Behind Messi’s Decision

Make that three in a row for Argentina. After losing to Chile on Sunday, Argentina came up short in its third straight tournament final. The loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final, followed by two consecutive defeats to the Chileans in the Copa America have left the Argentine with a sour taste in their mouth.

Lionel Messi
Messi is Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with 55 goals in 113 caps. (Wikimedia Commons)

So much so, that Argentinian captain Lionel Messi has said that he is retiring from international football. His proclamation came shortly after the heartbreaking loss, where Messi fired his shot over the bar during the decisive penalty shootout. It might have just been his emotions getting the best of him in the heat of the moment. But there are plenty of other reasons that could be fueling Messi’s desire leave the international game.

First and foremost, it is no secret that he has a certain amount of disdain for the Argentina Football Association (AFA). For anyone who has consistently read this blog, you know I hate FIFA for being a corrupt organization. The AFA fits into that same mold.

For some context, the Argentinian players beat the USA last Tuesday, and then were set to fly out to Houston on Thursday. However, the flight was delayed due to weather concerns. That didn’t stop Messi from taking to social media to bash the AFA for the mishandling of the situation. The AFA issued a response saying that Copa America organizers were responsible for all travel logistics. I think Messi was just looking for something to be mad about here, but he was probably already a bit pissed off.

Just prior to the flight snafu, AFA president Luis Segura was charged with fraudulent administration regarding television-broadcasting rights. He hasn’t been found guilty, but the money in question is several million dollars over the course of the last six years. That reflects poorly on the AFA and likely already had Messi in a bad mood.

There is also a deep-seeded stalemate between those in Argentina and their most prolific player. Messi has played for Barcelona his entire career and that has led to the sentiment that he is more committed to his club than his country. It has been a long-standing love-hate relationship between Messi and the Argentine fans.

From their perspective, he has never delivered. Sunday’s loss was the fourth time Messi came up short in a major tournament final. He has only ever won one gold medal and it was at the Olympics, which is rather insignificant by world football standards.

Argentina has not won a major tournament since 1993, when Messi was only six. (Wikimedia Commons)

However, it is hard to argue that Messi hasn’t given it his all while wearing an Argentina shirt. He was nothing short of magical in this Copa America run, tallying five goals and four assists during the team’s six games. He didn’t start all of them either, as he came off the bench early in the tournament. Think back to the 2015 Copa America, where Messi scored only once, but had three assists and was the only Argentine player to score in the Finals’ shootout. And before that, it was four goals and an assist en route to the Golden Ball Award at the World Cup in 2014.

The last three years have been some of the best of Messi’s career at the international level. He has guided Argentina to three consecutive major tournament finals, coming up short to Chile and Germany, both of whom are great teams.

The reality is that Messi must feel jaded. I honestly do not think his retirement at this point is permanent. He is, after all, just 29 years old. There is still a lot of magic left in the tank for Messi. I think his teammates will convince him to give it at least one last run at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If the five-time Ballon d’Or winner cannot pull through there, then I think that might be the end of the line. Until then, just enjoy the show everyone.


Suck it up NFL Quarterbacks

This has been the offseason of the whiny quarterback in the NFL. Several quarterbacks either aren’t happy with the current situation they find themselves in on their roster or aren’t pleased with the offers they’ve received in free agency.

I’m talking mostly about Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles for the most part, although Colin Kaepernick might also be in the mix. He seems to have checked his ego though and let his bank account swell.

Nick Foles
Foles had the worst Total QBR of any player in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

Foles hasn’t been too bad either, but he isn’t being a good team player. Coming off one of the worst seasons a quarterback has had in the league in sometime as a mostly starting option, the Rams made the move to find Foles’ replacement or future replacement in this year’s draft. Los Angeles drafted Jared Goff after some maneuvering up to the number one pick. There were rumors that Case Keenum was favored to start over Foles before Goff even arrived on scene.

Now Foles appears to be pouting about his situation. He skipped voluntary workouts for the team in protest of Goff’s selection. Rumor has it that the Rams are looking to trade him now. The Cardinals, Jets and 49ers have all been linked as potential trade partners.

Sam Bradford
Bradford had the 3rd-worst Total QBR in the league last season. (Wikimedia Commons)

While Foles is clearly unhappy and looking for a change of scenery, he has been as openly frustrated as Bradford. The two quarterbacks are somewhat linked after a trade last offseason saw them swap teams. Bradford seemed to be Chip Kelly’s passer of choice in Philly, but now Kelly is in California while Bradford remains in eastern Pennsylvania.

Bradford still seems to have his job as well, and is scheduled to make $35 million over the next two seasons. He really has nothing to whine about, but that hasn’t stopped him so far.

