5-at-10: Rory cashes in, NFC Playoff matchup, and the Lance Armstrong lesson

5-at-10: Rory cashes in, NFC Playoff matchup, and the Lance Armstrong lesson

January 15th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

If Whitney was right, and we're to believe that children are our future and we must teach them well and let them lead the way, what is the lesson about Lance Armstrong: Every one makes mistakes? It's never too late to tell the truth? Confession is good for the soul? Do you go old-school NASCAR and embrace the "if you're not cheating, you're not trying" apporach or even "honesty is the best way to lose" maybe?

There has to be a middle ground right? Cheating catches you in the end? Win at all costs? Man, this is depressing, and what the gang from Joe's Gym say in Dodgeball?

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's take our shot (yep we went there)...

Lance Armstrong pauses during a 2011 interview in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Lance Armstrong

According to reports, Lance Armstrong came clean to Oprah Winfrey about his use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. The interview is set to air Thursday and will be the first public admission from Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner that so adamentmently denied doping that he sued and won a libel case against a London newspaper for writing that he did use.

OK, with the less-than-shocking news on Lance and the left-at-the-altar group of baseball megastars who were denied admission to the Hall of Fame recently, what is the future of PED users and their place in the history of sports.

Do we take option A (as in A-bomb and take the nuclear anti-PED option) and ban them all, strip their records and never the 'tween shall meet?

Do we take option B (as in be kind) and realize the vast majority of the competitors in these sports were using PEDs and these guys were the best of a tainted generation?

Do we take option C (as in combination) and view it on a case-by-case basis?

It's hard to know and it could depend on what Lance has to say.

We know for sure that we used to believe Option A was the plan, and if you got caught cheating you were done. And there's still a strong belief in and merit to that view. If that's how you stand, we got no beef with that.

But we're starting to lean toward Option B. Records in all of sports are made to be broken, whether it's technology, training or treatments that allow Barry Bonds to win four-consecutive MVPs from the ages of 36-39.

And we ask this in a metaphysical sense, but it's still worth asking, especially in Lance's case. If everyone is cheating, is really anyone cheating? If everyone is taking something extra - and by all reports the use was rampant and extremely secretive - is that really something extra?

Thoughts?

Sure we should aspire to be more than that and require our all-time great to do so too, but can we cover everyone with the same guilty blanket because of rumor and whispers. We're inclined to follow the lead of the individual sport's governing body in this instance: If they are going to strip a player/athlete's records, we concur. If they're going to let them stand, can we ignore them?

Difficult debate to be sure.

----

NFC Playoff matchup No. 1

We're going to look at a part of the Falcons-49ers game every day this week. We're pretty excited to be quite frank about.

Let's start the breakdown with a simple question: Where are playoff games won? At the most important position in sports - quarterback - of course.

Look at the divisional matchups: Joe Flacco outplayed Peyton Manning and Flacco won; Colin Kaepernick outplayed Aaron Rodgers (and the rest of the free world) and Humpty won; Matt Ryan outplayed Russell Wilson, although this was the closest pairing, and Ryan won the closest game; and Tom Brady outplayed Matt Schaub. Some times it's just that simple.

So who has the edge at quarterback: Matt Ryan or Colin "Humpty" Kaepernick? Let's break it down old-school:

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan works during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Atlanta.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Experience

Ryan has started all but three games in his five-year career; Kaepernick has started every game for the last couple of months.

Edge: Ryan

Playoff experience

Ryan got his first postseason win in four tries with the late miracle against Seattle; Kaepernick is 1-0 and owns at least a share of the best postseason winning percentage in the history of (cue Ron Jaworski) THE National Football League.

Edge: Slightly to Ryan because he knows the sting of playoff losses

Skill set (arm)

Ryan earned early MVP talk this year as the Falcons cruised to the NFC's best record and led the league in completion percentage at almost 69 percent; Kaepernick has a big arm and a long delivery that is more accurate than he gets credit for, especially on deep throws and over the middle.

Edge: Ryan, but it's closer than most believe

Skill set (head/composure)

Ryan was tops in the league with five fourth-quarter comebacks this year but has been prone to making one or two really bad decisions a game; Kaepernick has been following the direction of coach Jim Harbaugh to a 'T' and the results have been staggering, and Humpty gets bonus points for staying within himself and the moment in a classic performance against the Packers.

Edge: Ryan, but it's much closer than you may think (If Ryan tosses a couple more of those dish-and-wish jump balls Sunday, the season's over)

Skill set (legs)

Ryan has two legs; Kaepernick uses his two legs exceptionally well.

Edge: Humpty huge.

Expectations

Ryan must play very well for the Falcons to even have a shot against the road-favored 49ers; Kaepernick just needs to manage himself and his emotions and read the outside linebacker.

