Archive for January, 2009

Well, it’s almost here.  Finally!  Two weeks after the Championship games we are just 27 hours or so away from the biggest game and grandest event in all of American professional sports.  This year Super Bowl XLIII features the hot young guns out of Glendale, the Arizona Cardinals, against arguably the most storied franchise in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Big Ben wants another one of these, he holds the key.

Big Ben is Key to the Steelers Hoisting an NFL Record Sixth Lombardi Trophy

Much has been made about the great Steeler defense going up against high octane Cardinal offense, but to avoid rehashing so many of the same things you can read on any sporting page, let me look at this game from a different perspective, one that also happens to be my perspective.  This game will be won or lost by one player, Ben Roethlisberger.  We’ve heard for an exhausting two weeks now about how poorly he performed in Super Bowl XL, when the Steeler Nation got their “one for the thumb” against the Seattle Seahawks.  Ben readily admits he didn’t do much to help the team win that Super Bowl and he has to realize this one key thing, in my opinion, to help them get this one: not try to be a hero.

Big Ben can’t let all the questions and hype get to him.  He has to play his game, which will allow him to throw the ball much more, and better, than he did three years ago, but he can not go onto the field with the idea of trying to be the Super Bowl MVP and “prove the world wrong” or “prove that he is capable.”  He has to go out and play his game, and if he does, limiting turnovers and being as consistent as he’s been the past few months, the Steelers will win.

Look for Polamalu, Harrison, & Co to be the difference in this one.

Polamalu, Harrison, & Company Can Prove that the Old Adage is True: Great Defense Wins Big Games

Going back to the theme of this very blog, defense wins championships, and the only way the Arizona defense will win a championship tomorrow is if it is given to them by the Steelers.  Taking nothing away from the Cardinal team that I actually like a whole lot, a 9-7 team in the regular season that just happens to get hot at the right time and catches a few breaks isn’t going to be crowned the league’s greatest team unless they catch a few more big breaks.  Being fortunate enough to be 9-7 and get a first round home game against an equally “hot and fresh” Atlanta team, and then get a 9-6-1 team at home in the NFC Championship game is absurd.  The lone impressive win this postseason was against the Carolina Panthers, in which the Cards romped to victory thanks to Jake Delhomme’s absolutely atrocious game.  If Big Ben can avoid making the same mental breakdowns, the Steelers win.

Now I’m not saying it will be a blowout, or that the Cardinals are awful and don’t deserve to be here, because they do, but good fortune is a part of the game and big part of this team’s run into the playoffs (not to mention if they were in almost any other conference other than the NFC west they probably aren’t even in the playoffs).  That said, I expect them to come out fighting, using the underdog chip on their shoulders combined with some knowledge of the Steelers team thanks to Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm, but defense wins championships.  If I was forced to I’d place my bet on the best defense the NFL has seen in 30 years and take my chances.  I like the black and gold in this one 28-17.


My apologies to Les Miles.

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This time of year always seems the same… Brett Favre debates his love for the game, ESPN covers FavreWatch closer than 15-year old girls follow the Twilight Series (yes my girlfriend is 21 and reads them— hold on while I bang my head against the wall ’til i forget what I just wrote), Pac-Man makes it rain the club (while possibly killing someone in the process), the Yanks and Red Sox fight over all the good free agents, and the Raiders look for a new head coach while deciding  what draft pick they want to waste this year.

Despite all this entertainment, my favorite part of January/February is the trade rumors that swirl right before the NBA trade deadline. While I love to watch NBA games, the General Manager in me also loves to hear who goes where for what. In the NBA, one trade can change the landscape of a season— for better or worse. If you want to see the impact that trade deadline deals can have, just look at last season. Two teams from last year’s trade deadline stand out the most: the Lakers and the Mavericks.

"YES! I Finally Got Out Of Memphis!"

"I Finally Got Out Of Memphis!"

