The NFL’s Giant Job Fair.

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

The NFL Combine is possibly one of the world’s largest job fairs and by far the biggest in professional sports. Imagine applying for a job all the while having what equals to a job interview broadcast and live streamed on the NFL Network and


The NFL has the ability to process up to 335 athletes for the combine although they don’t always hit this mark all 32 NFL teams are represented to see the incoming pool of talent. For several days athletes are poked, prodded (physically and verbally), dissected and tested to see if they have what it takes to be selected in the NFL Draft. While the combine does not guarantee an athlete a draft position or even a tryout with an NFL team a solid performance can go long way to improving an athletes draft status, or being hired.

The penjamlum can go the other way as well as former Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o is finding out. He had a dissappointing combine topped off with a rather slow 40 yard dash time of 4.82 seconds (the fastest linebacker ran a 4.47). That combined with his fake girlfriend death and his awful performance in the BCS National Title game has seen his draft stock fall. In other words, his chances of being hired quickly have shrunk.

The visibility of this event also makes it more difficult on the employers, the teams. Their customers, the fans, now have access to the same information that they do (more or less) and can see with their own eyes what a player did or didn’t do at the combine. It’s almost as transparent as it can get. What other industry allows you the customer to see everything this employee has done right up to the actual hiring?

Make no mistake, this is a job interview for these athletes. Not everyone gets invited and not everyone lands a job. It’s ruthless, cut-throat and very, very public. Getting through the interview process alone should say something about these individuals and the failings of their employers.

Jump to the 2:41 mark of the video below.


Heeee’ss Baaaack.

169 MLS appearances. 88 goals. 1 MVP.

Sounds like a great player to pick up if your an MLS club. Then you look at the name and see Carlos Ruiz. Now the hesitation begins.

He’s been with 4 MLS clubs (2 tours of duty with the LA Galaxy) and now joins his 5th club,  4 time MLS Cup Champions DC United.

Carlos Ruiz

One would have to figure that the DC Untied brass and manager Ben Olsen have vetted Ruiz thoroughly but it’s still a wild card pick up. Ruiz has had some bad timing sure. He was traded from LA to Dallas to free up space for Landon Donovan and later was released by Toronto to free up space for Dwayne De Rosario. But still, the incident with Ricardo Clark still lingers as does whatever happened the last time he returned to the MLS with the Philadelphia Union where one week he was playing and then the next he was gone.

Ruiz can help DC which is probably looking for a way to stop teams from ganging up on Chris Pontius up top. If Ruiz is half the player he was that’s still enough of a threat to force opposing teams to take notice. Question really becomes the locker room. Will Ruiz fit in and contribute or will he be the drain that he has been on other clubs? He also hasn’t played since March of 2012 which may or may not be a good. It may be a good thing from the attitude perspective in that he wants one more chance to play but it could also mean that he doesn’t have the fitness to make it through 34 regular season games.

In an offseason filled with a lot of very interesting and note worthy moves this one may turn out to be the biggest. If Ruiz can do what he’s known for to which is putting the ball in the back of the net then DC might have enough to get over the hump and back to MLS Cup. If Ruiz shows up like he has at his last few MLS stops we might be writing about how big of a mistake this move was.

The Season That Never Ends

5 weeks. That’s the amount of time we’ve been without college football. The BCS National Championship game was played on Tuesday January 7th and Army opens spring practice on the very non-spring day of February 12th.

5 weeks.

During this time a lot has happened including National Signing Day. But in the end only 5 weeks separates players from the last game of the college football season to the 1st day of spring practice.

Army is an appropriate school to start things off with too. While it is unfortunate that they won’t be playing their Black & Gold game (the final scrimmage of spring practice) at Ft. Hood, Texas like originally planned, to have Army lead us into the next stage of college football just seems appropriate.

This 5 week break does give the players, hopefully, some time to recharge and grow. It also give credence to the fact that American football is a year round commitment. There is truly no offseason. While there are no games to be played until late August there is still work to do.

How The Mighty Fall and How They Can Rise Again

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Liverpool Football Club was one of most historic clubs in all of soccer. It was less than a decade ago when they were champions of Europe in one of the most stunning comebacks in all of sport. Now the only hope they have for a trophy this season is by having another stunning comeback in the Europa League Cup against Zenit St. Petersburg.


So how did Liverpool fall so far so quickly? Several reason but the main one has to be a lack of leadership. They’ve had two sets of American owners over the last 6 years with the new owners taking over in 2010. They’ve also gone through 3 managers with the current manager Brendan Rodgers taking over this past summer. Meanwhile other major clubs in England have been the model of consistency (Chelsea’s revolving door of managers not withstanding).

