Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: The new David Glass, in a small way the Chiefs are champs, and don’t turn down a free $20,000

David Glass, owner of Kansas City Royals.
David Glass, owner of Kansas City Royals. The Kansas City Star

So you probably saw the awesome American sports story that is the Seahawks fan who caught the winning touchdown ball that Jermaine Kearse threw into the stands after a ridiculous comeback on Sunday.

But, just in case you missed it, a quick recap:

1. Man catches ball

2. Man turns down a $20,000 offer from a memorabilia dealer.

3. Man plans to give the ball to Kearse, who calls and says he’ll get his game helmet signed by the team, and his jersey.

4. Man says it would be awesome if he could also fly to Arizona to watch the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Kearse says he’ll see what he can do.

5. It is reported that the man is an unemployed father of two, and is due to report for a jail sentence the day after the Super Bowl.

There is no step 6 here, at least not yet, but if there was it should be this: Man’s best friend punches man in the stomach for turning down $20,000 while being an unemployed father of two who will soon face jail time.

I don’t get it, guys. I just don’t get it.

This week’s reading recommendation is Lee Jenkins on Swaggy P. The eating recommendation is the tex-mex burger at the Brick. The hero is this Lawrence firefighter, who while responding to a fire at a downtown restaurant, kindly put his arm around a well-known resident named Dennis and led him to safety. It’s a small thing, especially in the scope of what firefighters do, but I love the compassion and ability of the firefighter to remove himself from the moment.

Please keep those recommendations coming: smellinger@kcstar.com.

Anyway, as always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading. Let’s do it.

I don’t know. That’s up to you. This Chiefs team was alternately encouraging and infuriating enough that we all have what we need to feel anything from anger to optimism.

I know the Internet and sports are no places for such things, but I see some nuance here. Even accounting for the NFL’s genius in promoting parity, there is no way to be a bad team and beat both the Patriots and the Seahawks just as there is no way to be a great team and lose to the Titans and Raiders.

This is a team with XFL receivers, an offensive line that was at times comically bad, and a defense where one star is trying to come back from an Achilles tear and another is currently fighting cancer. Throw in a defensive success rate in the red zone that is probably unrepeatable, and there’s more than enough here to build your case for 6-10.

Then again, this is a team with a 22-sack pass rusher, an emerging No. 1 cornerback, one of the best three or so running backs in football, a star-in-the-making at tight end and enough draft picks and create-able cap space to address some glaring needs. Throw in what is apparently an opening window in the AFC West, and there’s more than enough here to build your case for 12-4.

(I’m assuming that by now we all understand that Alex Smith can be manipulated for either argument.)

You guys know where I stand. I think Smith worked behind a horrendous offensive line, with awful receivers, and is the same quarterback who outplayed Andrew Luck in the playoffs last year and was a fumbled punt from the Super Bowl with San Francisco. I think they have a very good coach with enough pieces to build around and enough assets to fill in the holes.

Also — and this is often overlooked — I don’t think you have to be a great team to be a contender. I know I’m crossing sports here, but the Royals made it to game seven of the World Series with serious flaws. Heck, I’m not trying to destroy anybody’s well-crafted narratives here, but the Patriots just won the AFC with a quarterback who struggled throwing the ball deep.^

^ I believe that’s a subscription link, and if so, two things. First, if you are a huge football nerd who likes to see how metrics created by people who dedicate their working lives to the cause align with your own opinions, Pro Football Focus is absolutely worth the money. Second, PFF had Smith completing 37.5 percent of his deep passes, and Tom Brady 33.3 percent. Brady’s deep passing was remarkably similar to Kyle Orton’s.

It’s not a bad line, but what I really think is that in some ways the sports landscape around Kansas City has flipped. For the first time since the fall of 1986 — when Andy Reid was the offensive line coach at Northern Arizona, and Dayton Moore was a middle infielder at Garden City Community College — the Royals are the team that’s made the playoffs more recently.

