Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

Time continues to move on, people leave us every day and we keep trying to pay our respects to those that have recently left us.

Goodbye to Borje Salming at the age of 71.

The hockey Hall of Fame member was the first Swede to be voted into the Hall in 1996 and was named one of the 100 greatest to play the game in 2017.

Salming was the league's first Swedish star when he signed with Toronto before the 1973-74 season and would spend sixteen seasons with the Maple Leafs before finishing his career with one season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1989-90.

Known for his smooth skating, Salming never won a Norris Trophy for the league's best defenseman but finished as the runner-up twice and made the end-of-the-season All-Star first or second team on six occasions.

Salming's number 21 was retired by Toronto and he still holds the franchise record for career assists.

Goodbye to John Hadl at the age of 82.

Hadl won an AFL title in 1963 with the then-San Diego Chargers and was named an AFL All-Star four times before moving to the Rams and Packers in one of the worst trades in football history, that we wrote about recently.

Hadl appeared in three AFL title games with the Chargers and holds an NFL record that will almost certainly never be broken as Hadl is first on the list for tie games for a starting quarterback with nine.

Hadl would also coach the Los Angeles Express for two of the three seasons of the original USFL's existence, leading the Express to the Pacific Division title before losing in the Western Conference championship game to the Arizona Wranglers.

In Jeff Pearlman's recent book on the USFL, "Football for a Buck" Hadl is the subject of a story that involves the Express releasing defensive end Greg Fields and the ensuing fistfight between Hadl and Fields.

Goodbye to Gaylord Perry at the age of  84.

Perry, the long-time master of the spitter, greaser, and any other substance that he would claim would help a baseball, won over three hundred games in his career that spanned eight different teams with his best seasons with the Giants and Indians.

Perry won over twenty games on five occasions with his best season as an Indian in 1972 when Perry finished 24-16 with an ERA of 1.92 winning the first of his two Cy Young awards after being obtained in the off-season from the Giants for lefthander Sam McDowell.

Perry's second Cy Young came after a 21-6 season with San Diego in 1978 at the age of 39 with the first Padres team to finish with a winning record.

Perry wrote a book during his tenure in Cleveland entitled "Me and the Spitter" with all sorts of stories about various ways and items that he could use to move a baseball but "would no longer employ" which was equally about getting batters to think about Perry's routine as much as it was to make a few bucks off the book!

I bet I read that book a hundred times as a kid and remember buying it from another kid one day in school for my lunch money of the day.

One day without lunch was money well spent!

Goodbye to Brad William Henke at the age of 56.

Cherie brought me the news of the passing of Brad William Henke.

Henke was a fourth-round draftee of the New York Giants in 1989 from Arizona but was released in camp before being claimed by the Broncos where he would play his only season.

Henke moved into acting with many roles in film and television with his most famous regular role as a security guard on the Netflix series "Orange is the new Black".

I've never watched that series, so to me his most famous role was "Coover Bennett", one of the Bennett Clan in the FX classic "Justified" in most of the show's second and arguably best season.

Henke also appeared in one episode of "The Office" during its final season as "Frank" a warehouse worker who vandalizes Pam's artwork and she responded by vandalizing his truck, which introduces "Brian" from behind the camera in one of the show's worst ideas.



 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Browns take down Texans 27-14

 The long-anticipated Cleveland Browns debut of DeShaun Watson was supposed to cure some offensive ills but it was two defensive touchdowns by Denzel Ward and Tony Fields combined with a Donovan Peoples-Jones punt return for a score that accounted for Cleveland's end zone visits in a 27-14 win over the hapless Houston Texans in Houston.

Watson would finish with only twelve completions from twenty-two throws for 131 yards and threw an interception into the Houston red one to end a scoring threat.

Nick Chubb rushed for eighty yards on seventeen carries and Kareem Hunt added fifty-six yards on nine carries to lead the offense.

Cleveland improved to 5-7 with the victory and will travel down I-71 to visit the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.

Brownie Bits

1) The big question was how DeShaun Watson would be treated in his return to Houston and while I'm sure there was some noise made and plenty of comments, they didn't really come across on the television broadcast.

This could be due to the Texans seeming to have poisoned a once-robust fan base into just ambivalence so it will be interesting to see how Watson is treated next week by the Cincinnati crowd.

2) I didn't expect DeShaun Watson to be sharp and he wasn't.

On the interception in the end zone to Jalen Pitre, he had a receiver open (Donovan Peoples-Jones) and instead attempted to squeeze it into Amari Cooper.

