Gordon-Johnson Feud Reaches Boiling Point

April 27, 2010

Jeff Gordon said in the offseason that the success of teammate Jimmie Johnson with four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships has put a strain on their friendship.

After the race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, one would ask, what friendship?

The feud between the Hendrick Motorsports’ teammates seemed to hit the tipping point, especially evident after Gordon’s post-race comments during the live television coverage.

“The 48 (Johnson) is testing my patience, I can tell you that,” said Gordon, during an interview with FOX. “It takes a lot to make me mad, and I am pissed right now. When a car’s going that much faster, I don’t know what it is with me and him right now—but whatever.”

In the final laps at Talladega, it appeared that Johnson forced Gordon below the yellow line (out of bounds at Talladega) when Gordon had a powerful draft.  The block forced Gordon to slow down, stacking up traffic behind him.

The first appearances of a feud between the two drivers that share a shop at Hendrick Motorsports was in last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.  Johnson was upset over how aggressive Gordon was racing him early in the race.

Ironically, Gordon hand-picked Johnson to drive the 48 car back in 2001, and became full time in 2002.  Since then, Johnson has become the most successful driver at NASCAR’s top level, since his mentor, Jeff Gordon.

No matter which driver you pull for, you have to love a good rivalry.  However, you don’t like to see a rivalry inside the same team.

Fans believe Gordon has regained the fire that he had back in the 1990s, but Gordon maintains that the fire has always been there.  The reason it is being seen this year:  Gordon is being given some of the best cars in recent memory.

Johnson, on the other hand, has dominated the sport the past 8 years, including the run of four consecutive championships.  For the first time in the run of championships, however, he is feeling threatened by another driver.

Whether the admission of guilt in the incident Monday was prompted by team owner Rick Hendrick or just a self-admission, Johnson seems to try and continue to take the corporate high road through this feud.

It kind of reminds this race fan of when a brash California kid entered the sport to challenge its long standing Southern roots.

After the Dale Earnhardt Sr.-Jeff Gordon feuds of the 90s, it is the ultimate corporate driver versus the series’ status quo.  Johnson, who is the perfect face for any potential sponsor is facing off against a NASCAR veteran.

Like the Earnhardt-Gordon rivalry of the 90s, this rivalry is fueled more than anything for the immense respect each driver has for the other.

Lets face it, there had to have been something that told Gordon that fellow California native Johnson would bring him four consecutive owners championships (Gordon is officially the listed owner of Johnson’s 48 car, even though Rick Hendrick truly owns the team).

Is it the best thing for the sport’s two top drivers and teammates are engaging in an intense rivalry?  Who knows.

Regardless, NASCAR, a sport that is struggling in attendance, television ratings, and attracting new sponsors and fans will ride the explosion of this rivalry as long as it can.


Section 26 Sports Final Mock Draft

April 20, 2010

So here it is folks.  This is the final NFL mock draft of the year.  This mock draft is full of interesting draft picks that you may not see anywhere else.

And keep in mind I don’t do trades in my mocks.  They get way too complicated and are impossible to predict.   I could easily see some teams, especially Detroit trading down, and some others, especially Oakland or Cleveland trading up at some point.

