Friday, March 27, 2009


You had a nice run Arizona, it was cute how you took down Utah and Cleveland State to show all the pundits that you belonged in the tournament, but now you came up against the big boys, and Louisville ran you off the floor. Enjoy your now free weekend.

Syracuse didn't start playing until about 6 minutes had elapsed in the game, and then they didn't hit a 3 pointer until their 10th or 11th attempt. That combination won't work when the other guys have the presumptive national player of the year. When the only person on your team who shows up doubles as the only guy who's hobbling on 1 leg for the second half, you're going home.

If the later games feature this level of excitement, then I'll be asleep by the end of this sentence.

Mizzou, Nova follow

Not one, but 2 upsets in the late games, and neither game was that close.

Mizzou runs the "40 minutes of Hell" defense made popular by Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, and it was just as hellish for Memphis as the final minutes of the final game last year. Missed most of the game (in the northeast we got Nova-Puke), but what I did see showed Memphis making terrible (sorry, I'll cue up my Bill Walton voice: TERRRR-IBLE!!!) decisions against the full court pressure, leading to easy Missouri baskets. Combine that with bad free throw shooting, and that's a recipe for an early trip home. Though to be fair, Mizzou wasn't much better from the stripe, aside from deisgnated free throw shooter Kim English, who was 6 for 6.

Nova-Duke was another ugly first half full of "great defense" (read: bad offense). If Villanova had hit a layup or three point shot in the first half, they would have won by 30. As it is, they turned it on in the early second half when they started pushing the ball and driving by the Duke defenders, much like their game against American. The main problem for Duke? 3 pointers. 18.5% shooting won't cut it when you live and die by the three. To be fair, Villanova did play some outstandign defense, but if Duke had hit just a couple of their open 3 looks in the first half, it could have been a totally different game.

4/8 spots are spoken for, and in both cases the regional final will feature a 1 seed versus a 3.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pitt, UConn advance

Purdue put up a good fight, but when you are unable to score in the paint (thanks to Mr. Thabeet), you'd better be on fire from 3-point land, and Purdue (6 for 23) wasn't. Looks like all thoe extra phone calls paid off for ol' Jimmy Calhoun...even though the player his staff called 5000 times was kicked off the team and expelled for violating a restraining order about 30 minutes after it was issued (maybe it took all those phone calls to give the player directions to the school).

The second game ended much tighter, thanks to either terrific defense, or incompetent offense. This has been Pitt's M.O for years, I'm thinking either Jamie Dixon needs to start recruiting players who can shoot, or maybe he wants to bring an offensive guru onto his staff. That being said, guard Levance Fields has some sense of the moment, that three was an outstanding shot. The poke away by mack truck DeJuan Blair was pretty nifty too. The "Am I dunking or laying the ball in?" breakaway abomination by Jermaine Dixon? Not so much.

Hard to say which team impressed more, as UConn couldn't put away a clearly inferior ice cold team for over 30 mintues and Pitt looked inept on offense for long stretches as usual. I'd give the slight edge to Pitt, as they did display a dominant phase of their game (their defense), which is more than UConn did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Killing the Golden Goose?

It is a great time of year to be an NFL fan. If you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, you're still reliving Santonio Holmes' amazing catch to win your second Super Bowl title in 4 years. All other fans are watching their teams work to improve to take the trophy from the Steelers in February, 2010. If free agency hasn't given you the answers you want, there's the draft in less than a month. Most importantly, there's hope for fans of all 32 teams.

On another level, this is a scary time to be a fan of the NFL.

In May of 2008, the owners voted to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement effective in 2011. This means the 2010 year will be played without a salary cap, and the 2011 season will likely result in a labor stoppage in the form of a lockout. When they opted out, the owners left 21 months to reach a new agreement with the players union before the uncapped year would come to pass. A monkey wrench was thrown into the mix when the head of the NFLPA died 3 months later, in August. The NFLPA voted on a successor, DeMaurice Smith, 8 days ago. That leaves just over 10 months to work out a deal before the uncapped year begins.