Those things will hopefully develop as Watson plays more often, even if the payoff doesn't arrive until next season.

3) On a few plays though, you could see what Watson could bring to the Browns as he scrambled around the pocket, tucked the ball down, and ran for a first down on an eleven-yard dash.

There are some things that Watson will need to work on but the mobility is still there intact.

4) The Browns entered this game with three interceptions in the previous eleven games but picked two passes in this win, including John Johnson's grab on the first offensive play of the game.

Johnson's interception didn't result in any points but it did set the stage for the Browns defense to make big plays throughout the game.

5) It was a big game for second-year linebacker Tony Fields, who forced a fumble that led to a touchdown, recovered a fumble, and grabbed a ball that was deflected by Chase Winovich, running sixteen yards for a touchdown.

Fields saw some action last week against Tampa Bay and could see even more playing time between his play against Houston and a second-half injury to Sione Takitaki that looked somewhat serious.

6) The other touchdown from the defense was really strange as Fields hit a sneaking Kyle Allen at the Houston two, knocking the ball loose, and seemed like no one saw the football except Denzel Ward, who strolled into the end zone untouched early in the third quarter.

7) Cleveland's other touchdown came from Donovan Peoples-Jones, who returned a punt seventy-six yards for the Browns first score late in the first half.

Peoples-Jones's return was the first punt return touchdown dating back to 2015 and Travis Benjamin.

For a team with so many great returners in their history, the Browns have had major issues filling the void since Josh Cribbs other than Travis Benjamin for a short time.

8) I was disappointed when Nick Chubb was tackled for a safety in the first half as Houston's defensive line pushed the Browns offensive line back and Chubb never came close to getting out of the end zone.

Remember that while it is only needed to break the plane of the goal line to score a touchdown, to avoid a safety the ball needs to completely reside outside of the end zone at the time of the tackle.

10) Other than that, the Browns had no problems running the ball against the Texans and Kareem Hunt looked as good as he has been all season on his carries.

11) Houston is the worst team in the league for a reason and the Browns couldn't score an offensive touchdown against them.

DeShaun Watson will need some time to really sharpen his skills and while the offense has been waiting for him as the savior, he isn't likely to be that for this season anyway.

The Browns missed David Njoku and Watson will naturally improve when his tight end is part of the weapons that he has on the field.

I'd still argue that the Browns need to upgrade those targets in the offseason to give Watson the best chance to succeed but that can wait until another time.

DeShaun Watson will face a good team in the Bengals next week and though they have their defensive issues as well, Cincinnati is much better than Houston, and the Browns have had the Bengals number in the last few seasons, so the Bengals will be much more motivated than one would suspect for a game against a 5-7 team.

We won't receive all the answers next week but we will likely get a few and they will go a long way toward the Browns playing for something in the final month of the season or playing out the string as they get a feeling for DeShaun Watson and what he does best in their offense.  

Boxing Challenge: Estrada slips by Gonzalez

   Juan Francisco Estrada sped to a huge lead on the scorecards but Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez took command in the middle rounds to enter the final round with the decision in the balance with the vacant WBC junior bantamweight title to the victor.

But it was Estrada that won the final round and earned him the majority decision, the title, and perhaps most important of all - the two-to-one lead in the series of fights between the two.

In a fight much like their second, Estrada boxed well when able to keep the fight in the center of the ring but as the bout progressed, it was Gonzalez marching forward and putting Estrada on the defensive to win those rounds.

Estrada's win was by scores of 114-114, 115-113 (same as my score), and 116-112 with the latter seeming a bit wide for my taste.

After the fight, both seemed anxious for a fourth encounter, which I'd be fine with although I'd prefer Estrada against the winner of the New Year's Eve unification match between WBA champion Joshua Franco (a title Estrada vacated to fight Gonzalez a third time) and WBO boss Kazuto Ioka.

Many leaned slightly toward Gonzalez in picking this fight as he had looked so impressive in defeating WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez while Estrada looked average in a decision win over Argi Cortes but much like his countryman Juan Manuel Marquez in his fights vs Manny Pacquiao, Estrada is always able to raise his game against Gonzalez to another level and twice it has been good enough to win a razor close decision.

In the co-feature, Julio Cesar Martinez was very fortunate to receive a majority decision win over late replacement Samuel Carmona of Spain.