Edge: Humpty

System

Ryan had a great regular season (422-of-615, 4,719 yards and 32 TDs) by exploiting his advantages of two elite receivers on the perimeter and the best tight end of all time running through the middle of the field. That system is sound and fundamental and plays perfectly into the hands of a San Francisco defense that is physical in the secondary, fast at linebacker and can generate pressure without sending waves of blitzes. In fact, San Fran pressured Aaron Rodgers on 11 of his 43 dropbacks last week and only blitzed twice. This will be a tall order for Ryan and a taller order for Ryan's offensive line. As for Kaepernick, he worked magic in the midline option out of the Pistol formation last week. Dude simply did work, running for 181 yards, the most ever by a quarterback in any NFL game. And most of that was because of Kaepernick's deicison making - of the 181 yards, 178 of them came before contact, which means he was making perfect reads and running through spaces open enough for Spy (hey, we know Spy has wheels). The Falcons struggled against Cam Newton in a similar system in their two meetings this year and have allowed the highest per-run average to opposing quarterbacks of any team in the NFL. Sean Weatherspoon please report to the courtesy phone, Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to the white courtesy phone please - it's time to deliver.

Edge: Humpty, big

Overall

Ryan has moved into the top 10 of NFL quarterbacks, and that's saying something considering the great divide of QB play in today's NFL. There are a slew of really good ones; and then there are a slew of teams who are going to sign Alex Smith and Mike Vick out of desperation. Kaepernick has delivered one of the best playoff debuts in the history of all sports and he is one of three players to rush for two TDs and throw for two TDs in a playoff game, joining Otto Graham and Jay Cutler. How Kaepernick handles the road atmosphere and a Georgia Dome that will be jumping will determine if his run will be more Graham-esque o Cutler-like.

Edge: Ryan

----

Rory cashes in

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his drive from the second tee during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, S.C., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Nike handed Rory McIlroy a 10-year endorsement deal worth reportedly $200 million.

Yes, the money seems obscene, but for hoops stars and golfers, the return on a nine-figure investment is frequently in the billions. Think Nike regrets signing Tiger (how many folks at the course are geared out in their Sunday red Tiger shirt and matching hat?) or MJ or LeBron? Not a chance.

Same will go for Rory, too, especially since he is more popular globally than he is here, which is an untapped marketplace for Nike.

That said, is this the best thing for Rory's career? Sure it's the best thing for his checking account, but will he stay motivated like Tiger did or will he languish in the fat-and-happy mode that may have limited Phil Mickelson's career achievements after he signed for big dollars with Calloway?

We are hoping that Rory continues his assault toward becoming the next overlord of golf because the sport needs a heavy. Golf needed Tiger because, like all individual sports, there needs to be a Darth Vader/Dale Earnhardt Sr.-type of persona that gives everyone a rooting interest. Whether your guy was on the leaderboard or in the top five or missed the cut or crashed on Lap 98, everyone had a vested interest rooting for/against Tiger or Dale.

Rory could be that guy, but it's the wins not the winnings that make that possible.

Here's hoping his financial success does not derail his professional succes.

----

This and that

- Recruiting round-up of interest: Vonn Bell has not committed to Alabama despite numerous reports Monday that he had. Camp Bell told our prep ace Stephen Hargis that, yes, Alabama coach Nick Saban was in North Georgia visiting the four-star Bell. But no, Bell had not committed and still has Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee as the finalists for his signature. He expects to decide on signing day Feb. 6. It was the lone bit of non-great recruiting news for Alabama, which remains rolling. The Tide landed a commitment from Tim Williams, a 6-foot-4 linebacker/defensive end who is the top-ranked prospect in Louisiana. Also, longtime-Auburn commit Dee Liner, who yes is a highly regarded defensive lineman, decommited from the Tigers and Alabama appears to be the front-runner to land Dee Liner to an all-time class of D-Lineman.

- Hey the Aussie Open started. Great. Let us know when Federer and Murray play and when one of the Williams girls meets a foreign lass with a 'c' or a 'v' at the end of her name. Thanks.

- The Big Ten is looking at renaming its division and changing the much-maligned Leaders and Legends tabs. OK, without getting vulgar, is there anything the Big Ten could pick that would be worse and more goofy than "Leaders" and "Legends," especially considering that the top two teams in the Legends division last year were not eligible for the postseason because of some legendary NCAA issues. (Somehow, we're pretty sure that's not the Legend-type stuff the Big Ten was thinking of to start.)

- We have talked multiple times about a need to grab a college basketball team or three and follow them through the finish. Here are some of the candidates: Louisville (for two reasons - one we loved Louisville back in the days of Darrell Griffith to the McCray brothers to Lancaster Gordon; and two this bunch is in it for the long haul); Oregon because we said in December that Nike was about to infuse some coin in the Ducks' hoops program because Nike could not afford its signature program to be blah for long; Michigan (does any school have a better 1-2 uniform combo in football and hoops than Michigan); N.C. State; Creighton; Cincy and maybe UNLV (Vegas baby, Vegas). Thoughts?

----

Today's questions

Let's play some quick answer. Deal? Deal.

Is there any way Alabama doesn't end up with the No. 1 recruiting class?

Is there any way Lance's confession will sway your view? Why or why not?

Is the SEC in for arguably the craziest hoops year in recent memory?

If you had the choice between Matty Ice and Colin "Humpty" Kaepernick, who you got and why?

Discuss and don't forget Friday's mailbag.