Before the trade deadline last season, the Lakers were considered a playoff-caliber team. This was a team built around SG Kobe Bryant, SF/PF Lamar Odom, and  emerging C Andrew Bynum. With this much talent, it seemed the Lakers needed a trade as much as I need a lap dance from Rosie O’donnell. However, on February 1 I got on my computer and witnessed the steal of the year. The Lakers gave away the expiring contract of Kwame Brown, an inexperienced Javaris Crittenton, the corpse of Aaron McKie, and globe-trotter Marc Gasol (who at the time wasn’t believed to be coming to the NBA) in exchange for All-Star PF/C Pau Gasol. Translation: even self-proclaimed NBA Executive of the Year Isaiah Thomas thought it was a bad trade for Memphis. At the time the Lakers didn’t need to make a trade, but their aggressive tactics would pay off in the end. Less than a month after the deal, Andrew Bynum fell victim to a virtual season-ending injury, leaving Pau Gasol to handle the Center duties. This was move vaulted the Lakers to the NBA Finals.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Dallas. After watching the Lakers commit second-degree theft on the Grizzlies and seeing the Suns trade for Shaquille O’Neal, Dallas felt it needed a shake-up. The perceived goal was to improve the teams mental toughness, which the Mavs apparently lacked after regularly flaming out in the playoffs. Desperate to make a move, Dallas traded young PG Devin Harris, spare parts, and two first-round draft picks for perennial All-Star PG Jason Kidd. At the time, it seemed like a boom or bust trade for Dallas. Sadly, it was all bust. This trade ended worse for the Mavericks than the last guy that talked back to Chuck Norris… if such a person even existed.  Kidd couldn’t find a rhythm in Avery Johnson’s ISO offense and the Mavs graduallydroppeed from the Western Conference #1 Seed to #7. To make matters worse the pain continued into 2009, as Devin Harris emerged as a go-to scorer and Jason Kidd just kept on aging.

Knowing how influential deadline deals can be… let’s make a trade! Many teams are getting desperate as the season progresses. Because of this, I have come up with a few trade ideas that might help teams win a championship (or realize that rebuilding is on the way)

Dallas Mavericks / Miami Heat

NOTE : This is a purely hypothetical trade that will probably never happen— but keep an open mind.

As a Mavs fan, I believe they need to rebuild. Sadly, last night’s victory over the Warriors will give Mark Cuban a reason to believe in this team once again. But if I hopped into the Mavs GM seat, I would act as if Dallas was going no where anytime soon. That being said, it might be time to give the Big German a chance to win a championship elsewhere and reap some young talent in the process.

Dallas Trades – PF Dirk  Nowitzki / PG Jason Terry
Miami Trades – PF Michael Beasley / PF Shawn Marion

Jason Kidd At The 1973 Draft

Jason Kidd At The 1973 Draft

Why Dallas Makes This Trade – Dallas gets a good young player (Beasley) and a big expiring contract (Marion) for their franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki. This is a trade in which Dallas gets some young talent to build around and also an expiring contract that could be flipped later on. Young talent and financial flexibility are  essential assets to a team looking to rebuild.

Why Miami Makes This Trade – Miami goes for broke with this trade. The Heat become instant contenders by gaining one of the best players in the league (Nowitzki) and a current 20PPG scorer (Terry). These could be the perfect compliments to Miami star Dwayne Wade. Neither Nowitzki nor Terry need to have the ball in their hands to play effectively, which allows Wade to continue his dominance in Miami. It’s possible Dallas could include Jerry  Stackhouse’s expiring contract so Miami can flip him later for a good post defender.

Even after this trade, the Mavs would have a bunch of good trading chips (Marion’s expiring contract, Kidd and his expiring contract,  and young star Josh Howard) to offer playoff teams looking for a push.

Now to the real world….

Miami Heat / Toronto Raptors

This idea is based off the realistic rumor that PF/C Jermaine O’Neal could go to the Heat for PF Shawn Marion.

Miami Trades – PG Marcus Banks / PF Shawn Marion
Toronto Trades – SF Joey Graham /  PF/C Jermaine O’Neal

"I Don't Really Care Where I Play... Just Gimme The Ball And Some Money"

"I Don't Really Care Where I Play... Just Gimme The Ball / Money"

Why Miami Makes This Trade – Marion takes up time at PF and pushes high-profile rookie Michael Beasley to SF. By making this trade, Jermaine O’Neal would slide into the Heat’s talent-shallow C position allowing Beasley to start at PF. Joey Graham could start immediately at SF giving the Heat another outside shooter to spread the floor for D-Wade. Jermaine O’Neal has a large contract, but it will be up in the Free Agent Summer of 2010 (which is shaping up to be the grand-daddy of them all).