Carmona stepped in for an injured McWilliams Arroyo and built a lead over the first half of the fight with a cute boxing style that frustrated Martinez and left him following Carmona listlessly around the ring for the first seven or eight rounds.

Carmona appeared to have injured his right hand in the middle rounds and Martinez did win some rounds on aggression but Carmona seemed to put the fight away in the late rounds although the judges didn't agree with Martinez winning by scores of 114-114, 116-112 and a pathetic 117-111.

I scored Carmona a winner at 116-112.

It was the second listless performance in a row for Martinez, who lost to Roman Gonzalez at junior bantamweight earlier this year, and his struggles in this one make me wonder if he would cope well at all in a possible unification fight as rumored against IBF champion Sunny Edwards, who is an excellent boxer and could dance around Martinez all fight long.

As for Carmona, a former Olympian, he fought well and should be heard from more in the flyweight division in the future.

Boxing Challenge

TRS:200 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica: 170 Pts(1)
Vince Samano:158 Pts (0)


Boxing Challenge: Fury Batters Chisora

 Tyson Fury got what he needed from his WBC heavyweight title defense against Derek Chisora- several rounds of work and a willing opponent to showcase his abilities as Fury won every round against his friend and defeated him via an easy tenth-round knockout when the referee finally ended the brave but limited Chisora's night.

Fury never knocked Chisora down but delivered a steady beating throughout the fight with Chisora offering only a sturdy chin, some pantomime, and an occasional right hand against the much larger Fury.

After the fight, Fury expressed his wish for a title unification fight with WBA, IBF, and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk sometime next year and with Usyk's management owning connections with Top Rank (Fury's co-promoter) with Vasyl Lomachenko among others, I would think this could be an easy fight to sign.

The co-feature saw Daniel DuBois retain his minor title with a third-round knockout of former cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena that saw five knockdowns in the three rounds of action.

DuBois may have earned the victory but he continued to show that a chin that has been questioned since he was stopped in ten rounds by Joe Joyce will be questioned even more after being dropped three times in the opening round by Lerena.

DuBois appeared ready to concede victory but he somehow survived the round and when Lerena surprisingly didn't pursue his advantage in the second round, DuBois had enough resolve to pull himself together enough to drop Lerena down in the third and battered him along the ropes late in the round to score a second knockdown with the ropes holding Lerena up.

The bell rang to end the round but the referee chose to stop the fight rather than give Lerena the same chance that DuBois had received following the end of the first round.

The downside of fighting a British native in Great Britain I suppose and Lerena may have done this to himself considering his lack of aggression in round two but I thought it was a quick stoppage although DuBois was most likely going to finish the fight in the fourth round anyway.

DuBois may very well be his generation's version of the very popular British heavyweight Frank Bruno.

Like Bruno, DuBois has lots of skills, boxing ability, and can punch with power but his chin will lose him fights that he could be winning and no opponent will ever be out of chances in a fight with DuBois, as his chin could fail him at any time.

Boxing Challenge

TRS:198 Pts (4)
Ramon Malpica; 169 Pts (3)
Vince Samano: 158 Pts (0) 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing weekend will have the best of its lower weight classes and a defense of the championship of its largest but there is no doubt which of the two has excited boxing fans the most.

On DAZN from Glendale, Arizona, Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez will hook it up for the third time in a series that has more than a title at stake, it's about which man will earn the bragging rights as the best of a generation and perhaps even the best ever of their division.

Gonzalez won a close unanimous decision in their first fight in November 2012 with Estrada returning the favor in March 2021 with a split decision win that many believe Gonzalez deserved.

The fight will also be for the WBC junior bantamweight title that Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez recently vacated, although Estrada still holds the WBC's silly franchise championship and Estrada gave up his WBA title to face Rodriguez rather than defend against their minor beltholder Joshua Franco, who was then promoted to full WBA kingpin.

The third fight has been postponed previously with each fighter canceling due to Covid and while Gonzalez did look far more impressive in his win over WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez than Estrada did in his victory over Argi Cortes but as always in rivalries, the best is brought out of each other when facing their rival.

The co-feature will have Julio Cesar Martinez defending his WBC flyweight title against a late replacement in undefeated Samuel Carmona.

A former Olympian, Carmona steps in for McWilliams Arroyo, who dropped out from a rematch with Martinez from their November 2021 no-contest.

Martinez is fighting for the first time since his decision loss to Roman Gonzalez in March.

The flashier bout for casual fans is on ESPN Plus from London as Tyson Fury defends his WBC heavyweight title against Derek Chisora.

