Revolving Doors

It’s a great day when Sunderland wins and it’s an even better day when Sunderland manages to beat one of the top four names in the Premier League (Man U, Man City, Arsenal or Chelsea).

This past weekend they managed to do both when they beat Man U 2-1 under new boss Sam Allardyce.  Allardyce had been in charge since October of 2015, registering only 16 points for the club before being able to magically swing these points to the Black Cats.   Allardyce took over for former head man Dick Advocaat who had been on a one year contract but changed his mind on the deal and left the club holding the bag.

I don’t blame Advocaat for changing his mind, I know that he took a lot of the job to heart, the man cried when he saved the team from relegation. I’m sure his agreement to come back in the summer of 2015 saved the team from another disaster.  I can’t imagine the scramble they would have been in trying to procure someone at that stage to manage; trying to pick up the pieces and try to recruit players at the same time.  He was able to help secure some new blood into the side and give the squad some hope that going forward there would be less drama in the coming season.

I didn’t take the resignation of Dick Advocaat lightly, he was the second man to take the club to safety from the clutches of relegation however I know that at times coaching changes have to happen.  Anymore I’m afraid that Sunderland are going to have to change their name to the “Revolving Doors.”

Coaching changes occur at what seems like a frequent pace in Sunderland,  Steve Bruce left the club on November 30, 2011 and we’ve seen four managers since him, not to mention twice having caretakers in charge in the span. The door revolved from Steve Bruce to Martin O’Neill to Paolo “managing with a hand grenade” Di Canio to “the Gus Bus” Poyet on up to Sam Allardyce.

On the same day that Sunderland beat Man U, the Minnesota Wild of the NHL fired their manager Mike Yeo who had been in charge since the 2011-2012 season.  Yeo had lead the team to three consecutive playoff appearances during that span however the team spiraled out of control this year losing 13 of the last 14 games that he was in charge.  Throughout those years when Minnesota had issues they never fired him, they made a change in players and it seemed to “work” or the team would come together at the right time.

The 2013-2014 campaign was a test of management’s faith in Yeo, as the rumors swirled many times that he would be let go but the team came together as the season wore on to make a playoff push.  In the 2014-2015 season they brought in goalie Devan Dubnyk prior to the trade deadline to try to fix a record of 18-19-5 and finished 46-28-8.  Yeo however could never find a way throughout those three playoff appearances to get past the Chicago Blackhawks, getting knocked out every year by them(2013 in the 1st round, 2014 in the 2nd, 2015 in the 2nd).  Superman always had his kryptonite, Yeo had the Blackhawks.

Both hockey and soccer are alike in that not only do you need consistency at the top with management and coaching but you need the players all throughout your squad to play at their best.  You need depth and quality throughout the team from the top lines to the fourth line in hockey and from the starting 11 to your bench in soccer.

Sunderland has seen it’s fair share of highs and lows over this span of coaching changes and you can’t say it’s all been on one side or the other: players or coaches.  What you can say is that when it comes to quality and consistency the play hasn’t always been there.  The defense might have an “out of it’s mind” game with the goaltending providing stellar saves, the midfielders and attackers can’t provide enough to threaten the other side or vice versa.  Plus there hasn’t always been enough sitting on the bench to provide firepower if an injury occurred or if the game was getting away from the team.  Players get out of form and the team has been forced to play them because there hasn’t been someone to step in and take over that was of similar quality.  In many ways that has been the result of poor signings, injuries and players not living up to their abilities.  However that happens with every team, it just seems that some luck would have been nice somewhere along the lines.

With Yeo’s Wild, they had issues scoring in the playoffs once they got there.  In 2015 against the Blackhawks, who would go on to win the Cup, they scored 7 goals through 4 games – that’s not going to win you many playoff series in the NHL unless you have Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur in net (or maybe Jocelyn Thibault – hey no one really knows).    In 2014, they scored 13 goals through 6 games which was a bit more respectable, but they were facing the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.  In 2013, they scored 7 goals through 5 games against the Blackhawks who go on to win the Cup.  Obviously if you can’t capitalize on your chances and if you don’t have all four lines rolling in the playoffs you aren’t going to last long which is what we see with the Wild.

I brought up NHL.com’s team stats section on 2/16/16 prior to the Wild’s game against Calgary to fully explore Minnesota’s problem and it seems pretty evident.  Goals for per game: 2.50 vs. Goals allowed per game 2.50.  The Wild currently have a record of 24-22-10 for a .5178 win percentage and that comes after they won 5-2 in their new coach, John Torchetti’s first game in charge.  If you can’t score more than you let in you aren’t going to win, plain and simple.  The power play currently ranks 23rd and the penalty kill ranks 25th; out of 30 teams it shows that the depth simply isn’t there.  You can only change systems and tactics so much but when your top scorer has 38 points through 56 games and doesn’t crack the top 50 scorers on NHL.com you know that your team needs scoring help.

It’s not a judgement of the scouting of the Wild or the organization so much as it is to say that maybe Yeo wasn’t the one who should have been let go.  It’s possible that this team has been full of smoke and mirrors for some time and now it is all shining through.  The players the team is leaning on are either too young to carry the team or are not capable and unfortunately clubs let the coach take the fall in this situation rather than admit their defeat.  It happens all the time and it will continue to happen as long as there are professional sports leagues.

Meanwhile in Sunderland someone is trying to figure out exactly where the revolving door should be put outside the stadium.

 

 

Who’s Johnny, The Next 30 For 30?

I’m going to go ahead and comment on it, even though I feel like I’m wading into a hurricane with a kiddie raft.  I have been watching the drama unfold in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Texas and who knows where else for far too long to keep my mouth shut any longer: someone has to stop the Johnny Manziel downward spiral.

