Thursday, November 16, 2006

Q&A w/ Michael Silver from SI - Part I

This is a very exciting post. A couple weeks ago, we posted a link to a Sports Illustrated interview with Marshawn Lynch and SI Senior Writer Michael Silver. Mr. Silver covers professional football for SI and joined the magazine in 1994. More importantly, he is a Cal alumni ('83-'88) and a HUGE Cal fan! (Check out his NFL column for updates on Cal athletics especially Cal softball.) Click here for a full bio.

We emailed Michael to thank him for the great interview and also asked him to do a Q&A for our blog. To our amazement, he agreed and answered every question we emailed him. (Seriously, we were amazed, we just stared at the email for a couple hours wondering if it was real.)

Part I deals with general Cal football issues and Part II, coming up Friday, is about the Cal vs USC game. Big ups to Mike for answering our questions! Enjoy.

Q&A w/ Michael Silver - Part I

RBBID: What are your feelings about Cal’s season to date? What did you think about the opening season loss to Tennessee and last week’s loss to Arizona?

Michael Silver: I’m thrilled with our season-to-date—the Arizona defeat being an obvious bummer, but come on: We’re playing a game in November for the Pac-10 championship? Beat SC and we go to the Rose Bowl? I’ll take that 100 seasons out of 100. The Tennessee game was curious, because it went against logic in many regards. We didn’t seem prepared; that never happens under Tedford. We looked slow—huh? We didn’t block or tackle well at all. Finally—and this is understandable, I guess—the quarterback absolutely looked unprepared and overwhelmed by the situation. To Longshore’s credit, he settled down afterward; and to the offensive line’s credit, they’ve largely protected him ever since. But he still scares me. All in all, I wasn’t devastated. To me, it was never about a national championship. I want a conference title and a Rose Bowl before I even start worrying about where we are in the BCS. What was troubling was that, after all these years of defending the Pac-10 against the legions of Southerners and others who’ve insisted it’s an inferior conference, I suddenly didn’t have a whole lot to say in our defense. If Cal is a fast Pac-10 team, Tennessee is a lot faster. Sadly, I have to agree that the SEC, pound-for-pound, is a tougher conference. The Arizona game was one of those nightmare afternoons where a lot of things conspired to go wrong, and still, we had a chance to pull it out. Obviously, we’ll have to play much, much, much better to beat SC, but almost every good college team has those kind of games. At the very least, it convinced me we weren’t national championship material.

RBBID: How would you compare this year’s team to the 2004 team that went 10-1 in the regular season?

MS: Well, first off, in 2004 we had Aaron Rodgers. That’s a huge difference. He was a big-time quarterback, and when you first got a look at what he could do, you got all short of breath and whispered to yourself, “I think he’s The One.” Until Lyman and then MacArthur went down, that team was SICK offensively. You’d see a receiver come out of his break and just know that the ball, within a second, would come zipping right at him, perfectly, for the completion. The line was also terrific; it would wear teams down and then pummel them in the fourth quarter. The Holiday Bowl comedown aside, that was a great, great season. If there were any justice in the world, we probably would’ve beaten SC (well, come to think of it, those unconscionable special-teams mistakes weren’t an injustice; they were our bad) and lost to Oregon, a game we held on to win because the wide-open guy dropped that fourth-down pass. We’d have gone to the Rose Bowl and played a great game against Michigan—and that shitbird Mack Brown would be an afterthought in Cal history. So I’ll take that team, because of Rodgers, but otherwise I think this team is much better: Daymeion Hughes and DeSean and the great linebackers and a better kicker and punter and special teams and all that. And I’m waiting for Nate to prove me wrong. Because, let’s face it, if we beat SC and go to the Rose Bowl, I’m going to answer this question a lot differently for the rest of time.

RBBID: Based on your NFL expertise, rank the following Bears based on NFL potential. Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, Nate Longshore, Daymeion Hughes, Brandon Mebane and Desmond Bishop. (Feel free to add any players I might have missed.)

