Monday, May 11, 2015

Brady gets what he deserves as NFL suspends QB for 4 games

Tom Brady was suspended for four games. The New England Patriots lost a first-round draft pick next season and a fourth-round pick in 2017 and also have to cough up a million dollars. And the NFL handed out on Monday what will not only be a popular punishment for the legions of Patriot haters, but also a deserved one.

As I wrote Sunday, Brady had to be suspended for his role in "Deflategate," no matter how murky he and the Patriots tried to make the water around it. The four-game suspension -- which Brady's agent announced he would appeal -- was exactly what I advocated. Why?

Simply, Brady seemed shady. He wasn't totally forthcoming during the investigation into the footballs deflated before the AFC championship game, and a reasonable man would assume that is because he had something to hide. Basically, the Patriots cheated and got caught -- that's how I and millions of others read it. (The Patriots don't believe they did anything wrong, though).

Remember -- and a retired judge pointed this out to me -- the burden of proof is different in a case like this. The bar is set lower, because while "Deflategate" is a juicy topic it is not a criminal investigation. Brady is an employee of the NFL, and based on its investigation it has determined that there is a preponderance of evidence that more likely than not Brady knew about and agreed with what was going on. Thus, the quarterback violated the integrity of the game.

The suspension of one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history for the first four games of this season will be one of the biggest stories in the league in 2015. New England won its fourth Super Bowl under Brady earlier this year. Now the Patriots will likely be starting Jimmy Garoppolo for a month. The loss of a first-round draft pick is also significant; the fourth-round pick and the million dollars, not so much.

The many fans who are jealous of the Patriots' success will revel in the Patriots' golden boy getting punished. But I am not happy about it for that reason. I am happy about it because Brady and the Patriots deserved it.

This was an obvious skirting of the rules, and no one on the Patriots' side has defended the quarterback with a lot of specifics for very good reason. The specifics would make him look bad. Brady will still be a first-ballot hall of famer, but Deflategate now and forever will also be a part of his legacy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Was Shaq Thompson a luxury pick? And about those crab legs....



3 thoughts on the first day of the NFL draft:

1) I thought Jameis Winston posting a picture of himself on Instagram with a plate of steaming crab legs Thursday night after Tampa Bay selected him No. 1 showed exactly the kind of immaturity that the Bucs don't need out of Winston. I know, I know, I sound like a grumpy old man, Winston was just having fun given that old accusation of stealing crab legs from a grocery store in Florida, etc. But the guy needs to start acting more like an NFL rookie who needs to learn some things and less like an entitled Big Man on Campus. Pronto. (The picture has now apparently been deleted from Winston's Instagram account -- but it's a little late for that).

2) Pro Football Focus had this to say about Carolina's pick at No.25, linebacker Shaq Thompson of Washington: "They say linebacker, we see safety. Thompson is not good when blockers get on him, but looks a natural in coverage. How that fits in with Carolina in the short term is most interesting, because there’s no way you’re taking Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis off the field on those passing downs any time soon.

"Thompson had the sixth highest grade in coverage of all linebackers against Power-5 opposition but was down in 25th for his work against the run. Numbers that really sum him up. We can’t fault the Panthers for not going offensive line (biggest need) given the run on linemen, but it does seem like something of a luxury pick when you’ve got some real weapons at wide receiver on the board
."

So was Thompson a luxury pick? Not really. Thomas Davis is the longest-tenured Panther (he also announced the pick of Thompson last night, which had a bizarre symmetry to it). TD won't last forever, and Thompson may start right away at weakside linebacker if he can beat out A.J. Klein. I'm OK with the pick if Thompson can play, but Carolina still needs help at OL, DB and RB in the next six rounds. As for PFF idea of Thompson playing safety, the Panthers don't plan to do that (nor at RB, either, although he gained 456 yards rushing as a rare two-way player for Washington)

3) Thompson made an interesting comparison last night, saying he was similar to Bucs linebacker Lavonte David in the pros. For those who don't follow the Bucs much, David is one of the few really good players that Tampa Bay has -- kind of a poor man's version of Luke Kuechly. If Thompson can become Lavonte David, everyone in Charlotte should be happy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Who was best Panther draft pick ever?



Was Cam Newton the Panthers' best NFL draft pick ever? Or was it Luke Kuechly, Steve Smith or someone else? What do you think?

In case you have not seen the printed newspaper lately, I am now producing a full page of "Scott Says" every week for inside our Sunday sports section. It was on page 7B on April 12th.

The most recent one can also be found here online. Rather than one long story, each "Scott Says" page includes numerous items -- on April 12, it was a look back at the Panthers' first-ever draft in 1995 with hall of fame GM Bill Polian, as well as a Q and A with new Charlotte 49ers coach Mark Price and a short column about what the Hornets need to do to get out of their funk in 2015-16.

Also, each full page includes some reader input, and that's where you come in. Just tell me in your opinion -- either in a comment on this blog, or a tweet to @Scott_Fowler, or in an email to sfowler@charlotteobserver.com, the answer to these two questions:

1) Who was the Panthers' best draft pick ever?

2) Who was the Panthers' worst draft pick ever?

Thanks! Let me know what you think...

Scott

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Goodbye and good riddance to Greg Hardy



I have heard from a few disgruntled Panthers fans today who wish that the team had given Greg Hardy another chance. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys will now employ the Kraken.

If you have missed my earlier columns on this issue, here is one of them. To me, this is exactly how it should have turned out for Carolina. Goodbye and good riddance to Hardy, who to me is just too much of a character risk to hijack a salary cap a second year in a row.