Many fans are worried that an uncapped year with turn football into baseball, concentrating all free agent talent onto a select few big market teams. This is not the elephant in the room, however, it's how unworried the owners (even the small-market ones) are about this uncapped year occuring. Why?
* Currently, players entering their 4th year in the league without a contract are free to sign with any team. In the uncapped year, players have to be entering their 6th year to have that freedom.
* With the salary cap is a salary floor, without a salary cap? You guessed it: no floor.
* The current rules allow each team the ability to keep 1 player from hitting free agency. The uncapped year would allow the team to stop 2 players.
* The NFL recently re-signed an exclusive deal with DirecTV for the NFL package, guaranteeing the league $1 billion a year through 2014. Whether a game is played in 2011 or not, the league will receive the $1 billion for that year.

Clearly the owners are setting themselves up to withstand the uncapped year. This way they can lockout the players in 2011 without a new deal. The players association has said that if the league gets to an uncapped year, they will never allow a salary cap again. Immovable object, meet irresistable force.

Part of the reason the NFL is so popular is that there hasn't been a work stoppage since the players' strike in 1987. Former commisioner Paul Tagliabue stepped down in 2006 only after he had brokered a deal to maintain labor peace for at least 4 extra years, giving him a reign free of labor stoppages. Now that streak is in serious jeopardy.

If you're a fan, hope for success in 2009, because it could be the last football played by the rules we have all gotten used to. Football won't go the way of that Canadian sport that they play on ice...what's it called again? But no one wants to hear millionaires and billionaires fighting over their piece of the pie in the midst of an economic downturn/recession. If the league and players association continue with their hardline stances, they may be in for a rude awakening. Of course, that awakening will be cushioned by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But how many careers will never be the same if a year passes with no football? How many household neames will pull a Vin Baker and eat and drink themselves out of the league? How many Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys will simply walk away from their careers early to pursue a 24-hour commercial network or a career in wedding planning? How many careers will the fans be cheated out of seeing blossom? How many classic games will we miss out on?

The owners and players will be taken care of. The fans? Well, start brushing up on college football.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 1, late games

The late set of games started out about as ho-hum as the majority of the first set, as Texas jumped out in front of Minnesota early and never looked back. The late games with #2 seeds (Duke and Oklahoma) were even less competitive. The Oklahoma game did feature the early front runner for cheap shot of the tournament, as Morgan State's Ameer Ali finally got tired of Blake Griffin dominating his team, so he took him down WWE-style (the Undertaker would have been proud).

Villanova and Gonzaga both ended up dispatching their lowly-seeded opponents by 13, but both were trailing in the second half as well. Villanova was actually down 10 points to American at the half. It looked like Nova was so used to being the smaller team in the Big East conference that they didn't realize how much of a size advantage they had against the team from the Patriot League (aka the Ivy League without the academic presumption). For the entire first half, they were taking (and missing) jump shots while American was raining 3's. Finally, in the second half, they started driving to the hoop, picking up points and fouls on American's players. It also took away their opponent's legs, and thosejumpers that were falling for the underdog in the first half stopped falling late in the 2nd.

Gonzaga didn't leave it quite as late, but the Zags also fell behind by not banging down low with the Zips of Akron, then stormed away with the game by going back to their considerable advantage. After their season's over (quite possibly on Saturday if the Zags come out that flat again) I doubt Mark Few will bring the tape of this game with him when Arizona wants to interview him.

I do not undertsand how Michigan's coach can avoid stress-induced ulcers. Whenever I watch one of his teams play, they always shoot (and make) a lot of three pointers and they always get dominated on the boards. According to the game's commentators, Michigan wants half of their shots in any game to be a three pointer. This basically means everyone on their roster needs to be able to shoot. Well, if your big men can shoot, their likely not willing to bang bodies under the hoop back at the other end. In the first 5-6 minutes of this game, I think Clemson got 10 offensive rebounds. But, if their shots are falling, I guess it doesn't matter. I'd go crazy watching the other team get that many second chance points though.

The last 2 games of the day were also probably the best ones. UCLA-VCU was gritty right down to the end. Those of you who hate Duke will remember VCU and its guard Eric Maynor for eliminating the Coach K's in the first round 2 years ago by hitting a jumper over Crabbe. Well, it came down to Maynor taking a jumper over UCLA's point guard (Darren Collison) this year too, but Collison played incredible D on Maynor, and the shot was short this time. Ben Howland may want to consider bringing in an offensive assistant coach to help him out, though, because for the 3rd year out of the last 4, he has a team that's very talented defensively, and looks like a train wreck trying to put the ball in the basket. Sure every team will miss a few shots, but how many will blow 6-8 layups?

