Author Archives: Kent Sterling

Positional breakdown of the Indianapolis Colts shows they are a mediocre team – today

Whether Philip Rivers is a short-term solution as the starting QB or a just a more expensive problem will go a long way toward determining what kind of team the Colts have in 2020.

The Colts are coming off a disappointing 7-9 season that is at least partially explained by the surprise retirement of elite quarterback Andrew Luck, whose excellence was capable of masking a lot of problems.

With a year to adjust to Luck’s departure, it’s reasonable to assume the Colts may take a step forward.  Through the first wave of free agency, general manager Chris Ballard has added some pieces which should shore up areas of need.  The draft and secondary free agency should allow the Colts to add a few more players who can elevate the roster.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Four months short of the opening of training camp, there are ways for the Colts to improve.  They will need to because the reasons for championship level optimism simply do not exist today.

Here is a positional breakdown of the current roster (grades are based upon A – Super Bowl level; B – playoffs; C – 8-8 team: D – 6-10; F contributes to a 4-12 or worse record.)

Quarterback – The Colts “upgraded” by signing Philip Rivers, a QB who has never played in a Super Bowl, finished his last 10 seasons as a starter for the Chargers with a 77-83 record, qualified for the playoffs once in his last six seasons, and will turn 39 in December.  Jacoby Brissett did not get the job done during the second half of the 2019 season, but Rivers’ Chargers finished last year with two fewer wins than the Colts.  The blueprint for the Colts future at football’s most important position is currently blank.  Colts QBs account for $46M of the Colts cap space – which is a lot given the talent level.  Compare that to the $8M the Chiefs have invested – and they have Patrick Mahomes!

Grade – C

Wide Receiver – T.Y. Hilton, 30, is coming off his second straight injury-filled season.  Maybe his health returns for 2020 and the Colts will enjoy a top tier threat.  If not, the cupboard is virtually bare.  Parris Campbell is potentially dynamic, but he missed nine games last year with a variety of injuries.  Zach Pascal’s chief asset in 2019 as the Colts leading wideout was his health.  This position requires an upgrade – or three.  Spending $25 million for Rivers only makes sense if he has a stable of healthy weapons who can get separation.

Grade – C- (if Hilton is healthy – D if not, and only because I don’t give Fs)

Running Back – Marlon Mack rushed for nearly 1,100 yards last year despite some dings that robbed him of two games.  He is sub-elite, but as sure a thing for the offense as there is as he enters his fourth year.  Nyheim Hines is a poor man’s Darren Sproles.  He’s a unique weapon who can run and catch, but his usage rate dropped by about a third after his 2018 rookie year showed promise.  Jordan Wilkins flashed big play ability in his second year.  This isn’t as strong a three-some as the Kardashians have enjoyed, but it’s solid.

Grade – B 

Tight End – Eric Ebron is gone, and that might be a very good thing.  I could go on about the reasons that is good, but what is gained by that?  Let’s expend our energy on who remains.  Jack Doyle is a jack of all trades, master of none.  Good blocker, good receiver.  Every good team has a Jack Doyle, but relying upon him to be a dynamic weapon is not realistic.  Mo Alie-Cox has huge hands, but has used them to catch passes only 15 times in his two-year career.  Entering his third year as a full-time football player (after a college basketball career), Alie-Cox remains a project.  Ballard needs to go to work here.

Grade – D+

Offensive Line – As a collective, this is one of the top starting groups in the NFL.  When Anthony Castonzo decided to return, a big box was checked.  Quenton Nelson is as good a left guard as there is in the NFL, and Ryan Kelly is a pro bowl center.  At right tackle, Braden Smith is a nice bookend to Castonzo.  Mark Glowinski at right guard is the closest thing to a liability the line has, other than depth.  Le’Raven Clark, Jake Endrenkamp, Chaz Green, and Andrew Donnal are the current rostered backups of note.  That means trouble for the offense if a starter (other than Glowinski) gets hurt.

Grade – A-

Defensive Line – This could be the Colts deepest position, with a lot of good players.  Justin Houston was solid last year with 11 sacks, and Ballard acquired DeForest Buckner in exchange for the #13 overall pick.  If Kemoko Turay can come back healthy – he, Denico Autry, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Ben Banogu can help lift this group.  Tyquan Lewis needs to go to work to save his career as a potential cog for a championship level team.

