Three extraordinary rookie quarterbacks in today’s playoffs

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Updated 05 January 2013
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Three extraordinary rookie quarterbacks in today’s playoffs

NEW YORK: Rookie quarterbacks will command center stage today with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson extending superb National Football League (NFL) seasons in wild-card playoff games.
At least one from the extraordinary rookie class of 2012 will reach the second round of the postseason as Griffin leads the NFC East champion Washington Redskins against the visiting Seattle Seahawks and signal caller Wilson.
Sunday’s Redskins-Seahawks showdown featuring two of the new breed of run-and-gun quarterbacks follows a game between Luck’s Indianapolis Colts and the AFC North-winning Baltimore Ravens and concludes the first-round of the playoffs.
Grizzled Ravens veteran Ray Lewis aims to weigh in for the older generation. The inspirational, 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker tries to come back from a torn triceps for one last postseason run after announcing he will retire following the playoffs.
Age and injuries have slowed the vaunted Ravens defense, which ranked 17th this season in total defense, but they made their way to the playoffs with help from multi-talented running back Ray Rice and big-armed quarterback Joe Flacco.
Indianapolis (11-5) have inspiration on their side as well with the recent return of head coach Chuck Pagano, a former Baltimore defensive coordinator, who was sidelined early in the season to undergo treatments for leukemia.
Lewis and his cohorts are making their fifth successive trip to the Super Bowl tournament, while the Colts are capping a sensational turnaround campaign after going 2-14 in 2011.
That woeful season, logged with quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined for the year after neck surgery, turned out to be a blessing for the Colts, who used the number one overall pick of the NFL Draft to select Luck.
More of a classic pocket quarterback than Griffin and Wilson, Luck has thrown 23 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions and has shown his mettle by leading Indy to an NFL record seven fourth-quarter and overtime comeback wins this season.
With Luck coming on board, Indianapolis believed they would be instantly competitive again in the AFC.
“Coach Pagano told us before the season that we are not in a rebuilding phase. It’s more like reloading, because we’re here to play now,” Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen said.
Momentum could favor the Colts, who have won five of their last six games, while the Ravens (10-6) lost four of their final five.
Luck, however, is wary of Baltimore’s ball-hawking skills safety Ed Reed, who has eight career postseason interceptions.
“He seems to have an unbelievable feel for the game of football, almost to know what you are doing before you know what you’re doing,” Luck said.
The NFC clash pits two of the league’s new look offenses.
The arrival of Griffin, who the Redskins traded up to take number two in the draft behind Luck, moved coach Mike Shanahan to install a new offense to utilize the jaw-dropping running speed possessed by RG3 along with his strong, accurate arm.
Using an option-style rollout out of an abbreviated shotgun formation called the pistol, the threat of Griffin helped open up holes for hard-running Alfred Morris, a sixth-round draft pick who set a club record with 1,613 yards rushing.
Griffin, often the fastest player on the field, set an NFL rookie quarterback record by rushing for 815 yards to go along with 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

The exciting Griffin, however, has been hampered by the effects of a strained knee and will face a swarming Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL with a secondary led by Richard Sherman, with eight interceptions.
Wilson, less highly touted in the draft because of concerns he was too short at 5-foot-11 (1.80 m), was drafted in the third round but has come up big this season.
Producing a similar one-two punch with the complementary rushing of Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards), Wilson tied an NFL rookie mark by tossing 26 TD passes and showed a gift for dodging pass rushers and throwing on the run.
“I knew my height doesn’t define my skill set,” said Wilson, who passed for four TDs in one game and ran for three in another.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll foresees a special game.
“They have just been amazing to take their teams into the playoffs,” he said of the rookie quarterbacks. “It’ll be great to see how it goes, and we hope our guy does really well.”


