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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Braves trade Lowe to Indians - Jackets ready to clean house?- Opponent: Tebow experiment is ‘embarrassing’

Opponent: Tebow experiment is ‘embarrassing’

DENVER – During more than two decades of covering the NFL, I’ve heard players disparage opponents on numerous occasions. As a journalist who has yet to be crushed by the proliferation of trash-talk, I’ve happily facilitated this dastardly dissing and shared it with the masses when given the chance.
Usually, these statements are designed to rile a rival, or to send a message that a player and his team won’t be intimidated. On Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, however, Tim Tebow(notes) was disrobed and demystified by a superior team – and then the young quarterback got low-blowed with a degree of disrespect that blew my mind.
“Can you believe ’15’?” one Detroit Lions defender asked after his team’s 45-10 immolation of Tebow and the Denver Broncos. “Come on – that’s embarrassing. I mean, it’s a joke. We knew all week that if we brought any kind of defensive pressure, he couldn’t do anything. In the second half it got boring out there. We were like, ‘Come on – that’s your quarterback? Seriously?’ ”
It would be one thing if this particular defender could be written off as an outlier, but during the time I spent in the Lions’ locker room after the game – and, later, on the phone with various coaches, front-office executives and players around the league – similarly harsh assessments were uttered about the second-year quarterback making his second start of the 2011 season.
Words like atrocious, terrible, completely exposed and not even close to ready kept coming up in these conversations; a couple of Lions even used the term oh my god. They did not appear to be mocking Tebow’s devout Christian beliefs – however, at least two Detroit players (middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch(notes) and tight end Tony Scheffler(notes)) made a point of “Tebowing” during the game, imitating the prayerful pose the quarterback struck following the previous Sunday’s stunning overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins.
The point that was driven home on Sunday, and quite forcefully, was this: Against a crappy team like the winless Dolphins, the possibility exists that Tebow can get away with 55 minutes of flaccid football and, with the help of a blessed onside-kick recovery, add to the legend forged at Florida, where he had one of the most decorated college football careers of all time. However, against an emerging power like the Lions (6-2), he’s as overmatched and vulnerable as an adolescent’s eardrums in the front row of a Nickelback concert.
“As long as he felt our pressure,” said Lions defensive end Cliff Avril(notes), whose third-quarter sack/fumble/recovery/return produced one of Detroit’s two defensive scores, “he was gonna make crazy decisions.”
In fairness, Tebow’s 18-for-39, 172-yard performance – numbers padded considerably by garbage-time completions, if you can believe that – wasn’t solely the product of dubious choices. His limited skill set was also on display, from an acute lack of accuracy, to a deliberate delivery (Avril dislodged the ball while Tebow was extending his arm backward before attempting to pass), to an apparent uncertainty about where to go with the ball.
None of this was necessarily a surprise to the Broncos’ brass, including coach John Fox and executive vice president of football operations John Elway. Tebow’s flaws were obvious to all trained observers during training camp, which is why veteran Kyle Orton(notes) was named the team’s unquestioned starter in August.
Orton’s struggles – and Denver (2-5) losing four of its first five games – caused the Broncos’ decision-makers to call an audible, a move greeted by great popular acclaim. Yet it’s hard to imagine that Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history, saw anything he didn’t expect on Sunday. It was as if, by starting Tebow, he said to the 74,977 fans at Mile High, “You wanted this guy? OK, then … Heeeerrrree’s Timmy!”
Said one Lions offensive player: “It was like, ‘See? Here’s why …’ ”
Realistically, playing Tebow makes sense on a practical level. Trading up to pick him in the first round of the 2010 draft was the highest-profile move of former coach Josh McDaniels’ reign of error, and even if the Broncos plan to trade or cut Tebow after 2011, it behooves them to evaluate his potential under game conditions.
