Thursday, January 22, 2009

WARNING!! This Is Thursday, And You Know What THAT Means....

Hey! Welcome to Thursday, which means another webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al." For you newbies, this is my weekly gabfest with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience. It's where we whine, sulk, complain, and on occasion, toss a few bouquets. But only on occasion!

This week, we chat up the Lions' new D-coordinator; wonder what the Hell is going on in Pistons coach Michael Curry's bald head; mourn the passing of WDFN as we once knew it; welcome the return of The Turtle; and, as usual, play some WordAss and name our Jerks of the Week.

Without further ado......

Eno: Sorry to break the news to you, but you've stumbled across another webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al." I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot – or, as I like to call him, The MVP of the MVN. Greetings, Almeister!

Big Al: Almeister, Bugermeister, Meistermeister, call me whatever you'd like. Hey, Almeister Meistermiester! Anyway... So what's on your mind this week, Enomeister? There's been quite a bit of news in the Detroit sports world over the past week.

Eno: Well, the freshest news (as we do this chat) is the hiring of Gunther Cunningham as the Lions' new defensive coordinator. Your, umm, "knee jerk" response, sir?

Big Al: As I wrote on TWFE, it's not a home run sort of hire. Cunningham is a football lifer, and I do have concerns the NFL is beginning to pass the 60+ year-old coordinator by. The Chiefs were 31st in overall defense in 2008. But he also has an extensive track record, and has been in charge of some very good Ds in the past. You cannot deny he's a HUGE upgrade over Rod Marinelli's son-in-law. That alone is reason enough to consider this hire...not bad.

Eno: Right. He has the experience, for sure. And he has history with new head coach Jim Schwartz; he apparently was Schwartz's no. 1 choice. Cunningham is, by all accounts, a very intense guy. Plus, you gotta like any football coach named...GUNTHER....right?

Big Al: If you say so, Enomeister. In the end, Gunther will be implementing Schwartz's schemes anyway. The Schwartz made his name in NFL circles as a defensive coordinator, so the Lions' defense is going to have his fingerprints all over it. I'm not going to go off half-cocked in either direction over this news. Cunningham is only one piece of the puzzle, and the Lions' success will depend more on the players on the field executing the defense, instead of the men scheming it.

Eno: True that. Which leads me to my next query: WTF is going to happen in the Lions' front office? This third wheel they're gonna hire, to work with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – what sort of individual will this be? A lackey, or someone with some personnel chops? I'm still trying to get my arms around this whole three-headed monster scheme the Lions plan to employ in Allen Park.

Big Al: Maybe it will end up being The Schwartz. He does have scouting experience. I'm sure he'll have some say in the upcoming draft. If not him, I have a feeling the third head of the monster won't join the Lions till after this coming draft. No NFL team in its right mind is going to allow one of its personnel gurus to leave, and take his research with him. Not going to happen. As the Lions already have their "brain trust" (term used loosely) in place, finding someone isn't going to be easy. If you are still under contract, you aren't allowed to make a lateral move to another team anyway. So the Lions, as usual, are between a rock, and a rock.

Eno: Typical. Well, I certainly hope they let Schwartz have some say-so, regardless of who the third head is. Any head coach worth his salt, or with any pride, wants input on who gets drafted. But I suppose we're looking at addition by subtraction here. Meaning, no Matt Millen = addition!! Oh, btw, I just read where Gunther Cunningham has been described by another NFL coach as being "half-crazy." Some call him the d-version of Mike Martz: high intensity, Type A personality guy. But what I like is that he doesn't take you-know-what from his players. There's been a lack of a lot of things with the Lions, but one of the biggest lacks is that of accountability.

Big Al: The Lions could use a little crazy, in a good way. Rod Marinelli was just crazy (he believes in invisibility, you know), period. Cunningham may be a nice yang to The Schwartz's yin. Schwartz seems more analytical, as going by his saber-like take on football, while Cunningham is your stereotypical screamer/madman on the sidelines. It could be a good mix.

Eno: Exactly. So how surprised were you that Jon Gruden got the ziggy in Tampa?

Big Al: Not totally surprised, as he had pretty much used up whatever goodwill he generated in winning a Super Bowl. Their late season collapse, combined with Chucky's inability to develop any continuity at QB, sealed his fate. More than anything else, the timing of the firing was odd. Most any coach getting the ziggy is zigged immediately after the end of the season. The Bucs waited almost three weeks before lowering the boom. For those Lions' fans out there upset the Lions missed out on Chucky, don't be. Gruden is who you want if you have a veteran team trying to get over the final hump. He's not who you want if you are rebuilding. It's not his nature.

Eno: I agree about the rebuilding thing. Gruden would have a coronary trying to do that! OK, what's on YOUR mind, Meister? Hey, remember Meister Brau beer?

