Saturday, January 21, 2006

Achievement Awards Part 2 (the mostly not so good)

mediocre latex salesman aswell

“The Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Jason Alexander/Michael Richards” Award for greatest decline away from former supporting cast: Chad Henne.

I’m not proposing some groundbreaking social theorem here by saying that once departed from Seinfeld that the triumvirate was pretty terrible. Save your “well, situational comedies thrive on the group dynamic and singular character traits that are really only conducive to success in a perfectly controlled environment” arguments for someone else, I think Taxi and Cheers sort of survived. That is, if you consider Kelsey Grammer, Danny DeVito, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Lloyd and Jud Hirsch to have “survived”.

Henne’s inability to complete a 13 yard slant really has nothing to do with Michael Richards’ most notable performance since Kramer coming on a made-for-TV-movie, but it’s still the same kind of demise. No one thought Henne was going to do any better than he did with Braylon, and especially not without a healthy Breaston, Hart and most of his offensive line, but did it really seem like losing them had anything to do with it? And what’s disappointing is that maybe only two or three of you will say it did. Over the bye-week and into Indiana and Ohio State there was talk that Henne went from a read-and-react passing scheme to more pre-designed routes, but if that was the case – that his problem was so easily confined to the playbook – why was he so bad against Nebraska? It was like Jason Alexander having an episode of Listen Up that was just “not as abominable as the others,” then returning to its hackneyed routine after that, which was sort of what happened in the Alamo Bowl.

If you ever watched “Bob Patterson” or “Watching Ellie”, they might as well have just sat around telling knock-knock jokes, knowing how hard the audience was going to try and laugh at whatever labored punch line they came at you with. And that’s what it was like every time Henne completed a seven yard out-pattern with even the slightest bit of precision. We all pumped our fists and pretended it was the beginning of this strident march back towards stardom, when really it wasn’t much different than trying to be amused when someone like Newman guest starred on “Listen Up” and Jason Alexander tried to act like he’d never met him before. At this point, Henne has about as good a chance leading a successful sitcom as any of the three do, but if for no other reason than to prevent further exhausting my techniques in criticizing him, can’t he just get his shit together next year?

It's like I walk around with a glock with no ammo

“Friends Series Finale” Award for most disproportionate ratio of hype to actual utility: Prescott Burgess.

Let’s try and figure out how this is possible: Burgess comes to Michigan as a five-star safety prospect from Ohio, is moved to linebacker with the idea that he’ll grow naturally into his 6-5 frame. Playing with the strength of a linebacker and the speed of a defensive back, he'd be able to become a hybrid defenseman better than Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary combined, almost as good as God, and much better than the yeast sliced bread was baked with; the greatest physical creature of the last 5-6 million years. So it seemed. Three years after the initial estimate, we realize that Burgess is now too slow to even play linebacker. I’ll let that sit for a little while.

Looking at his recruit profile on, he ran a 4.55 40 out of high school, which for a player his size makes that “third best linebacker in the country” ranking of yesteryear look plenty justified. I guess my biggest problem is his weight, which went from 215 pounds as high school senior to almost 250 as a college junior. Because let’s be honest, the only time Prescott’s ever going to run a 4.55 40 again is if “40 yards” suddenly means “23 yards”, and I don’t think the fact that he’s on the Mike Gittleson Diet For Aspiring Quadruple Bypassees is helping.

Everything you’d want in a linebacker Prescott had: the near boastful swagger, a really slick haircut, probably a posse, and that smirk when he pulled his Michigan cap from a duffle bag during the High School All American game that basically proclaimed “I’m really a good guy, but if I pulled a weapon from here too you shouldn’t be surprised.” He was a cowboy, a desperado, a vigilante who was going to knock your face through the back of your skull the moment you touched the ball going across the middle of the field. Now? Well now he’s just a pretty athletic bouncer.

I dipped in my stash, splurged on a chain/ Now I'm Titanic, Iceberg's the name

“Michael Olowokandi” Award for longest residency in dog-house and most anticipated “breakout” that never actually happened: Gabe Watson.

