Archive for Brian Skinnell

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Surpassing Expectations

By Brian Skinnell

In possibly the most emotional night in D.C. sports history, the Washington Nationals playoff run ended in a dramatic 9-7 collapse to the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nationals offense finally had the outburst that everyone was waiting for in the opening innings of the game.

Following a Jayson Werth leadoff double, Bryce Harper hit an RBI triple off the wall to score Werth. The face of the franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, then crushed a two-run homer to put the Nationals up 3-0 after one inning.

In the third inning, the Nationals had the heart of the order up and looking for more. Bryce Harper started the inning with a leadoff home run. After Ryan Zimmerman got a base hit, Michael Morse stepped up to the plate and put one in Cardinals bullpen and the Nationals were up 6-0 after three innings.

While the offense was rocking the Cardinal pitching, the Nationals starter, Gio Gonzalez, was fairing much better against the Cardinals offense. Gonzalez held them scoreless into the fourth inning when Matt Holiday doubled to score Carlos Beltran.

In the fifth inning, Gonzalez found himself in a bases loaded jam. With Holiday at the plate, a ball took a funny bounce off of the dirt just behind home plate and skipped off and away from catcher Kurt Suzuki’s shoulder pad. The wild pitch brought home David Descalso. Gonzalez then walked Holiday to load the bases. Allen Craig then drew a walk that scored Shane Robinson.

That would be the only damage done, however, as Gonzalez worked his out of it allowing just two runs to score and the Nationals lead was cut in half to 6-3 after five innings. Gonzalez’s final line: 5 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

The Cardinals continued to chip away at the Nationals lead as the innings wore on. With Edwin Jackson on the mound for the seventh, Holiday grounded out to the shortstop, Ian Desmond, which scored Jon Jay. The Cardinals had cut the lead to 2, 6-4.

Reliever Tyler Clippard came on to pitch the eighth. After allowing a leadoff homer to David Descalso, Clippard recovered to get three outs and hold the lead for closer Drew Storen.

However, Kurt Suzuki capped off his productive night (3-4 with an RBI) with an RBI single that scored Adam LaRoche. Storen was given a much needed insurance run.

With the bases loaded, David Descalso hit a hard grounder up the middle that hit off the glove of short stop Ian Desmond and into center field. Two runs scored for the Cardinals and the game was tied. Pete Kozma then followed that with a 2-RBI single and the Cardinals were suddenly winning 9-7.

Those four runs came with two outs in the inning. Five times, the Nationals were one strike away from the National League Championship Series. Five times, however, the Cardinals hitters either fouled off a pitch or took it for ball four.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals went down in order of Werth-Harper-Zimmerman.

As quickly as they had taken the lead, they lost it and their season was over. The Cardinals completed the six run comeback to defeat the Nationals 9-7 and advance to the NLCS to play the Giants. For the Nationals, who have a lot to be proud of this season, it’s game over.

As I stared at my television in disbelief last night, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for (my) the Nationals. A team that lost 100 games just a few years ago made it all the way to game five of the NLDS. Not only did this team exceed expectations, they did it by being the best team in baseball.

They weren’t “supposed” to go to the playoffs until next year. They were just supposed to play a good season and leave us all with something to look forward to next year. The fact that we can sit here today and debate what went wrong last night in and of itself is a blessing given to us by an overachieving baseball team.

So what exactly did go wrong? Simply put, while the Nationals exceeded expectations and got to the playoffs, they weren’t ready. This team was not ready to go to the playoffs. Look at the teams in the AL/NLCS’s: Yankees vs Tigers, Cardinals vs Giants. All those teams have years of playoff experience. It doesn’t matter how great you play in the regular season, the best will rise in October.

The Rangers, Reds, Dodgers, and Nationals were all at the top of the baseball world at some point during the regular season. Now, however, they are all at the bottom and out of the postseason. The playoff experienced teams did what they always do: they got the playoffs and won.

The Nationals took a HUGE step forward this season. Next season, assuming a few offseason re-signings, this whole team will return. More importantly, they’ll return with postseason experience. (Don’t even get me started about whether or not Stephen Strasburg would have made a difference. His replacement, Ross Detwiler, won his game.)

The Nationals have a lot to be proud of. They simply were a season ahead of time. The last thing that Davey Johnson said to the press last night could sum up this entire season: “We proved our worth and we just need to let this be a lesson and … learn from it, have more resolve, come back, and carry it a lot farther.”

