FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is News & Notes.
It's time now for a look at the week in sports with our own Tony Cox. Hey, Tony.
TONY COX: Hey, Farai. You know, playoffs, drafts, retirements, leaves of absence. Is this sports? I guess it is. Those are some of the subjects we're going to tackle in this week's Bloggers' Roundtable. And to join me to do all of that, we have Kevin Figgers, he writes the blog for sports station AM570Radio.com here in L.A., and Carron Phillips blogs at TheMavenReport.com down in Atlanta. Gentlemen, nice to have you back.
Mr. KEVIN FIGGERS (Blogger, AM570Radio.com): Good to be here, Tony.
Mr. CARRON PHILLIPS (Blogger, TheMavenReport.com): What's going on, Tony?
COX: Let's talk about this first. Today is the deadline for all college football players wanting to toss their names into the NFL draft, and sure enough, aspiring pros have been coming out of the woodwork all week long, including today.
Of course, in football, a good quarterback is always the prize of the draft. And this year, there were interesting prospects at the QB position to say the least. Tim Tebow of Florida, Matthew Stafford, Georgia, Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, Mark Sanchez, USC, Nate Davis, Ball State, and Colt McCoy, Texas. Kevin, it looks like only Sanchez and Davis are going to jump to the pros.
Mr. FIGGERS: It's what it's looking like right now. Bradford has already said he's coming back at the Florida rally. Tim Tebow said he was going to come back, which I think is the best option for him. I don't think he's going to be a first-round quarterback, might not even be in the first eight players drafted. So I think that's the best decision for him.
Matt Stafford, I don't think he's decided yet whether he wants to go or whether he wants to stay. I think, as far as being a pure pro prospect, he's probably the best one coming out of all the quarterbacks available to enter into.
COX: Now, Carron, you know, how good a draft class do you think this is, number one? And number two, do you think that the decisions that we've seen so far by the players on whether they will stay or go, have those been the right ones, the right decisions?
Mr. PHILLIPS: As a class as a whole, I'm not sure yet. I know I just found out that Stafford, him and Moreno are going from UGA. So the quarterbacks, it's kind of up in the air. Some of the best guys are staying, like Bradford and Tebow. But as a whole, I'm not too sure yet.
The underclassmen, like Craig Cheney(ph) and McClean(ph) coming out, those guys are pretty good. I think they're ready for the pros right now. But as a whole, I wouldn't be ready to give the class a specific grade right now. But I think most of the guys have made good decisions in terms of, like, Bradford and especially Tebow coming back for one more year.
COX: Who do you think should be number one, Kevin? Who do you think will be number one?
Mr. FIGGERS: Number-one overall pick or the number-one quarterback?
COX: Number-one overall and then the number-one quarterback.
Mr. FIGGERS: Number-one overall pick, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. Of all the prognoses that come out, the offensive tackle from Alabama whose name is slipping me right now, who got suspended from the national - for the Sugar Bowl, actually, I forget his name. He's actually a good prospect. A lot of people have him ranked high as one of the top players taken.
Stafford is actually up there as one of the best quarterback prospects, one of the best overall prospects coming out of the draft. So I probably think - I probably think it's going to be either one of those two, either Alabama offensive tackle or Matthew Stafford if he comes up.
COX: What about - so quarterback, you think he would be the number one?
Mr. FIGGERS: I think he will be the top quarterback taken.
COX: Over Sanchez?
Mr. FIGGERS: I think over Sanchez. I think he has - as far as pure intangibles and, like, a lot of these general managers like to draft off of intangibles and, you know, what they can do for you in the future. I think Stafford has a bigger upside than Sanchez does in the pros.
COX: All right, we'll find out. One other thing before we move on, Carron, is this. USC's defense could produce two top-10 picks and four top-20 picks, but a lot has been made of the decision by Taylor Mays there, top defensive player, All-American safety, to stay in school another year. I guess that's good news for Pete Carroll and USC, wouldn't you think?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Oh, I know Pete Carroll has to be ecstatic. I suspected Taylor Mays to go. I expected him to be a first round pick, first day pick. With him coming back, it just give his defense a little more help, because I know a lot of those guys are going, because - but it's USC. Pete Carroll stays loaded out there on the West Coast, so he should be ranked either - in the top three when polls come out.
COX: One more thing, Kevin, about the college football draft is this. When you look back on some recent drafts, including Matt Leinart, Vince Young, both who were superstars in college, not so much in the NFL so far for either one of them, actually. What does that say about the quality of quarterbacks coming out of college, and, you know, who's overrated, do you think?
Mr. FIGGERS: Oh, it's clearly overrated. Another example you can maybe use is JaMarcus Russell, who's still young, and he's still starting...
COX: Another one.
Mr. FIGGERS: With the Oakland Raiders...
Mr. FIGGERS: That a lot of the general managers, as I said, draft off of intangibles and not what a player can actually do. Matt Leinart was in a situation in USC where he played with so much talent, it was hard for any quarterback who is halfway decent to not succeed. Vince Young played in a gimmick system at Texas where he was able to do whatever he wanted to, and he's found out in the pros that he's not able to do that. So it just comes down to - the NFL has a different type of game than college football. You're not going to have a loaded team around you all the time where you going to have plays that jump off Reggie Bush from five yards in the flat and he can make plays downfield. Reggie Bush is not a quarterback, but he's also a player that came out and he's also struggled in the NFL.
