler turned in a Pro Bowl season with a whopping 4,526 passing yards, and 25 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions. However, the Broncos lost their final three games of the season to slip to 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The Broncos needed just one win in those three games in order to secure a playoff berth, but they suffered an embarrassing choke job that culminated in a pathetic 52-25 thrashing by the San Diego Chargers during the final game of the season — San Diego won the tie breaker and made the playoffs with an 8-8 record despite sitting at 4-8 after Week 13.

Ten years removed from his Super Bowl XXXIII victory in the '98 season, Shanahan was fired after dismal seasons and questionable decisions. Josh McDaniels, a member of the New England Patriot's coaching staff since '01, was hired as the new head coach. McDaniels immediately made his presence felt as he tried to trade Cutler for his young quarterback from New England, Matt Cassel. The alleged trade blew up in McDaniels' face, and Cutler soon demanded a trade after feeling backstabbed and sense of mistrust. The vast potential of Cutler, the 11th pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, was traded for the middling Kyle Orton, two first round picks, and a third round pick.

With Kyle Orton at the helm in the '09 season, the Broncos started 6-0 and McDaniels looked like a genius. The defense played lights out, allowing just 66 total points in those first six games. However, the team would soon suffer a humiliating fall. The Broncos lost their next four games, then won two in a row, and then closed the season with four consecutive losses. The Broncos finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs again.

However, that may not have been the case if McDaniels hadn't pulled a Shannahan and threw away the season. Facing the Chiefs in the final game of the season, the Broncos were still in the hunt for a potential playoff berth. In an effort to prove a point, McDaniels benched his Pro Bowl receiver, Brandon Marshall, for the entire game after Marhsall failed to show up to a physical therapy session on time. 101 receptions, 1,120 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns were left on the bench as the Chiefs stomped Denver with a 44-24 victory.

Orton finished the season with strong numbers, 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions, but the team fell off a cliff as they won just two of their final 10 games.

Following the season, the riff between McDaniels and Marhsall proved too much, and Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins for two second round picks. Just like that, the future was given away. The dynamic duo of Cutler and Marshall was destroyed solely by McDaniels.

In '10, the Broncos were atrocious. After starting 3-10 with Orton at the helm, Tim Tebow was handed the starting quarterback position for the final three games. Tebow, the 25th pick in the first round by McDaniels, was considered by many to be a reach — many analysts felt Tebow could have been selected much later, and no earlier than the third round.

Before Tebow could take the field, his head coach was fired. After a 10-6 loss to the Chiefs in Week 13, McDaniels was fired, ending his coaching tenure with an 11-17 record for the Broncos — with a 5-17 record after an impressive 6-0 start. Interim head coach Eric Studesville stepped in for the final four games.

After Orton completed less than 50% of his passes and tossed three interceptions in a humiliating 43-13 beat down by the Arizona Cardinals, Studesville turned to the rookie, Tebow, for the final three games. Although Orton was solid with 3,653 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, he just couldn't lead the team to victory.

Tebow finished with a 1-2 record, but he showed glimpses of his considerable potential as a playmaker, especially after turning a 26-7 deficit against the Chargers in the final game of the season into a one possession game at 33-28. The Broncos recovered an onside kick with 23 seconds remaining in the game, but Tebow couldn't complete a hail mary for the win. With the loss, the Broncos finished the season 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Heading into the '11 season, the Broncos hired John Fox to be their new head coach. Orton didn't do Fox any favors as he led the team to a 1-4 record to start the season. With just eight touchdowns compared to seven interceptions in the first five games of the season, the chants for Tebow became deafening. Fox finally submitted by giving Tebow a chance against the Chargers in the second half of Week 5. Facing a 23-10 deficit at the half, Tebow nearly led a furious comeback, but his final pass fell incomplete in the end zone and the Broncos lost 29-24. Despite the loss, Tebow-mania commenced.

Tebow led Denver to victories in seven of the next eight games, including three overtime victories. Tebow may have looked like garbage for the first three quarters of those seven victories, but in the fourth quarter he turned into an unstoppable playmaker.

In his first start of the season against the Miami Dolphins, Tebow rallied the Broncos from a 15-0 deficit with just three minutes remaining in the game to force overtime and eventually win with a game ending field goal. The outcome marked the first time in NFL history that a team won after trailing by 15 or more points with three minutes or less remaining in a game. With six come from behind fourth quarter or overtime victories in just 11 career starts, Tebow became a national phenomenon.