Western Kentucky-Illinois looked like a blowout in WKY's favor for most of the game. Then Illinois started coming back with full court pressure than Western Kentucky couldn't handle. Illinois got within 2 with about 10 seconds left, and then we learned why coaches call time out after made baskets towards the end. Illinois didn't have any, and WKY threw a homerun pass over the head of the defense, which helped them take all but 0.9 seconds off the clock before Illinois had a chance to foul. WKY also hit all four of their free throws down the stretch (which Memphis showed us was kind of important last year, right Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts?) Illinois fought hard, but a team responsible for this abomination didn't deserve to see the 2nd round this year. I'll say it again, the Big Ten is a football conference (sorry, Michigan).

I said before that the opening Thursday tends to be without drama. Well the opening Friday usually more than makes up for that. Hopefully today won't be any different.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 1, Early Games

The first Thursday of the tournament more often than not fails to live up to the hype. Today (at least the early half of the slate) continued the trend:

UConn and UNC tried to create drama (UConn with Jimmy Calhoun missing the game due to illness and UNC with Ty Lawson not playing), but both topped the century mark and held their opponents under 60. Yawn.

Mississippi State's run from not even within striking distance of the bubble to SEC champion ended abruptly as soon as they stepped on the floor with Washington. Texas A&M downed BYU. The interesting twist? These two teams tangled in the first round last year as well, with the same result. LSU lost a 13 point lead to Butler before recovering for the 4 point win. Purdue never trailed in their matchup with Northern Iowa, even though it ended up a close game.

The collective gasp you heard around 2 PM was bracketeers around the country checking on the Memphis-Cal State Northridge game and seeing CSN up in the 2nd half. Had they been watching the game, they probably would have been even more nervous, as the highlights show easy basket after easy basket for the underdogs. Memphis simply didn't bother to play defense, and CSN didn't get the memo that they were overmatched. Until a late 9-0 run when CSN ran out of gas, Memphis looked in real danger of blowing up a good number of brackets less than 3 hours into March Madness '09.

The 2nd upset of the opening 8 games was Maryland over Cal. I felt compelled to pull for Maryland once I saw Cal had a player trying to be Joakim Noah. I've always felt one shouldn't aspire to look like a member of the NCAA Hall of Fame ugly team, but maybe that's just me. Luckily, I also picked against Cal, so there was no conflict.

Hopefully the late games will bring more excitement (this American-Villanova game looks promising, while potentiallt ruinous for my bracket).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

US advances to semi-finals of WBC

In the end, being mercy ruled was probably the best thing that happened to the US.

As we've seen already in the tournament, merely losing a game you are expected to win does not serve as a wake up call (see Republic, Dominican). However, having that game called after 7+ innings because you are losing by too many runs? You can't blame that on luck, a cold streak, or an off night.

Instead, you realize that if you want to keep playing, you're going to have to show up. Granted, it's usually advisable to show up before the bottom of the ninth inning, but better late than never, right? Certainly better for the WBC: drama tends to sell, and what's better drama than a walk off win in the 9th inning?

Does this fix the WBC? No. Will it make a difference in how many people tune in for the semis and final? Unlikely.

Was it more fun than anything spring training had to offer? Yes. That's certainly not what MLB was hoping for when they rammed this tournament down everyone's throat, but even so, this means it's turned out 1000% better than most of good old Bud's ideas.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1 down, 63 to go

The NCAA Tournament is underway! And it's already over for Alabama State center Chief Kickingstallionsims and his teammates. It's unfortunate, but when your team scores 18 points in a half (and you're not a member of the Big Ten), you're not sticking around for very long. Big Chief didn't help much on that front, putting up a giant goose-egg in the box score. He's definitely still on the 2009 NCAA 1st team all name team, if it's any consolation.

Now the Morehead State team is facing 2 absolute facts:
1) They get to tell their grandkids that they won a tournament game
2) They get to be sacrificed at the altar by Louisville on Friday

If I were a player on a small school team, I would take that trade in a heartbeat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Top 7 Calls that made me want to put a fist through the television set (luckily I created this blog instead), #6: Linesman Forgets Basic Training

Edit: I had to fix the link for the video, apparently the old link took you to a slideshow of the Super Bowl winning Steelers. That certainly wasn't my intent.