Mr. FIGGERS: So a great college player does not always translate to a great NFL player, and a lot of these general managers obviously don't know that for some reason.
COX: But they find out pretty quickly, though.
Mr. FIGGERS: Yes, they do. They do.
COX: Absolutely. All right, guys. Let's move on to one more thing. I want to go back to the BCS Championship Game and the controversy. Florida, Carron, number one in BCS. But a lot of folk are claiming that they don't deserve the outright title, even President-elect Obama. Here is the new president.
President-elect BARACK OBAMA: Congratulations to Florida. I have to point out, if I'm Utah, if I'm USC or if I'm Texas, I may still have some quibbles, and you've heard my pitch. That's why we need a playoff.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: Yeah, but it ain't going to happen, is it, Carron? Not with ESPN involved.
Mr. PHILLIPS: It's not going to happen. Much as I love the president-elect, I have to disagree with him. The only people I think who have a argument are Texas because, they did beat Oklahoma, and I do believe that should have been a national title game, Texas-Florida. But Utah does have a strong case. They are the only 13-and-0 team in the country. I had a feeling going into the Alabama game, they were going to win. I just wish some kind of - I just wish some kind of way could have been Utah, Texas or Florida to figure it out - to figure that thing out at the end of the scene.
COX: Oh, good thing you're on the east side of the Mississippi River, because on this side of the Mississippi River, people are saying USC should have been involved.
Mr. PHILLIPS: Not a chance. Not a chance.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. PHILLIPS: Oregon State proved it to everybody. The two Rogers brothers, they exposed USC, that Thursday night on ESPN. I sat there and watched the game. USC, I'm sorry they did not deserve it. We could do it every year.
COX: We don't have enough time to have this argument.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: I'm going to have you on in a couple of weeks. Let's move on to the NFL. Perhaps the biggest football news of the week, Kevin, though not a total surprise, has to do with the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Tony Dungy stepping down, the only black coach to ever win a Superbowl. So I'm not clear what do you think his legacy is. I mean, a lot has been made about him, about the fine person he is, the fine coach that he's been. His record has been good at Indianapolis. But they haven't won that - they only won the big one one time.
Mr. FIGGERS: Quite true. They've only won the big one one time. They've been the favorites more often than not. I think I have to look at Tony Dungy's coaching career as a whole, and where he came from as taking the Vikings defense and doing a great job with them, going to a dead Tampa Bay franchise that had - was actually, I should say, nobody cared. They were one of the worst franchises in sports. Took them and turned them into a perennial playoff power. Got them to the NFC title game and another - they were probably a bad all the way from going to the Superbowl that year with the whole, you know, Ben Emanuel catching and all of that. So I think Tony Dungy goes on as one of the greatest coaches of all time. The other thing is, the only coach in NFL history to have - to go to the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons, that has to say something. You know?
Mr. PHILLIPS: That's true.
Mr. FIGGERS: He's always been - always been competitive. He's never - you know, I think he's bowed out once in the playoffs with Indianapolis to get embarrassed by the Jets one year. But his teams are always competitive. His teams always played hard for him. No player's ever complained about him. I think he's one of the greatest coaches of all time.
COX: You know...
Mr. FIGGERS: I think he's a hall of famer.
COX: A lot has been made, Carron, about the fact that there aren't enough black head football coaches in college and - but although there are more now in the NFL, Dungy being one of them, what's unusual, I think, is that Dungy's being replaced by another African-American. You don't usually have one black head coach replaced by another, do you?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Not necessarily. This one was a rare case, with Jim Caldwell coming in. It's good to see another black face with a head coaching position on the sidelines in the NFL. But the problem still remains like you said, Tony. In college football, in the NFL, we don't have enough. We need more, that's why the Rooney Rule is in effect. We need more black head coaches on these sidelines.
COX: Now, in the NFL playoffs coming up this weekend, Eagles versus Cardinals and the Steelers versus the Ravens. Who do you like, Kevin?
Mr. FIGGERS: I like the Eagles. I'd like it to be the Eagles and the Steelers. I think the Ravens' defense is playing well, their offense is OK. But when it comes down to it, it comes down to whose offense can make more plays. I think the Steelers' offense has a chance to make more plays against the Ravens' defense than the other way around. And the Eagles embarrassed the Cardinals early this year on Thanksgiving Day. I think it's going to be more of the same this week.
COX: Really? Do you think that same way, Carron?
Mr. PHILLIPS: No. I think the Steelers and the Cardinals. But first of all, I have to apologize to Donovan McNabb, because the last time I was on here, I said his career was over in Philly. But he proved me wrong.
COX: Really he proved you wrong.
Mr. PHILLIPS: Yeah.
Mr. FIGGERS: Absolutely.
