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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: For Pitt hoops … a wakeup call

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> This clearly is going to be the year where Jamie Dixon’s teaching will be put to the test like no other. Pitt has looked sloppy all over the floor through the non-conference schedule, committing turnovers and defensive lapses. In the past, the Panthers have improved, but this team is younger than most. And those returning, notably Ashton Gibbs, are good but hardly great defensive players.

Thing is, practice is over. First Big East game is tonight at Notre Dame at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. And anyone who’s seen Pitt-Irish the past couple years knows that the Irish can be as patient — and boring — as any opponent they face. Pitt’s sloppiness could play right into their hands.

>> Our Josh Yohe writes about Sidney Crosby’s absence this morning. Let me clarify one common misconception that keeps coming up, surprisingly: The Penguins never said Crosby would miss two games and return. They said he’d at least miss those two games but return when ready. You can Google that.

There was no further word on Crosby yesterday, and none is expected in advance of tonight’s faceoff with the visiting Hurricanes.

The question that I have is this: Isn’t anyone worried about Kris Letang?

I can tell you this much: I’ve heard a good bit more about Crosby than I have about Letang, and Letang is an integral part of this franchise’s future.

>> Sports records almost always are subject to some kind of controversy, but I have a really hard time digesting the complaints I was hearing and reading last night that Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record.


In 1984, there was an average of 220 passing yards per game. Now, it’s 240. Big deal. Marino set his figure in six fewer attempts than Brees. Big deal.

Bottom line: Sports change, but numbers aren’t adjusted as we go. Brees earned this record fair and square. The only asterisks I favor are for cheaters.

>> The Pirates still have money to spend, and I’ve heard that top priority is another starting pitcher.

>> Been a couple of quiet days in SteelerLand, with no media access, but that will change a little today with Mike Tomlin’s news conference. I am curious as to your thoughts on this: How do you feel about his handling of the media when you watch these things?

I’ll wait to hear what you have to say before sharing my own.


  1. Michael Redd says:

    Tomlin’s handling of media…. As a Steelers’ fan, I love the fact that he doesn’t really share anything and give opponents any billboard material.Saying all that, I would say Tomlin and the media are both at fault when he has an angry tone with media. The media had a job to do, but some members ask stupid questions or question they know he won’t answer. I would lose my patience with the media for not respecting me by asking sound questions if I was Tomlin. For example, we all know he doesn’t allow his team to use bad calls as an excuse, but the media will ask the same question five different ways. I would tell my own mother where to go if she did that to me.

    DK: Occasionally, Tomlin will discuss bad calls, sometimes at length. In that very same news conference he ended by storming out because of a question about a bad call, he earlier fielded — and answered quite well — two questions about bad calls. Suddenly, the third one — which was not a repetition in any way — was off limits.

    Let me ask if you’d consider this a stupid question: Coach, how tough has it been to have to give a lesser role to a player like Hines Ward who has meant so much to the franchise?

  2. Leah Backus says:

    **insert my standard complaint about NHL injury reporting here** ;-)

  3. Chris R. says:

    I don’t see anything here that would have indicated more than 2 games as a precaution. This is straight from the Pens original release.

  4. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker


    8—Pirates Prospects

    Winter Leagues 12/26 — RBI And Big Run For Hernandez

    Do the Pirates Need a First Baseman?

    Send in Your Questions For the 2012 Prospect Guide Chat
    What Compensation Picks Will the Pirates Receive?

  5. JAL says:

    9 Bucs Dugout

    New Draft Rules Might Not Be So Bad

    10 Rumbunter

    What Will It Take For The Pittsburgh Pirates To Become Respectable Again?