I’m not making an argument that this is now a baseball town, whatever the heck that means, but I am saying that for a long time the prolific suckitude of the Royals gave some degree of cover to the fact that the Chiefs last won a playoff game before most of us had Internet access at home.

That’s gone now, and in ways that might be subtle and subconscious, it’s going to alter the way people here talk about their teams.

I guess I see where you’re going here, and it might surprise you to know that Wilson is only four years younger than Smith. But Wilson is considered a much better leader, calmer under pressure, and better able to make plays with his arm when out of the pocket. I’m not sure those are things Smith can appreciably improve upon after ten years in the league, but I also think that other than Green Bay, New England, and probably Indianapolis^, there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t trade quarterbacks with the Seahawks when age and career trajectory are considered.

^ Would the Steelers make that trade? Roethlisberger is six years older than Wilson.

So, I don’t know, this is one of those made-up questions that are fun about sports but I guess my answer is unfortunately a bit more realistic — I don’t think Smith has to be Wilson for the Chiefs to be contenders.

Congrats!

My Europe experience is pretty much limited to two trips — a week or so mostly on the east coast of Spain, and two weeks in London for the Olympics. But I do know enough to know there are so many great places in Europe, depending on when or whether you think you’ll make it back, you probably don’t want to spend too long in any particular place.

London is awesome. It’s a lot like New York, but more international, funnier, not as energetic and with less self-importance.^ There is, obviously, a ridiculous amount of history there and you could eat a last-meal worthy dinner of basically any type of food. When I was there, I got locked in with an Indian place that was always open late.

^ And I love New York.

If you’re going to the game, that’s one day, but you’ll probably want to stay at least two or three more. You could fill a week, easy, but if you want to get to other places, too, you don’t want to stick anywhere too long.

The official^ calculation is 31.824 percent.

^ Not official at all.

Nothing would shock me at this point. Houston’s camp has always seemed to be wanting the best deal, not interested in a hometown discount, and it wouldn’t make sense for Houston to gamble on himself to have a good season and not take advantage of it. From the Chiefs side, it makes more sense to do a deal now than even a year ago. Not only has Houston shown himself to be one of the league’s premier pass rushers, but even with a guarantee of $40 million or more the Chiefs could save cap room when compared to the franchise tag.

NFL locker rooms are like a lot of workplaces in that there can often be jealousy over who’s making how much and what one guy’s contract does to another’s chances of getting a new deal, but a big-time contract for Houston would be very well-received within the Chiefs’ locker room. Teams think about those types of things.

The Ravens had a strong year with Kubiak as their offensive coordinator. They created a lot of big plays, protected Flacco really well, finished in the top quarter in points and scored 30 and 31 in their two playoff games. It’s a stretch to say that Ray Rice’s suspension was a big blow — Rice’s yards-per-carry dipped for a second straight season in 2013, to a Larry-Johnson-after-the-contract-like 3.1 — but it was something they had to adjust to.

The problem, at least very much from the outside, is that it seems like the Broncos wanted toughness, and their defense certainly needs to get better, so why hire an offensive guy? I mean, other than the fact that he’s BFFs with John Elway? That’s the part I don’t understand.

Also, I think the coach there isn’t half as important as whether Peyton Manning is healthy.

There’s this annoying trap we set and fall into — and I’m 100 percent sure I’ve been on both sides of this — where a stat or fact is mentioned that we all know is misleading or won’t hold up, but it’s true, and it gets mentioned and then repeated and then shot down and then argued over until the point where no matter which side you’re on you want to rip the other side’s ears out.

Don’t let this happen with K-State basketball, is what I’m saying.

We’re all adults here, so we understand that the Wildcats are not going to win what is either the toughest or second toughest league in the country. Also, we’re all adults here, so we understand that four conference wins in a row — including two over teams that will probably make the tournament — is a heck of a turnaround from a season that at one point looked like Scott Elarton should pitch opening day.

I guess I don’t know who’s been making how big of a deal out of them being in first place, but there’s room in the middle here, where the truth is — K-State, incredibly, is playing well and has a chance to save its season.

