New York Giants: Marc Colombo firing reportedly due to fight with Joe Judge

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants surprised everyone by moving on from offensive line coach Marc Colombo in the middle of the season, but this story has more turns than initially believed. At first, it looked like the Giants were just making a move based on performance. Their offensive line has been improving, but started off as one of the worst in the league. The team making a change just because of the poor results doesn’t seem too far out of the range of likely events.

But there’s more to this story than just that. According to a report from Jordan Raanan, Colombo reacted negatively when informed of the plans to hire Dave DeGuglielmo as a consultant. Of course, in the end, DeGuglielmo ended up taking the job outright. But it doesn’t seem like that was the plan the whole time.

Colombo did not agree with the move and felt that he was being undermined, a source told ESPN, due to DeGuglielmo’s background as an offensive line coach. Another source added that the hands-on Judge wanted to bring in “one of his guys” to capture more control at a position that is not his expertise.

The report says that Judge and Colombo got into an argument that involved plenty of name calling. For most coordinators in the league, getting into that kind of argument with the head coach is a good way to lose job security, and that’s what happened to Colombo in the end. What does this mean for the Giants?

Joe Judge leaving his mark on the coaching staff

Judge has something of a reputation so far as being a tough but fair head coach, and this seems to back that up further. Earlier in the season, Judge chose to come down on Golden Tate for his outbursts by leaving him out of the Washington game. Now, Marc Colombo has been removed from his position after a vocal argument. However, in both cases, it looks like the actions taken have been mostly justified.

That sets the management style of Judge apart from Dave Gettleman. After all, many still believe that Gettleman drove off players mainly for the crime of being outspoken and too challenging for the management.

The new hire also means there’s a bit more uniformity on the coaching staff. As we know, Colombo wasn’t Judge’s guy. He was Jason Garrett’s guy, and the stylistic difference between Colombo’s way of doing things and Judge’s way of doing them didn’t seem to bring good results. But with Judge’s new hire, the position group may benefit from a coach that’s more in tune with the team’s new systems overall.

And while it’s possible to argue that Judge is overreaching by putting his own guy into place as the offensive line coach, taking a more active role in the team’s vision like this is better than more passive approaches by predecessors Pat Shurmur and Ben McAdoo.

NASCAR: Matt Kenseth’s days of full-time racing are “over”

Kenseth had returned to the NASCAR Cup Series to take over for the fired Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

After nearly two full decades on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, it appears Matt Kenseth is finally ready for the checkered flag.

The 2003 Cup Series champion revealed to Tamira Madsen of the Wisconsin State Journal that he will more than likely no longer in NASCAR on a full-time basis. Kenseth has come out of retirement twice, including this past season, since originally departing in 2017.

I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that my days in professional racing, at least full-time professional racing, are over,” Kenseth told Madsen. “I look forward to doing late model stuff or IMSA, or something like that. A little bit here or there. As far as NASCAR racing full-time or professional racing, those days are behind me.”

Kenseth, 48, returned to NASCAR to sub in for Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson had previously been fired from the vehicle after using a racial slur during a streamed virtual event on the iRacing platform. Kenseth made his CGR debut when NASCAR returned from the coronavirus-induced pause at Darlington Raceway in May. Such a move reunited Kenseth with Kurt Busch, modern driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet for Ganassi. The duo previously starred at Roush Racing at the turn of the century, bringing the team championships in back-to-back seasons.

Kenseth’s return got off to a good start with a 10th-place finish in The Real Heroes 400, but he struggled over the remainder 32 races of the year, earning only one other top-ten finish, doing when he finished second to Kevin Harvick at Indianapolis. He expressed disappointment over failing to generate more momentum in the No. 42, partly blaming the lack of qualifying and practice, a loss made necessary as NASCAR trimmed their race weekends to a single day in the era of social distancing.

Finishing second at Indy was the highlight of our year,” Kenseth said. “We didn’t get any decent momentum or consistency to build off of. We had competitive runs here and there. We had a little bit of momentum going at times, and other times it felt like we were going backward.”

If this is truly the end for Kenseth, 2020 shouldn’t sully what’s been a strong NASCAR career. Kenseth’s dominant performance guided him to the 2003 Cup Series title, the last season held without a playoff system. Other accolades at the Cup level include the 2000 Rookie of the Year Award, two Daytona 500 victories (2009, 2012), and 39 race victories overall in a 19-year full-time career at Roush and Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth had previously come out of retirement to race in 2018, driving Roush’s No. 6 Ford on a part-time basis after the demotion of Trevor Bayne. The 2019 season was the first Cup Series season that did not feature Kenseth on the track since 1997.