Thanks for the ride, Nationals. They’ll be back, folks….they’ll be back.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

The Final Straw…

Up until now, the NFL replacement referees had yet to directly decide the outcome of a game. Well, on Monday night football, on the grandest of stages, live on ESPN, the days of the replacement referees hit an all-time low.

It was a closely contested, closely called game that was destined to be one for the ages. The Green Bay Packers were heavy favorites over the home team Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks used their twelfth man, the home town fans, as fuel to fire the upset.

Fast forward to the last play of the game. Russell Wilson stands at the Packers 24-yard line looking to accomplish something that many had never seen before: a game winning touchdown pass on the last play. The score was 12-7 in favor of Green Bay.

Wilson rolled to his left and fired into a swarm of Seahawks and Packers players in the endzone. The ball disappeared into the mass of men and, after 10 seconds of waiting, one referee signaled touchdown and the Seattle Seahawks were the victors…or were they.

I said that “ONE” referee signaled touchdown. Another referee, standing right next to the referee that signaled touchdown, signaled an interception (meaning that the Packers would be the winners). So, in other words, one referee gave the game to the Seahawks and another referee gave the game to the Packers.

At first glance, it appeared as though it was a simultaneous catch (in that case, the ball would be awarded to the offensive player), but then the officials reviewed the call on the field. When looking at the replays, it appeared as though Packers’ defensive back M.D. Jennings actually caught the ball, which would be an interception. Another interesting bit that the review displayed was that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate shoved a defensive player (which means offensive pass interference should have been called and the play should not have counted).

To put it in simpler terms, there were two key pieces of evidence that went AGAINST the Seahawks winning this game that were revealed in the official review that went ignored. The first was that the pass was actually intercepted by M.D. Jennings and the second was the pass interference against Brandon Tate. If you take both those pieces of information into account, the Packers should have come away with this win.

But, they didn’t. And this is just another instance in which the replacement referees completely messed up a call in a crucial moment of the game. Before now, the referees had yet to decide a game. But now, a decision that they made directly affected the outcome of a game.

The National Football League needs their regular referees back more than they think. Players’ safety and livelihood as well as coaches livelihoods are at stake. Coaches and players get paid and get jobs based on whether they win or lose.

In terms of player’s safety, the replacement referees are letting them get away with too much. Players are allowed to simply tee-off on defenseless players without penalty. Players will get hurt and that will affect the way they live and also how much they get paid.

Another way in which the NFL/replacement referees are screwing everything up is the landscape of the NFL. Once the real referees return, the landscape and the playoff picture will be all out of whack. The playoff picture will be ruined due to incidences like the one on Monday night.

In my eyes, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the front office are all criminals. If they aren’t willing to pay people to do a professional job and referee the right way, they are just as guilty for the poor quality of officiating as the officials themselves. If they truly love the game of football, they will do whatever it takes to get the real NFL referees back.

The NFL is fast becoming a joke. It’s losing its integrity every week that the replacement refs are active. Do something right for once, Roger Goodell; bring the original referees back so the quality of the NFL as a whole will improve.

I don’t blame the referees for the catastrophe that is this NFL season. I place 100 percent of the blame on Roger Goodell. He, and he alone, is single handedly ruining an American pastime and is disgracing the great game of football.

By Brian Skinnell

Monday, September 17th, 2012

1-On-1 With Alfred Morris


The Redskins have found a phenom at the running back position in the form of Alfred Morris.

Morris was a sixth round draft pick of the Redskins in this years draft from Florida Atlantic University. He was a standout runner there and is a standout runner for Washington, too.

In two games this season, Morris has rushed 44 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Against the Saints in week one, Morris took the handoff 28 times for 96 yards and two scores. He’s a solid back weighing in at 218 pounds and can really lay the wood when running with the ball. One thing I like about him is that he’s always running downhill. Morris always finishes going forward.

Over the summer, I got the chance to interview Alfred Morris. Below is our conversation.

First off, looking back at your career for Florida Atlantic University, what is the fondest memory you have of playing for them?

“I would have to say the connections I made and the relationships that were built. They say you make lifelong friends in college and I definitely can attest to that.”

Where were you when you received the call from the Redskins saying they were drafting you?

“I was back home in Pensacola sitting outside patiently waiting for the call while enjoying my family.”

What was the moment like when it was announced that the Redskins had drafted you and it became official?

“I didn’t actually get to see my name pop up on the screen, but when I received the call with Coach Shanahan on the other end it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder.”

How were you received when you first arrived at Redskins Park to be introduced?

“I was received just as everyone else. They treated us all the same and I know as rookies we will have to pay our dues, so I’m curious what’s to come.”