Fury and Chisora have fought twice in the past with Fury winning by a decision in 2011 and stopping Chisora in ten rounds in 2014 with many slamming Chisora as a title challenger at this stage of his career.

I wouldn't go that far.

Champions have the right to an occasional optional defense and Chisora did win over a solid opponent in Kubrat Pulev in his last fight, so he's qualified for that type of defense.

It was okay for Muhammad Ali to defend against Richard Dunn or Jean-Pierre Coopman because he was fighting four times a year and no one expects four defenses a year against the best in the world in all four fights.

The problem is in today's boxing world when fighters fight once or twice a year and an optional defense against a lesser foe are one of those fights.

This is Fury's second fight of the year and had he fought another time previously, I'm not sure that the reaction to his defense against Chisora would have been as harsh as it has been.

The co-feature will pit Daniel DuBois defending his minor title against Kevin Lerena, in his first test since moving up from cruiserweight, where he was considered to be among the division's top fighters.

DuBois crushed Trevor Bryan in four rounds in June while Lerena decisioned heavyweight trialhorse Mariusz Wach in September.

Boxing Challenge

Vacant WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez
Ramon Malpica: Gonzalez Split Decision
TRS: Estrada Split Decision
Vince Samano:

WBC Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Julio Cesar Martinez vs Samuel Carmona
R.L & TRS: Martinez Unanimous Decision
V.S:

WBC Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Tyson Fury vs Derek Chisora
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Fury KO 8
V.S:

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Daniel DuBois vs Kevin Lerena
R.L: DuBois KO 9
TRS: DuBois KO 6
V.S: 

Friday, December 2, 2022

PPM

 It's college football's league championship weekend, and as usual, at the PPM, I'll select each league title game.

Last Week: 8-9  
Overall: 129-80

College

Pac 12 
USC over Utah 30-24

Conference USA
UTSA over North Texas 38-31

 
Big 12
Kansas State over TCU  41-31

MAC
Ohio over Toledo 27-24

Sun Belt
Coastal Carolina over Troy 45-35

SEC
Georgia over LSU 27-17

American
Tulane over Central Florida 24-21

Mountain West
Boise State over Fresno State 31-21

Big 10
Michigan over Purdue 36-21

ACC
North Carolina over Clemson 39-36

Pro
Browns over Texans 24-10
Buccaneers over Saints 23-14
Chargers over Raiders 34-31

Games of the Week
Chiefs over Bengals 41-34
Vikings over Jets 29-24

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The John Hadl Trade

    Former All-Pro quarterback John Hadl passed away at the age of 82 and I'll have more on the career of Hadl in a future Cleaning out the Inbox but this article is about the 1974 trade of Hadl in the middle of the season from the Rams to the Packers, how the Packers paid so much for the aging thirty-four-year-old veteran, why the notion that the Rams built their powerhouse team in the seventies based off that trade is a little flawed, and how the Rams could have done even better with the acquired picks.

The 1974 Green Bay Packers were a team flailing in mediocrity with a record of 3-5 and after sliding back in 1973 after a 1972 season that saw them win the NFC Central (the only season in the seventies that Minnesota didn't win the division), the Packers were desperate for an answer at quarterback as they were using a tandem of Jerry Tagge and Jack Concannon under center.

The Los Angeles Rams were at the beginning of their dominance of the NFC West division, having dethroned the San Francisco 49ers in 1973 as the kings of the division after the 49ers had won the title for the first three seasons of the 1970s with a talented young team that would win the division for the remainder of the decade.

John Hadl was an AFL star with the San Diego Chargers through 1972 and led the Rams to the playoffs in 1973.

Hadl was named to the Pro Bowl but his struggles in 1974 had seen Hadl benched in favor of James Harris with 1973 second-round draftee Ron Jaworski on the roster and at 34, his future seemed dim, at least with the Rams.

A desperate Dan Devine, who would flee Green Bay at the end of the season for the head coaching position at Notre Dame, decided that Hadl was just what Green Bay needed to turn the tide on Devine's rapidly deteriorating Packer tenure and swapped five picks to the Rams for Hadl.

FIVE picks for a benched thirty-four-year-old passer that had thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions in his six games to that point in 1974!

Green Bay sent their first three picks in the 1975 draft and first two in the 1976 selection meeting to Los Angeles for Hadl, who did win his first three games with the Packers, lifting them to a 6-5 record with three games to go and placing them in the wild card chase.