Round One

1. St Louis – Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma – They obviously need a franchise QB and Bradford is tops in the draft class.
2. Detroit – Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska – I could easily see a trade down here. Detroit has holes to fill as positions with depth in the draft (RB, OT, DT). However, because I don’t do trades, they take Suh.
3. Tampa Bay – Gerald McCoy DT Oklahoma – Defensive line help is the biggest need for Tampa and they get an elite DT.
4. Washington – Russell Okung OT Oklahoma St – Chris Samuels retired and Washington got their QB in McNabb. Step 2 is the franchise LT, Okung.
5. Kansas City – Trent Williams OT Oklahoma – Kansas City could go in quite a few directions here, but if they’re smart they’ll go with the offensive line. Branden Albert faded quickly last season and they need someone to fill in and protect Cassel.
6. Seattle – Bryan Bulaga OT Iowa – With Seattle’s two first round picks, they will try to bolster the trenches. It seems sure one of the top two DE’s should drop to them later so they take Bulaga here.
7. Cleveland – Eric Berry FS Tennessee – It is amazing Berry fell this far and Cleveland should be thrilled. They fill a need with one of the top players in the draft. Berry will also help in the return game which would assist Cribbs moving to WR permanently.
8. Oakland – Bruce Campbell OT Maryland – This is a HUGE reach. Campbell is not a top player, but he’s very athletic for a tackle and, well, this is Al Davis after all.
9. Buffalo – Anthony Davis OT Rutgers – Buffalo has one of the worst offensive lines in the league so they desperately need to address it. With a line that bad, it doesn’t matter who is at QB. Anthony Davis is a bull when run blocking and Buffalo will have to rely on their run game, as they have no pass game. This seems a natural pick.
10. Jacksonville – Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech – Morgan is the best pass rushing DE in the draft and he will go to the worst pass rushing team in the NFL, Jacksonville. Jacksonville did sign Aaron Kampman, but that won’t be enough. This will give youth and fire to the weak defensive line.
11. Denver (from Chicago) – Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma St – As expected, Brandon Marshall is gone. We also found out that Tony Scheffler is going to Detroit. Eddie Royal is a good WR, but not a number one option. They need an elite receiver and Bryant is the best in the class.
12. Miami – Dan Williams DT Tennessee – Miami has a few needs but nose tackle is a glaring one. However, if they do trade Ronnie Brown, CJ Spiller could jump up to this pick for Miami.
13. San Francisco – Joe Haden CB Florida – Haden does not fill their strongest needs, offensive line and quarterback, but he’s the best player available and the 49ers have two first round picks. He’s worth the pick here as a top notch player.
14. Seattle (from Denver) – Jason Pierre-Paul DE S Florida – As stated before, Seattle has to start from the inside out with the trenches. It’s time for the defensive line and Jason Pierre-Paul is the pick. He can play a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 rush LB. Here he’ll play at DE and rush the passer, which is his specialty.
15. NY Giants – Rolando McClain ILB Alabama – Antonio Pierce was a staple on the Giants defense, but his neck injuries led to his release. The Giants need to retool and the best place to start is at MLB. However, if they trade Osi Umenyiora they could draft a DE here, possible Carlos Dunlap.
16. Tennessee – Kyle Wilson CB Boise St – The could go defensive line, but I really think they need to go with a CB here. Wilson is a physical back and fits well with Tennessee’s philosophy.
17. San Francisco (from Carolina) – Jimmy Clausen QB Notre Dame – Some say Clausen would never fall this far, but I really don’t like his future. He has an attitude issue and a slow deliver at times. However, the 49ers need a QB and Clausen has potential.
18. Pittsburgh – Devin McCourty CB Rutgers – The current CB’s on the Steelers’ roster are weak and can’t get it done. McCourty is an underrated CB that will fit well with the Steelers’ defense.
19. Atlanta – Carlos Dunlap DE Florida – Jamaal Anderson is a bust, we all know that now. It’s time to get a young pass rusher to play opposite John Abraham. Dunlap is a big pass rusher with the size and speed to start immediately. He does however have motivation problems at times.
20. Houston – Earl Thomas FS Texas – Houston will need to fill a big need at both safety positions as well as replace CB Dunta Robinson. Here they will go with Thomas who will fall further than his talent level represents. The bottom line is that this is a steal for Houston.
21. Cincinnati – Taylor Mays SS USC – Simply put, Cincinnati needs safety help and they love the USC products. Mays will fit in very well.
22. New England – Sergio Kindle OLB Texas – The Patriots need to fill a pass rushing void and Kindle would work well as a top-level 3-4 pass rusher.
23. Green Bay – CJ Spiller RB Clemson – This is the surprise pick of the draft. Green Bay doesn’t have too strong of a need at RB and Spiller may not fall this far. However, I see him dropping for various reasons, including his horribly low Wonderlic score. Green Bay will fill two secondary needs, backup RB and return specialist.
24. Philadelphia – Kareem Jackson CB Alabama – With Sheldon Brown gone, the Eagles will need a CB opposite Asante Samuel. Jackson is a great talent and will fit very well with the fast, athletic ideals of the Eagles defense.
25. Baltimore – Jermaine Gresham TE Oklahoma – Todd Heap has been invisible for Baltimore lately. They need another pass catcher for Flacco. They picked up Boldin and re-signed Derrick Mason. Here they will get their much needed TE.
26. Arizona – Brandon Graham DE Michigan – Graham is an underrated pass rusher. He will be one of the better 3-4 rush LB’s in this year’s draft. Arizona needs a pass rush. The signing of Joey Porter helps, but he’s already in trouble. They need youth at the position.
27. Dallas – Mike Iupati OG Idaho – Flozell Adams is gone from the offensive line and Dallas was relatively weak at guard last season. Iupati is the next Steve Hutchinson. Dallas gets a great one here.
28. San Diego – Ryan Mathews RB Fresno St – Mathews is the most complete and NFL-ready RB in this draft. San Diego needs to replace Tomlinson and Mathews is the best guy to get it done.
29. NY Jets – Jerry Hughes OLB TCU – Pass rush is a strong need for the Jets, along with FS. Here they get another one of those top-level 3-4 OLB’s. Hughes will come in ready to get some sacks. Even if they do sign Jason Taylor, Hughes is still the pick here.
30. Minnesota – Patrick Robinson CB Florida St – Injuries at CB hurt the Vikings late last year. Here they get Robinson, a great cover CB who can come in ready to start on a powerful Vikings defense.
31. Indianapolis – Brian Price DT UCLA – The Colts need to get depth and competition on their lines and Brian Price is a good start. He’ll compete from day one.
32. New Orleans – Sean Witherspoon LB Missouri – Witherspoon would have gone sooner if the Steelers had not signed Larry Foote or the Eagles had not traded for Ernie Sims. However, here we are. The Saints get a much needed defensive play-maker with the swagger to fit right in with New Orleans.