What are your expectations or goals that you have for yourself this season?

“My main goal right now is to make sure I make the 53 man roster. Without reaching that goal, none of my other goals will even be possible.”

How are you going to contribute to and help improve the Redskins offense?

“I will do my best to learn under the vets the ins and outs and do my best to compliment the ground attack with my hybrid style of running.”

How do you plan to get involved in the Redskins community?

“I love doing charity and reaching out to others. I’ve helped with Special Olympics, Autism programs, and habitat for humanity, just to name a few. I will definitely by finding who’s in charge of community outreach with the ‘skins’ and volunteering as soon as I get a chance.”

Once you get that first pay check, what is your first big purchase going to be?

“I don’t have any big purchase planned. I don’t see a need in buying some extravagant toy that I don’t need. If anything I would probably donate to a cause of choice.”

What excites you the most about becoming a Washington Redskin?

“To me it’s like the ultimate fan experience. I was a fan of the Redskins for quite some time and to actually get drafted by them is a dream come true.”

Morris is the ultamite team player. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He and Robert Griffin III have been the leaders of the offense. Whether it’s running the option or Morris blocking for Griffin, the offense revolves around these two key players.

By Brian Skinnell

Monday, September 17th, 2012

NFL Picks Standings

Okay, we started one week late. But let’s just call that our “bye” week. Here are the First Pick Blog Staff standings after week 2. Included are everyone’s Monday Night Football pick as well.

Tied for 1st:

Ben Simpson, 8 correct picks: Buffalo, Indy, Carolina, Houston, Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Chargers

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

Mujtaba Elgoodah, 8 correct picks: Same as Ben

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

2nd Place

Brian Skinnell, 7 correct picks: Buffalo, Cincy, Giants, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos

3rd Place

Matt Fehr, 6 correct picks: Cincy, Indy, Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Atlanta Falcons

Tied for 4th place

Alex Millon, 5 correct picks: Cincy, Houston, Giants, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Atlanta Falcoons

Jimmy Luehrs, 5 correct picks: Cincy, Philly, Seattle, San Diego, and San Fran

Monday Night Pick: Denver Broncos


Sunday, September 16th, 2012

NHL Lock’s Out

Brace yourselves, hockey fans, it’s about to be a long lockout. Simply put, the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) are too far apart on one simple concept: revenue sharing.

It’s the same problem that we had in the NBA and the NFL; the players want more money, but the owners don’t want to give it up. In the NHL, however, it has been taken to a whole new level.

In the previous collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which expired last Saturday night, the players got 57 percent of the total revenue. However, in talks for the new CBA, the owners have offered the players as low as 43 percent of the total revenue. That’s absurd.

More recently, however, the owners have reportedly been offering more and more to the players. Reports have stated that they have offered them 47 percent and 49 percent in their most recent proposals. Both numbers are still too low and don’t expect the players to agree to them.

In my opinion, the players should settle for nothing less than 52-54 percent of the total revenue. They are the ones on the ice playing night after night and they are the reasons for the revenue. They should get a majority of the money that they, inadvertently, raise. Fans buy tickets to see them and fans buy their jerseys.

Unfortunately, the NHL is much like the NFL, MLB, and NBA in that it is a business and all about the money. I agree that players should be paid less than 57 percent, but I definitely think it should be more than 50 percent.

Another thing you have to look at is the fact that the NHL has grown since the last lockout. The NHL is making more and more money every year. Since the lockout, D.C. has caught hockey fever and the Capitals fan base has grown ten-fold. People that watched hockey once in a blue moon were starting to make time to watch a game.

In comparison to 2005 (when the last lockout ended), 57 percent of the total revenue is a lot of money. Like I said above, the NHL has grown in popularity and therefore it brings in more money. Lowering the percentage owed to the players makes sense, and in my opinion, they’ll still be making a lot of money.

As a hockey fan, I hope that they can reach an agreement soon. I have grown to be a huge hockey fan in the past eight years and it has even come to be a part of my sports blog (The Skinny on Sports).

But, as a journalist, I don’t see the NHL hockey lockout ending anytime soon. Barry Melrose said something interesting in an interview on ESPN the other day. He said that once the money stops rolling in to the players, negotiations could pick up speed because they need that money. It’s a small little statement that makes a lot of sense. They need to pay for their fancy cars and big houses.

Melrose also went on to say that he thinks the NHL will back in November. Pierre LeBrun and Katie Strang, both also of ESPN, think that the lockout will end in December. I agree with all three in a sense that I think it will end before the new year. I don’t expect the NHL to lose another season in ten years due to a lockout.