If you’re something close to 6 feet and a half, a little over 3 bills and a half, running the forty in less than five and a half, odds are your future as an NFL player is between “First rounder with a Bentley and a palace” and “Vacationing every year in Cabo ‘cause you can’t afford a summer place there yet”. But even still, I’ve spent more time saying things like “Oh, don’t worry, the only reason Gabe couldn’t make the play is because he was double-teamed” than I ever did about him destroying the inner two thirds of an offensive line.

Once they slapped that “agile for a player his size” tag on Gabe, there was nothing he was going to do to lose it, which pretty much eliminated any incentive to get better or angrier or skinnier. Guys like Gabe and Kandi will never have to perform even remotely close to their expectations to get paid; that’s just what happens when you’re a physical anomaly who likes sports. They used to put those people on Ripley’s and in the circus, now they just pay them a lot of money and hope they become the next Shaquille O’Neal or Warren Sapp.

Gabe was easily one of the most exciting prospects Michigan’s had since I started following recruiting, but unless he tore a ligament or got arrested, he was going to move his mom into a new place, get his brother a new car, and his girl a new wardrobe. No matter how uninspiring his collegiate resume was. If you were in college with a few million in a safety deposit box you’d be handed the key to in a few years, what’s going to be your mindset? That’s why I really can’t blame him for probably spending more time being big and getting girls than working out. Every year you knew Carr was going to keep him out of the starting lineup for a few games, but you also knew Gabe was really a warmhearted guy and most likely hadn’t done anything wrong so much as not done anything at all. In the end, he was just a formidable name who translated well to video game ratings and paper-matchups, but that was about it. He didn’t do any more or suck any less than a guy like Prescott; I guess his motives were just more permissible.

It's because I'm not invincible everyday

Emeril LagasseAward for most pre-season (meal) “Bang!”s and “Oh yeah, babe!”s relative to on the field (plate) performance (food): Steve Breaston.

Unless cooking’s your thing, I doubt you can name two chefs other than Emeril or maybe Mario Batalli. The same thing goes for dangerous punt returners, where Steve Breaston, Ted Ginn, and Devin Hester are about all you can muster in a “guy you’d most want to get your team to midfield for one last drive” argument. It doesn’t mean Emeril or Breaston are any good (though when he’s healthy, I’ll fight to death for the latter), it’s more that they have a few catchphrases or a really awesome highlight reel.

It’s sort of the same thing that goes for Gabe (and Prescott, and Woodley, and Henne, and Tabb, and…you get the idea, this wasn’t a good year for Michigan); Breaston will always be a “good” player so long as he can mix a few neck-breaking touchdown plays in with the fact that he can’t catch a deep ball or break tackles very well, and Emeril will still be hailed as a culinary wizard as long as he cooks on TV and says a lot of things that sound like they’re accentuating a confidence he has in his recipes.

Here’s the difference though: I’ve watched Emeril make food before, and it’s just a guy wearing a fancy white uniform and a cloth slung over his shoulder, overusing ingredients, probably saying to himself “well seasonings are sort of like toppings, toppings are great on ice cream sundaes, Bam! Let’s give it a try!” But with Breaston, you know there’s reason for hope, that you do feel like you know what you’re talking about when you bring him up in conversation, and that deep down he’s easily the most dangerous player on the team. You can consistently say that, even if he doesn’t consistently prove it.

I’ve had a thing for the number 15, but I think there’s more to it than that, that maybe we didn’t put him on a pedestal in some predisposed, over biased exalting simply because he happened to be the closest thing Michigan fans had to Reggie Bush. There’s this feeling you get when you know a player’s worth something, where you sense the eye’s of the world and every loose molecule in the atmosphere gravitating toward them. And then before you can catch your breath Michigan’s trailing Penn State by a touchdown, the kick off’s fallen into his hands, he’s at midfield, your lungs deflate, and the camera pans out and you see an image like the one at the end of “Field of Dreams” where miles of headlights are being pulled to that one player everyone can’t stop watching.

More tomorrow


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