It was a crazy week in the world of sports. On the national scene, The NFL lockout ended and that means there will indeed be a pro football season. It also means that we’re going to hear even more ridiculous rumors about Brett Favre making another comeback attempt. Brett, if you’re reading this column, please stay retired this time. You’ve become an embarrassment, and If I want melodrama, I’ll watch Dr. Phil.
On a more serious note, the end of the lockout also means teams can sign their draft picks as well as undrafted free agents. Plenty of former Ducks have found new teams, but since time and space are limited, let’s focus on two of them: One who wasn’t a surprise, and one that might’ve shocked you.
First off, in the not-surprised category, Jeff Maehl is now hoping to showcase his receiving skills with the Houston Texans. From my perspective, Houston may have just signed the best undrafted player for the 2011 season. With his reliable hands and deceptive speed, he should be able to do in the pros what he did at Oregon: Make the plays when they are needed the most.
Aside from his obvious athleticism, the Houston sports media pool is going to find out what we already know in Eugene: This is a classy kid who always made time for an interview. As a sports journalist, you can’t ask for more than that.
Now to the shocker: Jeremiah Masoli has signed a contract to play running back for the San Francisco 49ers. Considering the way he left Oregon (no reason to rehash the drama) and the way he floundered at Ole Miss, did you see this one coming? Really, I didn’t.
That being said, here’s hoping that Masoli understands the opportunity in front of him. He has a chance to change the public perception from all the wounds he’s inflicted on himself the past couple of years. Hey, if Michael Vick can be forgiven, maybe one day Masoli can be remembered as the gifted quarterback that led Oregon to a Rose Bowl. But he’s going to have to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble. We’ll see.
In the meantime, the current Ducks have less than two weeks until fall camp and no one has to be happier about that than head coach Chip Kelly. He spent this past Tuesday in Los Angeles at Pac-12 media day politely declining to answer numerous questions about the NCAA investigation. It might mean he’ll get to talk about football for a change.
Now, for those who didn’t read last week’s column, whether or not you think Chip is guilty, people have to understand that he’s been gagged by his bosses at the U of O not to say anything on this subject. If your employer instructed you to be quiet about a sensitive subject wouldn’t you heed his or her wishes? Or would you open your mouth and risk getting fired?
Thus, it must be asked to one sports columnist in Portland (who shall remain nameless): Do you like going out of your way to waste everyone’s time with your loud-mouthed commentaries disguised as questions or do you simply like to hear yourself talk? Trying to ask questions in a bombastic manner aren’t going to extract information from your desired subject, gag order or not.
Whatever happens with Chip, there is one thing that is clear to me: If Darron Thomas can match last year’s performance this season, he will surpass Joey Harrington as the greatest quarterback in Oregon history.
In my inaugural EDN column, I picked Joey Harrington as the best signal caller that Oregon has ever had. I based it on his overall record (only three losses as a starter), and the fact that he did lead the Ducks to two Pac-10 championships. The overall steady body of work over two-and-a-half years simply cannot be topped until someone has a similar string of success.
Well, Darron Thomas has only lost one game in one full season in the starting role (and it came in the BCS championship), and as a junior, he’s got two years to pull off that feat. He’s also shown he can turn it on at anytime to lead his team to victory. Remember how quiet you were at Autzen when Stanford had the Ducks down 21-3 last year? Did you notice how unfazed Thomas was as he led Oregon drive-after-drive to secure the amazing 52-31 smashing of the Cardnial after that point? The guy has proven to be a cool customer, and as long as he stays healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be known as the greatest when it’s all said and done.
Of course, it’ll also help DT’s case if the Ducks can go back to the BCS game this season. Will they? That’s the subject for another column. In the meantime, enjoy the games and I’ll see you in the bleachers.