Why Toronto Make This Trade – Brian Colangelo has desperately tried to transform the Toronto Raptors into the Phoenix Suns (may they rest in peace) of the East. With this trade, they acquire a player built for scoring the ball in seven seconds or less. Shawn Marion would play his natural position as a PF in a run and gun offense while Toronto star C Chris Bosh would be the equivalent of Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire. The Raptors would also receive a decent PG to back up starter Jose Calderon. If the Shawn Marion experience doesn’t end up working, the Raptors will let him and his 18-million dollar expiring contract hit the road this summer.

New Orleans Hornets / Phoenix Suns

New Orleans Trades – SF Rasual Butler / PF David West / First-Round Draft Pick
Phoenix Trades – PF/C Amar’e Stoudemire

Imagine This As An Alley-Oop

Imagine This As An Alley-Oop

Why New Orleans Makes This Trade – The Hornets have taken a step back this year. Last year they were considered a Western Conference favorite by many experts, but now they are relegated to the middle of the pack. While the trade makes sense for both sides, the Hornets are the clear winners of talent. I have had dreams of Chris Paul running pick and rolls and throwing oops to Dwight Howard… but I guess Amar’e will do. The Hornets also start a great defensive C in Tyson Chandler, which is a must for the defensively challenged Stoudemire. This is a move that could propel the Hornets back into the elite of the Western Conference.

Why Phoenix Makes This Trade – Tension has begun to haunt the Suns again. The Suns have entered talks about trading Stoudemire as he has become unsatisfied with the new offensive system in Phoenix. Because of this unrest, the Suns are scared that Amar’e won’t re-sign with them after Summer 2010. With this trade, the Suns add a perfect compliment to Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash in PF David West. He plays the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop extremely well and also plays tough defense that head coach Terry Porter will love. To top it off the Suns receive another shooter (Butler) and a first-round draft pick to balance out the trade. This is a risky trade, but if the Suns resign to the fact they have to trade Amar’e, they won’t get much better talent than this.


Will any of this happen? Probably not. But oh well, let the games begin…


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I just read an interesting blog post by Adam Schefter, the breaking news reporter for NFL Network. He proposed the idea that the San Francisco 49ers are assembling a coaching staff built to accomodate former Madden star Michael Vick.

Mike Vick Could Be The Next Alex Smith (A No.1 Pick Whose Career Ended In SF)

Mike Vick Could Be The Next Alex Smith (A No.1 Pick Whose Career Ended In SF)

Here is what Adam had to say— (link to the site)

The 49ers are being secretive about their offensive plans, but it’s not hard to connect the dots in this case.

The 49ers are interviewing former Falcons head coach Dan Reeves today for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Reeves was Atlanta’s head coach in 2001, when the team traded for the No. 1 overall draft pick to use on QB Michael Vick.

One day earlier, the 49ers interviewed Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, who used to coach Vick in Atlanta. And San Francisco also has expressed some interest in former Falcons wide receivers coach Mike Johnson, who coached quarterbacks in Baltimore and also knows Vick well.

So, some of the candidates the 49ers have begun to focus on all have connections to Vick, who could be back in the NFL as early as this summer after being released from federal prison.

No team has a greater need for a quarterback than the 49ers, but this isn’t to say they will pursue him. But the coaches they’re pursuing now all know and have worked with Vick.

And if that’s not enough of a conspiracy theory, then consider this: On Thursday, the 49ers signed former Falcons CB Jimmy Williams, Vick’s college teammate who lives in Hampton, Va., the next town over from where Vick has a house.

Might all just be coincidence. But might not.


