Welcome to Episode 3 of The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al. It’s time for my weekly indulgence with my compatriot Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience, which is going all high-brow on us as he joins the MVN. But he’s graced me with his presence anyway.
In this week’s episode, Big Al decries U-M football, both of us weigh in on the Lions’ big trade and the IR’ing of QB Jon Kitna, and we even manage to sneak in a little Red Wings and post-season baseball (just a little, which is good because I clearly got the Dodgers wrong, as you’ll see).
And away we go……
Eno: It’s Thursday, and that means it’s another rock ’em sock ’em episode of The Knee Jerks. I’m Eno, also known as The Historian. He’s Big Al, also known as The Potential Heart Attack Victim. How are you, Big Al?
Big Al: Better than expected, actually. Even though the past weekend definitely wasn’t one of the more pleasant ones for football fans in the state of Michigan.
Eno: What? You mean Michigan State? They won, didn’t they?
Big Al: Sparty? Come on, Eno. You know I’m a Michigan fan! Yes, one of those fans who MSU fans despise, who didn’t go to the school. But come on, lose to TOLEDO? 1-4 TOLEDO? No, I’m not going to lose it. I value my health too much.
Eno: What’s frightening is that Toledo isn’t even one of the MAC’s top teams. Is that loss worse than losing to Appy State last year?
Big Al: It is, in that Appy St. could have beaten more than a few Division I (or whatever the NCAA is calling the BCS conference schools) teams. Toledo is a BAD team. Turns out, the Wolverines are a WORSE team. I knew it was going to be a year of transition, but this?
Eno: OK, what about that? How did the Wolves fall so far, so fast? And how in the HELL did that program end up without a quarterback?
Big Al: I’m not sure who to blame more: Rich Rodriguez for putting all his eggs in the Terrelle Pryor basket, or…I blame RichRod. Not that Pryor did him any favors by stringing him along well past signing day. Rodriguez absolutely has to recruit a freshman QB in 2009 who is capable of running the spread offense to its fullest capabilities. Even then, it’s looking like 2010 before we have a chance to see the Michigan we know.
Eno: OK, I see that there’s already a “Fire R-Rod” web site out there. But at the risk of disturbing the dead, er, the retired – isn’t Rodriguez playing with the deck that Lloyd Carr left for him? How much of this is Carr’s bad recruiting?
Big Al: Some of it is Lloyd Carr’s fault, of course. But we’re talking the powerful Michigan Wolverines, who recruit four and five-star players. You can’t blame Carr for losing QB Ryan Mallett., for example. There is talent there (at Michigan). For whatever reason, that talent isn’t being used to its potential, or it’s not buying into the RichRod program.
Eno: I was thinking about this: the Wolverines are 7-6 in their last 13 at the Big House. So that mystique seems to be gone. How does Rodriguez stand up in front of his players and say, “OK, we’re 2-4 — almost 1-5 — and just lost to Toledo at home. BUT WE’RE STILL MICHIGAN, men!” I mean, does that resonate?
Big Al: Not anymore. Which is why RichRod has his work cut out for him – getting Michigan’s, well, hubris back. But it’s not as if the Big House is one of the more intimidating places to play. I’ve always considered it overrated, and (home to) the quietest 110,000 people you’ll ever hear.
Eno: Well, “transition” is a kind word. But at least Rod has some pedigree. He’s not Gerry Faust, plucked from HIGH SCHOOL to coach Notre Dame. You’re an old geezer like me – remember that? Remember “Oust Faust”? So Rodriguez can probably rebuild this thing; just not right away, or fast enough for the fans or alums.
Big Al: Gerry Faust? The man in so far over his head, he makes Rod Marinelli look competent? I totally agree with you though. I’m not worried about RichRod’s turning the program around. His track record says he will. But you’ll never please Michigan fans, who think 10 wins and a BCS Bowl game appearance is a birthright. There isn’t a fan base in college football who needed a bigger humbling. Forty years of never having a losing season tends to do that to a fan base.
Eno: Here’s a sobering number: Penn State minus 23 against U-M. MINUS 23!!
Big Al: Never thought I’d see the day. With Steven Threet banged up, and RichRod playing a walk on, Nick Sheridan, minus 23 might be on the low side! (Penn State coach) Joe Paterno has to be licking his chops in anticipation of repaying U-of-M for almost a decade of painful losses.
Eno: Well, other coaches said, before the season, “Better get Michigan now, because once Rodriguez starts recruiting, look out.” So others obviously feel he’s up to the task. So, is it safe to say that you won’t be visiting the “Fire R-Rod” web site?
