RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Mid-day talker: Thinking back on 2009 Vikings-Cutler trade rumors

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 17th at 9:05am 285989271

cutlerMonths before the Vikings lured Brett Favre to Minnesota … and weeks before Jay Cutler was ultimately traded from the Broncos to the Bears … there was a steady stream of reports and rumors that the Vikings — coming off a 10-6 playoff season but still with questions at quarterback — were interested in making a deal for the QB.

Did you forget about this? Never forget it. Because with each passing Cutler game, we still wonder about it.

How different would 2009 have been? How different would the five seasons and many QBs after that have been? Would it have been worth it, possibly, in some ways? Cutler in purple? Here’s what was being written in the Star Tribune back in March of 2009:

The Denver Post reported the Vikings are among the teams that
have expressed interest in Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, and
talks between the sides were believed to be ongoing Monday. It
remains unclear what the Vikings might be offering.

The news broke three days after the Vikings completed a trade
that sent a fourth-round draft pick to Houston for Sage Rosenfels.
He and Tarvaris Jackson are expected to compete for the starting
quarterback job, but neither is at the level of Cutler, a 2006
first-round pick who made his first Pro Bowl this past season. The
Vikings made inquiries about Cutler‘s availability at the NFL
scouting combine last month.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was elusive when asked at Rosenfels’
introductory news conference whether the team would add a top-tier
quarterback.

“Don’t know, I’m not clairvoyant,” Childress said.

Cutler is 44-37 with an 84.4 passer rating in his Bears career. He’s the NFL leader in bad body language. How would his tenure have played out here? We’ll never know, but it’s a question we still, for some reason, think about.

Tuesday (Flip's third rebuilding project) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 16th at 2:08pm 285967551

flipfansFlip Saunders took over as head coach of the Washington Wizards in 2009. Armed with a lineup featuring Gilbert Arenas and a cast of others, Washington had slumped in 2008-09 but had made the playoffs each of the previous four seasons. Thinking the Wizards were in prime contention for a rebound year, they swapped the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft with the Wolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

The move backfired for Washington.  A whole host of problems with Arenas and others led to an eventual youth movement — one that didn’t involve that No. 5 pick, who the Wolves turned into Ricky Rubio. Flip started the process of that youth movement, coaching John Wall and co. to 23 wins in 2010-11 before getting fired 17 games (2-15 record) into the 2011-12 season. Now, the Wizards are one of the best teams in the East with a 17-6 record heading into a game in Washington tonight against the Wolves.

It’s a reminder — the second reminder — that Saunders can head into a rebuild and his teams can come out on the other side looking pretty good. The first, of course, was his work with a young Kevin Garnett in the mid-1990s, helping take the Wolves from perennial lottery team to perennial playoff team. His third such effort, of course, is pretty much the same as his first: getting the Wolves from the lottery to the playoffs again. Time will tell how that plays out — and it does take time — but the track record is at least encouraging for Wolves fans.

We had a chance to chat with Flip Saunders about the rebuilding mentality last week:

“When I was in Washington, they made a decision where we traded Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas had the situation with the gun so he was gone, traded Caron Butler, Brendan Hayward, (DeShawn) Stevenson, we (lost) our whole starting five. We had like nine guys with two or fewer years of experience. So what was going to happen is that we were going to lose. It’s frustrating, it’s hard to go through, but if you’re committed to that and to development, by letting those guys play and play a lot of minutes, you facilitate their development,” Saunders said.

“I look at them and where they were four years ago, and now they’re one of the best teams in the East. John Wall developed. And if you look at the league, and you look at all these players … when we traded (Kevin) Love, we became in essence what I would call a lottery team. We traded our best player for the No. 1 pick in the draft. If Love wasn’t on our team a year ago, we probably would have struggled. if you look at teams that have been lottery teams and gotten the first pick, whether it’s Cleveland with (Kyrie) Irving and Anthony Bennett, New Orleans with (Anthony) Davis, Wall with Washington, they don’t even win 27 games. LeBron James, he won (35 games) his rookie year. So there’s a process you have to go through. But what you have to understand is that there’s a history and that it will pay off. (Kevin) Durant and Russell Westbrook were (2-24) at one point (in 2008-09). It would be easy for people to put their head in the sand and say, ‘That’s not going to happen,’ but it’s kind of the reality. People that are basketball people understand what we’re going through.”

TFD: Colts' Andrew Luck confuses opponents by congratulating them for sacking him

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 16th at 9:37am 285880991

luckHere’s an odd little story from the Wall Street Journal about Colts QB Andrew Luck. We’re not 100 percent sure why, but this makes us like him even more:

Luck has become famous for congratulating—sincerely and enthusiastically—any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as ”great job” or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.

When New England pass rusher Rob Ninkovich pulverized Luck last month in a Patriots’ 42-20 win, he got the customary congratulations. As Ninkovich tells it, he found himself paralyzed with confusion by the well-wishes, so he blurted out “Thanks for…uh…accepting that hit?” before running back to the huddle.