For part 2 in this series, we’re going to stay with Super Bowl XL, but backtrack to the second quarter. Three plays ago, Pittsburgh converted a 3rd and 28 into a 1st and goal situation. Seattle’s linebacker of a safety, Michael Boulware let the only receiving threat for Pittsburgh get open while Ben Roethlisberger scrambled around in the backfield, but that’s a story for another time. After 2 Jerome Bettis runs, Pittsburgh faced 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line at the 2 minute warning.

The play call was a fake handoff to Bettis, and Roethlisberger rolled left and dove for the end zone line, hit by Seattle’s linebacker D.D. Lewis right at the goal line. The call on the field was touchdown, and the play was reviewed and upheld, much to the chagrin of Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.

Now, I do not believe Roethlisberger crossed the goal line, but having watched the replay countless times (I am a masochist), I honestly cannot tell whether he did or not. I do agree with the decision to not overturn the call after replay review, because I do not believe you can make a clear case either way. Whatever the call was on the field, it should have stood after the replay review. I should say, whatever the first call was on the field, because this is where I take issue.

Once again, I ask you to watch a short video. The first highlight shown is Roethlisberger’s TD run. I ask you not to watch Big Ben, though, but to watch Mark Hittner the top of your screen. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him. He’s the head linesman official from Super Bowl XL, and he makes the call on this play.

Watch him come running in. He has one arm raised in the air running down the goal line towards the play. This is basic mechanics for a linesman, but it is basic mechanics when a player is down short of the end zone. One hand raised is the classic sign for “player is down, play is dead, short of the end zone.” See, if the official believes the play is dead and the player has crossed the goal line, he will run down with 2 arms raised. If you’re not sure (which happens sometimes, as a player on the ground near the goal line tends to end up the loser in a giant game of pig-pile) you are supposed to run in and give no signal until you determine where the ball should be spotted. If you’ve watched the video, you’ll notice that about 12 yards in from the sideline, good ol’ Mark’s second arm rises to signal touchdown, indicating he changed his mind as he was running toward Ben.

If you keep watching this video, you’ll see the video replay showing how close Ben got to the line. Maybe you think he got in, maybe you don’t. Either way, watch what he does once he hits the ground. He pushes the ball across the goal line after he is clearly down on the ground. Of course he did, this is Football 101, try to influence the referee’s spot of the ball any way you can. The thing is, a pop warner league official knows about this strategy, so they ignore it. And if a pop warner official is wise to this, you would expect an NFL official to be wise to it as well.

I'll never know what happened on this play, but I believe it to be one of two things:
1) Mark had a brain fart on his basic mechanics in the biggest game of the year. A game he was selected to officiate in because he was the best head linesman in the league that season, and he blew the basic mechanics of this call.
2) Mark was influenced by Ben’s shenanigans as to the spot of the ball. The best head linesman in the league fell for a trick a pop warner official would see coming and disregard.

Either way, it is a travesty that in the biggest game of the year, a head linesman forgot how to do his job.

When it happened, I knew that the replay wouldn’t bring a reversal, and I was pretty sure that my team, despite outplaying Pittsburgh for the entire first half, was going to go into halftime down 7-3. When I spoke to my friend Dave at halftime I said, “Either Seattle has just had the kitchen sink thrown at them and will come out firing in the 2nd half, or Pittsburgh is finally going to wake up and Seattle has blown their chance.” It ended up being the latter, as 2 plays into the 2nd half Willie Parker set the Super Bowl record for the longest rushing touchdown from scrimmage and Seattle never got closer than the 4 point deficit staring them in the face after the touchdown that wasn’t and then was.

Anti-Quality of call: 5/10
Effect on game situation: 6/10
Effect on my mood: 4/10
And 6 “bonus” points for the official forgetting how to do his job

Just to twist the knife a little more, in Super Bowl 43, Big Ben rolled to his right and dove for the goal line. This time, the linesman signaled touchdown right away. Again the play looked very close on replay. But this time? The referee overturned the play. And Holmgren was in the building for it, as a guest broadcaster for NBC. Unreal.

Friday, March 13, 2009

String of upsets in conference tournament play

Well, I think it's safe to say that we won't see a repeat of last year where 4 #1 seeds made the Final Four. There just aren't enough (if any) great teams that tower over the good teams this year.

