The Haphazard Blog

Archive for January, 2010

Big Changes Coming for the Patriots?

by on Jan.17, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

It has been a week of looking back on the Patriots and from what I gather, some big changes are likely coming. The big theme was a lack of leadership.

There was a culture in the locker roomthat was basically eliminated in one off-season. Rodney Harrison’s contract ended at the end of the season and he was going to take his time to decide on his future. The Patriots traded Mike Vrabel at the start of free agency for basically nothing. I don’t know if they traded him over a $1M roster bonus or because he wasn’t producing. Harrison decided to retire in June. Tedy Bruschi got through half of training camp and decided to retire. Then the Patriots traded Richard Seymour right before the season started. From what I can gather now, these guys were the “assholes” in the locker room. They were the vocal ones who would make sarcastic remarks like “leaving already?” to the rookie who was leaving before they were. They weren’t afraid to call out other team mates for anything they felt was lacking. Poor play, poor focus, poor discipline, etc.

When Harrison and Bruschi retired, they pointed to Brandon Meriweather and Jerod Mayo as leaders. The problem was, them, along with Tom Brady, Kevin Faulk, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are all nice guys. They lead by example but they won’t call a team mate out. There were always stories about how during practice, Harrison would turn it into a real competition with Brady. His goal was to incense Brady every practice. He was vocal and clear about it. In turn, Brady wanted to beat Harrison. They made each other better every day. They pushed each other. And this was widespread through the whole team.

There was a good story Willie McGinest told to the Globe that kind of sums up what was lost:

“When we were there, we had a foundation and a nucleus of guys that were competitive,” said McGinest. “And not competitive against the other team. Competitive against each other. I remember yelling over at (Richard) Seymour during the game, Ty (Warren) and me saying, ‘They ain’t running over here!’ And he and Vrabel yelling back, ‘They ain’t running here.’ And then (Vince) Wilfork saying, ‘They sure as heck ain’t running here.'”

They pushed each other to the point that no one wanted to be the reason they lost. They all did their jobs at a high level. It makes me realize how lucky we were as Patriots fans. Bill Belichick was able to get together all these guys who made each other better. Yes, his schemes were good, but these were a group of extraordinary players. It also looks like they were all on the defensive side of the ball. In one off-season, Belichick got rid of the last of them. I think this clarifies why Junior Seau was brought back so early. Unfortunately, pre-game speeches only carry a team so far. There was no one on the sidelines (or in practice) challenging their team mates to play better. Now you have guys laughing and joking after the beating they took to end the season. A year ago, no one would’ve been smiling in that locker room.

Belichick got rid of all the vocal guys. There was no one left to police the locker room. There were no dissenting voices to challenge Belichick. I don’t mean like Adalius Thomas, but players who performed on the field week in and week out. Leaders who would stand up to the coach when needed. The only voice left was Belichick’s. It goes back further than these guys. He got rid of Lawyer Milloy (but was lucky to have Rodney Harrison to fill his leadership shoes). After he joined the Bills, his first week there in the film room players were laughing at another player for blowing a play. Milloy tells everyone that it isn’t funny. The new guy was already showing them how to do things the right way.

Brady talked about it to an extent on the radio show and after the loss. That he needed to be a better leader. That you just can’t replace all those guys they lost. This is why I think a lot of change is coming. I’m hoping Belichick realizes what was missing in the locker room and he goes out and gets free agents who bring that edge back. We were all waiting for the real Patriots to show up this year. Most of us didn’t realize the people who really made the “Patriot Way” go, are gone. Whether they can get it back remains to be seen. There is no one left there to teach it to the next guy. It seems that no one took that torch from any of them. They were content to have Vrabel, Harrison, Bruschi and Seymour do it all.

This is one of many problems the Patriots have going into the next year. They have no offensive or defensive coordinator. The Baltimore Ravens (and even some Patriots players) said it was like they were in the Patriot’s huddle throughout that game. Is there any excuse for another team being able to predict/defend the offense that well? Coaches, schemes, players, leadership, there’s a lot of work to do in Foxborough.

For any Patriots fans who would like more information about the leadership void and why things didn’t go so well this season, I recommend listening to this Patriots Football Weekly podcast.