So let’s run this down with some highlights, er lowlights, and see what I’m talking about.

May 8th 2014 – Manziel is drafted by the Browns as the 22nd pick of NFL Draft.  Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that a homeless guy convinced him to draft Manziel on the way to the draft.  Seems legit.

May 24 2014 – Johnny goes to Vegas instead of focusing on football.  This comes just after questions of his work ethic and character were brought up in the draft process.

June 6, 2014 – Manziel is pictured floating around in a pool on a giant swan focusing on a bottle rather than a football.  Apparently there is a playbook stuck to the bottom of the pool.

July 4, 2014 – Manziel is in Vegas where he was caught on camera with something that looks a lot like drugs.  I do not believe he was working on football here either.

August 18, 2014 – Manziel gives the Redskins the bird in a nationally televised event.  Stay classy.

November 22, 2014 – Manziel gets into a fight in a hotel in Cleveland with a fan and members of his entourage.  It almost feels like it had been too long since he did something, didn’t it?

December 23, 2014 – Manziel gets hurt and says he has to change in order to be successful.  You think?

December 26, 2014 – Change is short.  He throws a party and is late for treatment on his hamstring, although he is quick to deny there is a party.

January 3, 2015 – Flips off some fans at a club in Houston who end up taking it differently than Manziel expected.  They drench him in their drinks.  Cheers!

January 28, 2015 – Manziel decides that this time it’s really about change and goes to rehab.

April 11, 2015 – Manziel comes out of rehab a changed man.

April 17, 2015 – Manziel issues an apology to Cleveland, the fans, his teammates, the world, the universe and whoever else wants to listen. Everyone believes in the change.

June 17, 2015 – “Money” Manziel is gone.  No more?  Say it ain’t so Johnny.  Maybe the change is real?

October 12, 2015 – Manziel and his girlfriend have an argument after drinking.  The police are called because Manziel was driving like an ass and acting like an ass so his girlfriend tried to exit the vehicle while he was still driving.  It’s now beginning to get dark.  Jokes are now done.

October 25, 2015 – The NFL finally decides to investigate Manziel for domestic abuse.  I mean it only happened almost two weeks ago!?!

November 23, 2015 – More partying and there is video evidence of Manziel drinking and singing.  Instead of focusing on himself and/or football during Cleveland’s bye week he spent it on the one thing that is causing him to spiral out of control.

January 1, 2016 – Manziel spotted in Las Vegas at a casino when he was supposed to be going the following day to Cleveland to the team’s training facility for league mandated concussion protocol.  It had been reported in various sources he showed signs of a hangover in practice earlier in the week.

January 30, 2016 – Manziel is alleged to have assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley.  Crowley has filed an affidavit of protection from Manziel because he struck her so hard he ruptured her eardrum.

According to ESPN.com:

“The affidavit states that Manziel dragged Crowley down some back steps to the hotel exit. As they passed a valet, Crowley states she pleaded with a valet as the pair left, saying: “Please don’t let him take me. I’m scared for my life!” The valet responded that he didn’t know what to do.

Manziel took her to Crowley’s car, where she states she got in the car’s passenger seat “against my will.” As he was backing up, she jumped out, ran across the street and hid in some bushes.

Manziel made a U-turn to where she was, grabbed her by her hair and threw her in the car.

“He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car,” the affidavit states. “I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I cannot today [Feb. 3, the date of the filing].”

Crowley writes that the argument continued on the way to her apartment and in the apartment itself.

“I continue to be extremely concerned for my health and well-being,” she wrote.

The judge issued the protective order Feb. 4, the day after Crowley’s filing.”

The Cleveland Browns organization has been hiding Manziel’s real problems for years because of the promise of talent.  With the partying it seems concerning that he isn’t taking care of himself and has some issues that he may be covering up.  Now that he has struck someone else it scares me to think about what else he might do when he is drinking.

And don’t get me started about Deion Sanders and his insinuation that Manziel’s ex-girlfriend is the reason for all the problems.  Sure, blame the victim of a ruptured eardrum and domestic abuse.  Go ahead.  Let’s not solve the problem.  Why does anyone even ask someone who clearly has no clue?

If you’ve never read the story of Derek Boogaard Boy on Ice by John Branch, it’s time to pick it up.  Branch examine’s Boogaard’s rise through the hockey ranks all the way up to the NHL all while battling his addictions: first with booze and then with painkillers and opioids.  Boogaard never got the publicity or was never the figure that Manziel is however his addictions remind me of Manziel’s.  Boogaard went to rehab multiple times and each time he came out he said he was going to be better and he was going to change but the only way he was going to change was if he was allowed to change and his team(s) never did that.

The Browns never made Johnny change.  They covered for him and you can bet the NFL did whatever it could.  The Wild kept finding ways to get Boogaard what he needed.  The NHL would do whatever they could.  Meanwhile both Manziel and Boogaard struggled with their addiction because they were stuck in the same spiral that only was/is getting longer, deeper and darker.  Boogaard’s spiral ended in a tragedy and now that we see Manziel at this junction it scares me to think that he’s teetering on something that’s going to end in the same place.

The Browns are saying they don’t want him, his agent doesn’t want him, the NFL might be saying the same soon, his ex-girlfriend filed a protection order, his family is pushing back and who knows what other people are pushing back against him.  I can only imagine that Johnny is fragile and there must be a million things running through his head.  If he truly is spiraling, this is the time to get help, I just wonder if he will get it?  Or five/ten/fifteen years from now will we be watching this on ESPN as a 30 For 30?