Maybe you can make the argument for Carolina (though let's see if they can win their first conference tournament game today). And I'm sure Memphis would argue that they should be in that conversation (though they play in a JV conference, so no one really knows how good they are). Defending champ Kansas? Nope. Oklahoma? Negative. Pitt? Don't think so. UConn? Well, they certainly put up the most fight, but no, especially if Pitt ends up in their region.

My favorite part of watching the highlights from last night's upsets was the "Are you kidding? I was supposed to be in bed 3 overtimes ago! Man this coaching stuff is hard." looks on the faces of both Calhoun and Boeheim as the game kept dragging on and on.

Worst part of all this: I can hear the "Duke's a great team, give us a #1 seed" talk machine starting up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dominican Republic sent packing from WBC

The Netherlands has done it again, knocking off the D.R. 2-1 in 11 innings. It is being hailed as the "biggest upset in D.R. baseball history."


The Dominican team is full of major league talent. But it's full of major league talent with guaranteed contracts during the beginning of spring training. These players are still slowly and leisurely playing their way into baseball shape. Sure, maybe they've been working out over the winter break, but they certainly haven't been facing live pitching since last September/October. Add to that the fact that many of these players are stars for their employers, and a good number of players have either politely refused to play or been denied the opportunity to play by their teams for fear of exacerbating lingering injuries. Then put them up against a young team with few players in any major league system, players entering the spring training period with something to prove, and players for whom this tournament IS their world series.

Yes, this is a rather incredible story and no, I don't want to take anything away from the Netherlands who beat a baseball powerhouse twice over 4 days. But does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else? If you're a fan of USA Basketball, it should. It took a 6th place finish in 2002 and being relegated to the bronze medal game in 2004 for playing for those involved with USA Basketball to really buy in. Perhaps this will serve as similar motivation for the Dominican players in 3 years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top 7 Calls that made me want to put a fist through the television set - #7: Matt Hasselbeck not allowed to tackle Ike Taylor

As you might be able to tell from typing in the web address for this blog, I tend to remember bad calls. As a fan of teams that aren’t considered “marquee”, I’m used to the guys I pull for not getting the benefit of the doubt. It's not all bad though, as the number of these bad calls is partly responsible for getting this blog off the ground. But what goes into a bad call? What makes one call worse than another? First, we're going to look at how the call affects the fan. So I'm going to start with the top 7 poor calls that affected me.

We’ll start with a call from Super Bowl XL (which, admittedly, could provide me with material for every spot on this list). To set the scene: it’s 14-10 Pittsburgh, with 10:54 remaining in the game. After a holding penalty (more to come on this later) wiped out a 1st and goal at the Pittsburgh 1, Seattle was facing a 3rd and 18 at the Pittsburgh 27. Matt Hasselbeck dropped back to pass, didn’t see anyone open, and decided to channel his inner Brett Favre. Instead of checking down or throwing the ball away, Hasselbeck decided to try and force a pass to his favorite target, Darrell Jackson. Unfortunately, Hasselbeck missed Jackson. Badly. Brett himself would have been proud. Instead of Jackson, Hasselbeck deposited the ball in the breadbasket of Ike Taylor (Steeler cornerback).

Now’s where it gets interesting. Taylor catches the ball at the 5, and starts running up the sideline escorted by 2 teammates, 1 on each side. Enter Hasselbeck as Taylor crosses the Pittsburgh 25. He stutter steps, freezing the first blocker, then he dives for Taylor and makes a tackle that would make any defensive coach proud. The problem: Hasselbeck is called for an illegal block below the waist.

The rule is as follows: after a turnover, it is illegal for an offensive player (well, now a defensive player, but you get the picture) to take defensive players out of the play by blocking them below the waist. This differentiation has to be made because without any turnovers, this type of block is called a cut block and is a) legal and b) the easiest way to make defensive players angry, as they are sort of attached to their knees. This rule holds even if it’s done while tackling the ball carrier.

Here’s the problem: Hasselbeck never touches anyone but the ball carrier! It’s true. Want proof? Go here. Go ahead, watch the first 10 seconds. I’ll wait. As you’ll notice, #26 is so faked out by an immobile quarterback that he has to lean forward just to touch Hasselbeck with his hands. His hands! Now go back and watch those 10 seconds one more time. This time look in the top left corner of the screen. Notice the exotic zebra. Watch what he doesn’t do. He never reaches for the flag in his pants. The flag comes from off screen. This is a microcosm of why this game is controversial. The officials called what they assumed must have happened, not what they actually saw happen. On one hand, you can’t blame an official for assuming a geeky bald quarterback wasn’t able to cleanly tackle an athletic cornerback running with a buddy on each side of him. The problem is, these are the all star officials of the NFL that season. They’re supposed to be great at their job, which means they are in the proper position to see what happened. What actually happened. Instead, someone made an assumption, and well, you know what happens when someone assUMEs.