Round Two
1. St Louis – Everson Griffen DE USC – The Rams need more pass rush help and if they don’t trade for Osi Umenyiora, Griffen is a great pick here.
2. Detroit – Jahvid Best RB California – If the Lions trade for a RB, expect Penn St LB Novorro Bowman to be the pick here. However, they need more stability at RB and Best is a big play threat and elite return man.
3. Tampa Bay – Arrelious Benn WR Illinois – With Antonio Bryant in Cincinnati, Josh Freeman needs something resembling an offensive weapon. Benn is a good start.
4. Kansas City – Terrence Cody DT Alabama – Scott Pioli wants his “Vince Wilfork” and that’s what Cody is. He eats space at NT which is what the Chiefs need.
5. Philadelphia (From Washington) – Maurkice Poucey OL Florida – Interior offensive line is a need for Philadelphia. Pouncey falls a little far and the Eagles get a steal here.
6. Cleveland – Colt McCoy QB Texas – This is a little bit of a reach, but McCoy will fit with Cleveland well and could adapt into a very efficient QB.
7. Oakland – Linval Joseph DT E Carolina – This is another reach, but Joseph has the measurables to be an elite NT in the NFL in time. Joseph is 6’4″ 328 pounds, had 39 reps on the bench press and ran his 40-yard dash in less than 5.00.
8. San Diego – Cam Thomas DT N Carolina – Another NT off the board. Jamal Williams is in Denver so the Chargers need to replace him very quickly.
9. Buffalo – Ricky Sapp OLB Clemson – Buffalo still needs a lot and a pass rushing OLB in their new 3-4 defense is much needed.
10. Tampa Bay (From Chicago) – Donovan Warren CB Michigan – Aside from Aqib Talib, there is no Buccaneer CB with a future.
11. Denver (from Miami) – Jared Odrick DT Penn St – Odrick will be a great 3-4 DE and will fit in nicely next to newly acquired NT Jamal Williams.
12. New England (From Jacksonville) – Lamar Houston DT Texas – The same assessment from Odrick goes for Houston. The Patriots need to get younger up front and Houston will fit in nicely.
13. Denver – Vladmir Ducasse OG UMass – Denver is filling many needs in this draft and interior offensive line is just another one. Ducasse is underrated because he comes form UMass.
14. NY Giants – Geno Atkins DT Georgia – With Fred Robbins gone to the Rams, the Giants need a new DT quickly. Atkins will come in ready to make an impact. However, he is one of those players that could also easily slip to the third round. Luckily for him, DT is a league-wide need this year.
15. Carolina – Mardy Gilyard WR Cincinnati – Steve Smith wanted more speed at WR. Gilyard provides that, as well as return skills.
16. New England (From Tennessee) – Jonathan Dwyer RB Georgia Tech – It is time for Moroney to go away and Dwyer would be ready to play right away for the Patriots.
17. San Francisco – Charles Brown OT USC – The 49ers got their QB and an elite CB prospect. Here they get a big, smart tackle with great footwork.
18. Houston – Ben Tate RB Auburn – Houston needs RB depth and Tate is very underrated. He has a fair blend of speed and power. He will fit nicely with the Texans.
19. Kansas City (From Atlanta) – Kao Misi OLB Utah – Kansas City has their linemen and now need a good pass rusher. Misi is an underrated prospect that will fit in as a 3-4 OLB.
20. Pittsburgh – Demaryius Thomas WR Georgia Tech – Thomas doesn’t run the best routes, but he’s got the physical tools most WR’s dream about. With Holmes traded to the Jets and Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El aging, the Steelers need a young possession receiver.
21. New England – Damien Williams WR USC – The WR corps in New England is aging. Luckily the Patriots have four picks in the first two rounds and can afford to use one on a WR. Williams has soft hands and runs smooth routes, exactly what you need in the Patriots’ offense.
22. Cincinnati – Aaron Hernandez TE Florida – The Bengals have gotten their WR’s and now need a pass-catching TE. Hernandez isn’t much for blocking but he’s an elite receiving threat at TE.
23. Philadelphia – Nate Allen FS S Florida – The Eagles need to upgrade at the safety position, Allen is a great talent.
24. Green Bay – Chris Cook DB Virginia – Cook can play both CB and FS, both of which are aging positions for the Packers.
25. Baltimore – Golden Tate WR Notre Dame – Baltimore is making an offensive overhaul early in the draft. Tate will be an amazing slot receiver inside of Boldin and Mason and his speed will match perfectly with Flacco’s strong arm.
26. Arizona – Kyle Galloway OT Iowa – Arizona needs depth and competition at LT and Galloway could come in ready to compete.
27. Dallas – Jordan Shipley WR Texas – This isn’t an obvious need for Dallas, but Shipley is a Texas man and a great return man. Patrick Crayton needs to stop returning punts. Shipley will be the new and improved Patrick Crayton.
28. Seattle – Dexter McCluster RB Mississippi – While not a typical NFL RB, McCluster does provide a firm change of pace for Seattle’s offense as well as versatility to play in the slot, in the Wildcat and in the return game.
29. NY Jets – Morgan Burnett FS Georgia Tech – Burnett simply fills the void left by Rhodes who left for Arizona. Keep in mind, Burnett is a high-risk/high-reward type player. Potentially a bust.
30. Minnesota – Chad Jones FS LSU – Chad Jones is a smart athlete, and solidifies the defensive secondary for Minnesota along with first round pick Patrick Robinson.
31. Indianapolis – Rodger Staffold OT Indiana – Staffold is a highly underrated OT in the draft. He’s not quite first round talent, but very close on some people’s boards. The Colts continue to help their lines.
32. New Orleans – Alex Carrington DE Arkansas St – The Saints partially addressed DE in the offseason, but Carrington will provide depth for a team that needs defensive line help.

