As part of the NFL midseason report in this week’s Nov. 7 issue, here is how senior writer Damon Hack (@si_damonhack) sees the playoff field shaping up.
|1. Steelers||1. Packers|
|2. Patriots||2. 49ers|
|3. Texans||3. Saints|
|4. Chargers||4. Eagles|
|5. Ravens||5. Falcons|
|6. Bills||6. Lions|
|Bills defeat Texans||Saints defeat Lions|
|Ravens defeat Chargers||Eagles defeat Falcons|
|Steelers defeat Bills||Packers defeat Eagles|
|Patriots defeat Ravens||Saints defeat 49ers|
|AFC CHAMPIONSHP||NFC CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Patriots defeat Steelers||Packers defeat Saints|
SUPER BOWL XLVI
Patriots 31, Packers 27
What’s in the 4/25/11 Issue of Sports Illustrated? NFL Draft, Rex Ryan on Darrelle Revis, Andrew Bynum and Shin-Soo ChooPosted: April 20, 2011
Which of This Year’s Highly Touted QBs Is Truly Ready for the NFL?
Dealing with Darrelle Revis: An Exclusive Excerpt from Rex Ryan’s New Book
The Lakers’ Threepeat Hopes Rest with Defensive Leader Andrew Bynum
Why Shin-Soo Choo Is Lucky to Be in an Indians Uniform
Can the Newly Defensive Capitals Capture the Cup?
(NEW YORK – April 20, 2011) – A trio of first-round quarterback prospects—Jake Locker, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert—grace the cover of the NFL Draft Preview, dated April 25 and on newsstands now. To download a JPEG of the cover, click here.
When it comes to drafting a quarterback, there is no exact science and making the wrong decision can set a franchise back for years. Making the right decision comes down to a bevy of factors outside of a player’s skills, and a player’s ability to develop depends on what team drafts him, what its system is and what its current roster looks like. Tom Brady, a sixth-rounder in 2000, once said that if he had been taken high in the first round and played right away (page 38): “I’d probably be a third-stringer in Arizona right now—or out of the league.”
To read the full online version of The Quarterback Quandary, click here.
On the Tablet: Read a 1998 story debating whether Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf would make a better No. 1 overall pick.
JAKE LOCKER: Was it Worth the Wait? – Jim Trotter
Going into last year’s draft, many pundits thought Jake Locker would be the first quarterback drafted. Locker opted to stay in school, and after an uneven senior year when his stats—and draft stock—plummeted from the year before, Locker has had those same pundits question his ability to adjust to the pro game. It’s a concern that Locker doesn’t share. As he says: (page 42): “The biggest thing that teams keep asking me about is accuracy and whether I can complete the passes more efficiently that I’ll be asked to make. I say, ‘Yeah. I guarantee you I can.’ For me it’s always been a process. I haven’t been a drop-back passer for very long, and I feel myself getting better and better every day that I do it. Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe I can be one of the most efficient quarterbacks at the next level. All I need is the chance.”
To read the full online version of Was it Worth the Wait?, click here.
ANDY DALTON: Horned Frog Dilemma – Andrew Perloff
After a highly successful yet underappreciated career at TCU, Andy Dalton has scouts praising him for his intelligence and decision-making, which could land him in the late first or early second round. Says longtime scout Gil Brandt (page 53): “Dalton’s got that same quality Tom Brady has. You can see it in the way he relates to his receivers and the people around him. People want to follow him. That’s why he won so much at TCU.”
To read the full online version of Horned Frog Dilemma, click here.
BLAINE GABBERT: Spring Semester – Damon Hack
Blaine Gabbert looks like your typical NFL quarterback and has all the tools to back it up—with the exception of experience, both in a pro style offense and otherwise. But if the opinion of quarterback guru Terry Shea—who has recently mentored Gabbert, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman—means anything, the Mizzou product will be fine. According to Shea (page 45): “The first day we went through the mechanics of dropping back, he separated from center so quickly and efficiently. Then we’d go in the classroom, and I’d present a play on the board and say, ‘Now you teach me,’ and he’d rifle through them. I don’t see why he couldn’t go through a four-progression read. The game at the NFL level is not going to be too big for him.”