    11 Chicago Tribune

    Cubs close to a deal for Jaramillo, sign ex-Rays RHP Sonnastine

  6. JAL says:

    12 USA Today

    There will be much to commemorate in sports in 2012

    13 Sporting News

    Familiar cycle for A’s has possible ending in sight

    14 Toronto Star

    Griffin: Jack Morris, Larry Walker among my picks for Cooperstown–griffin-jack-morris-larry-walker-among-my-picks-for-cooperstown

    15 NY Baseball Digest

    Scrapheap Pitching Options for the Yankees


    16 PBC Site

    Pirates show promise in encouraging 2011

  7. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers Week 16 Defensive Plays of the Game Highlight Polamalu and Harrison

    Individual Milestones in Play for Several Steelers heading into Final Weekend of 2011 NFL Regular Season

    Memorable Games from 25 Steelers Legends: No. 18 — Andy Russell

    -Steelers Depot

    To Ben or Not to Ben

    -Steelers Gab

    Steelers Game in Cleveland New Years Day Pushed to 4:15pm Start

  8. Drew71 says:

    Sorry Dejan. Can’t answer the question. I try to make it a business practice not to watch press conferences. I get why you have to cause you’re, like, the “press” in conference. But watching that stuff is just a little to much navel gazing for me.

    Now Drew Brees, that is an issue I “get”. I have this theory about fans’ reaction to Brees (and some ‘expects’ too). No idea if this makes sense but it never stopped me before. He is by NFL standards a weaker armed quarterback. (And before anyone jumps on me, so were Joe Montana and Bob Griese.) Brees is one of the best decision makers and most accurate QBs to ever play the game. Ever. As were those other two no-name QBs. But for some reason, those traits are often devalued by at least the casual fan, compared to arm strength, at least until one wins multiple Super Bowls. And sometimes by more than just fans…but by the national media guys too. So that’s why, in my crazy little theory, Brees is often ranked at a level just below Brady and, when healthy Peyton Manning and, now, Aaron Rodgers.

    Over the past several years, before the full emergence of Rodgers last year, all one would hear of the best QBs was Brady-Manning or Manning-Brady, with everyone else lining up below. I did the blue in the face thing trying to insert Brees into that conversation. When talking to fans, there was always a condescendingly “nice” comment about Brees, but he was just not seen at that level.

    So what do you think of my theory?

    I know. Indefensible. (I have to stop that.)

  9. Drew71 says:

    And…Drew Brees just made Dan Marino top-issue-of-the-day relevant, current and newsworthy again. Not that Marino was forgotten or in any way unworthy as a QB. But he clearly is being remembered, and in a hugely positive way, BECAUSE Brees broke the record.

    People do this stuff all the time. What was “old” becomes “forever, since the beginning of time.”

    QUESTION: Quick, whose record did MARINO break?

    Remember, Marino didn’t have that record since the beginning of the NFL.

    And someday someone who is today in 5th grade will break the Brees record (which we’ll refer to as “his” record as if he OWNS it.) And people will suggest asterisks.

    And just like Marino today, Brees will then be glorified for what he accomplished in what will THEN be called a Golden Era. On that day, Brees will again become top-issue-of-the-day relevant, current and newsworthy again. Just because some guy had the NERVE to break HIS record. That he held since, you know, the beginning of the NFL.

    ANSWER: At the time when Marino set HIS record (1984), Dan Fouts was the record holder with just a three year old record.

    Here were the Top Five BEFORE last night. Fouts WAS #5 (now 6). Note that 2-4 occurred AFTER Marino set his record, so the last guy he passed was Fouts. Note also that Brees WAS #2, from 2008. So Brees now has two of the top three seasons.

    PRIOR TO 2011:
    1 Dan Marino Miami Dolphins 5,084 1984
    2 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints 5,069 2008
    3 Kurt Warner St. Louis Rams 4,830 2001
    4 Tom Brady New England Patriots 4,806 2007
    5 Dan Fouts San Diego Chargers 4,802 1981

  10. Diane says:

    Rhetorical question about Kris Letang, correct? Of course penguin fans are worried about Kris Letang! But, have you seen any evidence that the penguins are going to be up front and honest regarding his condition? If the media does not receive a straight answer; me, a normal fan, isn’t about to get more information.
    Recently, it was great to see K Letang doing a public service announcement and also appear in the Christmas greetings !

  11. Steve says:

    Not a stats guy. Surprising to me that ave. passing yards/game is only 20 yards higher this year than 1984. 300 yard passing games seem to be the norm in today’s NFL. What team in today’s NFL is known for having a punishing running game? None really come to mind. The emphasis is on the QB position, passing the ball and the rules have evolved to favor this type of play IMO.

    Hopefully the Panthers can get off to a good start in BE play tonight but the could get “burned” again by the Irish slowdown.

  12. Naje says:

    @DK –
    Beg to differ, big time, about Brees’ record, Dejan. Brees set the record playing 12 of 16 games in a dome. And if that isn’t enough, with lax, really lax rules on what a defensive player can do to a receiver.

    Marino, when he set the record, played 15 games outdoors and one indoors.

    Big difference. Really big. Ask some of the Steelers players, see what they say about the game in 1984 v. the 2011 “arena football” version.

  13. Thundercrack says:

    “Concern is growing for Crosby’s well-being” – very nice article by Yohe.
    His teammates are concerned for him, but some in the media think he will be OK.
    Granted he doesn’t seem as bad off as he was in January. But he is still injured.

    Regarding Letang, I think it was Rob Rossi I heard say last week that he is still suffering from sensitivity from the light. I could be wrong on who said that.

  14. Drew71 says:

    Naje, is your point that it should be asterisked because of the dome thing? If so, I disagree. Brees, in my opinion, earned the record, and two of the top three seasons, based on his merits separate and apart from any comparison to Marino.

    Is your point one of comparison, that Marino was BETTER than Brees based on the stadium evidence that you listed? So far, I agree for more reasons than just the dome.

    But I will withhold final judgment until Brees’ career is over.

  15. Naje says:

    Drew, no on the asterisk, but anyone talking about Brees’ record should put it in proper perspective. 11 of 16 games (sorry, miscalculated above) in a climate controlled environment this year… 10 of 16 games in climate controlled environs in 2008.

    Give those dome games to Marino and you’d probably be talking about 5,500+ yards…

  16. TheSaltyRogue says:

    I’m not looking up the 1984 Dolphins schedule and weather reports, but what I do know is that Marino played 8 times in Miami… hardly Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, or Buffalo.

    Domes have been around a long time – the Marino record has stood for a long time – Drew Brees finally broke it. End of story… the man has had the greatest season ever passing wise.

  17. Drew71 says:

    Fine. To me, this is like arguing Manning vs Brady vs Marino vs Elway vs Montana.

    At some point, the top athletes are so far above anyone else that it doesn’t really matter. Support for any of them is valid. And a franchise would be lucky, blessed, to have any of them.

    So on the point of comparison between Marino and Brees…sure. Ok. As long as it doesn’t devalue or asterisk what Brees is doing, I’ll give you Marino.

    And in 5-7 years when Brees retires, let’s do it again. He has the opportunity to change the argument.

  18. Bizrow says:

    Who had the better receivers? And does that mean anything as to who has the record?

    Just askin…

  19. CWalton_67 says:

    Put me in line with Leah’s comment above. I do not think it would be too much to ask for the Pens to give a weekly update on Sid. The silence is ominous and unfair to a fan base that cares deeply about Sid the person, the, player, and this team. I rarely find any reason to be critical of the Pens, but they are not handling this well.

    Regarding Letang, your point is well taken, DK. However, I think we’ve just become desensitized to the length of his absence by how long Sid has been out. No Pens fan cares any less about #58, and he is in fact, a huge part of the franchise future. It seems that we’ve all learned that it takes a much greater time to truly heal a traumatic brain injury than was previously thought to be the case.

    By the way, Drew Brees is really, really good.

    Give the Pens credit on this point–they are not pressuring players to return to the lineup. Much easier to do when the team is playing well, but I get the feeling they wouldn’t be rushing them back even if the team weren’t winning.

  20. Naje says:

    The thing the stands out about Brees, to me, is his solid, solid footwork. He is so strong in his set… from the feet, up, he’s the best of the “small” quarterbacks. The guy is barely 6’0″ tall.

    You know Brees was a top-tier tennis player in his day… watch him set-up to throw… almost like a tennis serve in his windup and release. His throws are as precise, if not moreso, than Rodgers’. He’s a hall of famer, for sure…

  21. Jandy says:

    I’ve been on record as being more concerned about Letang being out at this point, than Sid. Malkin and Neal have picked up Sid’s scoring. Add Duper to the mix and the Pens are good. It’s been tougher replacing Tanger. Niskanen is doing well trying to fill in, but we still need Tanger. And the fact that NOTHING is said, makes me sick to my stomach.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT minimzing Sid’s condition or the fact that this team needs him. Just right now AT THE END OF THE DAY (had to) this team misses Tanger more right now.