The phenomenon skidded with three consecutive losses to end the season, but the Broncos squeaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record by winning a tie breaker with the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West title  — garnering home field advantage in the process due to the division title.

In his first career playoff game, Tebow, turned in one of the most memorable performances in NFL history. Facing the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense in the Wild Card Playoffs, Tebow lit up Pittsburgh for 316 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 50 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and a memorable walk-off 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime for the victory. Tebow's clutch performance cemented his ties to Christ as he finished with 316 passing yards, 31.6 yards per completion, and the Nielson ratings for the game peaked at 31.6 — "John 3:16" was the top search item on Google the following morning, followed by "Tebow," and "Tim Tebow."

The following week, the Patriots destroyed the Broncos 45-10 in the Divisional Playoffs en route to the Super Bowl, but the Tebow era seemed vast and full of potential.

Although Fox and Elway, the Executive Vice President of Football Operations, seemed to cringe with every win Tebow accumulated, I figured they would be excited about the considerable upside of Tebow. Tebow finished the regular season with a 7-4 record, while amassing 1,729 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions, 660 rushing yards, and six rushing touchdowns.

Fox and Elway were mortified by Tebow's 46.5% completion percentage, but honestly, how much worse could he be? Seriously, the only way for Tebow to go was up. Following the playoffs, Elway confirmed that Tebow would be the starting quarterback going into training camp in 2012. The man couldn't even confirm that Tebow would be the starter heading into the season. Seriously Elway? Another chance for Orton? Come on!

From the beginning, I believed that Fox and Elway wanted Tebow to fail. They heard the chants for Tebow, and they finally figured, "Ok, let's give the fans what they want, he'll fail, and we can resume our plan." Then Tebow ran off a miraculous season, and Fox and Elway had to sit there and act like they supported him.

By no means do I believe that Tebow is a great quarterback, but I do believe that he is a winning quarterback. Take a look Michael Vick's numbers early in his career, there is a strong resemblance. Vick had dismal accuracy, but he made up for it with plays on the ground, and he won ball games — notoriously becoming the first opposing quarterback to hand the Green Bay Packers a loss at home in the playoffs in the '02 season. Tebow is not as agile as Vick, but he does the same things — moves the chains with clutch plays either on the ground or through the air. I don't recall anyone bashing Vick like the national media blasted Tebow for his deficiencies.

Then, crazy happened. Peyton Manning was released by the Colts on March 7, 2012. With Manning out of the lineup for the entire year due to an injury to his neck that required multiple surgeries, including a serious cervical fusion procedure, the Colts struggled mightily and finished 2-14. Due to such struggles, the Colts ended up garnering the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. With Andrew Luck considered to be the next Manning, the Colts decided to release Manning due to their intentions to draft Luck.

After workouts for a couple of teams, Manning decided that Denver was the place for him. Elway sold Manning on the idea of winning a Super Bowl as a veteran quarterback with something to prove — a role Elway held in '97 and '98 after going 0-3 in his first cracks at a Super Bowl. Elway rode off into the sunset as a champion, and he served as proof that Manning could do the same thing. Manning signed with the Broncos on March 20, 2012, for $96 million over five years.

The next day, Tebow, along with a seventh round pick, was traded to the New York Jets for a fourth and sixth round pick.

Just like that, my expectations for the Broncos, as well as all of Denver's, went from dreaming about the future and Tebow's development to a Super Bowl or bust mentality. It's pretty jarring when you truly contemplate it. We had a young player that could do things like Mike Vick, someone that carried considerable risk but also carried significant potential. Instead, we jettisoned the future ten years for the present — a three year window at best.

Despite my affinity for Tebow, I cannot argue with the signing of Manning. However, I can point out that Manning would have been a great mentor for Tebow. There was no need to trade him — it's not like he's starting or anything, and he decided to spurn Jacksonville despite a guaranteed role as the starting quarterback. And it's not like anyone is going to chant for Tebow over Manning — Manning isn't god-awful like Orton. Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for years and learned from one of the best, why couldn't Tebow learn from Manning for the next three years? Do we really believe Manning is going to fulfill that five year deal? I don't, and even if he does, by then Tebow would definitely be a developed quarterback both physically and mentally.

Whatever the case, Tebow is gone, and now it's time for Manning. And boy oh boy did Manning look great against the Steelers in his first game as the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Manning completed 19-26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, earning an impressive 129.2 quarterback rating. The guy hadn't played an official NFL game in 19 months, yet he stepped in like he never missed a beat.