The Mike Vick Fan Club

The Mike Vick Fan Club

Here is my two cents on the issue. Michael Vick committed a crime. As a result, he was found guilty and served the required prison time. In the last few years there have been several NFL players involved in legal problems. Pacman Jones did god-knows-what to god-knows-who, Chris Henry was arrested more times than his age, and Matt Jones was busted for felony cocaine possession. These are serious crimes, and yet the media/public have not called for them to never play football again. Mike Vick was involved in dogfighting, which I admit is a terrible deed, but even after he has served prison time the public seems unwilling to forgive him.

Several players have been involved in criminal conduct and later embraced by fans (Michael Irvin anyone?). In all fairness, Mike Vick should be afforded the same treatment. Do I endorse what he did? No. Do I think he should have been punished? Yes. But do I believe that his crimes should end his playing career? No, absolutely not.

The Michael Vick Saga is on the horizon. Come this summer when he is out of prison and prepping for training camp… prepare for the media frenzy.


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Seriously though, who knew that the University of South Carolina played basketball? Last night South Carolina beat the fighting Billy Donovans with the best buzzer-beating shot so far this season. Take a look:

I want to know two things:

  • Was that Kevin Love throwing that outlet pass? Or maybe Brett Favre? That guy threw a Clemens-esque heater approximately forty yards downfield— and it was a strike. In case anyone missed it I tried my best to mix as many sports analogies as I could.
  • What in the world was Florida’s last defender doing? Counting ceiling tiles? Waving to his girlfriend? Hitting on the cheerleaders? I’ll tell you what he wasn’t doing… playing defense. That guy was supposed to be the safety! Yeah, the guy shooting free throws should have hit them to at least guarantee overtime, but still… I place the blame on the Gator who fell asleep at half court.

Love it or hate it, you had to enjoy watching it. That’s how buzzer-beaters should be.

I can’t wait ’til March…


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Long-time owner Bill Bidwill hoists his franchises first NFC championship trophy.

It’s official. After 110 seasons of football the Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.  A team founded in 1898 as a charter member of the NFL, the Cardinals have only won two championship games in their history, the last being in 1947, when the then Chicago Cardinals won their league championship.  Keep in mind, this is two decades before the inaugural Super Bowl, but it’s time to rewrite history.  Move over jokes with the Cards as the punch line, or historical references about how long its been since they’ve won a playoff game, much less made it to the biggest of all playoff game, the Arizona Cardinals are NFC Champions and are headed for Tampa Bay and Super Bowl XLIII.

Fitzgerald defines class both on and off the field.

Fitzgerald defines class both on and off the field.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Not if you’re Ken Whisenhunt, not if you’re Kurt Warner, and especially not if you’re Larry Fitzgerald.  Let me be the first to say that Mr. Fitz, as I like to call him, has officially landed himself in the top spot of the wide receiver echelon in my opinion.  Enough of the interviews with the verbally challenged T.O. or the other “thug-esque” receivers of the NFL.  It’s time Larry Fitzgerald becomes the poster boy of what a real man who is also an athlete looks like, acts like, talks like, and especially plays like.  His class is evident the minute he opens his mouth, not to mention the minute he steps on the field.  The verbosity with which he speaks appears as if he just stepped out of teaching a Harvard Law class, not a player who went to Pitt has been continually overlooked thanks to the likes of Reggie Wayne, Braylon Edwards and Randy Moss.  And while I’m on the topic and have the means to say what I’m thinking, he should have a Heisman Trophy on his shelf also, and I’m not just saying that because I haven’t liked Jason White since our days playing against each other in Western Oklahoma, Fitz earned it.

I could spend the whole article on Mr. Fitz, but his play this postseason speaks for itself.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the reward for their first four-game winning streak in over a decade is the best defense, statistically speaking, that the league has seen in over 20 years.  Much will be made about the familiarity that Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm have with the Steelers personnel and play calling, but I’m of the opinion that the extra week to prepare benefits the defense.  Also, if anyone remembers what the stands looked like in Super Bowl XL, the amount of Cardinal fans across the country might be the only fanbase which will show up with a smaller contingent than Seahawks, and hopefully for the boys from Arizona this won’t turn into another “home away from home” situation for their black and gold opponents.