“I will say that 2019 was one of the best years of my life,” Kenseth recalled in Madsen’s report. “I had tons of free time, and had a great time with Katie and the kids. There was no stress and we spent the whole summer together doing whatever we wanted to do. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity at Ganassi and thankful that I did it. I was kind of getting the itch to go race again. So there was a lot of good that came about.”

Kenseth is one of three full-time drivers to retire after the 2020 season, joining Clint Bowyer and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. It had previously been announced that NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran Ross Chastain would inherit the No. 42 from Kenseth next season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks land Immanuel Quickley with 25th overall selection from Oklahoma Thunder

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

In a crazy turn of events, the New York Knicks turned the 27th overall pick into the 25th overall pick, exchanging draft capital with a number of teams. After taking Obi Toppin with the 8th overall selection, a big power forward who is an elite scorer in transition, general manager Leon Rose realized that his team needed a pure shooter.

With the 25th overall selection, which was sent over by the Oklahoma Thunder, the Knicks landed Immanuel Quickley, a 6-foot-4, 188-pound point guard. He emerged as one of the top guards in college basketball, winning SEC Player of the Year honors. This past year, Quickley averaged 18.4 points and 4.6 rebounds, shooting 48% from three and 92% from the free-throw line.

Quickley is a legitimate shooting guard, and the Knicks desperately needed a player of his magnitude on the roster. While most didn’t have him pegged as a first-round pick, he fills an essential need for the Knicks, someone that can you can kick the ball out to an expect three-pointers from. He also was one of the best defenders at the college level, having the ability to slow down guards, wings, and forwards. He’s an excellent perimeter shooter, and the next will hopefully insert him into their lineup alongside RJ Barrett.

Extending the floor is what you should think of when Quickley comes to mind — a long guard who will pair well with Toppin on transition.

New York Knicks select Leandro Bolmaro with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft

New York Knicks, Leandro Bolmaro

After selecting Obi Toppin with the 8th overall pick, a power forward with a big frame, and offensive scoring abilities, the New York Knicks elected to go a different direction with the 23rd overall selection.

To review, Toppin is an explosive player around the rim who can draw in rebounds and finish with tenacity. His dunking ability is as good as any, and is an incredible transition scorer, something the Knicks are attempting to improve on moving forward. With a stagnant offense at times, the Knicks and new general manager Leon Rose are looking to improve their offense — Toppin offers just that.

The primary issue with Obi is his defense or lack thereof. He’s a bit old at 22 for a rookie, but there’s plenty of rook for development, and he’s eager to be in New York and attack the challenge.

Who did the New York Knicks land at 23?

The Knicks landed Leandro Bolmaro with the 23rd overall pick, a shooting guard Argentina. At 6-foot-7, 182 pounds, he’s a lanky guard who has room to grow.

Here’s a look at his strengths and weaknesses, via ESPN:

Strengths
– Good size at 6-foot-7 for someone who can play point guard.
– Creative ball handler who plays at different speeds and shows excellent passing ability off a live dribble. Manipulates defenses with pace, skill and feel. Uses floaters and touch shots to finish creatively around the basket.
– Plays with energy defensively. Attentive and aware both on and off the ball. Quick feet sliding and containing in small spaces. Gets into passing lanes.

Improvement areas
– Lacks a degree of strength and explosiveness athletically. Can’t always beat better defenders from a standstill. Has struggled to put the ball in the basket at times against higher-level competition.
– Career 30% 3-point shooter on more than 300 attempts and a 68% free throw shooter. Just how good of a shooter can he become? Low, clunky release limits him at times against better defenders.
– Hasn’t been seen nearly as much as other international players in this draft. Played only 388 minutes this season, rotating between Barcelona’s first and second teams.

UPDATE: The Knicks immediately traded Bolmaro to the Minnesota Timberwolves, for the 25th and 33rd overall picks in return, and interesting turn of events. 

New York Jets: Three takeaways from the Pierre Desir release #TakeFlight

New York Jets, Pierre Desir

The release of Pierre Desir leaves some lasting ripple effects across the remainder of this New York Jets season…and beyond.

