Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Washington, DC: The Decade's Biggest Loser...Can the Caps Save Us?

About a year ago, our friends at MisterIrrelevant determined that D.C. was, in fact, America's worst professional sports city. The data was pulled mostly from the 2008 calender year but included the beginning portions of the 2007-2008 NHL and NBA seasons.

In a similar fashion, I evaluated America's four-sport cities over the past decade. I began this task with the awareness that my greatest fear - ten years of utterly hopeless fanaticism - might be confirmed. Yet, that feeling didn't overwhelm my curiosity enough to withdraw from the exercise. So on I went.

The results weren't depressing; they were demoralizing.

Notes to consider before reading on:

  • Only the Washington/Montreal baseball franchise was included. Sorry, O's fans.
  • There were nine NHL seasons this decade due to the 2004-2005 strike.
  • For cities in which two teams exist within one sport (e.g. baseball in Chicago), performance was averaged for each particular year.
  • The team with the best year among the 12 cities received a scored of 1. The team with the worst year among the 12 cities received a score of 12.
  • Success was determined by playoff success first. Regular season records were used as tie-breakers.
  • Rankings are only relative to the 12 cities being evaluated.
[Click tables to enlarge]

    For those of you more graphically gifted, the image on the right should provide some insight. For those who aren't, I'll explain. That light blue area? That abnormally large protuberance from the wonderfully average red area? That represents the amount that D.C. sports have sucked over the last 10 years. Notice how it's hilariously close to being about 150% as large as the average, meaning our ineptitude has deemed us about half as bad as average this decade. My head is spinning, but not from the math.

    And here's the breakdown by sport (analysis following):



    Breakdown by Year


    Breakdown by Year

    Breakdown by Year


    Breakdown by Year

    There it is. So next time you're at the water cooler chatting with that choch from Philly who frosts his tips and wears sunglasses at night, your biggest validation as a D.C. sports fan will be that you've rooted for only the 5th worst hockey team out of the 12 major sports cities over the last decade. Gross.

    The implications of this are simple: this year's Capitals team is our only hope to salvage what little dignity we have left as D.C. sports fans this decade. With the Wizards middling well below mediocrity, the Redskins in more disarray than a bag of cockroaches, and the Nationals at least two years away from fielding a major league baseball team, more and more of the town's focus will be centered around the Caps' performance this year. And with that focus comes pressure.

    General Manager George McPhee made a relatively large splash yesterday in trading Captain Cadaver and Juice for a speedy winger and $2 million in cap space. With the extra wiggle room, an even bigger move could be in the works.

    Which may be exactly what this Caps team needs to reach the pinnacle of the sport; which might be this city's one saving grace in a decade beyond the realm of disappointment.

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Wow: Caps trade Captain Clark

    Not the sort of move you expect a team that's currently tops in the league to make, but here goes: Chris Clark's been dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with defenseman Milan Jurcina, in exchange for Jason Chimera.

    [Allen Clark, via Off-Wing Opinion]

    Obviously, Clark's had his struggles the past three seasons in Washington, but he wears the C on his chest, and that means something in the NHL. But if winning's the bottom line, this move is an upgrade. Chimera, 30, has size and grit and plays with an edge the likes of which we haven't seen in Washington since Matt Cooke's departure. We gave him props by calling him a "shit-stirrer" after he knocked Ovi out of the lineup with that upper-body injury a while back.

    Jurcina? Well, he was a spare part, made even more redundant by Karl Alzner's ascent to full-time duty in D.C. He showed signs of playing a more physical game starting in last year's playoffs, but ultimately it was a numbers game and Jurcina -- despite having the hardest shot on the Washington roster -- just couldn't make himself indispensable.

    Chimera's signed through 2011-12 at $1.875; Clark's cap figure stood at $2.5M through next season, while Jurcina will become an unrestricted free agent after earning $1.375 this season.

    The big questions now are twofold: (1) What effect does trading the team captain have on a team that's been dominant of late, and (2) Who gets the C?