That said, I can’t wait for this Super Bowl.  Two teams playing at the top of their games meet at the perfect time, while both are peaking.  I hope both teams come in firing on all cylinders and we have one for the ages, and I wouldn’t recommend betting anything against this bunch from Glendale.  Incidentally, the last team to make the playoff with only nine wins in the regular season, the 1979 Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XVIII.  Ironically, they lost that Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.


My apologies to Les Miles.

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It’s conference title time, and here at RTS there is nothing but disagreement as to who is Super Bowl bound. Of the four possible Super Bowl scenarios, the writers of RTS claimed three of them (hopefully guaranteeing that at least someone is right).

Without further delay, here are the predictions:












There are the quick hits. Now we will go into further detail about why each selection was made.

Howell’s Picks:

  • AFC: Hard game to pick. Both teams have the style of play that wins in the playoffs( great d, solid running game, and game manager QB’s that you hope don’t make too many mistakes). All is made of the Steelers winning both games in the regular season, but I don’t see that as much of a factor. These two teams know each other very well. It will be a hard fought game but I am going with the Steelers for two reasons. First, I didn’t like what I saw from the Ravens defense against Chris Johnson. Before he got injured, the speed back was running for BIG chunks of yardage. This looks good for “Fast” Willie Parker. Second, I am going with the team that doesn’t have a rookie QB. No rookie QB has ever won a Super Bowl. While Flacco has done a decent job managing games so far, one or two interceptions could doom the Ravens. The X factor in this game is Big Ben. If he doesn’t commit a turnover, the Steelers win big. The problem is that Big Ben has had a problem with fumbles and often holds on to the ball too long. That being said, I am still going with the Steelers. Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 7
  • NFC: Even as I put down this pick, I am weary of the Eagles. This game will be won in the trenches. If the Cards line is able to put up the complicated blitz schemes the Eagles use, then I can see Arizona winning big. With Fitzy being doubled the entire game, the running lanes should be opened up giving the Cards the ability to take it to the Eagles on the ground. I see Fitzy making two big plays, the running game doing enough, and Kurt Warner smiling again. Even in an Eagles loss, I look for McNabb to have a good game, but not enough. Arizona 28, Philadelphia 17

Scotty’s Picks:

  • AFC: This game will obviously be all about DEFENSE. As anyone knows, the previous two games were tight, one ending in overtime and the other on a late-game TD. I like the Ravens defense, led by the actual defensive player of the year Ed Reed, to shut down the sporadic Steelers offense. If Roethlisberger commits an early turnover, look for the Steelers offense to crash and burn (if not the Ravens might be in trouble). While Joe Flacco might not provide much on offense, he will provide just enough to beat the Steelers. X-Factor: Todd Heap— if he can give Joe Flacco some good underneath options the Ravens offense will be able to spread its wings. And let’s not forget— Ray Lewis wants to go to Disneyland again… Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 14
  • NFC: I’m buying a ticket on the Kurt Warner Express. The Texas Tech of the NFL is ready to air it out again against Philadelphia, the question is: which team will show up? Philly obvious tore up the Cards last time they met, but I can see Kurt Warner’s playoff experience playing a key role in a Cardinals victory. A banged up Westbrook will be ineffective (by his standards— meaning he might only get two touchdowns instead of his usual six), and let’s not forget that Larry Fitzgerald will be the most talented player on the field. X-Factor: Steve Breaston— If Boldin isn’t 100% (which is assumed at this point), Breaston will need to seriously step it up. If he fails to do so, Fitzgerald will be handling triple teams all day. All aboard the Kurt Warner Express! Arizona 38, Philadelphia 27

Anthony’s Picks:

  • AFC: When two teams meet for the third time in a season where one team has swept the previous two, the previously victorious team has swept the 3 game series 11 of the 18 times its happened previous to Sunday’s much anticipated match up between the two AFC North bitter rivals.  I like the Pittsburgh defense to force a rookie quarterback into a few mistakes and the ground game of the Steelers beats that of the Ravens.  Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 10
  • NFC: As much as I’d like to take the Cardinals in this matchup (to steal some great lyrics – “my mind’s telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes”) I just can’t.  The difference maker in my mind is simple, experience.  The Eagles have been here before and have the players to not let the situation get the best of them. The Cardinals only have a handful of players who have ever been to the playoffs prior to this season, much less a championship game with it’s atmosphere and pressure.  Philadelphia 31, Arizona 28

Now let’s see who got it right…

–RTS Contributors–

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USC QB Mark Sanchez

USC QB Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez announced today that he will forgo his senior year at USC and enter the NFL Draft. It seems fitting that this announcement came the day after fellow quarterback Sam Bradford announced his intentions to remain at Oklahoma next season.