MS: I’ll start with the player I think, ultimately, will have the biggest impact in the NFL, and I’ll work my way down: Marshawn will probably be the second running back drafted, behind Adrian Peterson, and I think he’ll be a big-time runner from a very early point in his career. I just hope he goes to a team that is suited to his talents—though, really, I think he’ll shine no matter where he goes. Daymeion Hughes probably won’t go as high as he should, because I suspect his 40 time won’t blow anyone away. But the kid has convinced me he can play, and if Mixon hadn’t gone down, it’s scary how many more plays he’d have made in ’06—and he’s made a ton already. He’ll be a legitimate corner in the league. DeSean has the pure speed to play on any level, but I think his true height and weight are going to be a little alarming to some teams. If nothing else he can be a slot receiver and a punt returner; and, of course, he could be Santana Moss. (And yes, I absolutely think he needs four years of college to fine-tune his game.) Bishop has a real chance, and Mebane’s stock is going to go up after Saturday—I’m feeling that in a big way. Erik Robertson will likely be a mid-round draft pick, and I think he’ll end up making it. Then again, he’s a friend of mine who’s engaged to a very good friend of mine, so whatever NFL team picks him had best not consider cutting him, or else they’ll have to deal with me. I don’t see Longshore as a pro, but after he takes us to back-to-back Rose Bowls I’ll be the guy writing, “Nate Longshore is the best quarterback in the country.”

RBBID: On a more personal note, what is your favorite experience related to Cal football? Favorite player? Blondies or Fat Slice? Mario’s or La Burrita? Henry’s or Blake’s?

MS: My favorite experience relating to Cal football? Well, other than what we’re about to experience over the next six weeks, culminating in Pasadena, there is nothing better than winning the Big Game. I love everything about the event, and I love it even more when our players charge out of the tunnel playing hard and smart and as if there is no greater calling than representing our great university one last time by playing the game of their lives. After that 2-12-1 stretch, I will never take winning it for granted. I remember in ’04, we were all grumpy at halftime because our offensive play had been so choppy, and it was 13-3 in the middle of the third quarter and all my friends were starting to stress about how it would affect us in the polls and the BCS implications. I literally called a huddle in section U and got about 15 of us together and yelled, “Look, we are trying to beat our archrival for the third time in a row for the first time since 1960. I don’t give a fuck about how it looks or what anyone else thinks. Let’s get focused and win the goddamned Big Game!” Then we all started chest-bumping and screaming, and about 10 minutes later Marshawn Lynch was cutting back twice and scoring that incredible touchdown, and suddenly I was about three rows down and eight seats over, and when I came up for air I was making out with my wife. My favorite players since ’75, in rough chronological order: Roth, Muncie, Ron Rivera, Mariet Ford (gulp), Kevin Moen, Richard Rodgers, Don James, Hardy Nickerson, Jerrott Willard, David Ortega, Pawlawski, Mike Caldwell, Doug Brien, Dave Barr, Deltha, John Welbourn, Joe Igber, Reggie Robertson, Aaron Rodgers, Erik Robertson, Daymeion Hughes, Marshawn, Marshawn, Marshawn. As for the other stuff… Blondie’s—I went there on two separate occasions after the UCLA game, with a hot link from Top Dog (my true love) in between. Mario’s over La Burrita, but LVH (La Villa Hermosa, which used to be across the street from Mario’s), was even better… and Juan’s is the greatest of all. Right now we’re on a big Henry’s run, but I love Blake’s, as long as you promise to call it Larrry Blake’s.


Mat Jones said...

Blondies? Who is this joker? Fat Slice Forever!

Pete Morris said...

As Silver implied, Blondies or Fat Slice? Top Dog!!

my-cal said...

Oh damn, now I can't stop thinking about Juan's ...

Awesome responses.

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