Poor use of local talent, bad auction decisions have cost Royal Challengers Bangalore dear in IPL

Updated 21 May 2018
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Poor use of local talent, bad auction decisions have cost Royal Challengers Bangalore dear in IPL

  • 2018 debacle – eight losses in 14 games – follows on the heels of a 2017 season where they won just three matches
  • Bangalore, both in terms of recruitment and on-field execution, were well off the pace in this year's IPL

The city of Bangalore can now boast of two extremely popular sports teams.
The football team, Bengaluru FC, has only been in existence since 2013. But that half-decade has been enough for them to become a beacon for Indian football, a role model of professionalism — the previous absence of which contributed so much to the slide down the world rankings from the 1970s.
The cricket team, in contrast, has epitomised the worst of Indian sport, with its ‘chalta hai (it works)’ attitude.
That would seem excessive criticism of a franchise that has reached three finals in 11 seasons (losing them all), but if you scratch beneath the surface, it is always individual brilliance rather than a robust team ethos that has been responsible for the team’s crests.
The 2018 debacle – eight losses in 14 games – follows on the heels of a 2017 season where they won just three matches. Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have finished sixth or worse in three of the five seasons where Daniel Vettori has been coach.
Qualifying for the playoffs in 2015, and reaching the final a year later on the back of Virat Kohli’s 973 runs, was largely down to the triumvirate of Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle being in such formidable touch.
The captain too cannot be exempt from blame. But this season, there were extenuating circumstances.
While the auction was going on in Bangalore in January, Kohli’s full focus was trained on a Wanderers Test that he was determined to win.
When asked a question about the IPL after the match was won, he brushed it off with a curt answer of “Sir, please don’t ask me such things now.”
Bangalore’s auction missteps were cruelly apparent on Saturday evening, as two Karnataka players combined to knock them out.
Shreyas Gopal and Krishnappa Gowtham have never worn RCB colors. It cost Rajasthan Royals 62 million rupees ($910,000) to sign Gowtham, but Gopal came at his base price of two million rupees.
The spin web they spun – 6 for 23 in six overs – illustrated Bangalore’s inability to make best use of local talent. Three of the Indian spinners RCB signed – Pawan Negi, Washington Sundar and Murugan Ashwin – for a combined cost of 64 million rupees ended up bowling 31 overs across the season.
Of course, you cannot be too parochial when it comes to professional sport. The National Football League’s two greatest quarterbacks – Joe Montana and Tom Brady – both crossed the width of a continent to script their legends.
Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles were not born within a goal kick of Hackney or Islington. And Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona certainly were not all about the boys from La Masia.
But in Bangalore’s case, despite Karnataka having enjoyed some excellent seasons in domestic cricket this decade, there has been a marked reluctance to pick the players for RCB. Even those that did play and shine, like KL Rahul, who made 397 runs for them in 2016, were not retained.
Instead, RCB’s third retention card in 2018 was spent on Sarfaraz Khan, who finished the season with 51 runs. Rahul already has 652.
Vettori succeeded Ray Jennings in January 2014, the man who had taken them to two finals in 2009 and 2011.
A year later, when Kohli was handed the Test reins by India, Jennings told The Indian Express how Kohli had been instrumental in him losing his job.
“People generally don’t like being questioned and pointed out their shortcomings, but I knew what I did was for his, and the team’s, well-being,” he said. “But as a captain, he has the right to work with the people he is comfortable with and I have no complaints.”
Gary Kirsten, who took India to the No.1 ranking in Tests and helped win a World Cup in 2011, joined RCB this season as mentor and batting coach.
In the T20 format, Kirsten has a wretched record. India failed to make it out of the Super Eights at the World T20 in both 2009 and 2010, and his two seasons with the Delhi Daredevils were nothing short of a disaster.
Vettori’s attempt to spread his wings with Middlesex last summer saw him finish with a 5-7 win-loss record.
The successful teams long ago realized that T20 is a separate sport, where success depends on good scouting and use of analytics.
Pedigree in the longer forms is no guarantee for success in T20, where the name of the game is tactical innovation.
Bangalore, both in terms of recruitment and on-field execution, are well off the pace.