I wrote about this the other day, but even this glimmer of hope would not be possible without Bruce Weber pulling a boss move in benching Marcus Foster, and then Foster responding to said boss move like a maturing college kid who understands he needs to keep working hard and improving.

Well, first, I know we all know this but I don’t feel like seeing the tweets/emails, so let’s acknowledge we’re talking about good ol’ fashioned sports hate here. Nothing more. OK.

It’s an underwhelming group, at least by KU’s standards. Laying down twice in thousand-point losses is a particularly bad look. But I think if there’s anything to this, some of it might be that a) there is nobody on that roster you would bet right now on being a really good NBA player, and b) other than Frank Mason, I’m not sure there’s anyone on the team playing better than you expected when they got to KU.

I think those are important. Like, last year, no matter the struggles, it was always worth watching Wiggins and Embiid. The year before that, Jeff Withey became a defensive force and Ben McLemore developed into a top-five pick. The year before that, Thomas Robinson was a consensus All-American and Tyshawn Taylor became a very good player.

And so on.

This year, you watch them, and it’s easy to think that Perry Ellis needs to be more explosive and hit more than 42 percent of his shots. Cliff Alexander was the No. 2 recruit in the country, and you can see flashes of why, but it doesn’t match the expectation, at least yet. Wayne Selden is a much better athlete than he often plays, and hasn’t quite grown into his talents.

I thought Blair put it well here about KU, showing its best and worst in last night’s strange win over Oklahoma. It’s a weird thing, because ten consecutive conference titles aside, college basketball is fundamentally unpredictable. These are teenagers and early twentysomethings, so wild variances in performance and even effort are to be expected.

I mean, just in the last two answers we’ve talked about one team that went from an inexcusable home loss to Texas Southern to what was then an unexplainable road win at Oklahoma in the span of 13 days, and another team that some fans wrote off after a pseudo-home loss to Davidson and ended up playing in the national championship game.

So, none of us know. But, like I said last week, I do think KU will win another league title, probably sharing with Iowa State.

Being realistic, I’d continue to see if anyone wants to make a blow-me-away offer for Greg Holland or Wade Davis, but would be fine maintaining the game’s best bullpen. Also, I think they could still use some rotation depth, so maybe take a look at someone like Ryan Vogelsong or Kyle Kendrick, but we’re at the point where the team is the team.

We’ll get into this more as the days pass, but the AL Central could be among the most interesting divisions in baseball. Even accounting for James Shields’ departure, all five teams have reason to believe they can or will be better than they were on opening day of last year.

I need to do a LOT more studying and talking to people, but this feels like the year Detroit falls back.

You know, if people weren’t so determined to ignore that David Glass is a much different owner now than in 2006, they would see that payroll is up more than 20 percent, to what at the moment is the 15th biggest in baseball even with revenues that will almost certainly be in baseball’s bottom 10^.

^ That includes revenue sharing.

I’ve been pointing out Glass’ evolution for years, but I’m done expecting anyone’s mind to be changed. He doesn’t deserve a plaque or blue ribbon or whatever, but it is worth pointing out that he’s what small-money owners should be expected to be after the better part of a decade being what fans should be terrified their team’s owner turns out to be.

It’s a pretty remarkable story, really, even if nobody wants to hear it.

They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, even with the fade of last season, but I’m gonna need at least a few games to sort this out. You mentioned the biggest unknown, at least to me, which is the move to the loaded West. Last year, Sporting won just two of seven games (with two draws) against the five playoff teams from the West, who they’ll obviously play more often now.

Sporting is strong in its own right, of course, and it’s also true that their arrival (along with Houston) means the other teams in the West know their conference got tougher, too. With league expansion comes one more playoff spot in each conference, and I’d expect Sporting to be in that mix. Right now, I’d peg them toward the bottom of the playoff field, but like I said, I’d like to see at least a few games first.

Also, I’m not sure enough is made about the fact that MLS’ offseason is like 10 minutes long.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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