To read a full online version of Spring Semester, click here.
THE MEANING OF REX: AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM REX RYAN’S NEW BOOK
In the first official excerpt from Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game, Rex Ryan details the contract negotiations with Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. In typical Ryan fashion, the Jets’ head coach describes his concerns about his star defensive player (page 56): “He [Revis] wasn’t around anywhere, he was barely talking to his teammates. You know that serious silent treatment people give you when they are trying to show you they mean business? Anybody who has been married knows what I am talking about.”
Ryan’s patience was pushed to its limit with the first regular-season game only days away: “The time for trying to get this done peacefully is over, and I drop into Rex the Wrecking Crew. It’s tantrum time for me. He wants to play, I want him to play, but it isn’t happening, so I let everybody have it. These guys are talking about the right amount, and it has to be on a four-year deal versus the long-term deal and all kinds of technical, minutia crap, and I’m trying to tell them, ‘I don’t care about any of that, because if we don’t win, I’m not going to be here in four years.’ ”
On the Tablet: Readers can purchase a copy of the book and also read senior writer Gary Smith’s 1994 profile on Rex’s dad, Buddy.
ANDREW BYNUM: WORK IN PROGRESS – LEE JENKINS
Andrew Bynum has overcome injuries and the doubts of pundits and teammates to become the centerpiece of the Lakers’ defense—not to mention the key to their hopes of a threepeat. As Bynum tells senior writer Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) (page 70): “I feel like I haven’t done enough for this team. Sometimes I feel like they can win without me. This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, to really prove my worth. I’m in a position to offer more than I ever have.”
Off the court, Bynum’s penchant for tinkering has led to a multitude of projects: building and assembling computers, constructing a remote-control car that can reach 100 miles per hour, plans of breeding Labradors this summer and hopes of opening an auto body shop. Bynum loves projects; developing himself was the most ambitious one of all.
To read the full online version of Work in Progress, click here.
On the Tablet: Video highlights—updated daily—from the first round of the NBA playoffs.
SHIN-SOO CHOO THAT’S WHO – ALBERT CHEN
Indians rightfielder Shin-Soo Choo is one of only two players to hit .300, bash 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the past two seasons, and his mere presence in an Indians uniform is astonishing in its own right. Men in his native South Korea must serve two years in the military before their 30th birthday, and Choo was facing the possibility of having to return home to fulfill his obligation. After Choo’s performance in the 2010 Asian Games—where he led his country to gold by hitting .571 with three home runs and 11 RBIs—Korea considered his military duties fulfilled (page 62).
Facing intense pressure after leaving Korea to pursue his dream of playing baseball in the United States, Choo was forced to make some tough decisions at a young age. As he recalls: “I had to have a big, big dream. I could have stayed in Korea like everyone else, but I wanted to play the best baseball in the world. No one else wanted to come. They were scared. I wanted to come.”
To read the full online version of Shin-soo Choo That’s Who, click here.
On the Tablet: South Koreans in the big leagues are rare—but not as rare as players from these 10 countries that have been the birthplace of but a single major leaguer since 1968. Also, a 1980 story about Cleveland’s go-go Joe Charboneau.
NHL PLAYOFFS: MORE THAN A CAPITAL OFFENSE – BRIAN CAZENEUVE
After last year’s playoff flameout, the Capitals now call for patience over impulse with a new commitment to defense—a change necessitated by an eight-game skid in the first half of the season. Recalls general manager George McPhee (page 66): “Their problem wasn’t poor defense. It’s the fact that when we couldn’t score, we had no other way to win…. we needed a plan B.”
McPhee gives much of the credit to coach Bruce Boudreau, saying: “To change the system in the middle of a season like this is hard. You can’t be thinking of what the system is supposed to be when you’re trying to make a play; it has to be ingrained. You need a coach who can teach the right way and convince his players that it’s the right thing. He pulled it off.”
To read the full online version of More Than a Capital Offense, click here.