Sanchez held the starting job at USC for only one season, but that 2008 campaign was spectacular. He finished the season with 34 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, leading USC to a Rose Bowl romp over Big 10 Champion Penn State. While his stats show a seasoned quarterback, the intangibles reveal a one-year starter with little experience.

This decision has two complete sides to it. On one hand, Mark Sanchez made a brilliant (while cowardly) decision to go pro. On the other hand, he made a risky decision that might cost him in the long run.

First I will address the strategic but manipulative motives behind this move. While Mark Sanchez may not be ready to play immediately in the NFL, there is little disagreement that he has the talent to play some day. Sanchez holds the classic quarterback stature, at 6′ 3″ 225lbs, and has shown highlights of his leadership capabilities. Despite these attributes, Mark Sanchez’s decision to go pro was only partially fueled by his physical capabilities.  Another factor in his decision was the composition of the 2009 NFL Draft Class. In 2008, there was a distinguished upper tier of college football quarterbacks. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow were heralded as the best quarterbacks in the country and combined to earn a number of both conference and national honors. Some argued that Graham Harrell belonged in this group as well, h0wever he was left out as a Heisman finalist and rarely mentioned after Texas Tech’s mid-season descent from greatness. Towards the end of the NCAA football season Bradford, McCoy, and Tebow announced their intentions to return to school in the fall, drastically improving Mark Sanchez’s draft position. Also influencing Sanchez’s decision was the possibility of a future cap on NFL rookie contracts. 2008 draft pick Matt Ryan was signed to the largest rookie contract in history, forming much bitterness in the veteran corps of the NFL. The NFL Players Association is currently lobbying for a league measure to limit the salary of NFL players during their first two years in the league. Sanchez’s quarterback competition in the draft was falling apart, while his window of opportunity for a multi-million dollar contract was potentially closing. Based on his physical capabilities, as well as the NFL Draft climate and current contract negotiations, Mark Sanchez declared his eligibility for the 2009 NFL Draft.

"That Kid Is TOAST."

"That Kid Is TOAST."

While the decision makes sense right now, Sanchez might face consequences once he enters the NFL. His immediate gains are obvious. Mock drafts are projecting him as a late first round pick, and with much of his quarterback competition depleted, Sanchez has an excellent opportunity to excel in the combine. Additionally, if he is selected in the first round, he is nearly guaranteed a large contract (a guarantee which may not be present next year). That being said, Sanchez is taking a significant risk by passing on another season of development at the college level. Under Pete Carroll, USC has been a quarterback factory. Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and John David Booty were all NFL draft picks. However, all of them stayed at USC through their senior year before going pro. Carroll openly criticized the decision in a news conference tonight.

“The facts are so strong against this decision. After analyzing all the information, the truth is there — he should’ve stayed for another year. Mark’s chance to increase his value and become the top player in college football next year would have been worth $10-$20 million or more — likely more. One more year of running a team is almost priceless, so he lost the chance to fully prepare himself and become the very best he could be before going to the NFL. That’s why there’s a 62 percent failure rate for underclassmen quarterbacks.”

Only time will tell, but years down the road Sanchez might look back and wish he had spent one more season at USC to develop his quarterback skills.

This much is certain: no one wants to be the next Brian Brohm. Brohm was a projected top5 draft pick following his junior season at Louisville, but decided to return to school. He had a tumultuous senior year, resulting in a second round draft selection by Green Bay, and a third string spot on the roster (even behind Green Bay’s seventh round selection— LSU’s Matt Flynn). Sanchez has a chance to be a first round draft pick this year, and he is taking it.

No one can fault Mark Sanchez for wanting to play in the NFL. However his motives, decisions, and consequences will all be placed under scrutiny.


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