After stalling on the opening three drives of the game, coach Fox and the offensive coordinator allowed Manning to do what he does best and run the no-huddle offense. Manning led scoring drives on four of the next six series while operating out of the no-huddle — the only times Denver didn't score occurred when Manning took a knee at the end of the first half and a knee at the end of the game. So essentially, Manning led Denver to three straight touchdowns and a field goal.

Manning absolutely torched the Steelers with his mind. On Denver's first touchdown, Manning audibled to a draw play out of the shotgun that allowed Knowshon Moreno to score a seven-yard rushing touchdown. The touchdown capped a 12 play drive that traveled 80 yards and featured the no-huddle the entire way.

In the third quarter, Manning only took two snaps, but his second snap featured an audible to a screen that led to a 71-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. Manning explained after the game that he recognized the coverage from a prior running play that the Broncos ran out of a similar formation, so Manning decided to audible to a play-action bubble screen. With the blitz coming from the right outside linebacker (left of Manning), and the play-action from the shotgun causing Troy Polamalu to also bite on the run from his coverage position, Manning sent the pass out to the left for Thomas. With Polamalu out of position, and three Broncos ahead of Thomas to set blocks, Thomas burned down the sideline for a touchdown to give Denver a 14-13 lead at the 5:29 mark. The touchdown marked Manning's first as a Bronco and the 400th of his career.

After Ben Roethlisberger capped off his own impressive drive early in the fourth quarter, Manning went to work again. Working out of the no-huddle, Manning led Denver on a 10 play drive that spanned 80 yards for another touchdown. Manning's touchdown pass featured another audible at the line. Manning looked over at his tight end, Jacob Tamme, and he moved his thumbs as if he was mimicking movements on an Xbox controller. Once the ball was snapped, Manning rolled out left and tossed a one-yard touchdown pass as Tamme ran a shallow out route. On the two-point conversion attempt, Manning went through his reads and found his fourth option, Willis McGahee, to put Denver ahead by three, 22-19 at the 9:00 mark.

Following a stalled drive by Pittsburgh, Manning led Denver on a 12 play, 51-yard drive that took 4:50 off the clock and led to a field goal, putting Denver ahead 25-19 with 2:18 left in the game.

Although Manning was upset about failing to convert a touchdown, the Denver defense put the game away. Tracy Porter, Denver's big free agent cornerback signing, stepped up to pick off Roethlisberger for a 43-yard pick six, putting Denver ahead for good, 31-19. To close the game, Roethlisberger was sacked on three of his four dropbacks, with two coming from Von Miller and one from Wesley Woodyard. Manning took two knees to close the game.

Overall, Manning was amazing. He led Denver on scoring drives of 12, 2, 10, and 12 plays. When the Steelers tried to blitz him, he burned them. Pittsburgh blitzed Manning on 14 of his 29 drop backs, good for two sacks; however, Manning threw 9-11 for 152 yards and two touchdowns in those blitzing situations. Manning controlled the pace by running the no-huddle. In doing so, the Steelers failed to generate the type of pressure they usually bring. Pittsburgh blitzed, but they weren't successful due to tired legs. Unable to perform substitutions due to Manning's no-huddle, the pressure waned throughout the game.

Manning also relegated Polamalu to deep safety coverage. Anytime Polamalu came up in the box, Manning burned the Steelers with a pass, causing Polamalu to concede and play back. Even further, when Polamalu did play back, Manning would often audible to a draw, allowing McGahee and Moreno to not have to worry about Polamalu in the box. Manning's first touchdown was a direct result of Polamalu being antsy as a safety due to his unwillingness to just sit back and roam. Polamalu likes to make plays, and he thought he would be making one when he left his coverage responsibility and bit on the play action fake in the third quarter. But Manning saw it coming a mile away, and he hit Thomas on the bubble screen for the long touchdown.

To say the least, Manning's fourth quarter comeback felt nothing like a Tebow comeback. Manning was in control the entire game, and he made the right play just about every time. Clearly, Manning is the smartest player on the field at all times, and his work as the field general against a great Steelers defense was impressive.

Although it's just one game, I am fully invested in Manning and the Super Bowl aspirations of the Denver Broncos. Over the offseason, I looked at Denver's schedule, and I worried about Denver being able to even make the playoffs — Denver has the second toughest schedule in the NFL according to last season's win percentage — however; Manning calmed my concerns in one fell swoop. With Manning under center, anything is possible — he looked like the former four time MVP and Super Bowl champion that won over 10 games in 11 out of his 13 years as a member of the Colts. If the Colts were considered contenders every year with Manning at the helm, then the Broncos must be contenders as well.