It’s not Tebow’s fault that his draft position heightened already inflated expectations, or that McDaniels got fired last December and a new regime less enthusiastic about the quarterback’s abilities was installed. And it’s debatable whether the kid has a fighting chance given Denver’s obvious talent deficiencies.
“Can you believe ’15’? Come on – that’s embarrassing. I mean, it’s a joke. We knew all week that if we brought any kind of defensive pressure, he couldn’t do anything. In the second half it got boring out there. We were like, ‘Come on – that’s your quarterback? Seriously?’ ”
Again, this reflects poorly on McDaniels, now the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator, whose record as a first-time talent evaluator is proving to be Millenesque. He made eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2009 and 2010 drafts, yet that crop yielded only three current starters: Tebow, guard Zane Beadles(notes) and defensive end Robert Ayers(notes). Of McDaniels’ 19 picks overall, only eight are on Denver’s active roster, three in reserve roles.
So, is Tebow being judged in an unfairly harsh light? His legions of fans would undoubtedly answer in the affirmative. They revere him for his work ethic, his values, his leadership qualities and, not insignificantly, his faith.
However – and this is a big however – there’s a glaring disconnect between many fans’ assessment of Tebow’s status as a wholesome winner and the way many NFL players process his presence. To some, the notion that Tebow somehow pushes harder or taps into a higher power than they do is insulting. The NFL is full of maniacally driven grinders who’ve overcome incredible odds to reach the pinnacle of their profession, and many of them are clean-living and well-mannered, too.
While few NFL players seem to have a problem with Tebow on a personal level, I know plenty who are put off by the mythology and the holier-than-thou fan base that lionizes his every accomplishment and perceives negative depictions of his ability through a persecution-complex-tinted prism.
The result, as we saw on Sunday, is in-your-face Tebowing: Tulloch, after a first-quarter sack, literally knelt over the fallen Tebow while striking the pose. He later said he meant no disrespect – and Tulloch is a thoughtful veteran hardly known for his insolence – but neither he nor his teammates were overly apologetic, either.
After a decade as the NFL’s laughingstock, these Lions are embracing a Bad Boy image similar to that of the ’80s Pistons, with second-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes) playing the role of Bill Laimbeer. On Friday, an NFL.com headline portrayed Sunday’s showdown as a struggle between good and evil, with accompanying photos of Tebow and Suh.
“Evil prevails,” Suh told reporters after a defensive effort that included seven sacks.
How torturous was it? With 11 minutes left in the game, not long after he’d served up a 100-yard interception return to Lions cornerback Chris Houston(notes), Tebow was 8-for-26 for 85 yards. At one point, the Broncos had seven consecutive three-play drives. He ran 10 times for 63 yards, getting pummeled by safety Louis Delmas(notes) after a 12-yard scramble on the final play of the third quarter. When he threw, he seemed locked in on his primary receiver.
That “IN-COM-PLETE” cheer that Broncos fans like to bust out for opposing passers? They might want to come up with an alternate version to herald Tebow’s completions.
Afterward, Fox refused to commit to Tebow as his starter for next Sunday’s game against the Raiders in Oakland. “It’s too early to say,” he told reporters.
A source familiar with the Broncos’ thinking said he expected Tebow to last another couple of games until – barring a dramatic improvement on the left-hander’s part – the team turns to current third-stringer Brady Quinn(notes), a 2007 first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos would then target a quarterback in the first round of next April’s draft, with a trio of Big 12 passers – Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Baylor’s Robert Griffin and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden – the likeliest candidates at this point. The draft’s projected top QB prize, Andrew Luck, would presumably be off the board before Denver picks.
Until then, the Tebow Dream lives on, albeit in a slightly battered and heavily disrespected state after Sunday’s thrashing.
“You’ve got to go out there and get better,” Tebow told reporters in his postgame news conference. “[If] you want it to be different, then make it different.”
If he’s going to make it different in Denver, he’d better get better soon. For right now, as some of Tebow’s opponents will gladly attest, it appears as though he doesn’t have a prayer.