English football is run a little bit different then North American sports. Buying and selling of players is key. The academy system is hugely important as well as scouting. While the academy system has provided some of Liverpool’s greatest stars over the years (Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard) it has lacked over recent years to produce premier talent. Some of the player moves over the past 6 years have been questionable at best. While purchases of players like Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt (who has since moved on to Fenerbahce in Turkey) were excellent and the potential of young players like Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey may turn out to be excellent as well there have big even bigger misfires.

Robbie Keane made the move to Liverpool in 2008 from Tottenham only to be sold back to the club 6 months later for a financial loss. Then there is Andy Carroll. A player with a lot of unrealized potential that Liverpool purchased from Newcastle United for £35 million making him the most expensive British football player transfer ever. He is currently on loan with West Ham United.

Poor financial decision hurt a club just like a person or a business. Getting up and coming players at a lower price is the Holy Grail. Liverpool’s lack of leadership from the top have allowed other clubs to catch up and pass the famed club.

What Liverpool needs to do is stick with current Manager Brendan Rodgers for at least the next 4 years and let him build a team that will fall into his philosophy on and off the pitch. Make smarter purchases of players and, here’s the tough part, sell some players before they become ineffective. Liverpool legend Carragher is retiring at the end of the season and while it may sting a whole lot to sell keeper Pepe Reina and Gerrard, it may be for the best. Selling ‘Captain Fantastic’ Gerrard may be impossible for the American owners considering the recent past so phasing him out into a position with a club may be the only option left.

Liverpool has a long road ahead but it’s not impossible. The key may just be not giving into public opinion and  staying the course. These however are always easier said than done.

Mother Nature Strikes Again

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

It’s happened again. A weather event has affected the sporting world for the second time in 4 months. This time it was a snow storm in the northeast that dropped almost 25 inches of snow at Logan International Airport in Boston, MA.

TD Garden

What did it effect this time? The Boston Bruins first moved the start time of their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning then postponed it. The Duke University basketball team had to delay their travel from Durham, NC to Boston until Sunday morning for their match up against Boston College (which they won). The New York Knicks stayed an extra night in Minneapolis, MN before heading back home to play the LA Clippers (a game in which they lost). Finally the New England Revolution had to move around some travel so that they could make it to the much sunnier Tucson, AZ for some preseason matches.

It’s high time leagues, organizations, players, and fans come to the realization that this is going to be the norm and not the random. How coaches coach, how players pace themselves are going to be key if they are to compete on the road when travel plans are disrupted. This hiccup to the routine can cause some major issues mentally and physically. Just ask anyone who has had their flight delayed or luggage lost. It trumps everything else and not in the fun way. Teams would be wise to begin to study how last minute travel effects performance. It could mean the difference between a championship and a ‘oh, we almost had it!’

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Signing Day Part 2: Top Ranked Players Don’t Always Mean Top Players

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

# 22 and # 34. That is what QB’s Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota were ranked by in 2011 when they signed with Texas A&M and Oregon respectively  Manziel went on to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy as the Nation’s best player and Mariota led Oregon to a 12-1 record and a BCS Bowl berth. They are considered by many to be two of the best QB’s in college football and two top contenders for the Heisman Trophy next year.

Top QB's

The Top 5 QB’s in the 2011 class were pretty good in their own right.

#1 Jeff Driskel  – Florida                                                                                                                     #2 Braxton Miller – Ohio St                                                                                                                     #3 Brett Hundley – UCLA                                                                                                                     #4 Kiehl Frazier – Auburn                                                                                                                      #5 JW Walsh – Oklahoma State

Everyone in the Top 5 has started games for their respective schools and all but one has played very well (Frazier being the lone exception). Jeff Driskel began to show his hype as led Florida to a BCS Bowl berth (12-0 Ohio St was ineligible for a bowl) and beat Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies early in the season yet he wasn’t nearly as electrifying or dominate as Manziel or Mariota.

The truth is the rankings really don’t mean a whole lot. Maziel and Mariota are really good because  A) they’re really good players B) in an offenses suited to their abilities and C) coached really well. Driskel is working with his 2nd offensive coordinator in as many seasons and wasn’t the clear cut #1 QB on the team at the start of the year unlike Manziel and Mariota. What does that mean? It means Manziel and Mariota got more practice time with the 1st team offense then Driskel did during the fall camp. More coaching + more reps = better performance.

Malcom Gladwell wrote an amazing book called ‘The Outliers’ where he talked about things like the’10,000 hour rule’. Simplified, the more practice & coaching you get from an early age leads to better performance. Out of the 7 QB’s were talking about look who has done really well early in their career (Manziel, Mariota, and Miller) those who have done ok (Driskel, Hundley, Walsh) and the one who has done poorly (Frazier). The first group was the #1 QB on their team going into fall camp this past season. The other two groups had to battle it out in fall camp and during the season before they were named starters.

