Column as I see ’em:
So the Bills finally came to their senses and brought in an experienced quarterback to back up EJ Manuel. One week before the season opener, they signed veteran Kyle Orton to be No. 2.
I know this won’t go over well with a lot of fans, but Doug Whaley basically brought back Ryan Fitzpatrick. Seriously, take off the name at the top of Orton’s biography and you’ll notice a stunning resemblance to Fitz – that is, minus the overgrown beard and the Harvard degree.
Orton is 10 days older than Fitzpatrick. They both turn 32 in November. Orton came into the league in 2005, like Fitz. This is five NFL teams for both. Orton has started 70 games in the league. Fitz 77.
Their stats are almost identical, if you compare Orton to Fitz as a Bill. For his career, Orton has 83 touchdown passes and 59 interceptions. Fitz had 80 TD passes and 64 picks as a Bill. Orton has a career rating of 79.9.
Fitz rated 79.8 as a Bill. Fitzpatrick turns it over more. He has thrown one more interception per 100 throws over his career than Orton. Fitz has a higher TD rate.
At any rate, the Bills now have a backup with the experience and skill to keep the offense afloat if Manuel gets hurt – and to push him for the starting job if he doesn’t make tangible progress in Year Two.
That’s one of the reasons Fitz left in the first place. He wanted a chance to compete with a rookie QB for the starting role. Management was understandably reluctant to bring back a failed, familiar QB who might win the job.
Kevin Kolb was expected to push for the job last year, but never gave EJ a real challenge before going down. The Bills carried on without a proven backup, even after Whaley promised they would be a contender this season.
They acknowledged the folly by cutting both Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel and finding Orton, a journeyman who actually looks the part. It’s about time.
September’s arrival always excites me, not because of the NFL season or the return of the corrupt enterprise known as major college football. I’m one of those dinosaurs who loves the climactic final month of baseball season.
I’m an advocate of the wild card. It adds two more teams to the postseason and gives meaning to the pennant races by allowing the six divisional champions to avoid a dangerous one-game wild card playoff.
As of Sunday, there were 15 teams – exactly half the majors – within 3½ games of a wild-card spot. Four of the six divisions were up for grabs. The Pirates and Indians are making charges. So are the Giants, who won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 and are making another even-year bid.
The Yankees are somehow hanging around. They were six games over. 500, despite being outscored overall by 26 runs. It’ll be sad if the season-ending series at Boston has no bearing on the postseason.
This is no longer a shock, but two of the top stories in football Sunday involved domestic violence.
It now appears University of Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw might have been involved in domestic violence the night he sprained his ankles jumping from an apartment balcony. Shaw initially told police he was injured jumping to save his drowning nephew, a story he has since admitted was concocted.
Meanwhile, Ray McDonald, a defensive lineman for the 49ers, was charged with felony domestic violence early Sunday morning, just three days after the NFL amended its personal conduct policy to get tougher on the issue.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he erred by suspending Ray Rice for only two games for dragging his unconscious wife off an elevator. A savvy PR move, but at least he’s acknowledging it’s a real problem in his sport.
Now that John Isner has bowed out in the third round of the U.S. Open, there’s only one person left to hold up the tattered reputation of American tennis in the fourth round – Serena Williams.
Williams, the two-time defending champion, has her work cut out in her pursuit of an 18th Grand Slam title. She hasn’t reached the fourth round of a Slam all season. Her serve looked shaky early in the event and she committed 21 unforced errors in a straight-set win over Varvara Lepchenko in the third round.
Older sister Venus had an encouraging tournament, though she lost in the third round. At 34, Venus has enjoyed her best season in three years, beating Serena along the way. I imagine she has been an inspiration for her sister.
Duquesne gave UB a holy scare in the opener, but at least the Bulls escaped with a win. They’re lucky they didn’t schedule North Dakota State. The Bison won their fifth straight game over an FBS opponent, and 25th straight overall, by stunning Iowa State, 34-14, on Saturday. In the previous four seasons, they had won at Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State and Kansas State.
ND State, the three-time FCS champ, replaced 12 starters and the head coach this year. It didn’t matter. The Bison outgained the Cyclones, 503 yards to 253. They play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
If you think major leaguers are striking out more than ever, you’re right. Teams are striking out 7.7 times a game, a record for the ninth year in a row. Walks are at 2.93 a game, the lowest rate since 1968. For the third straight year, more than 100 players will strike out 100 times. There are many reasons, but the power arms in bullpens are a big factor.
There are 59 relievers averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. So the average team has two guys in the pen who can dominate in late-inning situations. I like pitching, but this isn’t good for the game.
I wasn’t surprised to see Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL draft choice, cut by the Rams, who have one of the best defensive fronts in football. Eight spots were essentially locked up going into training camp and Sam lost a battle to undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.
Sam handled his release with class. He cleared waivers, so he’s free to sign with any team. Maybe the Bills, who need pass rush depth, should take a look.
On draft night, Doug Whaley was “ecstatic” to get offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at 44th overall. He had him rated as a first-rounder. So I figured the kid would have an immediate impact. It hasn’t happened. Kouandjio has struggled and isn’t likely to suit up for the opener. If he had been a seventh-round pick, like Seantrel Henderson, he might have been cut.
Kevin Love is a great rebounder and scorer, a better player than Chris Bosh, but his weak interior defense will be an issue for the Cavaliers. Love’s defensive shortcomings will force LeBron James to be more of a rim defender.
James is capable, but it will wear him down in tight playoff series.
I hate to rain on the farewell tour, but Derek Jeter has no business batting high in the Yankees’ order. Out of 152 qualifying hitters in the big leagues, Jeter is 150th in slugging at .313.