Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's the Draft, Stupid

Tomahawks must get it right!!

The Chiefs have drafted themselves into a corner. New GM Scott Pioli has such a reputation for finding gems in the annual auction that the height of the expectations is only dwarfed by his salary.

Fans are thinking and talking openly about “doing a Miami”. Remember that the Dophins, coming off a disastrous season in 07, signed their top draft choice, OT Jake Long and went on to a winning season.

Fans seem to forget that the NFL draft is a real crap shoot. From the top 250 college players taken most will not be on a roster at the end of the season. Pioli is making the right noises when he explains the success of Tom Brady (a sixth round choice by the Patriots) by reminding us that Tom is the hardest worker he has ever seen – except, perhaps, the new QB incumbent of the Chiefs, Matt Cassel – a seventh round Pats choice. What he's saying is that it is mostly hit and miss and raw talent is handy, but the ability to improve and work hard are probably more important.

So, what will be the Chiefs strategy?

Most expect the Chiefs to be stuck with the number three pick. No matter how hard Pioli tries to unload it, it's going to be difficult. High picks cost so much money nobody really wants them, so it is imperative that Pioli gets it right. Many people are expecting him to go for OLB Aaron Curry. Some think that he might go for Virginia OT, Eugene Monroe. Both look like safe picks on paper. After all the off season activity in bolstering the most feeble line-backing corps in Chiefs history, you might expect Monroe to be the choice. I still think it will be Curry.

With no pick in the second round, it's imperative that the top pick is a player who contributes right now and is a potential Pro-bowler.

As the draft unwinds predictions become too far-fetched to predict. Every team has their draft strategy and mostly this involved selecting the top player on their chart who is still available when the clock starts. Every team says they do this, but in reality they don't.

Take the Chiefs QB status for example. Matt Stafford of Georgia is the top QB and top overall player in this crop of potential first rounders. Even if he is still on the board when the Chiefs pick at three they will not take him. There are no guarantees, especially with QB's. The Chiefs need help at LB and OT. The will take the top pick left at one of those positions even if Stafford is still there.

It's only when you get to rounds three and four (Chiefs have no second round pick) that you might go for the top player left on your board, regardless of position. Teams are made in the draft. Or not made. The Lions (predicted to take Stafford) are perennial early pickers. They almost always get it wrong. The temptation to play safe and go for Curry or Monroe first might be too great to resist. If so, the Chiefs are in real headache country. They would still pass on Stafford and go for the next best OT or DE. So much for taking the top-rated player.

The only sure thing is the speculation is nearly over. Now it's money talks and bull**** walks.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Six of the Best

Time to go to bat for the away team.

Every bus/train/pub conversation will inevitably turn to the credit crunch and listening to the “we're doomed” brigade launch into a “bring back Maggie Thatcher chant”can be irksome and tiresome; so, it's time to promulgate the six best things about the UK and see if anyone agrees.

Number One

The Sunday Times – don't forget - despite the profligate number of Red Tops which are not actually newspapers at all, Britain still boasts some quality newspapers and a readership that is second to none – The Sun, The Mail and The Mirror are all in the top 13 selling daily newspapers in the world. Most of the really big sellers, of course, are from China, India and Japan.

The Sunday Times makes my Sunday. Any description of a perfect Sunday starts with reading the paper. The roast beef comes much later.

Number Two

The NHS. President Obama had health care reform as part of his electoral appeal and it worked. Unfortunately, the prospect of him persuading Congress to come up with anything like an NHS is very remote. Why? The vested interests in the United States just will not give up the milch cow that is the present system.

By contrast, Britain's NHS is the envy of the world – or most of it at least. It is far from perfect, but it does work. And it is genuinely free at the point of need.

People in Britain take it for granted and every paper has at least one story of an NHS failure on a daily basis; but it is so much better than any alternative; it would be easier to get the turkeys to vote for more Christmases than it would be to devise a better plan to cover a nation's health care needs than the NHS.

Number Three

The BBC. I never watch ITV – perhaps that's why they are losing money and advertisers faster than a man going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. I would watch ITV if there were any programmes worth watching, but since there aren't and we all pay for the BBC through the license fee anyway – why bother? ITV is full of soaps and naff game shows. I never watch it.

Number Four

Liverpool Street Station. Not the present station, the old one – before they tarted it up and added the glitzy shops and the arcades full of designer sunglasses. It was smoke encrusted. It was dingy. It was dirty. It was uncomfortable. In short, it was everything that represented the best of old England. Now it's gone – sold out to the bean counters and the advertisers. Shame.

Number Five

Stratford-on-Avon. I know it' daft, but I get a thrill visiting Stratford. It's almost all modern stores and houses by the bits that are “preserved” make it worthwhile. If you can't get excited visiting Holy Trinity and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – then you are probably immune to nostalgia and reverence for the Bard. More fool you.

Number Six

Trent Bridge. There must be nothing like a Test Match at Lords – though I have never been and I like the Oval – especially on a really hot day when you can drink a hogshead of beer and sweat it out so fast that you don't get drunk, but Trent Bridge is my “home” ground (that is to say the nearest one to Norwich with good rail communications). It really is a great place to watch cricket. The crowd are rowdy but very good natured and they don't take the cricket too seriously. Sitting in the New Stand and gazing at the old pavilion is a joy. Visiting the Trent Bridge Inn is a glory. And, you can get the train home. Magic.