Before, I mentioned the Jets as a potential trade partner to land Foles and that is because they have a disgruntled quarterback of their own. Well kind of. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t currently under contract with New York, but they seem to be his only real suitors. The Jets know that they likely cannot find much success this season with Geno Smith as the starting quarterback. Fitzpatrick knows that too. However, Fitzpatrick knows that the league doesn’t seem interested in paying a soon to be 34-year old journeyman quarterback a competitive salary. The Jets know that too. Hence the ridiculous stalemate.

Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick threw a career-best 31 touchdowns in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

It seems like New York is willing to give him a reasonable contract, but Fitzpatrick is interested in getting top dollar for his services. He continues to holdout for a better deal and has voiced his discontent to his former teammates. He even has gone as far as to say that he would consider retirement if he could not find an acceptable offer.

For all three of these quarterbacks, it’s time for them to suck it up and realize that the NFL is a business. Now I know that I cannot speak from a player’s perspective on these issues, but they are being paid a lot of money to play this game and their satisfaction with every decision the franchise makes is not part of the contract. To me, these three signal callers demonstrate an unfortunate trend with professional athletes who think that their needs trump those of all others. They are so focused on themselves that they are not willing to think of the well-being of the team.

Those are the kinds of players that, as a coach, a general manager or a fan, I don’t want on my team. Their selfishness shows that they are not willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team and weak mental makeup shows that they are not what you are looking for in the form of a quarterback.

This Rose is Perfect for the Garden

They don’t have a pick in tonight’s draft, currently on ESPN, but the Knicks made a major move to land Derrick Rose in a trade with Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of different reactions to the deal so far and I wanted to weigh in on the deal. It makes way too much sense for New York. And here’s why.

Derrick Rose
Rose averages 19.7 points per game in his career. (Wikipedia Commons)

First of all, they really didn’t give up very much to bring Rose over. The Knicks sent an aging backup point guard, a future sixth man and a solid center to the Bulls in exchange for a former MVP with the potential to change the whole team. Jose Calderon is dead weight, Jerian Grant is a tossup with less potential and Robin Lopez is not exactly a superstar.

Rose has a ton potential. He has a well-documented injury history, but when healthy, the point guard has been sensational. He won the MVP award in 2010. He has a history of being great. Grant, Calderon and Lopez all do not. That right there makes this trade worthwhile.

Considering how bad the Knicks have been the past few years, it would be hard for this deal to make them much worse. There is essentially no risk in making this deal and there is a whole lot of potential reward.

That reward goes beyond just Rose’s contributions for 2016. His very presence in New York could attract some bigger free agents. The possibilities are endless. Obviously, the biggest grab would be Kevin Durant, but even some other options like Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, J.R. Smith and more now will find the Knicks a much more desirable team to join. Not to mention, if Rose has a big year and decides to stay on with the Knicks, they look very attractive to future free agents as well.

Phil Jackson also brings in someone who knows how to win and has a history of winning. That could be part of the culture change many figured he would bring the Big Apple when he was hired as general manager and team president.

Russell Westbrook
Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. (Wikipedia Commons)

The biggest thing that this deal gives New York though is cap flexibility. In 2017, the salary cap is going to rise to about $110 million. Rose’s nearly $21 million also comes off the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. That should give Jackson nearly $50 million in cap space to work with next offseason.

New York would love to land Russell Westbrook next year in free agency and rumor has it that the interest is mutual. That’s really what this move is all about. It gives the Knicks a wealth of options going forward, because if Rose does not work out, he leaves after the season is over, and New York gets to take their pick at who they throw money at.

To recap, the Knicks can really only get better and have primed themselves for the future. If you don’t like that deal, you don’t understand how the NBA works.

Did Klinsmann Save his Job?

The United States faces off with Ecuador on Thursday night in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. Many expected America to be here, but not against this opponent. Peru messed up what should have been a meeting between the U.S. and Brazil, with some help from Costa Rica.

America is favored to beat Ecuador now and advance to the semifinal round. All of that would be great and it makes you wonder if Jurgen Klinsmann has taken himself off the hot seat.

Jurgen Klinsmann
America is 2-1 under Klinsmann heading into the Copa America quarterfinals. (Wikimedia Commons)

Klinsmann has had some mixed results in 2016 and continues to alienate players from MLS. Many felt that a poor showing in this tournament would see him packing his bags. We saw what failing to get out of group play can do to a manager of a very successful team (see Brazil). It was certainly in the realm of possibility that Klinsmann would be unemployed if his team failed to advance.

Even with the U.S. qualifying for the knockout stage, I don’t think Klinsmann has completely gotten himself out of hot water. The United States beat Paraguay and Costa Rica. The game against Los Ticos was spectacular and the Paraguay match was solid. However, they also lost in a rough offensive showing against Columbia. Now, the latter is the number three team in the world at the moment. Overall, this is a good slate of results for the Red, White and Blue.

