Auburn is the most unlikely contender ever to reach the BCS title game, but the Tigers are also hitting top speed at the right time to defend the SEC banner in Pasadena. Plus a new top 25, the Lowsman Trophy watch and the rest from the final regular-season weekend on campus.
25 Feb 2012
by Mike Tanier
Peter King flicked a Tootsie Roll into my beer last night.
That was not very professional of him. Of course, he was just retaliating after I walked up and chugged his beer while he was speaking.
Football Outsiders past and present attended the Peter King Tweet-Up at the Sun King Brewery, and we got the VIP treatment. The folks at Sun King gave us free beer, and they even let me use the employee restroom!
The main topics of conversation, as you might guess, were Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III came up a few times, and King gave me the mic so I could dribble down my chin as audibly as possible. A swell time was had by all.
But now it’s back to the podiums and the prospects for a few hours before yours truly heads home.
Jerry Reese kicked things off, and his press conference had a strange vibe. There were many Victor Cruz questions, and when Reese was asked about how so many teams missed Cruz, he admitted "we missed him too."
Reese said that he got lucky taking a flyer on a local free agent who "kinda looked just like a guy" at a small program; Cruz worked hard, the coaches developed him, and salsa happened. This bit of honesty almost turned confrontational, as if Reese was being asked to justify why he didn’t spend a second-round pick on Cruz instead of finding him in the sofa cushions. The "scouting is an inexact science" storyline probably isn’t very interesting. Reese and Cruz remind us that much of what we perceive as scouting is really development. And development involves both good coaching and good roster management, because players need meaningful reps, and bringing in 32-year-olds with no future can take away from those meaningful reps.
Mike Smith fielded a bunch of softball questions before some jerk (me) asked him if his fourth-down strategies were going to change. Smith said that he will remain aggressive. He said that going for it on fourth-and-short is a good strategy "statistically." Yay. I asked if he planned on putting in some special packages for fourth-and-short, and he said that he does critical analysis during every offseason, and "fourth down and one is at the top of my list." Go, coach, go!
The gang at Under Armour let me fondle the compression shirt Rich Eisen will wear when he runs the 40-yard dash next week. Eisen was not in it. The shirt features the new E39 sensor; several players wore an early version of the sensor last year. It measures heart rate, breathing, and other factors, but Under Armour is focusing on the acceleration data the sensor monitors this year. The E39 transmits data about the player’s initial burst straight to a laptop or smart phone, where it can be graphed, saved, compared longitudinally, and so on.
The E39 even combines the player’s mass and the acceleration data into force data using a highly complex algorithm. Multiplication! There’s probably a little more to it than that (the representative I spoke to probably did not know that I taught math for 17 years), and the E39 can also compute horsepower and other freshman physics properties. Instantaneous acceleration and force data can be very useful for coaches and players during training sessions, and right now the target markets for the E39 are elite training facilities and the like. As the product is perfected, it will find its way to the mass market.
The fabric feels like Under Armour, and the sensor is very light and fits snuggly. I can imagine joggers using it to measure their heartrate and other factors, though I cannot imagine jogging. If they include a Laser Tag feature, it will sell like hotcakes. I kid! It’s a cool innovation. Under Armour!
By the time I returned from my Under Armour session, Brian Billick was ranting about the possible legalization of marijuana in California. Billick was speaking about character issues versus mistakes, and much of what he said was just good horse sense: personnel people must try to separate isolated incidents from behaviors that form the core of a prospect’s personality. Billick called testing positive for marijuana at the Combine "an intelligence issue, not a character issue," because players know well in advance that they will be tested. At any rate, Billick started speculating that the California state legislature may be toking up, which meant it was time to give Podium A a breather.
Melvin Ingram (DE-OLB, South Carolina) is an interesting prospect; a Mathias Kiwanuka-type who can bounce all around the defensive front. He is listed as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and he played linebacker as a freshman before moving into more of a straight pass-rushing role. Ingram said that dropping into coverage is "“second nature" to him, and he has been working out with Von Miller. Ingram also said that he was a point guard in high school, playing at about 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. "I was a scorer," he said. Yes, I can picture the play: Ingram drives, everyone in their right mind runs screaming from the paint.
Yesterday, Tom Coughlin called Super Bowl week "a magnificent blur."
I felt the same way. Returning to Indianapolis, working at a less-blistering pace, I have been able to reflect on that formula race of a week: memories of glorious moments, painful moments, strange, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, thrills, frustration, exhaustion. Coughlin said that there was a memory "on every street corner." I was on a lot more street corners during Super Bowl week than the coach was.
Let me tell one leftover Super Bowl story before heading home. The game ended, the Giants won, confetti flew, and the auxiliary press box (really a closed-off section of seats in the corner of the end zone) collectively stood, stretched, and rushed for the interview rooms or the field. I was off the clock the moment I filed my final game report, and with a whole phalanx of other Times reporters on hand to capture the moment, I decided to head back to the hotel and pack. I was much more interested in seeing my wife and sons than the Lombardi Trophy at that moment.
I ducked into the crowd and began walking through the tunnels to leave Lucas Oil Stadium. And walking through the tunnels. And walking some more. It was like the scene in Spinal Tap where the band cannot find the stage, but keeps shouting "rock ‘n’ roll" after every wrong turn. The Lucas Oil tunnels have a grade of about 0.000045 degrees, so getting from the upper decks to the street is like snaking around a decompressed Slinky.
The J.W. Marriott hotel, with its 20-story tall Lombardi Trophy banner, would appear through a window. Then the crowd ducked back into the switchbacks, twisting and turning, down a slope that would not even give a shopping cart enough momentum to ding a car door. After a minute or two of walking, the Marriott reappeared out another window, and there was no perceptible change in our elevation. This happened approximately 600 times.
The Giants fans did not notice at first. They kept cheering and shouting "World Champions!" One guy shouted "World F***ing Champions," Chase Utley-style, but his buddy reminded him not to curse. That was a nice moment, Indianapolis rubbing off on us. But then the Super Bowl high wore off just a bit, and many people began to realize that they had been walking in circles for weeks. "This is some weird dream," I said to a random traveler on the same pilgrimage to nowhere. "None of this is really happening. I bumped my head on Thursday morning and dreamed all of this." She looked at me funny.
Finally, the loop was broken, and a blast of cool winter air welcomed us to the street. Then, we were somehow back inside. The security folks funneled everyone into an enormous tent gift shop, then into the convention center, where all manner of ticketed parties were going on. I could have press-passed my way through a security gate, or even into a party, but all I craved was freedom. I rushed through the conventional hall, out a door, and into the famous Super Bowl Village, lit up and alive and electric.
Who knows how many people in that village that night were Giants fans? Many were no doubt Colts fans who adopted the Giants for two weeks. But many were probably just football fans, or just citizens who casually watch sports but were eager to be part of something. That village served those people well all week, and it served them well after the game. It was a theme park, FootballLand, and seeing happy people milling about, drinking beers and cheering and just being part of a scene, gave me a much-needed energy boost. I have a lucky person job. Sometimes, I have to stop and enjoy the blur for all of its magnificence.
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