Jackets ready to clean house?
Despite Columbus' second win Sunday, few seem safe. Sources indicated to The Dispatch late Saturday that the Blue Jackets have begun preparing for the possible firing of general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel should the horrendous start not get turned around quickly. Club president Mike Priest vehemently denied reports that he had discussed a return to coaching by former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, or that he had reached out to former NHL executive and current broadcaster Craig Button as a potential GM candidate. But he also allowed that any change would be spearheaded by majority owner John P. McConnell. "Let me be clear here, though," Priest said. "Everybody understands that the losing can???t continue."

Braves trade Lowe to Indians
NEW YORK (AP) -- Derek Lowe's durability -- and price tag -- were too much for the Cleveland Indians to resist.
The club acquired the 15-year veteran pitcher from the Atlanta Braves on Monday for a minor leaguer, a low-risk move designed to bolster Cleveland's starting rotation.
The Indians got the 38-year-old Lowe, who has 166 career wins, in exchange for left-hander Chris Jones. As part of the deal, the Indians will only have to pay Lowe $5 million of the $15 million he's scheduled to make in 2012. Lowe signed a four-year $60 million deal as a free agent with Atlanta before the 2009 season.
General manager Chris Antonetti said Lowe immediately assumes a spot in the Indians' starting staff, where he'll join Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona. Before the deal for Lowe was announced, the Indians picked up Carmona's $7 million option for 2012.
"He's a quality pitcher with durability, pitching 180 innings or more every year since 2002," Antonetti said. "The last time he was on the disabled list was 1995. In addition to his durability, there's some leadership potential. His experience will complement a very young rotation. One of our goals was to improve our starting pitching.
"This goes a long way towards that. Stability is important. Also, he can be a positive influence on young starting pitchers with similar skills."
The Indians contended for most of 2011 before injuries and inexperience dropped them from the AL Central race. And while Lowe has some mileage on his right arm, Cleveland believes he has enough left to keep help next season.
Lowe has pitched in both leagues, as a starter and closer. One of just three pitchers in history with more than 160 wins and 80 saves, Lowe went just 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts last season, his third with Atlanta. His 17 losses led the league.
But with right-hander Carlos Carrasco out for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Indians, who traded top prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to Colorado for Jimenez in July, needed another established starter and made finding one an offseason priority - through trade or free agency.
Atlanta had a surplus of young arms and were looking to move Lowe, a sinkerball pitcher.
Lowe was 0-5 in September for the Braves, and struggled with is mechanics for much of the season. After Atlanta faded down the stretch and missed the postseason, GM Frank Wren said, "It's hard to project him as one of our starters at this point."
However, the Indians have a spot for him and hope he can impact and mentor their young pitchers the way veteran Kevin Millwood did when they signed him in 2005
"We checked with former teammates and believe he can evolve into that type of (mentoring) role," Antonetti said. "He's a guy who loves the game, enjoys talking baseball, likes to help."
The Indians understand there is the risk that a 38-year-old pitcher won't be any better when he turns 39. However, Antonetti is confident Lowe can bounce back from a tough season and he's not concerned about him switching back to the AL after seven seasons in the NL.
"Derek relies a lot upon contact," he said. "He is reliant on his defense, but we are confident that if he pounds the strike zone, gets ground balls and we pick up the ball behind him, he should have a better year."
Lowe is 166-146 with a 3.94 ERA in 356 career starts. In addition to Atlanta, Lowe has pitched with Seattle, Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers since breaking into the majors in 1997. His 334 games started since 2002 is the most in baseball over the 10-season span.
Jones, 23, went 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA in 43 appearances for Kinston (A).

Tribe Keep Carmona and Dump Grady
The Cleveland Indians exercised their 2012 club option on starting pitcher Fausto Carmona, according to a tweet from the team’s official Twitter account. The team has also, as expected, declined the 2012 option on former All-Star outfielder Grady Sizemore.
Carmona’s option will pay him $7 million for the 2012 season, compared to $6.1 million which he earned in 2011. The Indians also have a $9 million option for the starter in 2013. The 27-year-old went 7-15 for Cleveland with a 5.25 ERA in 32 starts. The previous season Carmona was selected to the All-Star team and posted a 13-14 record with a 3.77 ERA in 33 starts.
Carmona signed the four-year deal after the 2007 season when he posted a 19-8 record with a 3.06 ERA.
The Indians decision to buyout Sizemore’s $8.5 million contract for $500,000 had been previously reported. The 29-year-old outfielder, who has struggled to stay healthy over the past several seasons, will now be a free agent.

Conference Ratings According to Halloween Movies
3. Big Ten (“Friday the 13th”) — chh chh chh … ca ca ca … what better way to celebrate the gore-filled movies at Camp Crystal Lake than with the football conference of the Great Lakes? The Big Ten, like our good friend Jason Vorhees, has actually gotten stronger over the years with the addition of Nebraska (still waiting on ya, Notre Dame). So far, the Cornhuskers have made a positive impact on the Big Ten’s reputation. Now, if only Wisconsin could get out of their funk ASAP.

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