But the U.S. hasn’t beat anyone they weren’t supposed to. Costa Rica was a toss up and Paraguay was a game America was expected to win. Columbia would have been a major victory. Those two wins were good results but nothing out of the ordinary. Really, the USMNT was lucky to win the pool.

A win over Ecuador would be significant, as they are currently ranked 13th in the world. A semifinal victory could be a huge sign of progress for this team. The US will likely play either Argentina, Chile or Mexico. Defeating one of those three teams would be a significant benchmark in the preparation for the 2018 World Cup.

America is ranked 31st in the world at the moment. (Wikimedia Commons)

Realistically, the United States has no chance of winning this tournament. They lack to the defensive discipline and offensive fire power to upset potentially three top 20 ranked teams in the world back to back to back.

So while the U.S. won the pool and enter the knockout stage with high hopes, realize that nothing significant has happened yet. They won the pool mainly due to Costa Rica stunning Columbia in the groups’ final game. Everything the Americans have done to this point they were supposed to do.

If they lose to Ecuador, this is an average tournament for the USA. If they beat Ecuador, Klinsmann and his group has a positive result to take from this tournament going forward. Anything past that would be phenomenal progress for the United States. Klinsmann is trending in the direction of safety but I don’t think he has made it quite yet.

2016 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

For many college football players, the goal is to have success at school to earn a spot in the NFL. Most players who turn pro after college enter the league via the NFL Draft.

With this year seeing a host of Ohio State players drafted in the first three rounds, I was curious which schools have the best track record for sending players to the next level. Not just getting them there, but producing players that go high up in the draft. I set up a scoring system for player selections in each round and then scored the last five NFL Drafts to come up with our first ever Pro Potential Power Rankings. This is college football we are talking about, so here is the top 25.

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 225 points
Highest Drafted Player– Trent Richardson, 3rd Overall, 2012
This should come as no surprise. Alabama has become a football factory under Nick Saban. They have the most first rounders of any team over the past five years and are one of only a few teams to have a first rounder in each year I looked at.

Florida State Logo2. Florida State Seminoles- 183 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jameis Winston, 1st Overall, 2015
There is a sizable drop off from number one to number two, but that’s Alabama for you. Jimbo Fisher has done well at producing high profile draft picks though with first rounders going in each of the last four drafts.

Ohio State Logo3. Ohio State Buckeyes- 166 points
Highest Drafted Player- Joey Bosa, 3rd Overall, 2016
Something tells me that these guys are going to challenge Alabama next year. The Buckeyes had 10 players drafted in the first three rounds this past year with plenty more pro prospects expected in the next few years.

Louisiana State University logo4. LSU Tigers- 160 points
Highest Drafted Player– Barkevious Mingo/Morris Caliborne, 6th Overall, 2013/2012
It has been two years now since Les Miles’ club has produced a first rounder, but with Leonard Fournette on the horizon, next year LSU should expect another one. These guys will be staying in the top ten for a while.

Notre Dame Logo5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 151 points
Highest Drafted Player– Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
The Fighting Irish are one of the most high-profile teams in college football. That reflects in the draft as well. Notre Dame continually produces players going in the first three rounds. 2015 was the only season they did not produce a first round selection.

Florida logo.jpg6. Florida Gators- 145 points
Highest Drafted Player– Dante Fowler Jr., 3rd Overall, 2015
It hasn’t always lead to on the field success, but Florida has continued to produce elite level college prospects. 2012 was the only year the Gators didn’t have a players selected in the first round.

Stanford Cardinal7. Stanford Cardinal- 137 points
Highest Drafted Player– Andrew Luck, 1st Overall, 2012
Don’t be surprised if Stanford takes a dip in next year’s rankings. They are still riding a 2012 draft that saw four players go in the first two rounds. However, Christian McCaffrey seems like a lock for a first round pick next year, so they shouldn’t drop too far.

Clemson Logo8. Clemson Tigers- 134 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sammy Watkins, 4th Overall, 2014
This is another team we should see continue to rise up the rankings. Clemson has had a player drafted in the first round each of the last four years. Next year should make it five with DeShaun Watson a projected top five pick.

Georgia Logo9. Georgia Bulldogs- 125 points
Highest Drafted Player– Todd Gurley, 10th overall, 2015
Another SEC team in the top ten should be no surprise. Georgia has a strong tradition of producing NFL-caliber players. If we went back further, Georgia might have been higher up on this list.

Texas A&M logo10. Texas A&M Aggies- 108 points
Highest Drafted Player– Luke Joeckel, 2nd Overall, 2013
Why not have another SEC in the top ten? A&M is another one of those schools to have a first rounder in each of the past five years. They should be locked in as a top 15 school with the recruits they continue to attract.

USC logo11. USC Trojans- 107 points
Highest Drafted Player– Matt Kalil, 4th Overall, 2012
10 years ago, USC likely would have topped this list. Just goes to show how far USC has fallen since the Reggie Bush scandal broke. The Trojans will eventually regain composure, but they need to solve their coaching debacle first.