Grade – C+ (maybe it becomes a B, but before we see these linemen compete together, who knows?)

Linebacker – Darius Leonard’s excellence helps lift the linebackers.  On a defense without a lot of playmakers, Leonard makes plays.  His level of tackles, sacks, and picks are remarkable through two seasons.  Bobby Okereke improved throughout his rookie season in every phase.  Anthony Walker is not disruptive, but I can’t help believe his presence helps both Leonard and Okereke play at a high level by getting them in the right spot.

Grade – B-

Cornerback – Who knows what this group will look like by the time the season rolls around?  Former starter Pierre Desir is a Jet, and Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie have signed as free agents.  Rok Ya-Sin is back for year two, and Kenny Moore II returns as well.  Quincy Wilson is still somehow on the roster.  Marvelle Tell took strides in the conversion from safety to corner.  Rhodes was a pro bowler for the Vikings in 2017, but graded poorly last year.  He reunites with former Vikings position coach Jonathan Gannon, so maybe that helps him revert to form for the Colts.  If Rhodes and Carrie play well, which is possible if not likely, the Colts will be OK here.  If not, this is a massive problem.

Grade – D unless Rhodes bounces back to 2017 level.

Safety – Clayton Geathers is likely gone as he remains unsigned.  That leaves Malik Hooker and Khari Willis to man a spot that is hard to evaluate.  Hooker keeps the top on the defense and can be excellent without stacking mad stats.  Willis supports the run defense and helps in coverage.  If the pass rush forces a QB to get rid of the ball earlier than he would like, Hooker should be able to get a few picks.  If the pass rush doesn’t get home, Hooker won’t get opportunities too often.  George Odum provides depth, but is paid more for his special teams work than at safety.  He’s an easy guy to root for because he puts his body at risk constantly, but the Colts need more depth here.

Grade – D

Special Teams – Rigoberto Sanchez is one of the best punters in the NFL.  Luke Rhodes is a good long snapper (only because long snapping is a pass/fail position, and Rhodes always passes).  The great unknown for the Colts is at kicker.  Will Adam Vinatieri get healthy, and will he be welcomed back if he does.  The NFL’s best all-time kicker was healthy for 10 games in 2019, and hit 68% of his field goal attempts.  It wasn’t the eight misses that cost the Colts but the timing of those misses.  If Vinatieri hits big kicks, the Colts go 10-6, make the playoffs, and Rivers is playing somewhere else.  Chase McLaughlin kicked after Vinatieri was put on the injured list, and made six of seven field goal attempts.

Grade – I for incomplete – as in who the hell knows?

Add all that up, the Colts have a cumulative GPA of 2.08, which equates to an 8-8 season.  With almost four months left until camp, Ballard can slide that grade up to the point where the Colts can be seen as a potential playoff team.  Or the opposite could happen.

Silly stories about meeting celebrities – #4 – Confusing actor Andre Braugher in an elevator

Andre Braugher is always supremely confident as an actor. But with me in an elevator, he was bamboozled.

There are few things over which I can claim an absolute mastery.  Elevator conversations are one of them.

I can talk to anyone at anytime in an elevator, as long as the building isn’t over 60 stories tall.  The key is a solid opener that leaves an opening for a coherent response.  The response that I try to elicit will give me an opportunity for a nice close.  The elevator door opens, and the conversation ends.

I have never had a bad conversation in an elevator.  Not once.

The fun is that you never know might get on when an elevator stops to pick someone up.  It’s like welcoming a mystery guest onto the set of a talk show where the conversation will only take 30 seconds.

In Washington DC for a National Association of Broadcasters event to receive an award on behalf of WIBC Radio, I hopped on a hotel elevator to get to my room on the fourth floor.  The door began to close, when a hand reached in.  The doors re-opened and actor Andre Braugher hopped on.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Braugher stars as Captain Ray Holt on the NBC sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and came to fame as Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Streets.  He’s a Chicago native, who is often mentioned on the short list of the greatest actors the city has produced.

“Andre,” I said in a familiar way – kind of like you would to a business acquaintance – as he moved to the opposite side of the elevator.

“Hi,” said Braugher without making eye contact.  It wasn’t dismissive, but certainly not friendly.  He hit the button for the third floor.

