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Bob Matthews' Column

"Answer Man": Thumbs Up To Bills/Marrone...Thumbs Down To Lakers

 

“ANSWER MAN”: THUMBS UP TO BILLS/MARRONE…THUMBS DOWN TO LAKERS


The Answer Man has a new address -- WHAM 1180

 (bobmatthews@clearchannel.com):


What do you think about the Buffalo Bills reportedly choosing Syracuse University’s Doug Marrone as head coach?


ANSWER: Great for the Bills. Bad for the Orange.


A few reasons I like this hire:


Marrone is not a recycled former NFL coach ( for example, like Dick Jauron or Chan Gailey). I’m glad the Bills made a bold move instead of settling for a retread.


Marrone’s strength is building and running an offense. That’s by far the most important side of the football in the modern NFL. He spent seven seasons as an offensive line coach (Jets 2002 through 2005) and offensive coordinator (2006 through 2008). He knows how to run and throw the ball. He figures to bring a balanced offense, with C.J.. Spiller the centerpiece.


Gailey relied too much was too proud of his “NFL’s best screen-pass offense.”   I suspect it was best because the rest of the league’s  teams had more productive systems. I suppose he felt quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s lack of arm strength wouldn’t be a problem throwing short stuff. Unfortunately, Fitz lacked accuracy, too.


Marrone has plenty of connections in the NFL and the college coaching ranks. It will be imperative that he hire top-notch offensive and defensive coordinators. Hopefully, money will not be an issue for the new-look organization. New boss Russ Brandon said it won’t be. About time.


Marrone is very familiar with central and western New York and wants to be here.


He’s stern enough to instill discipline and earn the respect of NFL players and smart enough not to treat them like college kids.


He inherited a mess at Syracuse after Greg Robinson went 10-37, with two 10-loss seasons. SU was a laughing stock. The Orange were tough to watch more often than not.


Uninformed critics might knock Marrone’s modest 25-25 record for four years at SU. But he was 4-8 his first season and then went 21-17.


He’ll be a more effective coach on game days than Gailey was. He’ll certainly be more animated. Gailey didn’t panic on the sidelines but he sometimes looked confused. He very rarely chewed out a player. There were times it would’ve been appropriate.


Other NFL teams were courting Marrone for head coach. It was a surprise but not a shock (i.e. Jauron and Gailey) when he was hired.


 QUESTION: Wouldn’t Lovie Smith or Chip Kelly have been better choices?


ANSWER: Not for me.


Smith did a fine job with the Chicago Bears for nine seasons but his strength is defense and the team was consistently weaker on offense.

Lack of decent quarterbacks was only part of the problem.


I’d like to see Smith as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator if he needs a job and would take it next season.


I don’t understand why so many pro teams were chasing Kelly -- or why he apparently was ready to leave Oregon. Sure, his  Ducks are a flashy offensive machine, but he’d have a much tougher time building a potent attack in the NFL. He attracts the cream of the crop offensive players to Oregon. He’d need to use the draft and free agency in the NFL and that would take time.


QUESTION: How about the Bills picking SU quarterback Ryan Nassib in April’s NFL draft?


ANSWER: Sure, I’d take a stab at Nassib – in the fourth round at the earliest. – and I could see him as the immediate No. 2 behind Buffalo’s new starting QB.


I’m not buying speculation that he could go as early as the late first round. He has an NFL arm but his mobility is average at best.  The ideal NFL QBs today can throw and run.


QUESTION: So you don’t think there is a chance Ryan Fitzpatrick will return?


ANSWER: As starting QB, I sure hope not. I’ve seen enough. Haven’t you?


QUESTION: Can the Bills end their 13-season non-playoff streak under Marrone?


ANSWER: I believe they will before his four-year contract expires, but it won’t be next season – unless Buffalo finally gets lucky and finds a starting QB with the skills and leadership for the team to rally around. It also would be a big help if the NFL had a division realignment and New England went away.


QUESTION: Should Robert Griffin III have played Sunday with his injured knee?


ANSWER:  Tough call – and I understand why coach Mike Shanahan is under fire for using RGIII – but I’m not going to second-guess him now. RGIII’s right knee was sprained – not torn – and the rookie desperately wanted to play.  He was hobbled – not incapacitated. How any Redskins fans or media objected after he played the week before in a big win over Dallas?


In hindsight, I wonder if the Redskins would’ve been better off had RGIII been sidelined for Sunday’s loss to Seattle.  His wounded knee made him closer to 50 percent effective than 100 percent.