This call was so obviously wrong, the NFL actually admitted error after the game. So why isn’t it higher on my list? Because it didn’t affect me that much. I pretty much lost hope for this game the moment that pass was caught by the wrong team. The penalty was purely salt in the wound. When you've been knocked down by a body blow, you're numb to the kick that comes 5 seconds later.

Anti-Quality of call: 10/10
Effect on game situation: 3/10
Effect on my mood: 2/10

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Too late

Well, perhaps I should have gotten this blog up (and gotten famous) at least 2 hours ago. That way, maybe I would have been the one voice to convince the Buffalo Bills that they did not want to go down this road. 

There are many reasons to not make this (or any) deal with TO. Buffalo is facing a very uphill road to being a legitmate contender, given that 3 teams in their division finished ahead of them last season, 1 teams in their division made the playoffs last season, and a second team in their division was the Patriots last season, and presumably will continue to be the Patriots this season. 

The most important reason that this is a bad idea is Trent Edwards. Buffalo drafted JP Losman in the first round in 2004, and he never panned out for them. They drafted Trent Edwards in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, and has played in 23 games for the Bills over the past 2 seasons. Edwards is just getting into a position to assert control over his huddle, and now the Bills have brought in alpha dog Owens to compete with their young quarterback. When Owens feels he's not getting the ball enough, will Edwards have the fortitutde to tell him to shut it, and will he have the standing to make that the end of it? 

I say no. 

Owens makes friends in the locker room. In his spat with Witten, he had the majority of the Cowboys defensive players on his side. In his crusade against Jason Garrett, he had all of the other wide receivers backing him up. Buffalo does not have the veteran leadership to know that they must support Edwards when there's conflict. They also don't have the talent to win enough to keep the complaints to a minimum. 

Expect one more team to be left in the wake of Hurricane Owens this time next season. 

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens: where should he end up?

The Cowboys have now become the third team to decide TO is more trouble than his play on the field made him worth. Apparently it is possible to send Jerry Jones over the edge, if you were to try to kill yourself, drop some passes, chase off a Hall of Fame coach, publicly cry for your quarterback, accuse your QB and tight end of conspiring to keep you from getting your catches, drop more passes, burn your bridges with your offensive coordinator, drop a few more passes, throw your backup QB under the bus, poison the rest of your WR teammates against said OC, and drop yet more passes… then Jerry will do something about you.

Now, Mr. Next Question gets to shop a 35-year old WR who fractures locker rooms and is showing signs of decline on the field to the rest of the league. Who should be at the front of the line?

We’ll start by eliminating everyone that’s already had to deal with TO firsthand. This list includes Dallas, Philadelphia, Greg Knapp and Jim Mora (Seattle), Todd Haley (Kansas City), Sean Payton (New Orleans), Brad Childress (Minnesota), and of course, Bill Parcells (Miami). It’s much easier to resist the temptation of believing you can control the wild hyena when you’ve been in the cage with him and seen him devour your friends first-hand. This takes 7 teams off the list right off the bat.

Next, we can discount the teams with young or recently-hired head coaches. These coaches are still in the process of setting themselves up with the players in their locker room, and thus cannot afford to bring in Owens and risk losing it. This includes Rex Ryan (NY Jets), Eric Mangini (Cleveland), Josh McDaniels (Denver),  Jim Schwartz (Detroit), and Steve Spagnoulo (St. Louis). 

Next, we have to look at the quarterback position. Much like the coach has to have control of the locker room, the quarterback must have control of the huddle. You can’t convince 10 other guys likely making less money than you to throw their bodies around protecting you or catching your passes if you don’t have their respect. You can’t get their respect if you aren’t the alpha dog in the huddle, and you can’t be the alpha dog in the huddle with TO there unless you already have the unquestioned backing of the other 9 guys in the huddle. So unless you want to destroy a young QB like Trent Edwards (Buffalo),  Joe Flacco (Baltimore), Matt Schaub (Houston), Aaron Yourenotbrettfavre (Green Bay), Matt Ryan (Atlanta), or Shaun Hill/Alex Smith (San Francisco), you’re steering clear of the TO.