The winning streak included a win over the division bully Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium, so it wasn't a stretch to think at that point that Hadl was worth the price that Devine paid, even if only for the short term.

The high lasted those three weeks as Green Bay lost their final three games to teams that finished with losing records, scoring only nine points in the final two games with Hadl throwing five interceptions with only a single passing touchdown.

It didn't get any better in 1975 as Hadl started thirteen of the Packers fourteen games, threw just six touchdowns, and was intercepted twenty-one times.
Hadl finished his career with the Oilers as a backup to Dan Pastorini in 1976 and 1977.

As for those picks, the Rams would use them on the following players with the legend of the Rams using these choices to build their NFC dominance.

That's not quite true, although they did well enough with them.

In the 1975 draft, the Rams used the three Packers choices to select defensive tackle, Mike Fanning of Notre Dame, in the first round, cornerback Monte Jackson of  San Diego State in the second, and Washington State center Geoff Reece in the third.

Fanning would play ten seasons in the NFL, eight with the Rams, and was a starter for four of those in Los Angeles.

Jackson was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl in 1976 and 1977, leading the league in interceptions in 1976 with ten.

Jackson was traded to the Raiders after 1977 during a holdout and wasn't the same player in his five years as a Raiders before returning to the Rams for a final season in 1983.

Reece would play one season for the Rams in 1976 after missing his rookie season and would play one season each for the Colts and Seahawks.

In 1976, the first-round pick acquired from the Packers was sent to Detroit as compensation for the Rams signing of wide receiver Ron Jessie, while they selected Texas A&M cornerback Pat Thomas in the second.

Pat Thomas was the best player the Rams obtained as he was a first or second-team All-Pro selection in 1978 and 1980, reached the Pro Bowl in both seasons, and intercepted twenty-six passes in those seven seasons.

The Rams received three players that would start at various times and used one pick for a veteran wide receiver, so I wouldn't say they bombed out with the selections, but could they have done even better with those draft choices?

Let's see.

The two players that stand out that the Rams could have picked in round one instead of Mike Fanning are borderline Hall of Fame candidate, Louis Wright, who Denver took at seventeen, and future All-Pro tight end Russ Francis at sixteen to New England.

Had the Rams taken Wright with that pick, they could have moved in another direction at twenty-eight (then a round-two pick) rather than Jackson, also a cornerback.

Since they had their corner, they could have looked at the defensive line, since they didn't draft Mike Fanning, and two players that had better careers than Fanning were available in the second round.

Defensive Tackle Louie Kelcher would play nine years with the Chargers and one with the 49ers, making three Pro Bowls and winning the defensive player of the year in 1978.

Hall of Fame defensive end Fred Dean would win the defensive player of the year in 1980, made four Pro Bowls and finished with ninety-two sacks in an eleven-year career.

If the Rams had looked at the best available player in the third round, there were several that had solid NFL careers selected after sixty-one.

Saints defensive end Elois Grooms finished his career with fifty-three sacks, Cowboys linebacker Bob Breunig was selected to three Pro Bowls in a ten-year career with Dallas, defensive back Mike Fuller would spend eight years with the Chargers and Bengals, linebacker Bo Harris would play eight seasons with the Bengals, and after Kansas City acquired Steelers third-round tight end, Walter White, White would catch 163 passes with sixteen touchdowns in five seasons with the Chiefs.

Figuring that the Rams would have signed Ron Jessie and owed compensation to Detroit in any case, I'll skip the potential returns for the 1976 first-rounder.

While Pat Thomas was an excellent cornerback at a high level, Thomas only played seven seasons and the Rams could have selected Randy Cross, who made three Pro Bowls and started for thirteen years for the rival 49ers, 1976 rookie of the year Sammie White, a wide receiver that played ten seasons for the Vikings, or third round linebacker Reggie Williams, who would play thirteen years for the Bengals.

Los Angeles did very well in their return for a past his prime quarterback that was unlikely to play for them again unless an injury happened and only one of their picks could be considered a miss.

However, they could have done better and that is even using those picks on players at similar positions.

It's easy to say with hindsight that a team should have taken player A that had an excellent career but the team in question may not have needed a similar player at that time but when teams select players at similar positions in a particular draft, it's more than fair to criticize those decisions.

Was the John Hadl trade an awful one?
For the Packers, definitely.

For the Rams, it was a good trade but while the Rams drafted decently with the Green Bay picks, their selections from the Packers were far from building a powerhouse as is so often stated.