    As fans, we aren't privy to the interactions that go on between players behind closed doors, but all indications are that Clark was well-liked by his teammates. How could you not like a guy that shattered his face and still gutted out the rest of his shift? That cadaver bone story never gets old.

    As far as who gets the C, our money's on Brooks Laich.

    In the meantime, farewell Clarkie and Juice.

    Is Bruce Allen Just as Bad as Cerrato?

    Amidst all the excitement that my lamb sacrifices have finally paid off and Vinny Cerrato was mercifully fired, I think we are forgetting that Bruce Allen may not exactly be the savior we envision. I realize that the likely scenario is that Mike Shanahan becomes head coach and the de facto GM, but Bruce Allen will certainly be prominently involved, so I did some research.

    Allen started his career in Oakland in 1995, and was there through the 2003-2004 season. The team was 9-7 the season before he arrived, and here are the records of the team each season of his tenure there, with the Skins record for that year in parentheses:

    1995: 8-8 (6-10)
    1996: 7-9 (9-7)
    1997: 4-12 (8-7-1)
    1998: 8-8 (6-10)
    1999: 8-8 (10-6, lost Divisional round)
    2000: 12-4, lost AFC championship (8-8)
    2001: 10-6, lost Divisional round "tuck rule game" (8-8)
    2002: 11-5, lost Super Bowl, named NFL Executive of the Year (7-9)
    2003: 4-12 (5-11)

    Allen then moved to Tampa Bay in 2004, and was there through the 2007-2008 season. Before he arrived, the Bucs were 7-9.

    2004: 5-11 (6-10)
    2005: 11-5 lost wild card (10-6, lost Divisional round)
    2006: 4-12 (5-11)
    2007: 9-7 (9-7)
    2008: 9-7 (8-8)

    Did you notice the Skins records compared to Allen's teams? Almost identical, save for the not so minor Super Bowl loss and championship seasons. Both were consistently mediocre, and suffered a heartbreaking Divisional round loss. The difference is that Allen was at one point able to help his team continue moving forward, whereas the Skins peaked in 1999. Not coincidentally, this is also the year Vinny Cerrato was hired. Either way though, it is hard to say Allen is significantly better than what we've had.

    There are other factors, so I went through his draft history (BGO also has a thread on this). I realize there are questions about how much input Allen has on each draft, and word is that he relies heavily on his scouts, but the drafts under him are his responsibility, and there is no way around that. With the Raiders, he was okay, but not great, grabbing about one starter per draft from 1995 through 1998, and then adding 2-3 from 1999-2003, except for a poor effort in 2001. Most importantly though, these drafts were a key part of building that dominant Raider team. Just looking at his drafts compared to those of the Skins, the amount of star players looks the same, but the big difference is the depth in these drafts. The problem with the Skins has long been a lack of depth on the roster, generally due to a lack of draft picks. Bruce Allen has not only consistently kept all of his picks, but has used the entire draft to fill his roster.

    In Tampa, his results were not as good, and as of today, the work of Cerrato during the 2004-2008 drafts has been better, which is a big reason why the Bucs are in the position they are today.

    In addition to weak draft classes in Tampa, the other difference between his tenures in Oakland and Tampa was that he had an elite QB in Oakland, and could not find one in Tampa. That elite QB was Rich Gannon, who seemingly came off of the scrap heap to have 4 phenomenal seasons for the Raiders. That is probably the greatest move in Allen's career, but his free agent signings have also been a mixed bag. His most notable mistake has been a propensity for Super Bowl MVPs who were mostly 1 game wonders. He signed both Larry Brown and Desmond Howard after their Super Bowl performances, and both were epic busts.

    So what are we getting? No one can really say, as Allen may have changed with experience, and the people providing input to him will also change from his past jobs. The good news is that he was moderately successful for the entirety of his career, has drafted for depth, and built a Super Bowl team. The bad news? His record is almost identical to that of the Skins over the same period and the team he left behind in Tampa is a complete disaster. If you remember that Cerrato was successful in San Francisco, albeit in a different era in the NFL, looking at Allen's record almost, almost, makes you think Cerrato wasn't a complete disaster in DC.