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Keeping NFL Teams Playing Hard at the End of the Season

by on Jan.17, 2010, under Football, Sports

Roger Goodell recently said the following according to ProFootballTalk:

Honestly, we don’t have a solution for it. We’ve had a lot of suggestions. A lot of people have talked about things from making scheduling changes to re-seeding the playoffs. A couple people have suggested the idea of potentially modifying the draft in certain ways. But none of these have been studied in depth.

This is in response to the reaction to the Indianapolis Colts to rest their players at a time when their team was 14-0 and had a real shot at going 16-0. The fans at the game were very upset. The Colts have a long history of resting their players late in the season once they have clinched home field advantage for the playoffs. The outcry was much larger this season because they were undefeated and then compounded by their actions afterward. Ranging from bogus excuses for why they played hard the week before (debunked by ProFootballTalk) to then risking injury to their players to establish arbitrary individual statistical milestones.

The NFL tossed out some ideas that Goodell mentioned. Giving out draft picks to teams that continue to play hard was the first one I heard. This one didn’t make much sense to me since they’d be rewarding teams that are heading to the playoffs. If the idea is parity, and they give the teams that did poorly better draft positions, it would be counteractive to reward good teams with additional draft picks, regardless of where they are in the order.

Another idea, adjusting the schedule so the last 3 games are division games won’t help much either. The weight the division has is already diminished when only 6 out of 16 games are division games. Using this year as an example, the Colts were uncatchable with 3 games left. It didn’t matter what those 3 games were.

I think the solution lies in re-seeding. The basis of teams resting is that they have established either the top seed in the playoffs or that whatever they do, their seed in the playoffs is set. They have to make a change that strikes at the reason for resting.

My suggestion is to continue to determine the playoff teams as they are now (division winners plus two wild card teams). Then add an emphasis to a team’s late season performance. I’m throwing out doubling the weight of the last 4 games of the season. In this scenario, this is what would’ve happened this season:

2009 NFL Playoffs Reseeded

The Colts and San Diego Chargers end up flipping seeds and the Cincinnati Bengals drop from the fourth to sixth seed in AFC. For the NFC, the top 3 seeds remain the same and the Arizona Cardinals drop from the fourth to sixth seed. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to solve many problems. Looking at the NFC, 5 teams ended up with the same weighted record. The New Orleans Saints rested their starters in the final weekend and lost. The Philadelphia Eagles would’ve had a shot at the #1 seed with a win. The Colts would’ve locked up the #1 seed with one more win and possibly been sitting at 15-0. Do they go for 16-0 then or lay down? I’d like to know how many teams would throw away a chance at going undefeated. As far as I know, this is the first time in NFL history that a team willingly lost the first game of their season.

So by weighting the last 4 games of the season, it rewards teams for playing well into the playoffs. The reseeding also eliminates a bad team in a bad division from getting a home playoff game. Their reward is a ticket to the playoffs. Performance on field gets you home field. I ran the “numbers” for the 2005 through 2008 seasons as well and you can see the end result in the gallery at the end of the post. Some quick (mostly New England Patriots-centric) observations (these all exclude the effect of how teams would’ve played had they known records would be weighted, so it assumes each team tried their best to win the game):

  • In 2008, the Colts would’ve jumped from a wild card to the first seed. They started out slow but finished up on a long streak. Nice reward.
  • In 2007, the Patriots still lock-up the #1 seed early, but the NFC field is shaken up. Do the New York Giants still make it to the Super Bowl? What would’ve been…
  • In 2006, the AFC Championship game could’ve been the Colts at the Patriots instead of the other way around.
  • In 2005, the seeding in the AFC is changed so the wild card teams host the division winners, but the games stay the same. If the results also stay the same, then the Patriots avoids the Denver Broncos (the team/coach (Shanahan) have had Bill Belichick’s number) and play the Colts instead. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Broncos that year and if the Patriots beat the Colts, they play at the Steelers in the AFC championship. I like their chances. And yes Steelers fans, this is why the Patriots are the team of the decade. Three Super Bowls to 2 and the Patriots were 2-0 against the Steelers in the playoffs. Both games were the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh. The Steelers never had to beat the Patriots to win a Championship.
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Patriots Season is Over

by on Jan.10, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

Another season ends poorly. It was almost fitting that the Patriots had their worst game of the year when it mattered the most. They came into the season as Super Bowl favorites (according to Las Vegas odds) and didn’t come anywhere close to the expectations laid out by the media. This season has been an effort in setting new lows.