It’s all about money. The owners want more and the players want a majority. I think that the players deserve more than 50 percent of the revenue. It’s them and their names that are making that money. Pay them and give them their due.



By Brian Skinnell

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

What To Do With LaRon Landry

As free agency approaches the Redskins have one huge decision to make: what to do with safety LaRon Landry.

The Redskins safety is set for free agency when it begins. The Redskins have a few directions to go: franchise tag, new contract, or release.

My answer? Release him.

I know! You all think I’m crazy! Hear me out! Here’s my biggest issue with him: he can’t seem to stay on the field anymore!!

What good is a player that can’t even play?? He’s as good as the water boy is! Instead of spending $15 million a year for someone to ride the pine let’s just go out and get a really good water boy!!

When Landry first entered the league he played a $15 million a year player. In his first three seasons, he played in all but one game. Through those three seasons, he totaled 250 total tackles. That is great!

In the two seasons since then, he’s missed 9 games and has had 133 tackles. What happened??

Injury. LaRon Landry got injured and he has not been the same since then. The Redskins can’t be guaranteed that he will give them at least 14-15 games through each year of his contract. Unless he can guarantee me that, I don’t want him!

The Redskins have a tough decision. To give him credit, when he’s on the field he’s a difference maker. The problem, however, is that he can’t seem to stay on the field.

My advice to Bruce and Danny Boy: save yourself some cash and move on. LaRon Landry is a health liability now. Turn to free agency and the draft over the next few years to look for his replacement.

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Let it Be!


ESPN is at it again! A brand sports “hero” has arisen and once again they are giving it too much thought.

A few days after Knicks guard Jeremy Lin took the NBA by storm ESPN began comparing him to Tim Tebow. How DARE you, ESPN! I have a couple of problems with this…

Tim Tebow was EXPECTED to do what he did! Are you seriously trying to tell me, ESPN, that you had NO idea that Tim Tebow was capable of playing like a top notch running quarterback? Hello! Did you forget about what he accomplished at the University of Florida? Tim Tebow was a FIRST ROUND draft pick! You don’t just pick a scrub in the first round of the NFL draft. How can you be so surprised when a STARTING quarterback begins winning football games? Is that not what he gets paid millions of dollars a year to do? Is it the fact the he is religious that attracted you to him? I think so! I can almost GAURUNTEE that every single player in the NFL prays before taking the field. What makes him so special?

Let’s turn to Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin was an undrafted player from Harvard. He absolutely came out of left field. Before he became the Knicks next super star, he slept on his brothers couch in Manhattan. Nobody had ever heard of him. The Knicks signed simply because they needed another guard. Do you honestly think that the Knicks organization thought that Lin would explode like he has? They certainly did not.

Why can’t we just appreciate everything that Lin has fought through? He went from sleeping on his brothers couch and coming close to giving up his dream of playing in the NBA to a super star in no time flat! What was your adversity Tebow? Oh that’s right! “They said I couldn’t do it.” What do you think Lin heard? “You’ll probably be better than Michael Jordan”? I’m thinking no, Timmy.

The mere thought that ESPN can compare Jeremy Lin to Tim Tebow is sickening and down right disrespectful. Rarely do we get to witness a player at the professional level do what he did. He got his opportunity and made the most of it. Nobody expected him to be that good (if you did…you’re lying). He is humbling doing what he does best…play basketball.

This is no Tim Tebow story, ESPN. The Jeremy Lin story is real. Tim Tebow was expected to play up to the level that he did. I will even venture to say that Tebow was nearly a BUST (that’s right! I said it!). Jeremy Lin was not even a thought when this NBA season got started. Did you see and number 17s at Madison Square Garden when the season got started? No. Did you even see them in the shops?! No! What about number 15s in Denver? You betcha! They were everywhere well before he even got his first start.

My point is, we are witnessing something that we may only get to see once in our lifetime. Why does ESPN have to blow it up and compare him to somebody else? Can we please just sit back and enjoy this for once, ESPN? We have a legitimate Linderella…I mean…Cinderella story in sports for once. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

By Brian Skinnell


Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Why the Colts Need Manning


I know you all think that you are all experts and don’t think that the Colts need Peyton Manning anymore. They are, after all, most likely going to be drafting that one guy…what’s his name? Oh! Andrew Luck!

I know what you’re thinking! If they have Luck, why have Manning? Well…you’re in luck (no pun intended)! I am going to explain why the Colts need a little Manning AND a little Luck (oh dear…).