In the end it’s not the ranking but the situation. If a player gets the coaching and the reps in practice early then they have a tendency to turn out better than someone who hasn’t. The ranking out of high school means, in all reality, little to nothing. The situation, coaching and the practice means everything.

Signing Day Part 1: Why A Top Class Doesn’t Equal Wins

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Over the last decade the college football world has become consumed with National Signing Day. It’s the first day that a high school football player can sign a letter of intent with the University he wishes to play football at. Before this day it there can be only ‘verbal’ commitments.

Many moons ago National Signing Day wasn’t a big deal accept to the Universities and the players. Now it’s an all day special on ESPNU. There are supposed “experts” from San Antonio to Connecticut.  17 and 18 year old young men sit at tables with every member of their family behind them and try to keep every one guessing as to which school they will choose by having several hats laid out on a table. It’s the months, and sometimes years, of built up into a few fleeting moments for a young man and his family. All broadcast live on cable television and plastered online.

ESPN Homepage

(Above is a look at’s homepage during the frenzy known as signing day)

But what does all this spectacle actually mean? Does the team with the best recruiting ranking win? Do these highly touted players become superstars and difference makers at their schools? Do they do well in the NFL?

We went back and look at’s team rankings for the last 5 years (2008-2012) to see if recruiting rankings actually mean. (Please note that there are several recruiting sites out there. A list is at the bottom of this post.) At first glance one could say yes. Alabama is ranked in the Top 10 every year with their lowest ranking being 7th and they’ve proceded to win 3 out of the last 4 BCS National Championships.

Alabama’s cross state rivals at Auburn have been in the Top 10 the last 3 years. In that time they’ve won the BCS National Title game and this year fired their coach after a 3-8 season with no wins in the SEC. They’ve seen both sides of the pendulum.

UCLA has been in the Top 10 3 times in the last 5 years. During that time they have a 30-35 record, changed coaches, managed only 2 winning seasons, didn’t have a single player taken in last years NFL Draft and are 1-4 against cross town rivals USC.

Texas has been in the Top 10 in the last 4 years and was even ranked #1 last year. During this time they’ve played for a BCS National Title (they ended up losing to Alabama) and 3 other bowl games. The year after their loss to Alabama they finished 5-7.

The overall point here is that a top ranked recruiting class by ESPN, Rivals, Scout, or Tom Lemming does not guarantee a team anything except for maybe higher expectations. But if you go to Alabama, Texas or Auburn the expectations are pretty high as it is. A top ranked recruiting class does improve your chances to winning but how a staff takes these recruits and molds them into a team is what really wins games.

Recruiting Sites,, ESPN, CBSSports, MaxPreps    

Back to School Goes Old School

By Dave Trausneck @trausneck

It’s the 1992-1993 school year. You’re the envy of your friends because you’re rockin’ a Starter jacket for the Charlotte Hornets. You’re the man. That teal and purple schwag make you feel like you just scored a date with the prom queen.


Fast forward 20 years. That jacket 17 years removed from a donation to the local Goodwill store gets revived in all its glory. Starter announced they are bringing back the satin jackets that rose to prominence in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

starter jacket ad

For most kids in white suburbia, starter jackets were their first foray into hip-hop gear. Before flat brims were widely acceptable, if you had a black Raiders satin jacket, you were tough. You saw the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff sportin’ the gear. Before that it was RUN-DMC.


You didn’t have to listen to NWA or rap to wear one. It was cool. Nordstrom started selling them. I know; I got one as a Christmas present in 1992. Somewhere there’s a picture of me wearing one with a bowl haircut.

And then the wheels fell off. Besides every white kid in the burbs getting one, they became the “norm” for MLB pitching staffs… and rotations like Atlanta’s with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and the 5th guy that never seemed to catch on would always be seen on Braves TBS baseball would be seen every night spitting sunflower seeds wearing those jackets. The jackets weren’t just street style anymore. Into the closet they go to gather dust.

braves starter jacket

But like all good things retro, Starter revived the iconic jacket, and with good reason. So
much of street style now derives from early 90’s hip-hop. Ok, Reebok Pumps might never come back (although I wish they would for a hot minute, just so I can buy one to collect), but the Starter jacket was a staple.

The trick was, the jacket was simple. No crazy swirl patterns or progressive striping. A solid jacket with a logo and that S with a star on the left cuff, that’s all the jacket needed. Simple enough that it could translate to this generation, and people wouldn’t confuse it with a Members Only jacket that lived past its prime.

The jacket won’t be released until later in 2013 (Fall is the rumor), and it’s only fitting. Because when the kids go back to school, you can take your friends to school in the style department.