Another week, another veteran bid farewell in the New York Jets organization.

The Jets released starting cornerback and team interceptions leader Pierre Desir on Tuesday, ending his New York career after nine games. Desir joined Steve McLendon and Avery Williamson as Jets defenders that have been sent away in the midst of this lost season.

How does this affect the Jets (0-9) moving forward? ESM investigates…

Let the Kids Play

The macabre silver lining on the Jets’ side is that their winless status leaves them with nothing to lose from a team standpoint, allowing them seven more consequence-free games, seven chances at free research and development for 2021 and beyond. We’ve seen it on offense with Denzel Mims starring on the receiving front and La’mical Perine seeing his workload increase with Le’veon Bell gone. Defensively, this should be fifth-round rookie Bryce Hall’s time to shine. Hall previously relieved Desir through coaching decisions in the late portions of the most recent loss to the New England Patriots.

It certainly appeared that the release of Desir was at least partially made with the younger players in mind after head coach Adam Gase’s comments on Wednesday.

“I think where we’re at right now we’re really looking to play as many of these young guys as possible,” Gase said, Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “We just felt like it was the right decision to give him an opportunity to go try to get an opportunity somewhere else. I don’t think a guy with that experience and a guy that’s been a starter for multiple teams, kind of having him play scout team, and possibly be inactive or a backup really wasn’t fair to him. So, we felt like this was the best decision to make and get these young guys out there and play those guys.”

Hall began his NFL career with placement on the COVID-19/reserve list before being moved to the non-football injury list in September. He was activated for his debut in the New England game and earned two tackles. Desir’s departure could be a big opportunity for both he and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson. The undrafted Jackson could return to secondary after partaking almost exclusively on special teams over the past few weeks.

Not-So-Lucky Horseshoes

While Joe Douglas’ inaugural draft class has worked out, for the most part, his free agency class has left much to be desired. That’s particularly true for a triumvirate of former Indianapolis Colts defenders who are no longer with the team.

Desir’s release comes after the Jets already bid farewell to his Racing Capital comrades in Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson. Hairston was serviceable in relief but struggled in two games this season prior to his October waiving. Wilson, brought in through a trade on draft day, likewise failed to make an impact and was let go last week. The previously released pair have already found new homes, with Hairston going to the Ravens and Wilson joining the Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants in blue. Desir has had a tough season (his receivers earned 35 catches against him, ninth-worst in football), but he still has enough talent and experience to head to a contender’s roster and contribute to a playoff run, much like he did during his Indianapolis tenure.

That doesn’t do the Jets any good in the meantime, and the Jets absorb $3.5 million in cap space with the release of Desir, equaling his guaranteed money upon taking a Jets uniform. Fortunately for their cap situation (just over $29 million currently), nothing adversely affects 2021 (where they still have an excess of $80 million to spend). It simply doesn’t bode well for Douglas’ first free agency class that two members (plus one from last season) are already gone.

Park the Tank

Many Jets fans are completely indifferent as to whether they win or lose at all in 2020. The hardly-restrained jubilation seen when the Jets blew their lead against the Patriots on social media showed just how apathetic or numb fans have become to this woebegone season. Losing, in their eyes, only contributes to the cause of earning the top overall pick next spring. If it means joining the Lions and Browns in 0-16 infamy, so be it.

But the release of Desir shows that any deviation from a full effort will not be tolerated in New York.

As New England made their comeback, some saw Desir slacking and not chasing after receivers at full speed, leading to his benching for the remainder of the game. Now that he’s gone, it’s up to Hall and company to rise where Desir fell. Being an accomplished veteran isn’t enough to exempt a player from trying to erase the goose egg that resides in the Jets’ win column. Time will tell if it allows them to avoid an imperfect fate, but it’s clear that the Jets believe that Hall gives them the best chance to win a football game.

“Some of these guys that are really young, they’re fun to coach because these guys, they’re all ears, they’re trying to do everything possible to put themselves and the team in the best position possible,” Gase said in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “Last year was a good example of having success with some of these guys that a lot of people didn’t think were very good, and we were able to win some games because of it. We’ve just got to keep getting these guys better and find a way to win it at the end of the game. When we get to the fourth quarter and it’s a close game, let’s go win one of these things.”