The door opened as the elevator reached the third floor.  Braugher exited.  As he passed the threshold, I said loudly, as though I was introducing him on stage, “Chicago’s greatest actor!”

Braugher took another step, stopped, spun, pointed, and said, “I DO know you!” as the door closed behind him.

Of course, he didn’t know me.  I recognized him, knew he was from Chicago, and parlayed that slice of trivia into a moment of confusion.  Sure, I could have vaguely complimented Braugher like some insipid fanboy, but what’s the fun of that?  Being yet another in a long line of annoying knuckleheads making him uncomfortable with praise offered in a tightly confined space holds no interest for me – or him.

My way, he might have spent the next hour trying to figure out how he knew that strange guy in the elevator.  That’s how you craft a fun moment out a meaningless encounter.

Breakfast with Kent – Duncomb to IU; UIndy’s Gouard to USI; Mr. Basketball finalists named

SNBS – Archie gets 2021 commit – 6’9″ Logan Duncomb; Painter loses haircut; Sports w/o fans? FINE!

Hoosiers get commitment from Duncomb – Miller building culture, not just talented roster

Logan Duncomb has committed to join an Indiana team recruited from the inside out.

Earlier today, IU earned a commitment from Cincinnati Moeller junior Logan Duncomb, a 6’9″ post player rated #80 in the 2021 class by 247sports.com.

Duncomb chose Indiana over Xavier, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Stanford.  He’s the latest Hoosiers recruit who appears to be cut from a very similar cultural cloth.

As Archie Miller heads into year four of his tenure as IU’s head coach, it appears the culture of the program he’s building is beginning to reveal itself in the classes he has compiled as well as the commits he gathers.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

His guys appear to be smart, team-oriented, and diligent.  In Miller’s first class, he netted Romeo Langford, Rob Phinisee, Jerome Hunter, Damezi Anderson, and Jake Forrester.  This group is difficult to assess because Langford and Forrester left after their freshman years.  Phinisee and Hunter seem to be competitive and smart.  Anderson is still a work in progress.  Three came from the Hoosier state and one from Ohio.

The second class included only Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin.  Both are athletic, talented, and smart – and from Indiana.  Miller also added Joey Brunk – a junior center from Southport who transferred from Butler.

Miller’s third class currently has three members – Bloomington South’s Anthony Leal, Culver’s Trey Galloway, as well as New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year Jordan Geronimo.  Leal appeared to be the favorite for Mr. Basketball before the season was scuttled because of the Coronavirus.  Bloomington South was undefeated at the time, and Leal had become the school’s all-time leading scorer.

Here’s Leal talking about who IU had to beat to get his commitment:

“I had the Stanford situation, which I really loved because it’s one of the best schools in the country and education has always been very important to me, but we all really wanted that Indiana offer, obviously,” Anthony Leal to SI on his offer to Stanford, an elite academic institution.

The press release from Gatorade discussed Geronimo’s academics a bit, “Geronimo has maintained a 3.98 GPA in the classroom and represents one of the state’s top candidates in meeting the Gatorade award’s broad criteria.”

The 2021 class has two members as I write, including Duncomb.  The other is Khristian Lander, who may reclass to 2020 if he completes the academic work required in time to graduate from Evansville Reitz this summer.

Here’s what people say about Duncomb and Lander:

“(Duncomb’s) test scores are Ivy League type. He’s a really bright kid. It’s a part of who he is,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer.

“A student with a 3.8 grade-point average, (Khristian) Lander plans to major in mechanical engineering,” Gordon Engelhardt of the Evansville Courier & Press.

Lander is the wild card.  His thoughts about declassing shows a lack of patience, which can be a plus or minus.  He’s projected as a guy who is good enough to eventually jump to the NBA – as is Jackson-Davis.  They both may corrupt Miller’s ability to get old and stay old.

That’s four recruiting classes – two of which are works in progress – comprised of 13 players.  Most of them are academic achievers from winning programs.  Nine are from Indiana high schools, two are from Ohio, one (Forrester, who transferred) is from Pennsylvania, and Geronimo prepped in NH but is originally from New Jersey.

Miller is not a coach cobbling together talented players, hoping they fit.  He’s identified physical and behavioral traits he prizes, and recruits to them.  If he’s correct, Indiana will win with them.