Peyton Manning has 14 years of experience in the NFL. He has been running the Colts spread offense system for as long as he has been in the league. Nobody knows this offense better than he does. Nobody knows the players in this offense better than he does.

With Manning’s personnel knowledge and offense knowledge, he will be able to tutor Luck on how to run the offense. He can teach Luck the tricks of the trade. In a sense, Manning will be the Jedi Master and Luck will be his Apprentice.

The only curveball to that plan is that the Colts have hired a new offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians. Arians was formerly the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers, however, ran a more run emphasized offense than the Colts. Basically, Arians needs to just subtract a few run plays and add a few pass plays.

Let’s look towards the personnel. Manning has been playing with the same players for upwards of 12-14 years for a few of them. The bond that he and his teammates have built is unbreakable. With Manning around and tutoring Luck, he will help Luck to learn the tendencies of each and every player.

We can take that same principle and flip it.

The rest of the team looks up to Manning and regard him as high as, if not higher than, the head coach. His opinion carries a great amount of weight in that locker room. We all saw how absolutely crushed that team was without him on the field. Manning would be able to convince the rest of the guys in that locker room that they can trust in Luck.

Now, in order for the Colts to keep Manning, they have to pay him $28 million on March 8th. That is quite a sum to pay for a mentor.

By Brian Skinnell

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Haynesworth Back on the Market!


Rich Tandler of CSN Washington reported today that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. The move will save the franchise $7 million in cap space.

Does this really come as a surprise to anybody? Haynesworth was not even good enough for the Redskins. Then the Patriots picked him up and Bill Belichick, the GREAT Bill Belichick, could not change his attitude. Personally, I think that the Buccaneers wasted their money in signing him.

Haynesworth was once a great and feared defensive lineman when he played for the Titans. In 2005, he totaled 52 total tackles. The year before he signed with the Redskins for $100 million he racked up 51 tackles with 8.5 sacks. That is absolutely ridiculous…in a good way.

When he joined the Redskins he was supposed to be the one to save the Redskins defensive line. In two forgetful  seasons in Washington, Haynesworth recorded just 53 tackles with 6.5 sacks…not quite the guy Danny Snyder paid $100 million for. Haynesworth also only managed to appear in just 20 games over those two seasons.

Since then, Haynesworth has appeared in 13 games and totaled 23 tackles with no sacks. He is certainly not the player he used to be. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that Haynesworth, before coming to the Redskins, had already had a history of injury trouble. Only once did he play a full 16 game season with the Titans (his rookie year).

It’s time for (Fat) Albert Haynesworth to hang up the cleats. His athleticism is diminishing and his stamina does not exist anymore. A once feared defensive lineman is only feared by one thing now…his couch.

By Brian Skinnell

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Time to Grow Up

Bryce Harper is simply not ready to make the jump to the MLB. While many say that his skill is currently needed on the Nationals major league roster, I say that his attitude certainly is not.

All off-season we have seen Harper show his signs of immaturity. Harper is a young “stud” that skipped college to go to the major leagues. It appears that he is still trying to have that college experience.

While we still have not, and hopefully never will, hear of Harper attending parties where he could potentially land in deep trouble with the MLB and Nationals organization, he has still shown a number of other immature qualities. Harper was quoted saying that he did not like or supports any of the Washington D.C. franchises. He has also had some questionable tweets, as well.

It appears as though Harper’s most recent slogan/motto/creed is “Haters Gonna Hate”…classy.

In his first season in the Nationals farm system he had some on-field antics that generated quite a buzz across the baseball world. In a minor league game, he hit a towering home run and as he rounded third base he blew a kiss towards the pitcher. It is things like that will get your teeth knocked out in the major leagues. It will also endanger you and your teammates of getting hit by a pitch later in the game.

If it were up to me, there would be no doubt that Harper is not ready for the major leagues. Throw his skill level completely out the window. It has been made quite obvious that he is not ready to handle the level of attention that he will receive. He has not dealt well with the attention he gets in the Nationals farm system.

Imagine Harper’s first major league at-bat. His over the top music begins and “struts his stuff” to homeplate waving and swinging his bat like he is in the movie Major League. He is completely consumed with the crowd and not the at-bat. My prediction? A three-pitch strikeout.

Bryce Harper is not ready to be a major league baseball player. He still has a long way to go mentally. Physically he may be there, but, the Nationals would be doing more harm than good by moving him to the opening day roster.

How long should the Nationals wait before they finally bring him up? However long it takes. Having the right mind set in the major leagues is key and Harper does not have it yet.






-By Brian Skinnell