After years and years of potential at the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos (other than Orton), this time the potential is actually proven. Here's to Manning and the Broncos having a stellar season and hopefully reaching the Super Bowl. Hey, I'm not the only one who thinks it can happen, check out Peter King.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Greg Somogyi, Size Does Matter (9.6.12)

Following the 2012 NBA Draft, I wrote a piece on the greatest Gaucho baller ever, Orlando Johnson.

A fellow alumni, Johnson was a stud for UCSB on the basketball court. I enjoyed watching him display his NBA potential, and the fruition of his game was truly realized as he earned his selection as the 36th pick in the NBA Draft.

Unfortunately, Johnson always had four other teammates on the court, which wasn't a bad thing (James Nunnally was a baller), but at times it could be downright awful.

One of those teammates was Greg Somogyi.

The 7'3", 240 pound center with a 7'9" wingspan from Budapest, Hungary, averaged 12.2 minutes per game throughout his four years as a Gaucho. To say the least, those 12 minutes were often disheartening.

If the name sounds familiar, this clip is probably why. Somogyi was plastered all over SportsCenter's top plays for a rather unflattering reason during this past NBA Summer League. The clip can pretty much wrap up Somogyi's play throughout his college years — stiff, plodding, and bound to the ground.

Sadly, those descriptions become far worse once you get to the offensive end of the court. Despite being able to touch the rim without even jumping, Somogyi never dominated in the post against his fellow Mid-Major opponents.

In his four years of ball, Somogyi's career high was just 16 points, and overall he averaged 3.5 points per game. Somogyi has no offensive game whatsoever, and pretty much all he can do is dunk the ball or finish a putback. Unless he gets spoon-fed, Somogyi cannot put the ball in the hoop. Although his prospect video shows a couple clips of him hitting some jumpers, those five clips or so were pulled from nearly 1,500 minutes of play, so don't get all worked up. Despite possessing a clear advantage in the post, Somogyi failed to develop a go-to move — a simple two dribble hook shot or dropstep and finish would have worked wonders.

You are probably wondering why I am writing this mean-spirited column about my fellow alumni. Well, let me answer that for you.

After playing for the Los Angeles Lakers Summer League team and averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 7.2 minutes of Summer League play, Somogyi was signed by the Lakers on September 5, 2012, to a non-guaranteed contract.

So, pretty much, I'm a hater. My fellow alumni just signed to my favorite team. Damn. I should be proud, right? Unfortunately, I think I'm jealous.

Somogyi will essentially serve as a practice player throughout training camp, and he most likely won't make the official roster once the season opens, but hey, he can claim that he was signed to the Los Angeles Lakers — that in itself is quite an achievement.

Let's just say, the man won the lottery genetics. Pretty much anyone over 7'0" is going to draw interest from the NBA, and Somogyi is no different.

However, despite his obvious limitations, Somogyi does carry some redeeming qualities. Somogyi actually has a pretty good knack for timing his blocks. He's not Anthony Davis or anything, but Somogyi's long arms and instinctive timing are quite serviceable. In fact, Somogyi averaged a block for every eight minutes played throughout his college career (7.989 to be exact) — not bad at all, quite impressive actually. In one of his most impressive games, Somogyi posted a career high, and UCSB record, with eight blocks against Fresno St. in a narrow 64-60 victory during his sophomore campaign in '09-'10. Overall, Somogyi finished his UCSB career in second place on the all-time blocks school record with 181.

However, there is a bit of an asterisk to his defensive prowess, namely, Somogyi rarely faced anyone even remotely close to his size. The NBA will feature far greater athletes with size and speed that Somogyi has never encountered before. However, this clip may foreshadow Somogyi's NBA potential.

Overall, I'd love to see Somogyi develop into a reliable center in the NBA. He has all the tools, now he just needs to refine them. Seven footers are notorious for developing slowly, and maybe Somogyi will actually turn into something one day. Like they say, "You can't teach size" — 7'3" is 7'3", there's nothing that can change that. If you recall, D.J. Mbenga played in 49 games for the Lakers throughout the '09-'10 season, so anything is possible.

I doubt Somogyi will ever develop into a star, or even a starter, but he may carve out a niche as a reliable defensive force in the NBA. Take a look at his prospect video, there's some potential there.

So here's to you Greg Somogyi. Best of luck. I may be jealous of your NBA achievement, but I'll root for you nonetheless — especially if you are a member of the Lakers.