If there is a reason to buy what Miller is selling and invest in hope the Hoosiers can make strides in 2020-2021 and beyond, his discipline in building a culture specific to IU is it.

Matt Haarms transferring from Purdue won’t hurt the program or player

Matt Haarms haircut and emotional outbursts will be missed by fans, but his productivity will likely be filled quite nicely by others.

Matt Haarms is moving on.

Haarms became famous more for his hair and celebrations than his productivity during his three seasons playing for Purdue, and fans will probably miss those two meaningless attributes.

Purdue announced yesterday that Haarms has entered the transfer portal as a grad eligible player and so the hair, celebrations, and 7’3″ frame will enjoy their final year of college basketball elsewhere.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Last year, Haarms averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, as the Boilermakers receded from being an Elite Eight team to being a likely NIT participant.  After Isaac Haas graduated, it was assumed Haarms would see an increase in his numbers.  Instead, they digressed.

Purdue fans will miss their peacock – the rim protector who was never a bulk scorer or rebounder – but won’t miss what he brought to the team statistically.

Matt Painter will move on quickly, as he always does, and while Haarms’ departure will likely not be a case of addition by subtraction – it also won’t be subtraction by subtraction either.

Haarms will be a prized transfer for someone, but they will probably learn the same thing about Haarms that Purdue fans did – that he’s impossible to ignore for all the wrong reasons.

Can’t blame Haarms for deciding to roll elsewhere.  That’s a decision each student-athlete has to make.  But I can’t blame Painter of Purdue fans remaining equally excited about the 2020-2021 season despite his departure.

Silly stories about meeting celebrities – #3 – Seeing Kelly Ripa partially naked

Kelly Ripa chose to stand next to me, bend over, and show me her boob – or she didn’t notice me standing alone in the middle of the Magic Kingdom or DisneyWorld.

Media junkets to DisneyWorld are among the very best perks of working in radio.  Flights, food, lodging, and park passes all comped, and all you have to do is the show you would be doing anyway.  Sweet!

Because WIBC was an ABC affiliate (ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney) and we met their demographic needs, we were invited every other year or so for an anniversary or attraction opening.  Disney always treated us exceptionally well, and staff looked forward to every trip.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

One very cool aspect of doing a morning show from a Disney park is access to the park long before the park opens to the public.  There is something so unique about a place that is normally packed with people being almost completely empty.  Walking through the Magic Kingdom at 5:00 A.M. when the WIBC Morning News started is similar to being at Wrigley Field or broadway theater the morning of a game or performance.  It’s a completely different vibe – like the park is asleep, just waiting for visitors to awaken it.

Our show ran from 5a-9a, so the workday was done before the park even opened, and on our last day of the last trip we made to DisneyWorld, the show aired from very near the entrance to Space Mountain.  Roughly 100 yards away, I could see a crowd gather as our show was set to end.

I walked halfway to the crowd to get a better look at what was going on.  I stood alone in the middle of a paved expanse and watched, trying to figure out what show was about to begin.  A woman left the set and began walking toward me.  As she got closer, I recognized her as Kelly Ripa, the co-host of ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly.

Ripa kept coming closer and closer to me until she stood to my right, almost shoulder to shoulder.  I found this a little unsettling as I was completely by myself.  No one else stood within 40 yards of me in any direction.  Ripa never made eye contact or acknowledged me as she fixed her hair.  This felt like the kind of interaction you might see in a spy movie where one operative approached another, use a code phrase to establish contact, and then adjourned to a park bench for a clandestine conversation.

Not knowing whether it was more appropriate to stare at her or avoid looking at her completely, I split the difference by looking vaguely toward her.

Then Ripa bent over to adjust her shoes.  She was wearing a loose fitting pullover blouse, and the looseness became more pronounced the farther she bent.  I glanced, and there it was – her entire right boob dangling free in clear view from my high angle.

Four thoughts raced through my mind.  The first was the most obvious – wow, that is Kelly Ripa’s boob!  Second, was this some kind of odd celebrity method of trying to pick up a guy?  Is it possible that in the celebrity world, there was a flash a boob code that had been unshared with rabble like me?  Third, was I a creep for looking?  I mean, it’s not like I was hiding.  I was in the middle of a theme park in clear and obvious view, and Ripa walked up next to me – not the other way around.  Fourth – maybe I had developed the power to be invisible.

Her shoes adjusted and hair in place, Ripa walked quickly back to the set, and I was left to ponder what the hell just happened and why.  I’ve never come up with a satisfactory answer.  Two explanations could be eliminated – Ripa was not trying to pick me up and I had not assumed an invisible form.  Also, I didn’t feel like a creep because I did nothing to initiate my view of her right boob, and let’s face it, if you have the opportunity to see Kelly Ripa’s boob without being a weasel or peeping tom, you do it.

It was just another weird moment in a lifetime of weird moments with a woman whose motive in showing me her boob will forever remain unknown.

Breakfast with Kent – Haarms bolts Boilers! MLB in May? Pacers & Colts join to raise $; Kaline dies

Silly stories about meeting celebrities – #2 – Getting Colts QB Peyton Manning backstage at a Rod Stewart concert

The Emmis Building in downtown Indianapolis has been the site of great radio for more than 20 years, but in 1999 it was also the hub of an all-time great party.

The grand opening celebration of the Emmis Worldwide Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis was a hell of a week long party.  People walked through the building night after night, enjoying great food, tall drinks, and each other’s company.

The final afternoon and night ended with a concert at the War Memorial with Kool & the Gang as the openers and Rod Stewart as the headliner.  Buses filled with staff and guests ran the three blocks from the Emmis Building north on Meridian Street on a regular basis, and another 50,000 fans filled the area for the free show.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Indianapolis celebrities enjoyed themselves along with Emmis employees.  In the lobby of the building on the Saturday of the concert, Colts tight end Ken Dilger, who did a weekly phonier with the WIBC Morning News, was joined by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive lineman Adam Meadows.

I told Julie that we needed to be ready to hop on the bus when Jeff Smulyan did.  Jeff founded Emmis and still runs the company.  He wrote the check, so he would have unfettered access to the show.  Staying close to him would put us in the eye of the hurricane.  He’s a great guy, so he would likely enjoy our company rather than be annoyed by it.

Sure enough, when Jeff got off the bus (with us right on his heels), he walked straight backstage.  Security waved him through and we were close enough that we weren’t stopped.  Kool & the Gang were playing their hits, and we were 20-feet from the band – stage right.

There were a couple of very serious looking security guards positioned to keep the crowd behind the barricade, and after the band finished I talked to them about how they did their job. They were nice guys whose eyes darted around as they spoke.  These were the same types of guys I tried to avoid as a high school kid trying to sneak into this very kind of event.  Fun to be on the same side of the rope as a credentialed adult.

As I was in the middle of a sentence, the security guys changed position quickly.  Seconds later Rod Stewart exploded out of a trailer positioned a few feet from us.  He sprinted past us, bounding up several steps and leaped onto the stage.  The crowd roared, and I heard a man’s voice call my name.  I thought that was odd, but then saw Dilger waving about 10-feet from the barricade.  He motioned that he wanted to come backstage with Manning and Meadows.

As Stewart’s first song began, I grabbed one of the security guards and pointed at the three Colts.  “These three, they can come back.  Only those three!”  This was 1999, and Manning was coming off a 3-13 rookie season during which he threw 28 picks, so he wasn’t the beloved media icon that he is today.

Why I thought I was the keeper of the backstage keys, I have know idea.  I’ve always been good at getting into places I don’t belong, so maybe I repurposed that skill into that of an ad hoc authority figure who could bark orders to allows others I chose to enjoy the fun.

The guards nodded, and Dilger, Manning and Meadows were allowed through the barricade.  They availed themselves of the ice cold refreshments that filled plastic trash containers, and danced for two-hours of Rod Stewarts greatest hits.  I don’t want to tell tales out of school about Manning’s dancing, but as composed in the pocket as he was, imagine the opposite.

Stewart’s show ended, security guards cleared a path as the sweaty rocker returned to his trailer, and the rest of us dispersed into the night.  Manning went on to win two Super Bowls, Dilger signed a huge (at the time) free agent deal to play in Tampa, and the Emmis Building became a place where the best radio in Indianapolis continues to be produced.

Breakfast with Kent – Nat. Champ would be tonight; Domas sucks at NBA2K; Tamika to Basketball Hall