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Savran: Do we know Jack about Joe's team?

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Take note of the following.

Say it ain't so, Joe. Quoth the legend Joseph V. Paterno: "Most of you [reporters] don't know what you're talking about."

Some of us do, Joe. And my criticism of clock management in last week's loss to Minnesota has nothing to do with play calls. But there's absolutely no denying that a coaching decision cost Penn State dearly. At the end of the first half, Penn State had the ball deep in Minnesota territory, third down, 10 seconds and no times out remaining. You absolutely must kick your field goal right there. If Michael Robinson gets sacked, which he almost was, the half is over. If he starts scrambling around, the clock runs out and the half is over. Anything short of a touchdown pass, the half is over without a field goal attempt. The fact that the interception call was incorrect is irrelevant. You kick the field goal in that situation. Penn State didn't lose the game because of that error in judgment, but it was a contributing factor. That poor decision simply cannot be defended.

My attitude concerning media questioning coaches is this: Do I know as much as a coach? Of course not. But that doesn't mean I don't know anything. Nor does it mean that superior knowledge always makes the coach right.

Chad Scott's comments from the burn unit after the Tennessee game were most revealing. In defending his play, he cited the interceptions he's had in his career as vindication for his play. Well, pass defense isn't about interceptions, it's about incompletions. First and foremost, you're trying to get your defense and their offense off the field, in three downs if possible. You do that by forcing incomplete passes, especially on third downs. Having passes completed at you, around you, in front of you and behind you is not balanced by an occasional interception.

From the Capitals' perspective, the Jaromir Jagr trade has been a bust approaching colossal proportion. The management in Washington expected a scoring champion, a player to create excitement in the marketplace and playoff hockey well into the late spring. For their $11 million per year, they've gotten none of the above.

From the Penguins' perspective, the only folks with smiley faces are the fans in Wilkes-Barre. For that is where the collective return for Jagr will begin the season -- again. Kris Beech, Michael Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk are young enough to turn their careers around. But if a horse finishes last in every one of his races, what makes anyone think he will win the next one?

Given the Penguins' stated objectives of rebuilding with youth, if you can't make this team this year, when can you ever? At least they saved the $11 million. Perhaps Craig Patrick should have traded Jagr to the Cubs for Bobby Hill.

Marc-Andre Fleury won't come cheaply. Quality seldom does. But the Penguins wanted to step up to the first pick overall. That means it's now incumbent upon them to step up and make a competitive contract offer. You want to draft the big guys, you have to expect to pay them big-guy money.

Bo Schembechler believed that when building a football team, you place your best eleven players on defense, then fill in the offensive side with whatever is left over. A rather Neanderthal approach, but then that describes Schembechler as a coach -- and a person, for that matter.

But when it comes to linemen, I'm not so sure that works. You give me an outstanding offensive line, and I can play any style I want and beat you with it. If the Steelers' offensive line were better, or at least gets better, there won't be much more debate about how much to pass and how much to run, or who should do the running.

Perhaps someone should inform Rush Limbaugh that there is no such thing as affirmative action in the NFL, at least not when it comes to players. Nor does it exist anywhere in competitive athletics. You want to win, the best players play. His assertion that the media (I find it amusing he considers himself to be above and/or apart from them) is eager for a black quarterback to succeed was more of a not-so-subtle condemnation of that controversial governmental program he abhors than an indictment of Donovan McNabb. Apparently, because of his lack of football knowledge, he hadn't noticed McNabb and others have already done well. Has he not heard of Steve McNair? If not, I've got some recent game tapes available. But then, that would be dealing with the facts instead of spinning them round to fit into politically square holes. Wouldn't want any of that.

When the going got tough, Limbaugh quit. What's that about adversity not building character, but revealing it?

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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