As I expected, the price for Hardy was not reasonable at all -- the Cowboys have gambled huge money on him. The reaction in Dallas, understandably, has been swift and stern from media types, but we all know given owner Jerry Jones' past actions that he is going to win at all costs (on and off the field) and figure that can take care of his public relations issues later.

For Carolina, though, this is the way it had to happen. The Panthers were already the No. 10 defense in the NFL without Hardy last season. Time to move on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winners to be announced soon in Why Sports Matters contest

Thanks to all who sent me entries in the "Why Sports Matters" contest. I got lots of entries and have had a few unexpected work assignments lately, so my judging has fallen behind. I originally wrote that I would be announcing winners on Wednesday, March 18th. That won't happen, but I will announce the winners in the near future in this same space and also publish them. Thank you for your patience, and in the meantime enjoy the NCAA tournament! (UPDATE: All winners were published in the newspapers of April 12 and April 19th and can also be found at this link.

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Bob McKillop, Dean Smith, Bill O'Reilly and a strange New York cabbie



NEW YORK -- I am in the Big Apple about to watch Davidson in the Atlantic 10 tournament and just wanted to note a couple of things:

1) My story on Bob McKillop and the masterpiece he has painted with the Davidson Wildcats can be found here. One random fact I didn't know about McKillop until we did the interview for this story: he went to high school in New York with Bill O'Reilly, now a celebrity TV host for Fox News. McKillop said O'Reilly's personality has basically not changed at all from then until now.

2) Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 17 from 11 am to 1 pm. At that time, The Observer is going to have a book launch for our new book celebrating Dean Smith's life. "Dean Smith" More than a Coach" is a 128-page book containing photos and stories from 50 years of The Observer's coverage of the man who was coach of UNC from 1961-97 and who passed away in February. Ron Green Sr., Ron Green Jr. and myself -- who all contributed stories to the book -- will all be there in The Observer's lobby (600 South Tryon Street) for those two hours to sign books and chat with UNC fans. The book is $14.95 and a portion of the proceeds for all books sold that day will be donated to the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund at UNC.

3) If you entered my writing contest in honor of this blog hitting the 5 million mark, thanks so much. I got a lot of great entries and am sorting through them all. Winners will be announced by or before Wednesday, March. 18th.

4) OK, quick New York story. I love New York, but sometimes you just have to shake your head at it. I arrived at LaGuardia Airport Thursday and needed a ride to Manhattan. Hopped in a cab. The driver drove like most New York cabbies do -- badly, in other words -- but I didn't notice too much because it was so common. However, he made the bad mistake of cutting across four lanes of traffic with no turn signal in front of one of NYPD's finest.

So here came the blue lights, and the siren, and the cab had to pull over. You better believe he used the turn signal that time. The policeman came to the car, got the cabbie's license and registration, had him roll down the back window and apologized to me like this: "Sorry for the delay sir, but this man has your life in his hands, and he's being very careless with it." Ten minutes later, the cabbie had a ticket. "I'm giving you one, but you should get four," the cop grumbled.

And here's the best part: For those 10 minutes while we were stopped in that yellow cab on the side of the road, both of us annoyed for different reasons, the cabbie never apologized for our delay. Never spoke a word, in fact. But, until I noticed and pointed it out, he kept the meter running.

Monday, March 9, 2015

On Ginn return, Davidson Speedo guy and Bilas prediction on Kentucky



3 notes on a Monday:

1) I applaud the Panthers for getting Ted Ginn Jr. back after his disappointing year in Arizona. Ginn gives the Panthers another speed threat and had a great knack in 2013 for the big play at the right time (including this TD in 2013 against New England). I thought the Panthers never should have let him go -- they struggled constantly with getting the ball deep in 2014 without him -- but certainly he will be more affordable now. This is a good move, as was the signing of tackle Michael "Blind Side" Oher. Both are affordable veteran players worth the risk. The Panthers are off to a solid start in free agency, but many questions remain.

2) In case you missed this, Davidson had a swimmer named Luke Burton Thursday night who stripped down to a Tuxedo-themed Speedo -- he calls it a "tux-pedo" -- and made a lot of people laugh with his antics while VCU was shooting free throws until he got kicked out of the game (won by Davidson, 82-55 -- the Wildcats are, incredibly enough, Atlantic 10 regular-season champs). My original video of Luke Burton's dance has now climbed to No.5 on the all-time Observer list of most-clicked videos, and Burton's hilarious interview explaining his thinking after he got kicked out is quickly catching up to the original one in hits. You can see them both by clicking here -- the shorter video is at the bottom, and the longer one at the top.

3) I talked to Charlotte resident and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas for a couple of stories last week, including this one on the delights of March Madness. While we were on the phone I asked Bilas if he thought Kentucky would go 40-0, winning both the SEC title and the national championship. He said he thought the Wildcats would, but said while they were unbeaten, they were not unbeatable.

Said Bilas of Kentucky: "If they finish the year undefeated and win the national championship, they will be considered one of the all-time great teams and it will be one of all-time great accomplishments.if they finish the year undefeated and win the national championship, they will be considered one of the all-time great teams and it will be one of all-time great accomplishments.

"They absolutely can. I think they will. They're unbeaten. I'm not one of those who think they are unbeatable. They can be beaten. I look at them kind of like UNLV in 1991. they are the best team. that doesn't mean they are going to win, but they are the best team.

"If this were the NBA and a 7-game playoff series, they would not have to worry. But it's not, and they are subject to being beaten."