    CWalton & Leah, I’m with you, the Pens could tell us SOMETHING!

    Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, I know I did =)

  22. JohninOshkosh says:

    I think the NL Central is up for grabs. No team in the division strikes me as the type of team that is going to consistently win early and run away with it. Age, health and suspension loom over the division’s best two clubs. I would like to see the Pirates get another starting pitcher. If they are looking for reclamation projects-there are plenty of candidates-Jackson, Kazmir, Oswalt…just to name a few . Also, the talent teams are giving up for established pitchers suggest to me that NH should be making some phone calls regarding Hanrahan.

    I am not generally a big fan of dumpster diving and reclamation projects but I do think the division title is for the taking, and, being a Pirates fan, necessitates that I don’t get my blood pressure up too high when bottom feeding moves are made.

  23. Arriba Wilver says:

    I think some of the controversy over the Brees vs. Marino record is mixing up the question of who’s the greater quarterback or even who’s the greater passer. The record’s the record. That’s objective and it is what it is. And I ain’t stepping into even trying to answer the other questions, which would bring things like who won more Superbowls into the equation and all that entails.

  24. Jandy says:

    DK ~ you asked in our article a couple days back…where you mentioned the Engelland suspension…”Always a White Christmas Here” from December 23…I quote “If everyone gets suspended three games for the type of hit the Penguins’ Derek Engelland delivered, I’m fine with it. If this is the new standard, I’m fine with it. But it most definitely wasn’t Brendan Shanahan’s old standard. He needs to figure it out.”
    Here’s Shanny’s chance. The hit by McLeod from the Avalanche on Spurgeon of the Wild is classic textbook of how NOT to hit. Will it get any suspension? I think not. Or maybe a game. I can’t wait to see if he even has a hearing.

  25. Arriba Wilver says:

    On the question of what we think of the Tomlin approach to news conferences:

    On the one where he ended it because of the questions about the officiating, I saw the media complaints before I heard it, so when I heard it I was looking to see what happened about the officiating questions. Yes, he did end it after only a few questions about it, but he had said since the first one he didn’t want to talk about it. And we know he can’t criticize it directly under the rules, so I didn’t see the problem with his reaction.

    On his overall performance at the conferences, what I see is a guy who initially was certainly more friendly and open at the conferences that Bill Cowher was. Tomlin always had the clipped answer and use of his own terminology to respond to the questions. So I look at that and see the change and have been thinking maybe it has more to do with the media than the coach.

  26. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    So, to sum these up, you’re OK with a head coach pretty much just regularly storming out on the media, even when the questions are perfectly reasonable?

  27. Jandy says:

    Regarding Tomlin and the media ~ He should be like Harrison, say what he thinks, and get fined for it. it’s the new norm!

    ok, I’m kidding…kinda sorta.

    He isn’t allowed to criticize the league. But as far as Hines Ward, why not just speak his mind?

    But to storm out…no, that’s immature.

  28. Arriba Wilver says:

    Regularly? I thought we were talking about one incident where he stormed out. And it is your interpretation that the questions were reasonable. He said he didn’t want to talk about it so after answering three questions he didn’t want to talk about he ended the conference. (I don’t know how he left, I heard it on the radio and he ended it by saying something, not just walking out) I’m not there, I was providing what I thought you were asking for, which was a perspective. I compared it to how Cowher was.

    I am far from a media basher. You asked a question, I provided an answer.

    A wise person once told me if you don’t want to hear the answer don’t ask the question.

    DK: Asking questions is about 90 percent of the job, and I couldn’t care less what the answer is in most cases. That’s up to the interview subject.

    Tomlin has stormed out quite a bit, including one-on-ones, and he’s twice hung up on the visiting team’s media during weekly conference calls. No opposing coach has done that to the Pittsburgh media.

    I honestly don’t care. It affects my life very little. I’m just genuinely curious as to why the public looks at this type of behavior and says, “Yeah, way to go!”

  29. Bizrow says:

    I wish Huntington and Coonelly would storm out, rather than opening their mouths, inserting foot, and removing all doubt….