Oklahoma Logo12. Oklahoma Sooners- 106 points
Highest Drafted Player– Lane Johnson, 4th Overall, 2013
Oklahoma is a traditional football power but that doesn’t always translate to high draft picks. In fact Johnson, is the only Sooner in the last five years to go in the first round. Oklahoma has thrived off players being selected in the second through fourth rounds.

Oregon logo13. Oregon Ducks-  101 points
Highest Drafted Player– Marcus Mariota, 2nd Overall, 2015
Oregon’s success in the NFL Draft is mostly a testament to Chip Kelly’s time in the Pacific Northwest. Mariota is the biggest name taken, but Oregon has several other first round draft picks, mainly over the past three years. The Ducks aren’t going away any time soon.

Miami logo14. Miami Hurricanes- 92 points
Highest Drafted Player– Ereck Flowers, 9th Overall, 2015
Miami isn’t the same football factory it was back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but the U is on it’s way back. Brad Kayaa is a projected top five pick next season. The Hurricanes could be moving up these rankings very quickly.

Wisconsin logo15. Wisconsin Badgers- 92 points
Highest Drafted Player– Melvin Gordon, 15th Overall, 2015
Despite having the same score as Miami, Wisconsin loses out because Flowers was drafted earlier. The Badgers are in for a drop on this list next year with a stellar 2012 class doing most of the heavy lifting in their score. Still, top 15 is very good for Wisco.

West Virginia logo16. West Virginia Mountaineers- 90 points
Highest Drafted Player– Kevin White, 7th Overall, 2015
We are not grading schools based on pro success, because that might be a category where West Virginia struggled. Or at least living up to expectations. Either way, the Mountaineers have done really well producing players in the first three rounds of the draft.

UCLA logo.jpg17. UCLA Bruins- 90 points
Highest Drafted Player– Anthony Barr, 9th Overall, 2014
Another PAC 12 team makes the list. UCLA has had mixed results over the past few season in terms of draft success. The Bruins seem to do well at sending players to the NFC North (Barr, Brett Huntley, Datone Jones). They lose out to West Virginia because White was drafted higher than Barr.

Louisville logo18. Louisville Cardinals- 88 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Rankins, 12th Overall, 2016
This is probably the most surprising team on the list. Louisville is not a traditional top 25 team, but they have had a player drafted in the first round each of the past three years. They are helped mainly by the three that came out in 2014.

South Carolina logo19. South Carolina Gamecocks- 87 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jadeveon Clowney, 1st Overall, 2014
Still riding a strong 2012 draft class featuring Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram and Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina is likely in for a drop off next season. However, the SEC often finds ways to produce pro-ready players out of nowhere, so the Gamecocks will be interesting to watch.

Michigan State logo20. Michigan State Spartans- 87 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jack Conklin, 8th Overall, 2016
Michigan State has been one of the most successful college football teams in the country over the past few years. That is beginning to translate into draft success. Sparty is another program we could see rising up the rankings in the near future.

Missouri logo21. Missouri Tigers- 81 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Richardson, 13th Overall, 2013
Only two Missouri players have gone in the first round since 2012, but a solid number of mid-round selections pushes them onto the list. Just goes to show that even some of the middling teams in the SEC produces high draft picks.

UNC logo.jpg22. UNC Tar Heels- 74 points
Highest Drafted Player– Eric Ebron, 10th Overall, 2014
There were a couple of players that I was surprised to discover went to North Carolina. Giovani Bernard was one, Sylvester Williams another. Either way, the Tar Heels haven’t produced a tremendous amount of prospects, but the ones they do churn out, tend to go high in the draft.

Penn State logo23. Penn State Nittany Lions- 74 points
Highest Drafted Player– Donovan Smith, 34th Overall, 2015
Penn State was the only team to make the list without a player selected in the first round over the past five years. Happy Valley continues to churn out mid round selections, particularly second rounders.

Baylor logo24. Baylor Bears- 73 points
Highest Drafted Player– Robert Griffin III, 2nd Overall, 2012
Because I am only looking at the last five years of draft history, Baylor is a popular bet to drop out of the rankings next year. Most of Baylor’s points come from a strong 2012 class, but the 2016 group wasn’t bad. The recent scandal unfolding in Waco doesn’t bode well for the future though.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg25. Washington Huskies- 71 points
Highest Drafted Player– Danny Shelton, 12th Overall, 2015
A 2015 draft featuring three Washington players sneaks the Huskies into the top 25. Washington is very top heavy, not having produces many draftees, but placing a lot of them in the first round.

Others Receiving Votes: Arkansas- 69 points, Boise State- 68 points, Mississippi State66 points, Auburn66 points, Cal- 61 points

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons