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How Cutler-Orton trade went down

At about 2:30 p.m. Denver time Thursday, the Broncos gave the Chicago Bears the final terms of what they'd accept in trade for disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler: first- and second-round picks this year, a first-round pick in 2010 and quarterback Kyle Orton.

Whoa! Too steep, thought Chicago GM Jerry Angelo, and he asked for a little time to mull it over and talk about it with his people. The Broncos told Angelo: "You've got a half-hour.''

A few things went though Angelo's mind, including the last time he was part of a staff that traded two No. 1s for a player. "We did Keyshawn Johnson for two ones in Tampa Bay, and we really got burned by it,'' he told me Friday night. "But this is a quarterback. Maybe a really good quarterback.''

We really want this guy, Angelo told those on his staff, but the compensation is too much. So he called the Broncos back and offered two ones, Orton and this year's fourth-round pick. Denver GM Brian Xanders and coach Josh McDaniels mulled it over and came back with this compromise: two first-round picks, Orton, and this year's third-round pick for Cutler and Denver's fifth-round pick this year.

Done, Angelo said. Fair deal.

"It was high-stakes poker,'' Angelo said when it was over. "And I couldn't see anyone else's hand.''

In the end, Angelo rebuilt his battered, way-too-conservative GM image and Chicago got a potentially great long-term quarterback. (No other 4,000-yard passer has ever been traded at 25, or even the season after accumulating such a lofty number.) Denver got a better deal than the Broncos had a right to expect after their dissed owner ordered Cutler dealt, losing whatever leverage the team might have had. And Cutler proved he should write the foreword to Drew Rosenhaus' next book -- the one about how a superstar can shoot himself out of town. Cutler got exactly what he wanted, though talking oneself off the best young offense in football is not my idea of a good career decision by a franchise quarterback.

Aside from the late haggling between the Bears and Broncos over the price, I do know some facts that haven't been out there -- I don't think -- yet. The five things I know for sure, from talking to those in the middle of the Cutler trade discussions in the three days since the deal went down:

1. The key to the trade was Kyle Orton. Laugh if you want, but it's the absolute truth. McDaniels looked hard at tape of the available quarterbacks from teams that made serious offers, players like Orton, Washington's Jason Campbell and Tampa Bay's Luke McCown. Every one of those teams was in the ballpark with an offer of at least two first-round draft picks and a quarterback.

But as the deal went down, McDaniels, who watched every offensive snap of more than 10 Bears games with Orton playing, got more and more impressed with Orton's arm, his decision-making and his ability to extend plays when the pocket broke down. You can think and I can think it's crazy he didn't like Campbell -- who got Washington off to a 6-2 start last year -- more than he liked Orton, but it's the unvarnished truth. McDaniels thinks he can win with Orton.

2. The Bears were sure the deal was collapsing Thursday afternoon, because the Broncos weren't answering phone calls, e-mails or texts. GM Jerry Angelo thought he'd gotten the rug pulled out from underneath him. Angelo hadn't heard from the Broncos for about three hours, and got so nervous by mid-afternoon Chicago time that he sent McDaniels a text message that said, in effect, "We gotta get this done. What's it gonna take for the Bears to win this?''

But the Broncos weren't ignoring Angelo, and they weren't working another team for a better deal. McDaniels told Xanders and the rest of the football people in the building that they weren't stopping business following owner Pat Bowlen's declaration that there was an open market for Cutler. Workouts would continue with McDaniels around; coaches meetings would go on as normal.

And the Broncos had eight players in the building between Tuesday and Friday -- including first-round prospects Brian Orakpo (defensive end, Texas), Knowshon Moreno (running back, Georgia) and Tyson Jackson (defensive end, LSU). McDaniels met with two of the prospects during the middle of the talks for Cutler on Thursday, and he ignored the bleating on his cell phone while those meetings were going on.

Now Angelo can know for sure -- the Broncos were going to make the deal with him unless his final offer was a fraction of those from Washington and Tampa Bay.

3. The Jets were never in it seriously --true story. New York is either convinced that Brett Ratliff or Kellen Clemens is its guy, or the Jets think the New York spotlight would have been too white-hot for a rabbit-ears guy like Cutler to handle, or they didn't want to pay two first-round picks for Cutler after giving a third for one season of Brett Favre. I just know that the Jets never made a remotely serious offer for Cutler, much to my surprise.

4. All you Redskins fans who are so sure youwerethisclose to getting Cutler? Total BS. Yes, Washington was competitive, and the 'Skins would have done whatever it took to get Cutler. But once McDaniels decided Orton was his man -- even though Washington's first-round pick would have been the 13th overall, five slots ahead of Chicago's -- the contest was over. The 'Skins were out of it, even though Cutler and greater Washington were sure it almost happened.

5. In the end, this trade happened so quickly because, first and foremost, the owner of the Broncos felt dissed. And you do not diss Pat Bowlen. Bowlen is 65. He has owned the team for 25 years. In Bowlen's world, there is a protocol to doing business, and part of that protocol is the players and coaches having respect for the owner, regardless of their personal feelings about anyone else in the organization. Imagine Tom Brady ignoring calls from Bob Kraft. It'd never happen. Imagine Dan Rooney getting snubbed by Ben Roethlisberger, or Peyton Manning ditching Jim Irsay. Never in a million years, regardless of how they felt about what was happening with the team, would it happen.

In all the years Bowlen has owned the team, he has never felt quite the disrespect from a player or coach that he felt from Cutler ignoring his attempts to speak to him to attempt to bridge the problems between player and team. And you should not underestimate how significant this was in Bowlen's Tuesday-night pronouncement that Cutler was being put up on the trading block.

***

So many tributaries. Such an interesting deal.

First, it should have never, ever come to this. Cutler-McDaniels was a match made in heaven -- a smart, tough, accurate passer with a great arm, in the hands of a Belichick protégé with a good offensive mind. Unless Orton becomes what Brady became in 2001, or Matt Cassel became in 2008, McDaniels and Bronco Nation will always wonder what they could have done to save this relationship. And I believe it could have been saved.

McDaniels could have sweet-talked Cutler a little more than he did. As one of the GMs involved in talking to the Broncos told me Saturday: "This should never have happened. This is bad for football. A great player talked his way off a team. If this trade doesn't work out for Denver, and Cutler plays great, which he should, Denver's going to look idiotic.''

Having said that, Cutler owns a degree of culpability that I believe is greater than the team's. As I wrote Thursday night, he has himself to blame for this trade because he couldn't accept that the team fired the two coaches -- Mike Shanahan and Jeremy Bates -- most responsible for the very good offense the Broncos had in 2008 and then couldn't accept that McDaniels wouldn't assure him he'd never be traded.

Should McDaniels have lied about that? Maybe. But the Broncos once tried to trade John Elway to Washington, and Elway had to come back to the team knowing Dan Reeves wanted to deal him. They were never best friends, but Elway didn't go on strike like Cutler did. Cutler was poked and prodded, but spare me the violins about how the Broncos treated him terribly. I don't buy it. He got treated like an employee, which he is.

I don't write this morning to say Denver won the trade. Not at all. I'll never praise trading a 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard season and possessing the best arm in football. And I'll continue to say the Broncos acted precipitously. They should have let this thing simmer for the next two or three weeks, accepted no phone calls from any team, and then, the weekend before the draft -- if Cutler was still not to be mollified -- deal him. April 22, fine. April 2 ... what's the rush?

For now, I'll declare the two winners to be the Bears and Orton. The only way I'll call Denver a winner in this is if they use eight primo picks -- five picks in the top 2.5 rounds of this draft, and three more in the first two rounds next year -- to rebuild a patchwork defense. That's a tall order for any team because there's usually a 50-percent washout factor with the high picks in any draft. But McDaniels, to show Denver fans and his own locker room that he was the right man for the job, has to make chicken salad with these draft picks out of the chicken-feathers situation that resulted in Cutler getting dealt.

The Bears finally have the quarterback they've longed for. If anyone thinks the Bears paid too much, let me show you the 14 men who have been first-round picks for the Bears in the last 15 drafts: John Thierry, Rashaan Salaam, Walt Harris,Curtis Enis, Cade McNown, Brian Urlacher, David Terrell, Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson,Greg Olsen, Chris Williams. Let's eliminate judging the last two, from 2007 and 2008, because they don't have enough on their résumés yet. Let's look at the other 12.

Stars: 1 (Urlacher).

Very good NFL starters: 1 (Tommie Harris).

NFL starters: 2 (Walt Harris, Marc Colombo).

Had some moments, but ultimately failed: 3 (Grossman, Thierry, Haynes).

Busts: 5 (Salaam, Enis, McNown, Terrell, Benson).

Four of the 12 became consistent NFL starters, or better. An awful, awful track record. That is why Angelo, a career scout who has too often loved draft picks more than A-Rod loves himself, wasn't very emotional talking to me about what he gave up.

"I've kind of changed about draft choices, particularly first-rounders,'' Angelo told me. "I don't have the same conviction on ones that I used to. It's the money, the totally unrealistic expectations, players coming out younger and not as experienced, players with too much time on their hands and too much money and not being grounded enough. I've become a little pragmatic about the first-round picks. They've been looked at like the Holy Grail for so long. Here, we had a chance to get a quarterback who's already shown he can play really well in the league. He's a guy with resilience; you've got to be resilient playing at Vanderbilt and succeeding John Elway. So we felt like it was a good investment for us. Time will tell.''

That's the sign of a smart general manager. I didn't think Angelo had this kind of move in him, dealing a marginal starting quarterback and three high picks, leaving his team without a first-round pick for two-straight years. But it's a gamble any smart GM would make.

Now for Orton. His first words to McDaniels illustrate the kind of sponge and -- the Broncos hope -- player he'll be in Denver, I think. "I just want to have an opportunity to compete for the job and help the team win,'' Orton told McDaniels.

Orton flew to Denver early Friday to meet everyone in the building, and later in the day was waiting at the airport in Denver to fly home when I reached him. He returned to Denver on Sunday night, and he'll be a full-timer in the offseason program, competing with Chris Simms -- and maybe, though I doubt it, a first-round quarterback if McDaniels finds one he loves in the draft. I asked Orton why he said what he said to McDaniels.

"It's all I've ever wanted,'' he said. "It's all I ever asked for in college [at Purdue] or here. As long as I have a fair chance, I can deal with whatever the coach decides.''

I found it interesting that Orton was so happy Friday night. Here he was, going from a team with a pretty good defense and a needy offense, where he was the no-doubt starter, to a team where he's the favorite to win the starting job, but nothing will be handed to him.

"It's the offense,'' he said. "I've watched it. I love it. The spread -- or at least, the multifaceted part of it -- really appeals to me. You change from game to game, and you do whatever gives your team the best chance to win that Sunday. That's the way an offense should be. But it counts on the quarterback to be smart at the line of scrimmage, and to make good decisions, and to be accurate. I think those are traits I have.''

Maybe, but he hasn't shown the accuracy in Chicago that he'll have to show in Denver. In 33 career games, he's completed just 55.3 percent of his throws. If that continues, McDaniels will have a new quarterback playing by December. But Orton will have two things he never had in Chicago -- time to throw (young tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris are the best young pair of outside blockers in football), and talent to throw to; Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, arguably, are the best young bookend receivers in the game. "When I found out about the trade,'' Orton said, "I was extremely happy. Everyone knows about Denver's talent on offense.''

As a coach, McDaniels has had great success helping his quarterbacks (Brady, Cassel) move the chains in New England. If he can pass that along to Orton, the offense shouldn't be what loses games for Denver. Now, the new coach who's taken the great gamble better hope he can draft defensive players. It's only his job that hangs in the balance.

Jay Cutler, to Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com, Wednesday night:

"I didn't want to get traded. That wasn't me. I really didn't want this. I love Denver. I didn't want it to get this far.''

Jay Cutler, to the Chicago media, 44 hours later:

"I'm really happy to be here. It's like a dream come true.''

"If I keep my body in shape, and do the right things, I think I have maybe 10 or 12 more years in my career.''-- Michael Vick, 29, at a bankruptcy hearing in Virginia Friday, telling the judge how he planned to resume his NFL career.

"I still went and worked out. My teammates said, 'Jason, why are you here?' And I told them: 'I'm still the quarterback of this team until they get rid of me. You haven't seen the best of me. I'm not here for ownership. I won't miss days working out with you, and I won't miss time preparing for the season. Who knows? A trade may not work out.'''-- The eminently loyal quarterback of the Redskins, Jason Campbell, to Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post, after the Redskins tried and failed to get Cutler to supplant Campbell at quarterback.

"What's in it for us? If we're going to give you two more games, two more games of wear and tear on our bodies, two more games of potential career-ending injuries, two more games of concussions, blown-out knees, elbows, whatever you want to call it, then what's the price you're willing to pay for us to give that to you?''-- NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae, on Sirius NFL Radio, asked his opinion of the prospect of the NFL going from a 16- to an 18-game regular-season schedule.

Mawae's not alone with his strong feelings on the topic. Wait until you read in Ten Things I Think I Think what Adalius Thomas, the longtime player rep in Baltimore who's now with the Patriots, said about the expanded schedule.

The careers of Cassel, Cutler and Orton will now forever be entwined. Denver couldn't trade for Cassel in February, which led to Cutler's wildcat strike and trade to Chicago, which led to Orton landing in Denver.

What's so compelling about the quarterback musical chairs is the huge disparity in money they'll make this year. Cassel got the franchise tag in New England, and now, even though it would seem to make sense that Kansas City would try to sign him long-term and lessen the cap burden on the team, the Chiefs are in no hurry to whittle away his one-year contract of nearly $15 million.

At the league meetings two weeks ago, I ran into Cassel's agent, David Dunn, who was trying to figure out why in the world Kansas City GM Scott Pioli wasn't eager to do a long-term deal for Cassel. Simple, I theorized; Cassel's only done it once, and if he's only marginally successful this year with Kansas City, he's not going to be a very good bargain with the $30-million or so in guaranteed money the Chiefs would have to pay him to get a deal done. And if he's great this year, the Chiefs still have the right to make him a restricted free-agent next year, whereby they'd have to pay him 110 percent of his salary this year ($16.115 million) ... which would mean they'd be committing $30.77 million to him over the next two seasons. If you're not positive about whether a quarterback's going to be a franchise guy, it's probably smarter to make him prove it again, even if that could end up costing you a little more in the long run.

If Denver sees Orton as a solid starter this year, it's likely that it will try to re-sign him sometime this year rather than let him get to free-agency. He's in the final year of a two-year contract signed with the Bears last winter.

Cutler is entering year four of a six-year deal. My guess is the Bears will let him play this year out, then sign him after the season to a rich, new deal, assuming things go well in Chicago. Analyzing what each team -- the Chiefs, Bears and Broncos -- is getting for its buck this year, based on quarterback performance from 2008 (league rankings from 2008 in parentheses):

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo is the godfather to Steve Mariucci's daughter, Brielle. The two men's friendship is why Mariucci was behind the Michigan State bench at Ford Field during Saturday's semifinal win over UConn.

Stayed close to home this week. But I'm finding something interesting about city life. (For those who don't know, my wife and I moved to Boston a month ago, and we're still settling in. Enjoying it a lot so far.) From last Monday morning to Sunday night , I drove my car once, two miles to the Home Depot. That's it. I wonder if I need a car. I suppose I'll need one as time goes on, but I miss nothing about driving. Walking is good.

The Dallas Cowboys have joined the party. TedyBruschi, too.

For those who missed the news last week, we're throwing a benefit dinner, NFL hot-stove event and charity auction for Paul Zimmerman, the best football writer of our time, who has been sidelined by a series of three November strokes.

We're going to attempt to get him the aggressive, high-end therapy he desperately needs to try to resume a life of writing. Zim cannot write, speak or read as of today, but we're going to attempt to change that by dispatching him to a six-week immersion program at the University of Michigan, as well as getting him access to some of the best speech and occupational therapists in the East -- much of the costs of which are not covered by insurance. The goal, simply, is to get Dr. Z back online and back giving you the kind of insightful, no-holds-barred NFL coverage that has made him so much a part of so many fans' lives.

Again, the details:

The event, featuring Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Jets coach Rex Ryan, is set for May 18 at 7 p.m. at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, N.J. There will be an open bar beginning at 6:15, followed by dinner at 7, and a round-table with me, Coughlin and Ryan reviewing the draft and previewing the season at 8, followed by questions for the coaches from the audience. Then, at about 8:50, we're going to say thanks to the coaches, and then have a football insiders' roundtable. I'll host Adam Schefter and Sal Paolantonio -- with perhaps a surprise guest or two beyond that -- from 9 to 9:30, and then we'll announce the winners of the auction items and be on our way.

Tickets are $225 apiece, or $1,500 for a table of eight, and are available by sending a check, payable to "Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation'' to:

Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation21 Pine St.Suite 202Rockaway, N.J. 07866

All tickets are tax-deductible.

In addition, donations may be sent to that address as well.

For further information, please e-mail me in the box that comes with this column, or e-mail Barbara Neibart, at bneibart@yahoo.com. It's likely we'll have an online element of the auction, allowing those who cannot make the event to bid on some of the items.

On each of the six Mondays leading up to the event, I'm going to highlight an auction item or two to whet your appetite for the event. Let me start with these two:

• The Cowboy Trip of a Lifetime. Airfare and two nights' lodging, from anywhere in the United States to Dallas for a Cowboys game this season at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. But that's not all. The winner and guest will get to stop by the Cowboys' Saturday walkthrough practice at Valley Ranch, the club's training headquarters, meet a player, and get a tour of the training facility. They'll also get an onfield pre-game pass at the football game, with the chance to meet Cowboys owner Jerry Jones before settling in to watch one of the Cowboys' eight regular-season games. The game will be a Sunday afternoon game, subject to negotiation once the schedule is announced later this month. Minimum bid: $10,000.

• Lunch in the Boston area with me and Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. (Well, I'll subtract me if you want.) Lunch for you and a guest to meet the heroic Bruschi, one of the most famous stroke victims in sports history. He's returned to play three seasons for the Patriots since his 2005 stroke, and he has been a champion for the cause of stroke victims. He's also one of the most personable athletes of our time. You'll love conversing with him on what it took to overcome this malady. He's also got some great stories from the Patriots' glory years, being one of the few players of this generation to be on a three-time Super Bowl winner. Minimum bid: $3,000.

We'll announce in a couple of weeks how you go online to bid for these and other items of interest. By the way, it won't all be sports items. I'll highlight a couple of cool things in this space next week.

Thanks for your initial support. We've gotten some solid donations so far, and several tables have been filled. Keep it coming.

1. I think the NFLPA needs to include Adalius Thomas in its negotiating committee with the owners. He'll keep it lively, and I think he'll keep it on point. The aware Patriot said this Friday about the owners advocating a 17- or 18-game schedule, up from the current 16-game sked:

"Why would you want an 18-game season? Why? ... It's the money thing. Stop. Just stop. If [NFL owners] want to cry about money, then open your books up to an independent audit to really show how much money you're making. If you really want to cry about money, open your books up, put what you really make in the paper, like you put our salary in the paper every year so that the fans can say, 'Well, they're making this much money, why don't they do this?' If that's the case, I'm sick of people talking about, crying about, 'Well, we need to make cuts here' ...

"I'm just trying to figure out, what's the purpose for an 18-game season? At the end of the year, when players go to the playoffs, it's been a long season, so now you're going to say it's a longer season? Are you just going to stretch out the payments over 18 weeks now? No. We're not doing that. You can mark me down on the injured list for two weeks. You can put that in your books. You've done lost your mind.''

2. I think I still find it very, very hard to believe in this economy that the owners are going to get the TV networks to pay them any more than the current deals, never mind an increase for the increased inventory.

3. I think what I'd be worried about if I were Vince Young and I see the Titans signing Patrick Ramsey to be the third quarterback, is this: Ramsey was a favorite son of offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger when Heimerdinger had him as a No. 2 in Denver, and he knows the offense inside-out, and he's as reliable as the day is long. Young's been interested in what he has to do to win the starting job from Kerry Collins, which, as a top pick three years ago, is a justifiable thing for him to want. What I'd be worried about is sliding down in the pecking order if I didn't do everything right this spring and summer.

4. I think I look back to the Super Bowl and it's all a blur. Has any Hot Stove League ever been hotter? In those nine weeks, Matt Cassel's been traded, Albert Haynesworth signed a monopoly money deal with Washington, Brian Dawkins left the only team he ever knew, the Cardinals almost lost but re-signed Kurt Warner, Ray Lewis almost left but re-signed with the Ravens, Terrell Owens got whacked by Dallas, the Bills took a walk on the wild side and signed Owens, Julius Peppers continued to try to talk his way off the Panthers, T.J. Houshmandzadeh put on his raincoat and surprisingly jumped to Seattle, the Lions actually began to look like a bastion of sanity (but it's early yet), Brett Favre retired (apparently for good), the Raiders cut some expensive veterans and kept an inexpensive coach, the Chargers flirted with whacking LaDainian Tomlinson, the Titans committed to Kerry Collins over Vince Young, Jay Cutler boycotted communicating with the human race and was traded to the Bears, the combine happened, the league meetings happened.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things, but it's been tough to take a breath since the end of the season. That's because there hasn't been an end to the season; 2008 simply morphed into 2009 without a line of demarcation. There are more than a few coaches and GMs -- and more than a few NFL writers -- very anxious for the first week of May and beyond, when the draft will be in the rearview mirror and an actual offseason might commence.