We probably like this equally from the sportsmanship angle and the angle of confusing people by yelling odd things in public. Because the latter is a game we’ve DEFINITELY played.

Mid-day talker: Are the Twins still a last-place team in the AL Central?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 15th at 3:14pm 285867151

hunterThe Twins have made two significant offseason moves in free agency, so far, adding Torii Hunter on a one-year deal and, of course, pulling in Ervin Santana on a four-year, $55 million deal.

It will almost certainly push the team’s payroll above $100 million for the first time since 2011 — a season, of course, that proved via a 63-99 record that spending money does not always translate to victories.

The consensus, though, is that Hunter and Santana should — at the very least — make the Twins better. The question within that consensus is to what degree the Twins (70-92 last season) will be better, and that’s where things get a little more complicated.

If we look at Fan Graphs, we see that the Twins are still predicted to be the last-place team in the AL Central — Tigers first, Cleveland second, Kansas City third and the White Sox fourth.

Now, Fan Graphs win projections for 2015, as always, are a little more bunched together than the way things actually will shake out. The highest win total is 88; the lowest is 70. That’s a gap of 18 wins; last year, the gap between the best and worst teams was 34 wins.

The Twins are near the bottom, though, projected to win 76 games. Fan Graphs sees them much as they saw last year’s team: a good offense (projected to score the ninth-most runs in MLB in 2015 after scoring the seventh-most in 2014) with a poor pitching staff (slated to give up the third-most runs, even with the addition of Santana).

If you want to look at a national outside source, Jim Bowden from ESPN gives the Twins a B-minus grade for their offseason moves and says, “They’ve improved the team, though this is still a last-place club.”

Those are about as disparate of sources as you’re going to find — crunched numbers vs. a gut reaction, and both are saying the Twins are still the bottom-feeders in the Central.

Much of the problem, of course, is that even though the Twins are better, the rest of the division is pretty good. Detroit, even after trading Rick Porcello and likely losing Max Scherzer, has some dominant starting pitchers and a fearsome lineup. The Royals might have overachieved last year, but they overachieved all the way to the AL pennant. Cleveland quietly won 85 games last year after winning 92 the year before. And the White Sox have made the biggest splash of anyone in the division this offseason.

So what hope is there? Well, as we wrote today, there is at least hope that a rotation that hasn’t finished better than 26th in starters’ ERA any of the past four years could at least approach adequate in 2015 if Santana, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have average seasons.

There is the notion that the team was better last year than in the previous three, which was supported by the eye test, a few more wins and a simple stat: in games decided by 5 runs or more, the Twins were 21-26. That means they won their fair share of blowouts. From 2011-13, in games decided by five runs or more, they were 43-89.

And there is the notion that young players will continue to improve and perhaps get a boost of energy from a new managerial/coaching regime.

It’s reasonable to think the Twins will approach .500 next season. Where that puts them in a better AL Central? Well, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Monday (The best and worst of Bridgewater) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 16th at 11:52pm 285829061

fridgewaterIf you want a microcosm of what Teddy Bridgewater does well and what he does poorly, save Sunday’s game against the Lions forever.

When it comes to locating the proper receiver, having good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and generally making good decisions with the football, Bridgewater is already in the top half of NFL starting QBs, maybe even the top 10. He knows how to run an offense. And this is very encouraging.

Those traits helped Bridgewater lead the Vikings on three drives that covered more than 75 yards against a very good Detroit defense. Two resulted in touchdowns; the other resulted in an inexplicably blocked field goal after 11 minutes of possession. If that kick goes through, perhaps we’re a little easier on Bridgewater today. But it didn’t, so it gave us another crucial look at a throw he simply can’t make right now with any consistency.

It was the same type of throw that resulted in the game-turning interception in the first half, after the Vikings had taken a 14-0 lead: a longer throw to one of the sidelines.

On those throws, Bridgewater — not gifted with a rocket for an arm — has a bad tendency to get underneath the ball to try to muster up strength. His elbow drops, and sometimes the ball sails. That happened on the INT, which was glaring. And it happened again in the final minute when he overthrew Jarius Wright on a pass that very well could have helped the Vikings get into more realistic field goal position.

We’re not sure to what extent arm strength can be “taught.” In baseball, you don’t “teach” a pitcher to throw harder. It’s one of those natural gifts that you either have or don’t have. Maybe because he’s so young his arm will get a little stronger. But we wouldn’t count on it.

So the question becomes: how do Bridgewater and the Vikings work around that? Can he at least improve technique enough to get on top of that throw and improve the timing? Do the Vikings not ask him to ever make that throw? (They rarely do now, and for good reason).

And to a larger extent, the question that will define Bridgewater as he continues to develop is how much all of those things he does well can or cannot cover up for what remains, at least for now and quite possibly forever, a significant deficiency?