There are some interesting picks, I know. I’m sure it won’t turn out just like this, but these would be interesting picks. I could see all of these happening, even though they may not.

And some other prospects that could fit into the second round in some way:
Corey Wooton DE Northwestern – He has the talent to go in the first round, but the lack of 4-3 DE needs drops his chances.
Brandon Spikes LB Florida – Spikes was originally seen as first round talent but ended up slow and out of shape.  He should fall to the late third round.
Brandon LaFell WR LSU – Depending on the type of WR a team is looking for, LaFell could go in the middle of the second round.
Navorro Bowman LB Penn St – I originally had Bowman to the Saints in the first round, but with Witherspoon falling to them, and the lack of a desire for 4-3 OLB’s dropped Bowman very far.
Daryl Washington LB TCU – Washington can play any LB position in a 4-3 or an inside LB in the 3-4 defense.  He’s very versatile on defense, but barely misses the cut.
Eric Norwood LB South Carolina – Norwood is no longer looked at strictly as a 3-4 OLB.  He has dropped weight and added mobility to increase his ability to play OLB in a 4-3.
Mike Johnson OG Alabama – Very few guards get taken in the first two rounds it seems and Johnson drops some because of that.

2010 NFL Draft Breakdown

April 5, 2010

With the 2010 NFL Draft less than a month away, we at Section 26 Sports can officially say we have a position-by-position breakdown of each position.

We have talked about in on air many times, and so to prove that we actually have the ‘big board,’ check out the picture below.

It may be fairly low-key compared to all those television draft experts, but it serves the exact same purpose.