5. I think you've got to know when you've got the upper hand with a team, and you've got top know when you've got to give in. Plaxico Burress would still be a Giant today -- and still would have some income coming in during the lean months of 2009 -- if he'd just played ball in renegotiations with the team. But no. No sane person sees him winning his grievance against the team. This is the time Burress needed to align himself with one of the bedrock franchises in all of sports, and this is the time he needed the support of an organization, and this is the team he needed

6. I think we are all owed an explanation, NFL Network: Why have you kidnapped Adam Schefter, where is he being held without ransom, and when do you plan to acknowledge that he has disappeared off the face of the earth?

7. I think Ross Tucker, my compadre at SI.com, is absolutely right: The Jaguars are nuts to be looking at the primo quarterbacks in the draft. There's no way they should be souring on David Garrard after one year of a big new contract. They can definitely win with Garrard, and they should use the high picks on their multiple holes -- on both sides of the ball.

8. I think I'm dying to know who's going to try to sign Mike Vick when the Falcons release him. Two teams come to mind: Oakland and Tampa Bay. The Bucs are longshots, but I don't think new GM Mark Dominick is afraid of him.

9. I think I don't care at all if B.J. Raji smoked pot at Boston College. I'd guess that would make him one of about 150 players of the 328 who attended the Scouting Combine who smoked pot at one time or other during their college years. I bet I'm underestimating that, really. Now, if there's some indication that Raji smokes so much pot that he couldn't get cleaned up in time for the combine, or he smokes so much that he's mentally addicted to it, that's another matter.

I applaud SI.com for breaking the story, and it deserves to be reported. But what I do not applaud is the knee-jerk reaction by some NFL front offices about it. Some front offices are way, way too hung up on vilifying guys who did the occasional doobie in college while virtually ignoring the exploits of guys who got smashed at keg parties over and over at college.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Just caught up on the last two episodes of The Office. Brilliant change of direction. Fantastic. I love the idiotic scheme of Michael starting his own paper company, with Pam the brains of the operation. What might be better is Kevin as the receptionist. The double-episode this week will be must-see TV.

b. Opening Day!

c. I've had no time to focus on it, with the move and the nonstop-ness of NFL life, but I'll throw these useless predictions out: AL division winners: New York, Cleveland, Anaheim (Tampa Bay wild card); NL: Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles (Arizona wild card). The Series: Yanks-Dodgers. Manny and Torre in the Bronx in October ... Now there's something I'd pay to see.

d. I'm enthused about the Red Sox, and I'll be in the park this afternoon, but there's something a little off-putting about all the little injuries and uncertainties (J.D. Drew's back, Dustin Pedroia's side, Kevin Youkilis' ankle, the age of Mike Lowell, the potential brittleness of David Ortiz, the bat of Jason Varitek). It'll be fun to watch, and I think the wild card will come down to Tampa Bay's good youth and David Price versus the Sox's experience and whether they'll stay healthy.

e. Let's hear some more arguments now, after three more senseless multiple murders with guns, about how we don't have a gun problem in this country. I'm all for people's rights to bear arms. I'm not for nut jobs' rights to bear arms.

f. I liked when Clark Kellogg said before Michigan State-UConn that "UConn will play, seven, seven and-a-half guys.'' I think he means they'll play either seven or eight, but it might have meant Eddie Gaedel was suiting up for the Huskies, or Herve Villachaize.

g. My brother went to North Carolina, and I like what the Heels stand for, generally. I have no interest whatsoever in Michigan State. But I don't know how, unless you're an alum or Roy Williams' mother, you can be cheering against the lads from Michigan tonight. The state needs it, the region needs it, a dying industry needs it.

h. Renee Montgomery was so good last night for UConn that I started to think: There're about 15 NBA teams that could use her. What a shooter. What a floor leader. Slight exaggeration. Only slight.

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