As far as I can remember, Brady was pulled from a game for the first time in his career because they were losing so badly (vs. the Saints). Brady and Belichick have now lost their first home playoff game. Everything was simply uncharacteristic Patriots this season. For me the most telling was the Patriots lost 5 games that they led at half time (4 of them were by 10 or more points). In Bill Belichick’s first 9 seasons as Patriots head coach (2000-2008) they had lost only 5 games they led at half time, total.

In retrospect, some are saying this is a “rebuilding” year. It’s hard to believe that when the offense had almost all of the players they had in 2007, or 2008 when they had Matt Cassel at QB and won more games. Was Jabar Gaffney the entire difference? Maybe the offensive line is getting older. The defense was supposed to get younger and faster along with a much improved secondary. Did trading Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour hurt them badly? Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi retiring?

I think they need a player that can be disruptive to the passing game, especially getting after the QB.  But, I believe more of the blame this year falls on the shoulders of the offense. They produced in the first half, but then were anemic in the second half in too many games. Wishful thinking is Tom Brady was still getting back into the game and both he and Randy Moss suffered from other undisclosed injuries. If that is age related, then it’s not likely to be a one time occurrence. Wes Welker will likely miss half of the 2010 season, maybe all of it. He certainly won’t be his old self in 2010.

The Patriots had a pretty good draft last year. They got a lot of young players who contributed and it filled out their roster pretty well. I’m hopeful they will focus on trying to get a few impact players (trading up) instead of collecting contributors (trading down). My list right now looks like outside line backer/pass rusher, outside wide receiver, running back, cornerback, tight end and offensive lineman. They could fill some of these in free agency as well. It will be interesting to see how it ends up going.

If it’s an uncapped year, the Patriots avoided any restrictions on signing players with the wild card round loss. They are a high revenue team, so I wonder if they will spend at the top. Traditionally they have spent near the cap limit. It’s an interesting dynamic for the owners. They want to win and could get players that normally would’ve been very difficult under a salary cap. On the other hand, if they’re spending a lot, it’s hard to convince the players that the current split is inequitable. They can also cut players with no concern for the dead money. This part could be bigger than many anticipate given Tom Brady’s comments about commitment, discipline, working hard, etc. in comparison to the past. I think some surprising cuts are coming.

It should be an interesting off-season.

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Skyscrapers Have Me Thinking

by on Jan.09, 2010, under News, Politics

With the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai it reminded me of a couple things. It’s a sad reminder about how inefficient the United States has become in so many areas. Politically we can’t make positive progress on much. Healthcare reform has been bounced around in Congress for six months now. There still hasn’t been any work done to adjust regulations for financial institutions. Matt Drudge purposely lets the ignorant know global warming is a joke. I’m sure climate change will also end up going nowhere.

Nothing illustrates how ineffective and inefficient we are than 1 World Trade Center (The Freedom Tower). There was a time where the biggest skyscrapers were being built here. People would set out to build something and it would get done. Now, over eight years after the attacks, there is still nothing there. What is supposed to be a symbol that the terrorists won’t win is around 200 feet of steel so far. Estimated completion date is 2013, over 7 years after the groundbreaking and nearly 12 years after the attacks at an estimated cost of $3.5B.  Comparing that to the Burj: Ground breaking to completion was 5 years, 4 months; Total cost was $1.5B; Nearly 1M more square feet; 1,000 feet taller (1,350 feet if you exclude the antennas.). In summary, for $2B more, we get a smaller building that takes longer to build.

The other thing the Burj reminded me about was a science fair project I had done in 8th or 9thgrade. My friend Mike and I did a project called “How High can a Skyscraper Go?”. The answer ended up being pretty much as high as you want. There would be logistical issues to overcome (plumbing, elevators, etc.) but structurally the sky really was the limit. In retrospect, the project probably should’ve focused on a specific height instead of being open ended. But that’s not why I was thinking about it. I was talking to Mike recently and he mentioned that he saw a design that looked like the model we had built back then. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember where he saw it. We build it with balsa wood and hot glue. It was about 6 feet tall, but I’m told it no longer exists. Since I didn’t have any pictures of it, I spent part of the day messing with Google SketchUp to create a mock-up of it.