Note: You may notice I didn’t include JaMarcus Russell and Oakland in the preceding paragraph. Russell certainly qualifies as a young quarterback that any sane organization wouldn’t want to risk letting TO destroy, but when you’re organization is run by the crypt keeper, well, we’re clearly not talking about a sane organization. Leaving Oakland in, TO’s choices have still narrowed to 14 teams.

Now let’s deal with the question that would normally be first on the list when considering a FA wide receiver: does my team actually need a #1 or #2 receiver? If I’m the Patriots (Moss & Welker), Steelers (Ward & Holmes), Colts (Wayne, Gonzalez, & Smith), or Cardinals (Fitz, Boldin, Breaston), why on earth would you risk you recent successes (all but the Cardinals have already won a Super Bowl, and Arizona was there just last year) for TO? There’s not much sense in selling your soul for the prize if you’ve already won the prize on your own.

On a similar note, if you’re not going to win the prize even if you get on-his-best-behavior TO, why bother? So Cincinnati and Tampa Bay are crossed off the list.

This leaves us 8 teams who could make a legitimate case to sign TO, listed below from making the least amount of sense to the most sense:

Chicago: Chicago has been looking for offense for approximately 75 years. But when your classic quarterback is Jim McMahon, receivers aren’t what has been holding you back. Sure, Chicago could trick out their rims, but they’re still driving a Pinto (Kyle Orton) with an Edsel (Sexy Rexy) in the garage.

Jacksonville: Jacksonville may not drive a Pinto, but their Civic isn’t very exciting either. On the surface, this team doesn’t look like a terrible option for TO. They were a chic Super Bowl pick before last season and their receivers are dog manure.  But their team is based on running and defense, and it’s unclear whether David Garrard can get TO the ball nearly enough to suit him, which is just asking for trouble.

Carolina: Adding TO to Steve Smith and Moose Muhammed would give Carolina a passing attack almost as formidable as their 2-headed rushing attack. Of course, when your quarterback accounts for 9 turnovers in his last 2 playoff games, you might want to focus there first. As a bonus, Steve Smith has punched out 2 teammates already, so this might be the one situation where TO is too scared to raise holy hell.

Washington: The Redskins don’t quite fit into any of the categories to exclude them from signing TO, but you could make the argument for just about all of them: New coach? Jim Zorn’s only in his 2nd year, and last year he had his hands full with Clinton Portis. Young quarterback? Jason Campbell has been there awhile, but 2 other quarterbacks have steered the Skins to the playoffs during his time in Washington. Contender? They’re close, but they had a very uninspiring end to last season. Of course, their owner is Dan Snyder, and Washington would give TO a chance to exact revenge on both Philly and Dallas, so you certainly can’t count them out.

San Diego: The Chargers are oozing talent. Even if you believe Tomlinson is done (and I don’t blame you), they still have Rivers, Sproles, Gates, Chambers, and Jackson on the offensive side of the ball. Adding TO makes their offense deadlier, and with Tomlinson’s decline and Sproles being tiny, a 3-WR set makes sense as their base package. There are a couple of concerns and both are major: Are there enough balls to go around, and is Norv Turner strong enough to keep control of the locker room?

New York Giants: A crazy WR helped lead this team to the Super Bowl just over a year ago. And for all TO’s faults, he’s never shot himself in the leg. Obviously, if you have a choice between Burress and Ownes, you take Burress as the Giants, as he’s the known quantity. But between the prospects of jail and league suspension, you very well may not have Burress.

Oakland: Al Davis is both insane and incompetent, moreso than even Jerry Jones. ..

Tennessee: …But Tennessee still makes more sense. Veteran team, veteran quarterback who can sling the ball (see Oakland with Randy Moss). Good offense, bad receivers, firmly entrenched head coach, and they are coming off of a season where they were the #1 seed in the AFC but lost to a hot defense in the playoffs. Re-singing Kerry Collins means you’re taking a 1-2 year shot at the Super Bowl, so taking a high-risk/high-reward chance makes sense. If one team is going to roll the dice on Terrell Owens, the Tennessee Titans make the most sense.