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Philadelphia 24 FINAL
Washington 27
San Diego 14 3rd Qtr 4:45
San Francisco 28
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 114 FINAL
New Orleans 88
Utah 86 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Atlanta 104 FINAL
Houston 97
San Antonio 88 4th Qtr 3:52
Dallas 86
Indiana 51 3rd Qtr 0:56
Denver 54
Milwaukee 4 1st Qtr 9:42
LA Clippers 7
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Philadelphia 7 FINAL
Toronto 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Montreal 4
Washington 4 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Florida 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Chicago 2 FINAL(SO)
Columbus 3
Nashville 5 3rd Prd 5:14
Minnesota 4
Calgary 0 1st Prd 2:51
Vancouver 2
St. Louis 0 1st Prd 16:56
San Jose 0
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
SMU 62 FINAL
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
IUPUI 71
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 82 FINAL
Butler 73
Marshall 58 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
Lafayette 69 FINAL
Kansas 96
Oral Roberts 63 FINAL
Memphis 78
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Delaware State 70 FINAL
Oregon 83
Fla Atlantic 56 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
Arkansas Tech 57 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 94
Howard Payne 50 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 89
UMBC 66 FINAL
Kennesaw St 53
St Josephs (IN) 54 FINAL
Chicago State 77
Eastern Mich 77 FINAL
Missouri State 65
UCLA 44 FINAL
Kentucky 83
UC Davis 81 FINAL
Air Force 75
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
UC Riverside 78
Davidson 80 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 68
USC Upstate 53 FINAL
Miss State 51
NC Central 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 60
Illinois State 77 FINAL
Murray State 89
Louisiana 85 FINAL
Northwestern St 89
Oakland 77 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
Detroit 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 69
Presbyterian 60 FINAL
UT Martin 77
Monmouth 74 FINAL
Wagner 66
Southern U 39 FINAL
Wyoming 57
Iowa State 83 FINAL
Drake 54
Wake Forest 50 FINAL
Florida 63
High Point 80 FINAL
James Madison 71
Texas Southern 71 FINAL
Michigan State 64
New Hampshire 60 FINAL
Sacred Heart 73
Northeastern 78 FINAL
Santa Clara 72
Huston-Tillotson 56 FINAL
Texas State 90
Purdue 63 FINAL
Notre Dame 94
Prairie View 44 FINAL
Sam Houston St 61
Xavier 88 FINAL
Auburn 89
Bluffton 53 FINAL
Akron 92
NJIT 84 FINAL
Central Conn St 76
Hofstra 77 FINAL
Columbia 82
Boston Univ 62 FINAL
Dayton 78
Iona 81 FINAL
George Mason 86
Valparaiso 75 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 72
Texas A&M 64 FINAL
Kansas State 71
Morgan State 69 FINAL
Manhattan 73
Saint Josephs 75 FINAL
Marist 58
East Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 66
Richmond 65 FINAL
Pepperdine 63
La Salle 67 FINAL
Towson 53
Incarnate Word 110 FINAL
UMKC 104
CS-Bakersfield 59 FINAL
Idaho State 50
Iowa 44 FINAL
Northern Iowa 56
Milwaukee 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 61
Long Beach State 68 FINAL
Texas 78
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
TCU 88
SE Missouri St 67 FINAL
Arkansas 85
Lehigh 56 2nd Half 6:09
Arizona State 51
New Mexico 52 2nd Half 10:10
New Mexico St 35
Oklahoma 55 2nd Half 7:48
Washington 60
Utah Valley U 46 2nd Half 7:15
Weber State 60
Jacksonville St 56 2nd Half 5:05
Northern Colorado 53
St Edwards 48 2nd Half 6:28
Grand Canyon 71
NC State 32 2nd Half
West Virginia 41
TX A&M-CC 16 1st Half 4:32
CS-Northridge 18
Cal Poly 20 1st Half 1:36
Gonzaga 28
Fresno State 19 1st Half 0:52
Pacific 31
Montana State 24 1st Half 3:35
Portland 41
Ball State 18 1st Half 6:18
San Diego St 29
South Dakota St 27 1st Half 2:44
Utah State 24
Stanford 10:00 PM
BYU
Utah 10:30 PM
UNLV
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 7 2nd Qtr 4:55
Bowling Green 17
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
FIU 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
UCF 57 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
UMKC 51
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
San Diego State 54
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
Arizona 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 72
Northwestern 92 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 44
Oral Roberts 52 FINAL
Wisconsin 70
Florida Atlantic 44 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
La Salle 76 FINAL
Georgia State 68
(16) Oregon State 73 FINAL
Nevada 50
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
Villanova 49
Delaware 59 FINAL
Cincinnati 67
Troy 75 FINAL
Tennessee St 71
Saint Louis 68 FINAL
Utah Valley U 66
Washington 74 FINAL
UC-Riverside 71
Pacific 43 FINAL
Long Beach St 53
Old Dominion 69 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 63
Austin Peay 26 2nd Half
Montana 32
Lewis-Clark State 19 1st Half 0:12
Idaho 40
(21) Miss State 8 1st Half 13:36
Illinois-Chicago 4

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