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Obi Toppin on reppin’ New York: ‘I’m not going to take it for granted’

Like manna from heaven, Obi Toppin fell to Leon Rose’s lap at No. 8.

On a day the New York Knicks frantically tried to trade up, fearing Toppin will be gone by the time they pick, it turned out they didn’t need to.

With FSU’s Patrick Williams and Auburn’s Isaac Okoro shaking up all the mock drafts by going fourth and fifth picks, respectively, the set was stage for Toppin to fall all the way to eighth, just like how the Knicks have wanted it.

Toppin, whose game was made in New York playgrounds, was emotional after it hit him that he’s coming home.

“I’m from New York. Me reppin’ my city is amazing. A lot of people pray to be in this position, I’m not going to take it for granted,” an emotional Toppin said. “I promise you that.”

The 22-year old Toppin will come in and inject excitement to a Knicks team looking to make a major turnaround after seven straight seasons of being in the lottery.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks select Obi Toppin with 8th overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

After a tumultuous 2019-20 season, the New York Knicks were looking to bolster their team with a premium pick in the 202 NBA Draft, unfortunately, the lottery did not fall their way. The Knicks landed the 8th overall selection, putting them out of reach for the top prospects in the draft, but they managed to land a premium player regardless.

New York native Obi Toppin, who dropped to the 8th pick for the Knicks, was their easy selection.

Toppin’s godfather and mentor, Victor Monaros believed that despite being a bit undersized in high school, the young power forward had an advantage.

“He learned to understand how to play at a high level against the nationally-ranked programs. It’s not like going to a typical high school. For him coming in just to get the chance to play against the best kids, compete against the best talents all over the country. That was one of the biggest adjustments for him —understanding the pace of the game at a high level. Once he embraced that, we started to see him getting unleashed and make that great strides.”

Toppin spoke with the Knicks in a pre-draft interview, in which he stated it went “very well.”

“I spoke with the Knicks,” Toppin said on an NBA Zoom, according to Empire Sports Media’s own Alder Almo. “I had an interview with them. It went very well. They have a great organization. It would be great to go home but there’s a lot of other teams that are in front of them that are great too.”

For Dayton during the 2019-20 season, Toppin averaged 20 points and 6.4 defensive rebounds per game. He shot .633 from the field and .390 from beyond the arc, while he seldom took shots from downtown.

According to ESPN, Toppin is an “explosive leaper with solid size. Big hands. Runs the floor hard. One of the most efficient transition finishers in college basketball. Lob threat out of pick-and-roll and from the dunker spot.”

This is a big move for the Knicks, who needed to add a powerful player in their front-court, and Toppin fits the bill perfectly.

Bellator 253 Preview: AJ McKee – Darrion Caldwell

AJ McKee

Bellator returns tomorrow night with the continuation of their featherweight grand prix. Tomorrow night’s headliner is the first semi-final matchup where the undefeated phenom, AJ McKee (16-0), will take on former champion, Darrion Caldwell (15-3).

Caldwell is the former Bellator bantamweight champion of the world. When he was crowned the champion at 135 pounds, Caldwell had only lost one fight in his career to Joe Taimanglo. However, he immediately avenged that one loss in his next fight.

Caldwell looked poised to have a long reign in the Bellator bantamweight division until he ran into Kyoji Horiguchi. Caldwell fought Horiguchi over in Rizin and lost by submission. Bellator then brought Horiguchi over to Bellator to face Caldwell in a rematch.

That fight went the distance, but the result was the same. After suffering back to back losses, Caldwell decided to move up to featherweight. He’s looked dominant at 145 winning both of his first two matchups.

AJ McKee is such a dynamic talent for Bellator. The undefeated McKee is dangerous wherever the fight goes. He’s got slick submissions on the ground and he has tremendous kickboxing skills on the feet.

Out of his 16 professional wins, only five have gone the distance. However, only one fight in his last five has gone to the judges scorecards. In his last four finishes, McKee has two first round knockouts and two third round submissions. Showing off his diverse skillset.

Bellator 253 Prediction

The odds have been drastically shifting for the Bellator 253 main event. When the odds first opened, they were extremely even. However, there are some lines that are showing McKee upwards towards a -300 favorite.

I think McKee should be the betting favorite, but those odds are off in my opinion. I think this fight is going to be very close. Both of these men have such well rounded games that it will look like a chess match at times.