Big Al: Hell, no! I’m not happy, and RichRod deserves to be held accountable to what’s likely to be the worst Wolverines season since Bump Elliott was coach. [Good Lord, there are several generations of Michigan fans who are thinking, “Who in the Hell is Bump Elliott?”] But he also deserves the opportunity to fully implement his program, and that’s going to take time. Down seasons have happened to EVERY national power. It’s just the Wolverines’ turn.
Eno: So, big news, Big Al: The Lions listened to you – imagine that – and traded your man Roy Williams. And, even more, they robbed the Cowboys blind. What gives here?
Big Al: The Lions make a well-thought out, sensible, thinking-about-the-future move? It’s one of the seven signs! The apocalypse is upon us! Up is down, in is out! That’s what gives! Seriously, Martin Mayhew robbed the ‘Boys blind. And then some.
Eno: As I wrote in OOB, Mayhew is still interim, but not as interim as before the trade. Does this make him a player when the Lions go searching for a new front office leader? Or is this just beginner’s luck? Your gut.
Big Al: Even though getting most of the Cowboys’ 2009 draft for a player who wasn’t going to return next season has been universally lauded, you can’t ever forget Mayhew said “I’m a 100% Millen man.” He still needs to go. But knowing the Fords, I’m starting to get the feeling he may stay, along with (coach Rod) Marinelli. When it comes to the Fords, you just never know.
Eno: OMG, you REALLY think so? I’m talking about Marinelli now. You really think Mr. Pound the Rock has a chance of being here in ’09? Say it ain’t so, Al!! And I mostly agree about Mayhew; I don’t know what on Earth the man was thinking when he made that “I’m a Millen man” remark. Kind of like saying, “I’m a Bush man,” if you’re a Republican!
Big Al: If Mayhew stays, and this is a big “if”, he may feel loyalty to Marinelli. Mainly because trading Williams and IR’ing a vocally-unhappy-about-it Jon Kitna, means the Lions are waving the white flag on the ’08 season, when Marinelli really has to win games. It’s, in a way, if Marinelli had input on the moves, a selfless act by a head coach on a VERY hot seat. I wouldn’t approve, but knowing how the Lions think (Change = Bad), it’s a possible scenario.
Eno: Well, I must admit that Mayhew (another MM initial guy, btw) showed me something here. He might have some potential as a GM. But if the Lions can get a high-profile, veteran front office type, they need to do that. I’d love to see Mike Holmgren get fed up with coaching in Seattle and be ready to move upstairs – with the Lions, if possible. As for Coach Rod, I think he ought to prepare himself to be d-line coach at Cal or Stanford or something.
Big Al: I agree with you totally. A Holmgren, a Bill Cowher, someone with a name and a winning pedigree is essential to the Lions’ winning back the faith of a wary fan base. I could live with Mayhew staying in the organization (but NOT as GM), as he seems to have a very good reputation in NFL circles, but Marinelli has to go. He just has to. But who in the Hell knows what William Clay Ford is thinking? That’s the wild card in this mess.
Eno: But back to the trade real quick. I think of Roy-Roy as a guy who can excel in a better environment. He was never going to get any better in Detroit; he topped off here. I just hope the Cowboys know that they got themselves a fumbler and a dropper of easy passes, to go along with those occasional spectacular grabs. Guess we’ll never see that Drew Stanton-Roy Williams rapport here. *SIGH*
Big Al: I believe I said in an earlier edition of TKJWTFWEAA that Williams would “blow up” on a good team. With the Cowboys, Roy will have Terrell Owens on the other side of the field, drawing double teams. He’ll make hay, so to speak. But Williams also has issues with focus (re: dropping catchable balls) and diva tendencies (showing up QBs and celebrating 1st downs while three scores behind). The Cowboy fan base, considering what Jerry Jones gave up to get Roy, won’t be very forgiving if Williams pulls some of the stunts in Dallas that he did here in the D.
Eno: Well, it’s a deal good for all parties, really: Williams, the Lions, and the Cowboys – because Jerry Jones says so! As for the other biggish news, QB Jon Kitna is “no longer” as far as 2008 goes, having been placed on IR. Your thoughts? He’s done as a Lion, right? Even though he’s under contract for 2009.
Big Al: Kitna’s done. He’s already burning bridges, having gone to the press, claiming he could play. There must be more to it. If Kitna wasn’t hurt badly enough to miss the rest of the season, why not just demote him to 2nd or 3rd string? Obviously the Lions thought Kitna would become a locker room cancer (if he wasn’t already) if he was no longer starting. We’ll probably never know the entire truth.
Eno: Ahh, so you think they IR’d him as a way of performing cancer surgery? Interesting take. So who’s the QB for 2009, oh sage one?