Mile High Skyscraper in SketchUp

If anyone recognizes it from somewhere, let me know. I want a commission or at least some credit!

Google SketchUp is a pretty good product, especially considering it is free. For someone with a more artistically geared mind than me, I bet it works great. You are always working in 3D. There are very few drawing tools which keeps it simple, but it’s very capable. I wanted to design a house, but I don’t think that is the best thing to use. It’s a little too generic for that purpose in my opinion. Better to use something geared just for that purpose.

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Daily Show and Colbert Report in HD

by on Jan.05, 2010, under Entertainment, TV

The last two standard definition shows that I watch are finally in HD. I have wondered if/when they will start to frame stuff in HD and broadcast the SD versions in letterbox. As it is now for most things, HD viewers get the better picture (resolution and colors), but the additional viewing area isn’t put to much use to avoid leaving the SD viewers with a reduced viewing experience. It would be most valuable on sports and anything that makes use of on screen graphics.

Now that everything I watch is in HD, announcements should be showering down this week for 3D HD in the home. You’ll need a new TV that is capable of displaying it, but that looks like the next evolution. DirecTV is supposedly going to announce a 3D channel to debut this year. My question for DirecTV: Will we be able to watch Mad Men and Breaking Bad on AMC HD first? Please?

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Transformers vs. G.I. Joe

by on Jan.05, 2010, under Entertainment, Movies

I recently watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I thought they were both good but Transformers was better. It’s interesting that what started out as childhood toys for me were both summer blockbusters.

Watching both, one thing that stood out to me was that special effects, especially CGI, helped make both movies do as well as they did. Even ten years ago, I think many of the effects would’ve been extremely difficult and even more expensive to do. It is all so seamlessly integrated now. I even admit I took a look at the job openings at Industrial Lights and Magic to see what kind of engineers they are hiring. (Quite a few, but mostly specialized.) They have become such an integral part of movies that quite a bit of the credits are devoted to the special effects people.

Looks like both movies will have follow-ups. Also, I had no idea that was Sienna Miller in G.I. Joe. Dark hair looks really nice on her.

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Falling Behind

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Entertainment, Life, News, Politics, Site News, Sports, Technology

Well, as you can probably tell by the huge gap in posts (a lot in September, less in October and nothing since), I got behind. More to the point, I had other things going on in life.

I tried to keep notes on things to blog about and I was going to back fill the blog with them. It’s kind of pointless though. It would not reflect what I was really thinking at the time. Instead, it would’ve been a mix of what I thought at the time with some hindsight. That seems somewhat disingenuous, and it’s not like there are all that many readers of this blog that are waiting for my incredible insight into random things.

Another thing I will not do is make any resolutions for New Years to blog every day or any nonsense like that. I am starting anew, and it is a new year, but it’s more coincidence. I’ve had the last couple days off from work and I’m not so busy. I wasted my afternoon watching WVU get beat by an inferior (on paper) Florida State in the Kiss Bobby Bowden’s Ass Bowl. Then by about 5 minutes into the second half it was evident WVU was going to be killed by Purdue in basketball. So, I’ll quickly touch on the stuff I had taken notes on over the last couple months. It should be apropos of the blog’s title.

Patriots are up and down this season. That Colts loss was brutal. I can not remember the last time the Patriots got beat as badly as they did by the Saints. Have they ever benched Brady because they were losing? Pure domination over the Jaguars. Can they get the job done when it counts? We’ll see in 2 weeks if they get to play the Colts or Chargers.

Why do announcers and writers call so many hits to the QB that result in a flag the “Brady Rule”? It’s really only hits below the knees when the defender is on the ground. Low hits were banned after the Steelers took out Carson Palmer.

I admit I am somewhat a fairweather fan when it comes to the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. I don’t follow them all that closely during the regular season. Nothing like the Patriots. I know they won the World series again in 2007, but I still keep wishing they re-signed Orlando Cabrera. They still haven’t found a shortstop.

President Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t do anything to earn it. The Republican reaction. Predictable and overboard. There really is no need to pile onto the obvious.

Microsoft needs a much better way to install an upgrade version of Windows 7. Many enthusiasts reinstall their OS often. Having to install XP or Vista first is ridiculous. They should allow people to submit their old XP/Vista key and the Windows 7 upgrade key and receive a regular Windows 7 key to do a true clean installation.

I got a cold in mid-October. I figured maybe I should get the Flu shots. I hadn’t had one in probably 10 years. I called my doctor, a Physiatrist who should be very familiar with the needs of people with spinal cord injuries, to see if I should be trying to get the H1N1 shot ASAP. Her response: Ask my primary care physician. That does not feel right at all. I think I need a new Physiatrist. They said I should, but there’s no waitlist. I needed to call and see if they were in on my own. That got old/tedious fast. Long story short, I didn’t get either and got the flu 2 weeks ago. I still have a cough. There’s supposedly a second wave expected, so I guess I still will end up getting the shot. The flu sucked. I did not get the flu in over 10 years. I can’t decide if it’s better to keep avoiding the shot or not.

I read this article in Rolling Stone about some stock option sales that netted insane profits during the financial crisis in 2008. It’s quite upsetting. I don’t see any reason they can’t figure out the people involved and charge them with crimes. Is everyone complicit in this? Everything is such a mess. It feels like no one is going to do anything about Wall Street. For the most part, no one on the government side took advantage of the leverage they had during the crisis. Now the remaining Wall Street giants are back to making huge profits. I would too if the government loaned me money at 0% that I then could loan out at 4-5%+.

I didn’t write a follow-up Fall TV post. So here’s a quick rundown. Hank stunk (ABC agreed and cancelled it). The Middle is better than Cougar Town but not Modern Family. White Collar is an interesting crime drama, but Leverage is better. I liked V and never saw any incarnation of it before.

The anniversary of the JFK assassination came and went. At least for me, the computer simulation Dale Myers did helped me realize that I forgot about the windshield on the limo. That eliminates so many angles for a shooter on the ground. Oswald makes the most sense. It doesn’t preclude a grander conspiracy per se, but I think the ones about who the shooter was and where the shooter was just don’t cut it.

I got a new PC. It is pretty fast compared to the old one. Everything is snappier. On the old one, things ran well, but I notice they run better on here. Use less CPU time. I still need to get everything transferred over. I have a lot of PC housekeeping I need to do. Consolidate to one machine. Build a new machine for my Dad. replace the 802.11b cards with 802.11g ones so my network can run at G speeds. I can’t stream all of my HD video over wireless B speeds. Then I need to send back my old/broken PC.

We got a pretty good World Cup draw. Hopefully that will help the U.S. avoid a last place, no wins finish in their group again.

I’m hoping to go to the Formula 1 race in Montreal in June.

Health Care “reform” is looking like a train wreck. The Democrats are so disorganized. They stripped out everything the Republicans didn’t want and they still won’t get any votes. If that’s going to be the case, why even bother to appease them? You are going to end up with either all the blame or taking credit, why pass something you don’t like much? I think in the long term, we’re in serious trouble. Nothing the government is doing makes sense for the long term. The Congress can’t do anything but appease special interest groups/lobbyists. I think the smartest people are getting theirs now before everything goes south. Get a lot of money in the bank now with little regard to long term consequences. A lot of good talk from President Obama, and I know change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m not even seeing any indication that change may happen. It’s business as usual in Congress.

This attempted Christmas Day plane bomber story is very weird with the stories from the lawyer about how the guy tried to get on the plane in Amsterdam, the second person being arrested and a possible second bomb in the luggage. I could understand them not wanting to disclose in order to aid their investigation. I’ll be interested to see what comes of it.

I got Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. It’s a neat game. I’m not even 10% through it and it is challenging. How do you “defeat” a tornado? Destroy steel spikes?

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Colts resting starters meltdown. It has so badly blown up in their faces. They went about it in the worst way possible and every defense of it that Bill Polian throws out there makes no sense. Obsessed with the Patriots much?

If you read all of this, I commend you. I also want to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year!

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