Big Al: Of course! Though I never had the guts to make the Homer Simpson-approved Skittlebrau! Eww. The other breaking news of late is the end of “small ball” at The Palace! Pistons head coach Michael Curry has FINALLY given up on his three guard starting lineup, and will now bring Rip Hamilton off the bench. Personally, I can't believe Curry waited this long. But better late than never. What's your take, Eno-brau?

Eno: Well, I wrote at OOB that Hamilton kind of surprised me by taking the news so well. But the decision had to be made. No surprise he chose Hamilton to come off the bench, rather than Allen Iverson. Personally, I think Hamilton off the bench could cause other teams fits, in addition to making the Pistons stronger defensively, particularly at the start of games. But here's the rub: does this mean Rip has his back pockets on the bench in the closing minutes of games? I mean, usually the guys who start are the guys who finish. What will happen at the ends of games? Won't the Pistons need Hamilton's dead-eye shooting in crunch time?

Big Al: Questions like that is why Curry is being paid the big bucks. It’s also why he likely demurred so long in making the decision to begin with. Chuck Daly was able to keep three talented guards happy, and at the end of games Daddy Rich would have on the floor whomever he thought gave the Pistons the best chance to win that particular night. Which is why, for example, Vinnie Johnson was the man who hit the winning shot to beat the Trailblazers in the 1990 NBA Finals. So I would imagine some nights we'll see Allen Iverson closing games, on other nights, Rip. And I'm sure we'll see plenty of the small lineup, as it's not going fully away. Still, this was a decision Curry put off for far too long, allowing goofballs like us, and those in the MSM, to second guess his capabilities as a head coach. I hope Curry has learned something from this.

Eno: I think all goofballs should speak for themselves! I'm not a goofball, I'm a bottom-feeding blogger/ink-stained wretch. Let's get it straight! We seem to be worried about Curry every week at TKJ. I guess only time will tell (read: the post-season) whether a rookie coach was a mistake for these guys. What happened to Walter Herrmann? Suddenly he's milk carton material, when earlier in the season I thought he had the potential to be a great X factor; kind of like a Mehmet Okur-type dude.

Big Al: Again, it's Curry not settling on a rotation. Herrmann was in, then out. Amir Johnson was starting, then not playing at all. Jason Maxiell recently had four consecutive DNP-Coaches Decisions, then got big minutes. The players have no idea when/if they are playing. If I were one of these guys, I'd be wondering what the Hell is going on in Curry's head? He needs to set a rotation, have respective starting and bench units, and go with it. Is it that hard to figure out?

Eno: Yeah, I think that was part of Flip Saunders's downfall, too – the strangeness of the rotation. It's like everyone is part of a baseball bullpen: not REALLY knowing whether you'll be used that night, nor where and when. But at least, being in the bullpen, you kind of expect that. Not so much when you're on an NBA roster. But maybe this is part of the Pistons' Grand Plan: to be lying in the weeds, instead of being favs to make it back to the conference finals. Are they crazy like foxes in Auburn Hills?

Big Al: I think you are giving Curry and the Pistons too much credit. It's not lying in the weeds, it's a clueless, inexperienced, first time head coach learning on the job. Currently, Curry's well on his way to coaching the Pistons out of having the first round home court in the playoffs.

Eno: I was HOPING you wouldn't say that! But alas, you're probably right. Does Curry last through the next season?

Big Al: As long as the Pistons keep their playoff positioning, I believe so. [Joe] Dumars has to take some of the blame for hiring Curry in the first place, and saddling him with a pair of somewhat petulant shooting guards. So I think Dumars rides the rapids with Curry this season, and recalculates everything and everyone at the end of the season.

Eno: Again. OK, what about some other big MSM news: the ziggying of a lot of WDFN on-air staff, including even (gasp!) the popular Stoney and Wojo?

Big Al: I was saddened by the demise of The Fan. I had been a listener since day one. Not anymore. Yes, DFN wasn't as fresh as it once was, especially back in the late-1990s thru the early-2000s. The format had become somewhat stale. But I did listen to Stoney and Wojo everyday. Same for Sean Baligian. It's a damn shame Cheap Channel is going to let DFN wither and die, all so their shareholders can make a few more bucks. It's just another sign of radio's rapid decline overall.

Eno: Well, they HAD been getting their butts kicked by WXYT for a while. Radio is a very unstable thing, even for the supposed stars. Here one day, gone the next. Maybe talk radio is passe? Could it be that it gets lost in the shuffle? With podcasts, etc. out there....maybe what's happening to sports talk radio is what's happening to daily newspapers.

