Take 5 for Tuesday:
1. As we have written multiple times, the Rams made the right decision to trade the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft. After five seasons and 65 losses in 80 games, the team’s flimsy and alarmingly weak roster needed players. And bartering the No. 2 selection to Washington for three first-round picks, and a second-round pick, made total sense for GM Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher.
The Rams not only received an immediate boost from the move, finishing 7-8-1, but they’ll be able to use Washington’s first-round pick in 2013 and 2014. Snead-Fisher are off to a good start in replenishing the roster, and these additional first-rounders should help. It was an obvious, no-brainer move by the Rams.
The Redskins wanted that No. 2 pick to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III, and he was often sensational in his rookie season. Griffin’s instant success and exciting style of play prompted full-throated howling from the short-attention-span crowd.
Why didn’t the Rams draft Griffin and trade Sam Bradford! The Rams should have drafted RG3! The SKY IS FALLING!!!
Well, lots of reasons. Fisher believes in Bradford; the QB was among the top reasons why Fisher took the Rams’ job. There were salary-cap issues. There’s the matter of trade value. Because of Bradford’s salary — which was locked in by the previous NFL system for paying premium draft picks — the Rams wouldn’t have gotten as much for him as they did by peddling the No. 2 overall pick. Under the new NFL system, premium rookies (RG3 included) are paid a mere fraction of what top picks commanded in the former system. And again: the Rams needed players. Lots of 'em. The trade would address those needs.
There is another reason why this deal made sense for the Rams, and after watching Sunday’s Seattle vs. Washington playoff game, I wonder if the loons have seen the light, even just a little bit.
Griffin is an exceptional talent. But how long will he last? He is fast, bold, and tough. His explosive speed makes him a unique and devastating weapon. The running ability also leaves RG3 at the mercy of freight-train edge rushers, violent linebackers, streaking safeties and 330-pound defensive tackles. RG3 absorbed some brutal hits this season, and we saw the repercussions in the Seattle game. Griffin’s injured right knee sustained more damage, and he may need surgery to repair torn ligaments.
Griffin blew out the knee during his college career at Baylor. He had surgery. He rehabbed. He continued on. But suppose the knee requires another surgery? And if Redskins coach Mike Shanahan continues to foolishly expose Griffin to harm, how many more times will wee see this special quarterback limping around, and headed to the surgeon’s table?
NFL history offers a firm lesson: running quarterbacks don’t last. They get busted up. Even if they manage to extend their careers, the quality of their play erodes. (See: Michael Vick.) And when the accumulation of injuries cause them to lose quickness and the ability to make tacklers miss, they’re even more vulnerable to hits. And other parts begin to break down.
Hopefully, Griffin will play 15 years and end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But he’s at greater risk than most quarterbacks. And if you don’t think that’s a factor in the long-term thinking, then you’re as clueless as Mike Shanahan.
2. Here’s an idea for the loons, and they don’t have to thank me for it. But here goes: pals, it is time for you to switch the argument. If you must rip the Rams, then you need to move RG3 to the side and begin caterwauling over Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks drafted him in the third round with the 75th overall pick. The kid is a star. He’s special. You could make the case that he’s just as good, if not better, than Griffin. And while he also takes a lot of hits, Wilson is smart about avoiding the kind of vicious contact that can knock quarterbacks out.
If you want a new line of attack, it’s this: the Rams were smart to trade that No. 2 pick to Washington; look at all of the draft choices they received in return. So with all of those extra draft choices, why didn’t they draft Wilson in the third round?
This isn’t my opinion. I’m just trying to offer a new and more coherent argument to the Bradford haters. Given RG3’s battered knee, this is a more effective way to disparage Bradford and the Rams.
You see, I am here to help you.
3. The shortened NHL season (48 games, apparently) isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing. Teams cannot fool around. There is no time for lulls, for losing streaks, for keeping fuel in reserve. There can be no giveaways. Every game is important. The schedule will consist of in-conference games, only. The Blues will play every contest against Western Conference rivals. So a four-point swing will be on the line in every game. If you lose a few games in a row to teams that you are directly competing with in the standings, it could be big trouble.
The intensity level will be more extreme than ever. There will be a desperate edge to these games. Teams know they won’t have the comfort of a long season that can accommodate slumps. These regular-season games will be more meaningful, and that represents a better value for the ticket dollar.
4. I agree with a point made by Blues GM Doug Armstrong on my 101 ESPN radio show: in the compressed schedule, the Blues are fortunate to have two outstanding goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Absolutely. NHL teams will be playing three, four games per week. The number of games played by each team on consecutive nights will be especially challenging. Teams that have a dominant No. 1 goaltender will have to turn to their No. 2 guy more often. Based on how Halak and Elliott performed last season in coach Ken Hitchcock’s time-share program, the Blues have two No. 1 goalies.
The Halak-Elliott tandem was special in 2011-2012. The Blues led the NHL in save percentage, and goals-against average. Halak started 46 games, Elliott 36. Elliott was ranked first in the league in save percentage (.940) and Halak wasn’t far behind with a save percentage of .926, which ranked sixth.
If Halak and Elliott maintain last season’s form, the Blues should benefit from the consistent quality of goaltending during the helter-skelter pace of the shortened schedule. Some teams figure to suffer a drop in performance when they’re forced to go with their No. 2 goaltender. Assuming that Halak and Elliott are in good shape, and sharp, that shouldn’t be the case in St. Louis.
5. Good luck to Mizzou and coach Frank Haith in the SEC opener vs. Alabama tonight at Mizzou Arena. Here’s a question: given the striking size of the Tigers’ guards that accompany point guard Phil Pressey, should MU be more aggressive in attacking the basket?
Look at all the tall guards: Keion Bell is 6-4, Jabari Brown is 6-5, Earnest Ross is 6-5, Negus Webster-Chan is 6-7. Pressey sets up a lot of 3-point attempts by penetrating the lane, and passing the ball outside. But when the jump shots aren’t falling, the Tigers should use their unusual size and muscle in the backcourt to drive the ball and get to the free-throw line.
Going into the conference opener, Mizzou is averaging 20.1 free-throw attempts per game. That’s less than last season’s rate of 20.9 FT attempts per game. But last season’s MU team was smaller, and didn’t have as much depth and size as this season’s model. So why not take advantage of that? This applies to the big men, too. Laurence Bowers, for example, has averaged only 3 free-throw attempts per game so far.
Xx Bonus Byte, from college football:
Alabama 42, Missouri 10.
Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.
Notre Dame playing at the same level as Mizzou when taking on 'Bama?
Wow. I didn’t see that one coming.
As my friend Andy Woods noted in an email: worst big-event performance from the fighting Irish since heavyweight Gerry Cooney got his butt kicked in an embarrassing beatdown from champion Larry Holmes on June 11, 1982.
Thanks for reading …