Mr. PHILLIPS: He's doing his thing out in Philadelphia. But I think - I think I'm going with the Cardinals. They've been proving everybody wrong so far. Boden's coming back, Braxton and Fitzgerald having monster years. And I think Kurt Warner still has a little bit left in the tank. I mean, he has a running game going with Edgerrin James.
COX: I like the Cardinals, too. Kurt Warner seems to be on a mission this year. Let's switch to Major League Baseball, guys. The Hall of Fame announcing its latest inductees. Among them, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice. Now, Kevin, Rickey Henderson was a first ballot selection. Although 28 writers did not vote for him. This guy is an all-time steals leader in baseball, played effectively into his 40s. Controversial, sure, but come on. How could he not be a unanimous first ballot choice?
Mr. FIGGERS: The greatest leadoff hitter of all time. Most people would tell you, how you can be the greatest anything of all time and not be a unanimous, or at least close to unanimous - how can you be one of the 28 - I don't know how you sleep at night being one of the 28 who doesn't vote on him being in the Hall of Fame?
Mr. PHILLIPS: I just don't get it.
Mr. FIGGERS: How could you not? A lot of these guys are just stubborn. It's the way they're just - they just don't want anybody to be a first ballot. I don't know why. I don't know why it's such a big deal to them, but they don't want anybody to be unanimous. And I don't see what the big issue is. Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. You can say he's kooky or he's ,you know, whatever. But he was a great baseball player.
Mr. FIGGERS: That's all that should matter.
COX: Absolutely. And now on the other hand, Carron, Jim Rice got in finally on his 15th and last try. My question is, why are the sportswriters who vote for the Hall of Fame allowed to do so anonymously? Do you think that's right?
Mr. PHILLIPS: No. I think they should put their first and last names and government names and all that on the ballot list. I think they - these players should know who's voting and who shouldn't. Because with Jim Rice's - in his case, he should have been in the Hall of Fame. We should know these 28 voters who didn't vote Rickey Henderson in, because that that's a shame. He's Rickey Henderson. He's Rickey being Rickey, this guy's numbers are - no one's is better than his. First, he's - you look at his numbers, he's first in almost everything he's ever done.
COX: That's true.
Mr. PHILLIPS: And - but he was 44, 45, out there still stealing bases.
COX: Still stealing bases. Absolutely.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I mean, this guy, there shouldn't have even been a vote for Rickey Henderson.
Mr. PHILLIPS: They should have just gave him the jersey and sent him to Cooperstown. No application needed.
COX: Here's a young guy - we're going to move to college basketball - who is going to be in the - at least at the college ranks at the University of Kentucky, in their Hall of Fame and, who knows what's going to be in his career later on. Carron, I'm talking about Jodie Meeks. I don't know if you guys got to see him in the game, Kentucky against Tennessee. He went off for 54 points. It was an amazing, an amazing college performance, wasn't it?
Mr. PHILLIPS: I didn't actually see the game. I saw the highlights, though. Fourteen of 14 from the free throw line, 10 for 15 from three point line. And he scored 54 only shooting 22 times. People may not think that's a lot after Kobe scored 81 for the Lakers a couple of years back. But you have to remember, in college, there's a 35-second shot clock, so there's less possessions, there's less times for your team to have the ball and less opportunities for you to score. So 54 in a college game, where you can play your true zone defense against the man, that's a lot.
COX: That is a...
Mr. PHILLIPS: That is a great number.
COX: Absolutely. He broke down Issel's scoring record which was set in 1970. I guess this puts him in the conversation with player of the year possibilities, Kevin. Right?
Mr. FIGGERS: Oh, man. I mean, he's been good all year long. You know, he's a - he's got good numbers. I think he's one of the top scorers in the SCC. Player of the year honors, I'm not sure where he - I don't think he's going to pass up Blake Griffin from Oklahoma or players like that with his more performance. It definitely puts his name on the map for people who didn't know who Jodie Meeks was. Anybody that watched Kentucky has known the last couple of years how good a player that he actually is. But it was actually - it was an amazing performance from what he did. You rarely ever see that in college basketball with the quarter so compact and the defense is so - it's like you said, the zone defense is so good. You rarely ever see that kind of strong performance in college basketball.
COX: All right, let's end this sports bloggers on this topic. We've got about 30 seconds or so. Charles Barkley. He said he's not a role model now that he's been arrested again talking about alcohol and his, shall we say, sexual escapades.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: I guess he's right. He ain't a role model, is he? Carron?
Mr. PHILLIPS: He said he wasn't a role model. He isn't one, but we need Charles back on the air. He made the right decision, but I'll be happy to see him back on TNT in a couple of weeks.
COX: People are missing and the show's not the same without him, is it, Kevin?
Mr. FIGGERS: No. Not even, no. Charles makes that show. I like Kenny and those guys, but Charles - Charles is the face of that show.
COX: He just needs to behave himself.
Mr. FIGGERS: Mm hmm.
COX: All right, gentlemen. I appreciate your coming on. Carron Phillips blogs at TheMavenReport.com, joining us from Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta, and Kevin Figgers writes the blog for sports station AM570Radio.com. He joined us right here in our studios at NPR West.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.