Many NFL observers believe RGIII will be a more spectacular QB than Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson – but they’ll have longer careers because they’re not as reckless. Right now, those folks are looking smart.


QUESTION: What teams impressed you the most on wild-card weekend?


ANSWER: Green Bay and Seattle. When Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has all of his receivers healthy, it almost isn’t fair. The Seahawks are loaded with talent and rookie QB Russell Wilson was the final piece of what could be a championship puzzle very soon.


I figure the Buffalo Bills missed the chance to become a really good team by five inches. If Russell Wilson were 6 feet, 3 ½ inches instead of five feet, 10 ½ inches, he probably be playing for Buffalo. The Bills might have participated in a playoff game Sunday and Seattle probably wouldn’t have.


QUESTION: Which teams do you like in the divisional playoffs?


ANSWER: The divisional playoffs are my favorite NFL weekend of the year: Doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday with eight talented and hungry teams.


Saturday (4:30 p.m.) --  Baltimore at Denver (-9)…I can’t see Joe Flacco messing up a Tom Brady (New England) vs. Peyton Manning showdown in the AFC title game. Imagine the TYV ratings for that game.


(8 p.m.) Green Bay at San Francisco (-3) …Rodgers is even more dangerous in nice weather than on the frozen tundra.


Sunday (1 p.m.) – Seattle at Atlanta (- 2 ½)…What a matchup! The Falcons are very tough to beat at home and the Seahawks are playing well enough to win anywhere.


(4:30 p.m.) Houston at New England (-9 1/2) – Why such a fat spread? Brady at home vs. Matt Schaub on the road in the cold.


QUESTION: What do you think about the tentative end to the NHL lockout?


ANSWER:  I’m very happy for all of the loyal hockey fans and disgusted by the owners and players -- they should be ashamed of themselves. I’d always thought hockey players loved their sport more than any other team pro athletes. Now I’m not so sure…The biggest plus for the fans will be fewer games. That means each game will mean more and should be more competitive.


QUESTION: What about report that Lance Armstrong is about to come clean?


ANSWER: If it happens, I hope he has the guts to hold a press conference and honestly answer all questions. He would owe apologies to every person he bullied, insulted and embarrassed along the way while insisting to his gullible defenders that he was absolutely clean as the dominant performer in the world’s dirtiest sport (except maybe mud wrestling).


Many people still consider Armstrong a hero because he raised tons of money for the fight against cancer. Fair enough and great for him. Now I hope he’ll write a tell-all book and donate half of the proceeds to the cause (he can use the rest on legal fees and to pay the people he slandered).  I’d even buy the book – and give it to one of his fans. I probably wouldn’t read it.


QUESTION:  Any chance that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and/or Sammy Sosa will be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday?


ANSWER: No, no and NO. I’d vote for them all and consider every player from the Steroid Era. I still think they’ll be selected somewhere down the line but they’ll probably be in Cooperstown limbo for a long time…I think Mike Piazza will make it on the first ballot. If he “cheated,” it was less obvious.


QUESTION: Do you see Dri Archer play Sunday night for Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl?


ANSWER: I sure did. In case you missed him, he’s a junior tailback. He’s listed at 5-8, 175, but looks considerably smaller. He’s super quick and fast. He averaged 9.01 yards and had 15 TDs on 150 carries this season, had 35 catches for 539 yards, and returned 15 kickoffs for 573 yards and 3 TDs – before they stopped kicking to him. Kent State limited his carries to keep him healthy…If he enters the 2013 NFL draft, I suggest the Bills pick him in the 7th round if only to return kickoffs.


QUESTION: Do you think Abby Wambach will be announced Monday as the FIFA World Female Player of the Year?


ANSWER: My hunch is yes. She’s paid her dues and it would be her most prestigious honor yet. The award will be presented in Zurich, Switzerland – and she’s there. I hope that’s a good sign.


QUESTION: Will the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs?


ANSWER: They’re 15-18 after Sunday night’s 112-105 home loss to Denver, good for 11th-best in the 15-team Western Conference. They might sneak into the playoffs but I’ve seen enough to believe they won’t reach the NBA Finals and probably won’t reach the conference finals. Kobe Bryant was right on – the Lakers are too and too slow


Five years ago, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash would’ve been a great starting five. But they aren’t now and probably never will be. The bench is among the worst in the NBA. The Lakers have become the NBA version of baseball’s New York Yankees. They stood pat for too long and now are too old to win championships this year.

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