The King and I

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on May 18, 2010 – 12:33 pm

There is no one I respect more in this business than Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

There is no one right now I am more baffled by in this business than Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

My King has unveiled his NFL power rankings and he may have had a worse week than the NBA King. Peter admits this is risky business, pointing to last year when he logged the eventual Super Bowl champ Saints at No. 24 last spring.

But putting 20 places between the Ravens at No. 3 and the Bengals at No. 23 is as inexplicable as someone named Marcus Thames hitting a two-run, two-out walk-off homer at Yankee Stadium after Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon hit someone else named  Francisco Cervelli while ahead in the count at 0-and-1.

(Who are these people? I was just getting used to Darnell McDonald.)

The King and I have a good enough relationship that he is bequeathing me two of his Red Sox season tickets for a June game against the Rays that could be an elimination bout for the flagging Sox. But he already sent me the ducats so I can throw him a few brushbacks here. Except we’ll have more control than Papelbon and Josh Beckett in a week they’ve hit more bodies than radar guns.

Peter raves how “the Ravens have hit a few home runs this offseason, and those moves could carry them to the AFC Championship Game. I like the remake of their receiver corps. Anquan Boldin won’t make it through 16 games healthy, but he’ll give Joe Flacco a good, physical target for 12. Donte’ Stallworth will be reborn as an effective third or fourth wideout, with the speed at the position the Ravens haven’t had.”

The Bengals swept the Ravens last year and, at the very least, matched them in the offseason.

They came into 2010 mirrors of each other offensively. They needed weapons for their strong-armed quarterbacks and you’d have to say the Bengals matched Boldin with Antonio Bryant, Stallworth with Matt Jones, and maybe went one better when they got Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham with their first draft pick.

The Ravens later took two good tight ends back-to-back in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, but what are Gresham and Chase Coffman?

Boldin may have better career numbers than Bryant when it comes to catches and touchdowns, but he’s got 12.8 yards per catch compared to Bryant’s 15.3. How that helps Flacco get it down the field, I’m not sure but it is at least a wash, and here’s betting Bryant plays more games than Boldin.  And, Jones and Stallworth are clones. Underachieving first rounders that sat out last year but have the potential to go deep and get cut.

Peter says he’s worried about Palmer. That’s so in vogue to say now.

Why? Because his throws were so wild in the early part of the Wild Card game? He didn’t exactly have the Three Amigos out there, either, but yeah, he had to play better in a big game.

Yet the pundits want his numbers to be 2006ish even though he was throwing to a lesser cast with a watered down playbook.

That’s where we are now. Everything is “a legacy.” Every big game is now a legacy game and it always falls to one guy because it fits into 140 characters and 25 seconds at the top of the show.

At the tender age of 25 years old, LeBron James is now the Wilt Chamberlain of his generation. Can’t win the big one is the easy sound bite.

Perspective anyone? Can we hold off for a half hour and rummage for some context and some footnotes when making pronouncements of an era?

How about a Cavs front office that stuck him with an aging celebrity in Shaq? (Or was that Betty White?) How about not having a guy that can guard Rondo? How about Cavs coach Mike Brown looking like he was a day camper at a Doc Rivers Basketball Clinic?

Not only was Palmer working without T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry last year, he was also executing a playbook that bore no resemblance to the fire-and-fallback days of ’04-’07. And it had to be so he wouldn’t get killed behind a rebuilt offensive line.

Last season, the Bengals won four games by six points or less and we all know what Palmer did down the stretch with seven last drives that either tied the game or gave them the lead. The Ravens lost five games by six points or less.

Those are quarterback games. Flacco is a hell of a player. Great arm. But maybe more people should be worried about him heading into a season he lost quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, the Raiders new offensive coordinator.

Defensively in the offseason the Bengals and Ravens also matched each other. Cincinnati beefed up an already strong secondary with third-round pick Brandon Ghee at cornerback and veteran Gibril Wilson at safety. Baltimore added to its illustrious front seven by drafting Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle and Alabama tackle Terrence Cody in the second round.

King frets about the Baltimore cornerbacks, one of the most important positions on the field. The Bengals have maybe the best pair of starters in the league. If it’s a wash, the Bengals defense held the Ravens to two touchdowns last year and finished ranked fourth in the NFL. The Baltimore defense finished third.

Hey, if you want to put Baltimore ahead of the Bengals, by all means you can make the argument. But you can go the other way, too. They look pretty even, if anything.

Sorry Pete, there is no way there is a 20-spot difference. If you make the Ravens No. 3, the Bengals have to be within at last two or three slots of them. And since they swept them, maybe they should be even higher.

With all due respect, of course.

I’m angling for a Yankees game in ’11.

Here is the kind of guy Peter King is.

Rewind back to the Giants’ Super Bowl run in December 1986. King is in his second season covering the Giants for Newsday after blanketing the ’84 Bengals for The Cincinnati Enquirer. I’ve been deployed from the Upstate wilds by the Syracuse Herald-Journal to write a Sunday story on ‘Cuse product Joe Morris, New York’s little big man running back.

King doesn’t know me from Clell Lavern “Butch” Hobson, former third sacker for the Bosox and Yankees. Yet he sees what I’m doing and offers a Morris stat, his numbers on grass and his numbers on turf. The guy was Bobby Orr and Sid on the fake stuff.

“But I don’t have it here,” he says and I’m getting in the car to head home. “Call me tomorrow morning at 9:58.”

I call at 9:56 and he answers with my name and a download of stats before download was a word.

He’s been helping me ever since even though he got bigger and bigger and became The King and I’ll always be grateful.

Posted in Hobson's Choice | 10 Comments »