The New-Age Running Back
February 23, 2010, 9:28 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

With the release of LaDanian Tomlinson yesterday and Brian Westbrook today, it got me thinking for a while.

Remember the NFL in the eighties and nineties? Every team had one great running back (the good teams at least), and that is what they went to war with.

Detroit had Barry Sanders and Dallas had Emmitt Smith. Of course the list goes on, but the point is there was only one running back. That was all you needed.

But think about how long some of these “ace” running backs played in the NFL. Bo Jackson was going to be a phenom until a hip injury outed him after three seasons. Earl Campbell’s career was legendary, but he only played for seven seasons.

People shouldn't think of LT as a number-one back, but rather someone who can provide depth at that position.

Running backs come and go, but the beating and toll it takes on them physically and mentally diminishes their potential.

We are used to seeing other positions play forever. Favre has played quarterback since 1992, starting an NFL-record 285 consecutive games. Peyton sits right behind him with 192 games.

Wide receivers like Jerry Rice (who was in the NFL from 1985-2004) play until they are into their 40’s.

And now you look at today’s style of running game in the NFL. Even though teams say they have an “ace” to hand-off to, it’s mainly a committee keeping the running game fresh.

That’s what we have resorted to. Critics haven’t bought into the thought of running backs-by committee in previous years, ruling teams out that do so. Now? They should be praised.

Sure, the Vikings’ have a great running back in Adrian Petersen, but he has Chester Taylor to fall back on. The Cowboys roll three deep with Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Miami developed an entire offense revolving around the Wildcat Formation with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Now, teams are following the lead. The Colts drafted Donald Brown to help Joseph Addai with carries, same with Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. The Saints couldn’t rely solely on Reggie Bush, so Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell got their share of carries (worked pretty well for the Super Bowl champions didn’t it?).

Basically, every team needs to follow this blueprint. Even though Tomlinson’s age is multiplied because of  the 2,880 carries he has over the last nine seasons, he can still be an asset.

If you were a team like the Falcons, who need safety net for Michael Turner, adding someone like LT to Turner and Norwood would boost that running game dramatically.

The Texans, who are still trying to find ONE running back, could use Tomlinson and Slaton to improve the offense. Brian Westbrook, barring another concussion that might kill him, could do wonders with the screen plays Kubiak runs for his tailbacks.

If Jacksonville had another back to relieve pressure off of Maurice Jones-Drew, the production could increase even more (although their passing game would still be shaky).

The committee is the way to go. So instead of frowing upon the situation of not having a star to hand the ball off to, fans should be hoping they can get the opportunity to have this ideal setting.

And yes, in summary, I just told the National Football League to follow to lead of Jerry Jones. I’m going to go throw up now.

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The Curse
February 22, 2010, 6:25 PM
Filed under: NBA

By Jerry Coon

I guess I shouldn’t be so bitter.

The Rockets finally escaped the tenure, er…plague of Tracy McGrady. Now they can move forward with their plans, ridding themselves of Knee-Mac forever.

With the celebration of the trade, let’s reflect on what McGrady did for the Rockets before I completely bash him as an individual.

This is how Houston will always remember the Knee-Mac Era (Photo courtesy NBA.com)

Let’s start with our fantastic playoff record during McGrady’s time in Houston.

2005: Lost 4-3 to Dallas in first round.

2006: Failed to reach playoffs.

2007: Lost to Utah 4-3 in first round.

2008: Lost to Utah 4-2 in first round.

2009: Best postseason since 1997, escaping Portland in the first round and taking the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to seven games before falling. HOWEVER, TRACY MCGRADY DID NOT PLAY A SINGLE GAME.

I understand McGrady was playing great in those playoff appearances (averaging around 28 points per game), but the fact is this: he wasn’t winning.

To extend my problems with him, he never played a full season in a Rockets’ uniform. Not counting this season because of conflict (even though you could make a case that he would have played if he had come into the season healthy), McGrady played in 297 regular season games over his five-year span in Houston. That’s out of a possible 410 games.

Also, McGrady’s numbers have dropped every season since being traded to the Rockets from Orlando. Starting in the 2004-05 season, McGrady averaged 25.7 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 43% from the field and 77% from the line. Since then, his scoring, rebounding and shooting efficiency has dropped, hitting a low last season with 15.6 ppg and shooting 38 percent from the field.

Instead of changing the back of his jersey to read “Handle With Care”, the Rockets traded McGrady to the Knicks after sitting him out the entire season because of ego problems.

Then, what happened? McGrady scored 26 points in his Madison Square Garden debut and blasted Rockets’ management afterwards.

McGrady said he was disappointed this season by a lack of communication from Rockets management.

“I didn’t know. I really didn’t know,” McGrady said. “And that’s just the unfortunate situation, that I just like for management to be upfront and honest with me. That’s all I ask, honesty. And if we can’t sit and have a conversation eye to eye and be honest with me, then all the respect and trust goes out the window.”

So now we can add something else to McGrady’s resume: hypocrite.

Let me remind everyone of last season. The Rockets had a trade in place to send McGrady in a straight-swap for his cousin Vince Carter. McGrady doesn’t want his family to have to move midseason, so he goes on-air to say he has to have season-ending surgery to repair his knee.

McGrady didn’t tell Daryl Morey. McGrady didn’t tell Rick Adelman. McGrady didn’t tell anyone involved with the organization he was under contract with. Instead, McGrady told ESPN.

Every trade talk with Houston soon ceased to exist. McGrady stayed on our roster, injured of course, and watched as Yao lead the Rockets out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

McGrady then, in an interview,  picked the Lakers to defeat the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs. Yes, that’s right, McGrady picked against his own team.

My point is this…how are you going to criticize your former team for not being open and talking to you, when you single-handedly ruined them?

You sabotaged a trade. You made everyone wait for you to get healthy. The Rockets’ organization did everything to try to please this diva.

No matter how the rest of this season plays out, the positive way to look at this situation is to be thankful the cancer known as Tracy McGrady will never get to put on a Rockets’ uniform again.

Instead, he gets to play for the Knicks, whom the Rockets have taken advantage of now twice, once in the ’94-’95 finals and now in this trade before the deadline.

To end, McGrady said he isn’t about money and is “going to embrace his opportunity in New York,” further stating that he looks forward to the chance to play with Lebron or Wade.

But McGrady is forgetting one thing: what makes him think they would want to play with a broken down, wrong-side-of-thirty, narcissistic, can’t win when it matters, brittle legged, never got the chance to become what he should have due to injury, can’t play through a paper cut, waste of talent like Tracy Lamar McGrady?

The next time the Darfur initiative asks McGrady for a donation, I am sure he will get out of helping them by blaming it on a bad knee.