    Not to be critical, of course

  30. December 27

    53 days until Pirate Spring Training
    75 days until clock is correct on Dejan’s Blog
    52 days consecutive the time has been incorrect

  31. aglebagel says:

    In terms of this debate about whose accomplishment is greater, Marino’s or Brees’s, I was amazed to learn last night that Dan Fouts set the record three times in his career! Now that’s an accomplishment.

  32. Michael Redd says:

    Dejan, Yes I am fine with Tomlin walking out on the media as long as he delivers a winner. It would be great if he was more personable with you guys. I think Dave Wannstedt was cordial to the media, but he was never able to get us past being a mediocre team. I would prefer to have both, but I will clearly take the winning with an attitude versus losing at the expense of being nice to the media. In watching old videos of my Steelers, I also find it hard to believe that Chaz Noll was a bed of roses with the media.

    DK: OK, but how are these things mutually exclusive? You have to be boorish to win?

    Quick, someone tell Dan Bylsma. He’s done nothing but win, and he’s as human as can be.

  33. Oshkosh b’Gosh,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly that NL Central in trouble this year.

    I keep looking for Theo Epstein to make a BIG move in Chicago, like signing Mr. Pleasantly Plump from Milwaukee. Cubs pitching could be pretty good if Zambrano has a brain transplant. (Maybe he can have Pedro Alvarez’s: he’s not using it.) I can’t believe there isn’t going to be a “splash” move for the Cubs. It’s too much in fantasy Theo’s nature.

    I can’t see Neal Huntington paying $8-10 million a year for a pitcher, so no Oswalt or Jackson. Maybe Bartolo Colon will sign here for $5 million.

    Anybody have Scott Olson’s number?

  34. John Lease says:

    I’m sure that someone with an arm half torn off is ready to take one more multi million dollar pay day. Time to brind in Pedro Martinez?

  35. Arriba Wilver says:

    Personally, I wasn’t saying “Way to go.” From my perspective the 49er news conference ending didn’t live up to the hype of some of the outraged descriptions from some in the media. That’s more of a “what’s the big deal?” I don’t watch them all by a long shot, but several I have seen they run out of questions early on. Other than him ending the interview with you when you asked about Hines (which I had forgotten) I had not heard of the other things. I think a lot of it is just having a different set of knowledge to base one’s opinion on. And naturally the media is going to have a different reaction because on the one hand, they know more and see it first hand trying to do their jobs, and on the other it might be viewed a little personally.

    And yes, it would be great if he would handle the questions more adeptly than just giving up, but as MR said, it’s all about the record, which isn’t too shabby.

  36. Justin says:

    mlbtraderumors has the pirates as a darkhorse for Edwin Jackson. for what it’s worth.

    any of Maholm, Jackson, Francis, Harden could definitely boost the rotation. i think they’ll snag one of these guys.

  37. JohninOshkosh says:

    Mr. Groat et al tweaks an interesting idea: why not pursue Zambrano. Sure he can be unstable, but Genius Theo would win points with Cub loyalists for getting rid of him. He has unquestionable talent and would no doubt relish the idea of sticking it to the Cubs with a good season. I don’t think the Cubs would ask a lot for him in return. It would all have to be predicated on the Cubs picking up a great deal of his immense contract. If, and it’s a big risky if, he has a year his talents are capable of, the Pirates might be able to use him as trade bait next winter.

  38. dillonerd says:

    With Tomlin I think he takes his job very seriously and in some cases way too seriously. You are coaching a football team, not the POTUS taking questions on the Iraq War. You are correct that you are doing your job and he should realize that the media helps interest by writing stories and hyping games, etc. If the NFL did not think that the media was important they wouldn’t make these meetings mandatory. Maybe he got burned by a media person in the past and just does not trust them.

  39. Poz says:

    I’m trying to recall, Dejan, your comments after Crosby was hit during the Winter Classic. I seem to remember you saying Crosby looked to be in a fog and “not right” during the post-game interview.

    It is indeed difficult to determine the extent of these type of injuries. And I’m certain the Pens would never allow Crosby back on the ice if there was a chance he was suffering from a concussion. But I found it curious what you observed after the Winter Classic (if I remembered correctly), compared to the Pens claim that Crosby suffered “a neck injury” and was ready to go next game.

    DK: That is what I wrote that very same day. Regarding the neck injury, that was the only pain Crosby himself could recall having after the Winter Classic.

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