Big Al: Well, it’s like taking a cleaver when you should have used a scalpel, but a good analogy. As for next season? I want to say Drew Stanton, but his unnecessarily missing a season on IR (in 2007) is still biting the Lions in the proverbial ass. No one knows if he can play. There’s also the fact that if a new GM is brought on board, he may want his own guy under center. The ’09 starter isn’t on the roster. In other words, it’ll be some veteran free agent.
Eno: Ahh, another Dave Krieg in our future! So, speaking of the Lions, how about those officials in Minnesota on Sunday, eh?
Big Al: You mean the guys wearing stripes who were on the Vikings’ payroll? It was one of the worst officiated Lions games in recent memory. The Lions “wuz robbed!” But bad calls have been abound in the NFL this season. It’s become an epidemic. Maybe it’s time the NFL went to full-time referees, instead of using insurance agents who have the weekend off!
Eno: I felt bad for (CB) Leigh Bodden. He actually played pretty well, then was victimized at the end there. I don’t even know if that ball was catchable. The zebras obviously thought Calvin Johnson didn’t have a chance at his pass near the end zone earlier in the game when Megatron was mugged. Johnson was jobbed, too (later in the game on a fumble call). I thought that Court of Appeals known as the Replay System was supposed to correct the wrongs done on the field.
Big Al: Yeah, right. And the NFL also says reviews are only supposed to take one minute. But as I said on TWFE, bad teams don’t get calls. The Lions have rarely been given the benefit of the doubt by the refs. It’s the same in all sports: good teams and good players get calls. The Lions aren’t good, and their good players are few and far between.
Eno: True that. So what do you make of an NFL QB (Orlovsky) who runs out of the end zone like an electric football player? If Gus Frerotte would have done that, at least he would have run right toward the nearest wall and banged his head against it! Orlovsky didn’t even give a reaction. He just kept running, right to the sideline. Didn’t toss his hands up, didn’t slap himself on the helmet, nothing. It was weird.
Big Al: Maybe Dan-O wanted a hot dog and a beer? I’ve never seen that happen before. Orlovsky just plain didn’t realize where he was on the field. I’ve NEVER seen such a lack of field awareness from an NFL QB – and I use that term loosely.
Eno: At least when Jim Marshall ran the wrong way (for Minnesota in 1964), he was just a dumb old defensive lineman! He can’t hear me, can he?
Big Al: You best hope not! At this point, nothing the Lions do on or off the field will surprise me. Even pulling a “Marshall”.
Eno: Hey, did you see Ty Conklin the other night? If the Red Wings get goaltending like THAT from their “backup”, then there’s no stopping them.
Big Al: Getting Conklin for essentially pocket change may be the best free agent pickup the Red Wings made this past off-season, even bigger than signing Marian Hossa. Just more proof that Ken Holland is the best GM in sports.
Eno: (The Red Wings) are just so much fun to watch, because of their puck possession style. At least once per game they get a goal as a result of tic-tac-toe passing. They’re the anti-Lions. Plop-plop, fizz-fizz. So I’ve been dominating the discussion. Anything else on your mind?
Big Al: I’ve got nothing.
Eno: Well, other than you’re going all hoity-toity on us and moving your act to MVN. I’m glad you’re at least stooping to chat with a serf like me!
Big Al: Well, I’ll always have time for the little people. Just talk to my people, first. You’re no serf, Eno. You’re more like a peasant. Seriously, I’m looking forward to moving to a big network like MVN. It should be fun. I’ll be able to reach out to a bigger audience, and even better, I won’t have to worry about design or the back end stuff. But nothing will change, content-wise. I’ll still hold up my part in being a knee-jerk, profane blogger!
Eno: The thought of you having “people” is terrifying! But good luck with MVN and just don’t forget the people you stepped on, on the way up! One more quickie: who’s winning the World Series this year?
Big Al: Thanks for the kind words! As for the World Series, I’m picking the Phillies. If there is a city that needs a champion, it’s Philly. The (Tampa Bay) Rays fans don’t deserve a title, and don’t get me going on Boston and their elitist, “It’s all about us” fan base. Who’s your MLB pick to click?
Eno: Well, if you wander over to Johnny Grubb and/or OOB (I posted it both places), I roasted the Rays fans. They averaged 22,000 per game – less than 50% capacity and 26th in MLB. That’s pathetic for a first-place team. Take their team away!! I like the Red Sox. They’re battle-tested. The Phillies are the Cubs, plus one. In my mind, 1980 (when the Phillies won the World Series) is the only thing that separates the Phillies from being even WORSE than the Cubbies, who at least have won more than one title in their history. So Bosox in six over….LA. Yep – the Dodgers will rally. Any team (the Red Sox) that has Stephen King rooting for them in the stands is OK in my book – no pun intended. So see you next week, Big Time, I mean Big Al!
Big Al: I’ll be here, Mr. Journalist! See you next week!
Eno: Ah, touche!