Ray Ratto

While Tebow makes strides, Raiders take step back

581110.jpg

While Tebow makes strides, Raiders take step back

The Denver Broncos decided for a day not to remake Tim Tebow in their image, and with apologies for the Biblical suggestion, and succeeded by making themselves in his.This is a simplistic analysis that gives Tebow too much credit for Denvers 38-24 come-from-the-afterlife win over Oakland, but if you view Tebow not as the religious conscience of American sport but as a quarterback whose game was perfectly tailored to the college world, this was a significant development.As well as a damned impressive win.

All along it has been postulated that the Broncos have thrown Tebow into the wildly technological world of Sunday afternoons in hopes that they could get through this mutant experiment as quickly as possible. Sunday showed that they are more willing to work with Tebows idiosyncrasies, and become a more collegiate, if not collegial, offensive operation.Were starting to utilize a more collegiate style of offense, head coach John Fox said after watching his team move to with a game of the lead in the freefalling AFC West, where defense is essentially an afterthought. Were not there yet, but were working on it.Yes, they are indeed. Running a version of the classic option series, the Broncos got 163 yards from Willis McGahee and another 117 from Tebow -- both representing more yards than they gained in Tebows 21 pass attempts (when you include the 11 yards in sacks).And the acknowledgement that Tebow is a square peg who isnt going to triumph against a round hole was central to the Broncos win. Their offense isnt fully square yet, but it had more Tebowian edges to it Sunday, and will have to find a happy middle in order to beat the defenses that will learn from what the Raiders did not.Or would not.Either the Raiders didnt prep for it properly (the Broncos did gain 190 in a 45-10 loss to Detroit a week ago, so its hard to imagine how they couldnt), or didnt take it seriously enough. Whatever the reason, they chased a full house from the Coliseum well before seagull time, and have now cast doubt over a promising start to the season. Theyve given up 66 points to divisional opponents at home in successive weeks, and look as tattered and threadbare as they did in the worst parts of last season, and the seven before that.As for Hue Jackson, he offered this very Callahan-ic analysis of his team, its day, and its place: We're not a very intelligent football team right now.Fifteen penalties for 130 yards, 30 more than they accumulated running the ball, was one thing. Allowing 298 rushing yards a year after gaining more than 300 on the ground against the same team was another. They seemed collectively listless, confused, frustrated and, by the time of McGahees game-sealing 24-yard touchdown run, inert.Not intelligent, is entirely a matter of opinion. Not energetic, is indisputable. Clearly this is a rockier road they are going to travel than at first we thought, and Jackson has to find a way to relocate what this team did well early on, or risk losing it as his parade of predecessors have.Because, and this is the important point to make here, what Denver did was not all that radical, or different from what theyd tried to do in the past two Tebow weeks. But they committed to it more Sunday because the Raiders chose not to deal with it in an adult way.Tebow is still an erratic passer, and probably always will be. He will not be a classic anything, but he will thrive against teams that dont believe he can beat them. He put off the Armageddon of re-losing his job, and he is still part of the can-he-or-cant-he debate that gripped the nation early last week.As for the Raiders, they have reached the critical point that they have failed to conquer for most of the last decade -- confronted by their shortcomings in belief and detail work, they must regather themselves or watch the ground rush up to hit them in the face.But if it helps at all, Tim Tebow is praying for them.

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

baker-dusty-head-down.jpg
USATI

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.

 

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

arena-bruce-sad.jpg
AP

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.