Big Al: The situation hasn't been helped by Cheap Channel's penny pinching ways. If CC had taken the opportunity to move The Fan to FM (106.7 isn't exactly burning up the rating books as a country station), DFN would still be a viable entity today. I honestly think CC would be happy if they could run syndicated programming on every station they own, and hire board ops at minimum wage to press buttons, instead of paying decent wages to hosts and DJs. They have destroyed local radio, thanks to their chasing profits at the expense of everything else. DFN's talent should turn up elsewhere. We can only hope, as they are good people. They always had good things to say about TWFE, and bloggers in general

Eno: Yeah, they did do that – me and OOB/Johnny Grubb included. Wait – did you hear that? Could it be.....WordASS?????


Big Al: I thought it was screams of pain coming from Tigers fans worried about the bullpen, but it could be WORDASS I hear. I'll start!

Eno: Fire away, mon ami!

Big Al: Let's begin with the new defensive coordinator of the Michigan Wolverines, a head coach who flamed out spectacularly at Syracuse, Greg Robinson.

Eno: Failed head coaches sometimes make the best coordinators.

Big Al: That they do; let's hope it holds true for Gunther Cunningham as well! OK, the Lions' first 2009 draft pick.

Eno: A snarling, mean middle linebacker. Someone Gunther can slobber over and make an example of!

Big Al: Works for me. Hell, it wouldn't bother me if the Lions went whole hog, so to speak, and drafted all defense. Next, let's try the man who is in, then out, then in the Pistons' starting lineup, Amir Johnson.

Eno: They used to say that cigarette smoking will stunt your growth. So will playing for Michael Curry! (unless you're Rodney Stuckey) . Gimme one more, Alness.

Big Al: One more? OK, let's go with the Red Wing rumored to be on the verge of signing a very long, and likely very expensive contract extension, Henrik Zetterberg.

Eno: They say 10 years is a possibility. Good for him. Best Red Wings forward to come down the pike in years, Pavel Datsyuk included. Don't sweat the "poor' first half. You MUST lock this guy up. OK, your turn....

Big Al: Let 'er rip, Eno-meister!

Eno: Let's start with those crazy Arizona Cardinals!

Big Al: Shows what a franchise QB, even a 37 year-old one, can do for a team. Were the Lions watching?

Eno: Probably too busy at the Senior Bowl! OK, how about Jim Rice, Hall of Famer?

Big Al: If he's a HoF'er, then so is Dave Parker. And don't get me going on Alan Trammell. It gets this blogger VERY pissy.

Eno: Oh, I know it does! Two more. First, MSU basketball.

Big Al: Where have you guys been? You've been missed!

Eno: And, finally, Todd McLellan's San Jose Sharks.

Big Al: Going to be one Hell of a Western Conference final with the Red Wings! Plus, to make them even more evil, they signed Satan himself, Claude Lemieux. GAK!

Eno: Let's talk about Lemieux, before we get to JOTW. Your impressions? He's making a comeback after 5 1/2 years out of the game. That's pretty impressive, no matter what you think of him, right?

Big Al: It is, but how effective can he be? At this point, all he could be is an agitator – an older, MUCH older, Kirk Maltby. Supposedly, Claude the Clod will show the Sharks "how to win". I think he'll also show them how to cheap shot, skate away from fights, and turtle. Honestly, I'd be surprised if he has anything left.

Eno: Reminds me of defenseman Carl Brewer. Do you, by chance, remember when he came back to the Leafs in 1980 at age forty-something?

Big Al: Vaguely. In 1980 I was more interested in drinking beer, meeting chicks, spending all my paychecks on beer and women, and not flunking out of college.

Eno: Oh, so THAT'S why you're such a good sports blogger! I get it now!

Big Al: I fit the profile! I liked the beer back then. Still do, just not in Conehead style mass quantities! What's your excuse?

Eno: Now? Acute beer deprivation. Takes me a month to get through a six-pack, whereas it used to take me an evening.

Big Al: No kidding, I still have beer in the fridge I picked up for Christmas! Never would have lasted a week in 1980! So, are you ready for our "Jerk of the Week"?


Eno: Let's give it a shot. You first!

Big Al: My Jerk of the Week is an easy one. Clear Channel. Say what you will about WDFN, but the station was ingrained into the local sports consciousness. Back in the mid-1990s, when you could only hear sports talk sporadically, WDFN was like an oasis in a media desert. They will be missed. Cheap Channel is the worst thing to happen to local radio since...since, well, ever. Thank God for the Internet...and bloggers, of course! Who you got, Eno-meister?

Eno: Yeah, that was too bad what happened at DFN. My JOTW is....ME, for so brutally picking the NFL conference championship games. Even my mother razzed me about it! I had Eagles-Ravens. That's not who's in, is it?

Big Al: Well, one bird did make it. Hell, I only picked the Cards to win because I was so pissed at the Lions! Between you and me, I never expected Arizona to beat the Eagles. Which is why (cliche alert!) they play the games.

Eno: I suppose so! OK, my friend. Let's reconvene next week, Alness?

Big Al: Same Jerk time, same Jerk channel, same Jerk attitude!

Eno: You bet!

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