I think we will learn a lot from the striking in the first round. To me it’s going to come down to who is more efficient and quick with their shots in this one. I think Caldwell is so good, but I think McKee is just a little better wherever the fight goes. It’s close, but I think McKee stays perfect.

Prediction: AJ McKee by Unanimous Decision

New York Giants need to see offensive line improve after bye week

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants made a shocking move today, firing offensive line coach Marc Colombo after only ten weeks with the team. According to reports, head coach Joe Judge made the decision to fire Colombo after a verbal altercation that saw Colombo insubordinate the team’s head coach. Now, Dave DeGuglielmo will serve as the team’s offensive line coach.

The Giants’ offensive line has struggled immensely in 2020. But, over the past few weeks, there has been some improvement. According to reports, this is correlated to the fact that Joe Judge has spent more time coaching the offensive line himself.

New York’s offensive line is a point of weakness. Judge and DeGuglielmo now have a whole bye week to work together and try to fix the offensive line’s issues. As the Giants make a late-season playoff push, it is crucial that the offensive line improves after the bye week to keep the Giants in the hunt.

New York Giants Offensive Line Stats

Despite investing a hefty amount of assets into the offensive line this offseason, the Giants’ front unit has not looked improved this year. Granted, there have been slight week-to-week improvements from individual linemen, but overall it has been a struggle for this positional group.

According to Pro Football Focus, through ten games, the Giants are last in pass-block grade (47.2) and 29th in run-block grade (56.9). PFF also states that quarterback Daniel Jones has been pressured on 42.9% of dropbacks this season (second among qualifying quarterbacks). Over the last four games, Jones has been pressured on 41.1% of his dropbacks (tied-fourth most).

New York’s second-year quarterback has been under constant duress this season. When kept clean, Jones has been surgical. In Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia, Jones was 18-18 from a clean pocket for 188 yards and a PFF passing grade of 93.1.

But keeping Jones’s pocket clean has been a struggle for the Giants. Rookie first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas leads all offensive tackles in the NFL in pressures allowed. He has struggled to find his footing in the NFL and has even been outplayed by third-round rookie Matt Peart in his smaller sample size.

The New York Giants found their formula for winning against Washington and Philadelphia the past two weeks. Essentially, the offensive line has to give Daniel Jones time to make plays. When Jones has a clean pocket he can make plays and keep the ball out of harm’s way. This is why fixing the offensive line should be the top priority for the Giants to close out the final seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season, as they push to make their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Robinson Cano Suspended For 2021 Season After Positive PED Result

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

In a year where COVID-19 was the only positive test result sweeping through baseball, Robinson Cano turned back the clock with his positive PED result (Stanozolol). It was the same PED Rafael Palmiero got suspended for almost two decades ago.

The New York Mets veteran second baseman returned to the juice and was caught by MLB for the second time in his career. Cano will miss the entire 2021 season and forego the $24 million owed to him.

The signs add up now as Cano came off a disappointing 2020 season and revived his numbers in the shortened 2021. For the second time in three years, Cano has been suspended for PED use after serving 80-games in 2018. Cano hit .316 with ten home runs and 30 runs batted in for the 2020 Mets.

Look at the Bright Side

Cano was a designated hitter on a team full of them. Not only does Cano’s defense come off the field, but the large amount of $24 million also comes off the books for 2021. Trevor Bauer and D.J. LeMehieu were in reach before the suspension, but the extra money certainly puts them in play. Giving Bauer anything north of 30 million for one year is a definite option since 50-75% of the money would have belonged to Cano.

The future of Cano looks dim, not just for the Mets, but in baseball. By the time opening day 2020 rolls around, Cano will be 39-years old after spending an entire season on the sidelines. Like Yoenis Cespedes, there will not be a spot for Cano, and we have seen the Mets have no problem putting overpriced talent on the bench.

Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson hated the Cano trade, despite doing their best not to say it. This might put Cano into a situation where he is forced to retire. Unlike Albert Pujols, he will not be able to hang around a bad team to soak up the rest of his contract. The Mets are focused on getting younger and using their talented prospects instead of older players.

To put it plainly, the only party that loses out here is Robinson Cano. Cano loses out on any possibility of getting into the hall of fame, especially when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are still struggling to get in. As for the Mets, they got the best “get out of jail free” card to escape the idiotic Van Wagenen trade for at least one year.