On the Tablet: A slideshow of photos from the first round of the NHL playoffs.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Who do you want shooting with the game on the line? (page 15)
Kobe Bryant, Lakers G….74% Ray Allen, Celtics G….2%
Kevin Durant, Thunder F….8% Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks F….2%
Dwyane Wade, Heat G….3%
[Based on 186 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
Facebook Fan Picks
Derrick Rose, Bulls G….23%
Poll to the People: Starting this issue, Sports Illustrated will take every player poll to Facebook for a second perspective, from the fans. Last week 990 online voters weighed in, and while the masses seconded Bryant as the go-to game-winner, Derrick Rose—who received no votes when Sports Illustrated polled players in the first half of the season—finished a relatively close second. Look for future polls at facebook.com/SportsIllustrated.
SCORECARD: DON’T READ MY LIPS – STEVE RUSHIN
Professional athletes play out their lives in a media fishbowl, and contributor Steve Rushin (@SteveRushin) encourages them to watch what they say and do. Whether it’s Kobe Bryant mouthing an antigay slur at a referee or Tom Brady shedding tears during a TV interview, fans these days are constantly lip-reading, uploading and dissecting the exploits of their athletic idols. This perpetual search for human frailty seemingly knows no bounds: earlier this year golfers Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington were DQ’d from two separate tournaments for rules violations phoned in by viewers watching at home (page 14).
POINT AFTER: GOING FROM A’S TO ZZZ’S – PHIL TAYLOR
There are other two-team baseball markets in which one team is clearly more popular than the other. But as senior writer Phil Taylor (@SI_PhilTaylor) notes, nowhere is the disparity as glaring as in the Bay Area. While the Giants continue to celebrate last year’s magical season, the A’s toil in anonymity. The A’s aren’t looking for sympathy; they just want to know that they’ll get the same treatment if they win big. Says pitcher Dallas Braden (page 76): “Our message is that although you are missing what’s going on here, you’re not going to want to miss it for very much longer. To continue to ignore us would be a huge mistake.”
To read the full online version of Going From A’s to Zzz’s, click here.
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 23)
John Galloway (Syracuse, N.Y.) – Lacrosse Naama Shafir (Hoshaya, Israel) – Basketball
Torie Bunzell (Utica, Ill.) – Softball Taylor Knoth (Milwaukie, Ore.) – Racquetball
Mykkele Thompson (San Antonio) – Track and Field Addie Paris (Kearney, Mo.) – Powerlifting
THIS WEEK ON THE TABLET
- SI Digital Bonus: Cherry Bombs – Don Cherry—part Rush Limbaugh, part Dick Vitale—is loud, abrasive and volatile. He’s also the most popular television personality in Canada, as profiled in this 1993 piece from Leigh Montville.
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Jimmer Fredette— and it’s only a matter of time before Jimmer, or perhaps the Jimmer will suffice—evokes so many different personas, that of the folk hero, the cartoon superhero and I’ll throw this in, well, because it’d make for a great headline (“The Jimmer Plays Pretty Good!”) Watch the BYU sharpshooter and it doesn’t take long before you get that middle-distance stare and start humming “One Shining Moment”—or the preferred Fredette track. It’s Maravichian, for those who remember that phenom. And if you don’t, here’s your primer.
Football gets the cover in this week’s issue, the two Super Bowl teams expertly broken down by Peter King and Tim Layden, but the soul of the issue is the Jimmer. It’s impossible not to be swept up in Jimmermania, and Kelli Anderson helps us better understand why a player with the projected career arc of NBA journeyman captivates us as much as such recent lottery tickets as Durant and Wall and Griffin. Even better, Kelli takes you even further into the story in the podcast she taped with Richard Deitsch this week. With the Jimmer, you want pictures too and we’ve put together a YouTube compendium of his sublime game.
Also, on the must-list this week is Scott Price’s narrative on Aliquippa, Pa., which like so many other Rust Belt towns, turns to a rich football tradition as a balm for economic decline and social ills. The Western Pennsylvania mill town has delivered to the NFL, among others, Ditka, Dorsett, Revis and Sean Gilbert, whose pithy 1989 remark (“We represent the struggle. The pain. The oppression. We represent the fight. This is Aliquippa”) sets the tone for Price’s moving, masterfully crafted piece, which is complemented by an SI original video.
Next week, we promise plenty of Super Bowl goodies that tap into the best of the Big Game and SI itself. The week after: Swimsuit 2011.
- Chris Stone