    The big difference between Cerrato and Allen though, is while Cerrato was never was able to move the Skins beyond mediocrity, Bruce Allen was able to push the Raiders to the brink of winning a Super Bowl. Allen built that Raider Super Bowl team through several years of solid drafting, and then by filling-in holes with some savvy free agent signings. Although he left the Tampa a landfill, we can at least cling to the thought that we have a guy who is at least capable of moving the Skins beyond this mediocre abyss.

    (Images courtesy of media.idahostatesman.com and washingtonpost.com)

    Week 16: Cowboys 17, Redskins 0 - Knee Jerk Reactions

    At least Suisham didn't beat us, right? We laid an egg on the scoreboard by scoring zero points, and really didn't show up for this one. A lot of guys are playing for jobs, and the coaching staff should have some pride in a bad situation, but this is pathetic. The team has checked-out, and there isn't much to say beyond that.

    -The defense deserves some credit for holding Dallas to 17. We defended a particularly short field on the first TD drive thanks to JC's INT, and gave up the 1 big play to Witten; take those 2 plays out, and the Cowboys did nothing on offense.

    -Collinsworth was all over Campbell, and generally rightfully so. I guess the general sentiment has now gone from blaming Campbell to finally seeing that he is not the main culprit, and Collinsworth seemed set to disprove that notion. JC was not good today, but Collinsworth could have at least noted that the happy feet in the pocket are a habit brought on by consistently awful offensive line play.

    -The running game was a joke, although it would obviously have helped to have any form of a passing game. With JC having a bad game, it makes me realize just how reliant this offense is on him. Yes, I know he's a QB and the thus the most important part of the offense, but there are so many QBs out there who can have the type of game JC had tonight, and get enough help to win.

    -Landry was more of the same. A lot of tackles, flying around, but way too many mistakes.

    -Collinsworth pointing out that the Skins play such a conservative defense that can be easy to beat put a huge smile on my face. Blache gets way too much credit for piloting an extremely underachieving unit. Fat Albert was out of line publicly speaking against the coaches, but Blache is no defensive genius and I have a hard time believing he is not a bad defensive coordinator.

    -Miles Austin and Tony Romo being undrafted just about sums up why Cerrato stinks.

    -Rock Cartwright was noticeably upset at JC at the end of the game. I like to think that this is just general frustration that boiled over when Campbell chucked a swing pass 5 yards over his head.

    -Jim Zorn and the other coaches are working for their careers right now, and serving up turd sandwiches. The Zornstar still has a future as a QB coach, but making this team give a crap would put him in line for a better job in the future.

    -The bad vibes from these last 2 games may be so bad that the new regime is forced to clean house more than originally intended.

    -Mercifully, there is only 1 week left in this hell.

    -On the other hand, the Vikings and Saints have come back down to earth, so the Iggles and Cowgirls may well be the 2 best teams in the NFC, so our pain could continue. At least we'll have someone to root against.

    (Image courtesy of Getty Images via espn.com)

    Sunday, December 27, 2009

    Cowgirls @ Skins, Halftime Update

    One photo in a series of photos illustrating a disappointing, sometimes pathetic, often times laughable, young career.

    Excellent job not using your hands, LaRon. Because bringing the ball-carrier down is called "hitting", not "tackling". Right? Right?!


    Bring the (Mouth) Rain to DC!

    News today is that Bill Cowher is looking to coach again next year, and not high school girls soccer. He is my personal clear #1 choice. Not only did he win a Super Bowl, but the rest of his record speaks for itself. Even if the Skins rebuild, it is clear that we will have a weak offensive line and strong defense, which is the exact situation that Cowher had in Steeltown when he won the Super Bowl.

    I know Mike Shanahan sounds likelier by the day, but I think The Mouth is the guy we need. Let the spit fly!

    (Image courtesy of www.midwestsportsfans.com)