The Neighborhood: McCarthy won’t sacrifice longevity for Rodgers’ window

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Among the many things discussed by Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy during Wednesday morning’s training camp introductory press conference were some seemingly innocuous statements about longevity.

“Programs win championships,” McCarthy began, referring back to his thought process as a first-year coach in 2006. “I never thought to sell the farm and be a one-year wonder.”

But after elaborating on his response, it’s clear McCarthy and the Packers have discussed comments from last winter’s playoff run where quarterback Aaron Rodgers put the pressure on management to get him players that can win.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re going all-in every year to win,” Rodgers said after an NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons. “And I think we can take a big step this offseason.”

A lot has been made in recent years about 33-year-old Rodgers and his perceived “window” closing — a reference to the number of years he might remain in elite playing shape. If Rodgers’ pleas were answered, it wouldn’t be the first time a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback got his team to help him win another Super Bowl.

In Peyton Manning’s final season in 2015, the Denver Broncos made a number of free agency moves, highlighted by cornerback Aqib talib and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. That was enough to send him out on top in his 17th NFL season.

Adding to the intrigue was a recent admission by Rodgers that he was entering the “back nine” of his career.

Fast forward to July 26, 2017 in front of reporters in the media auditorium at Lambeau Field, McCarthy seemed unwilling to give in to hints that Rodgers wants more weapons at the expense of prospects.

“Those eight [consecutive years of] playoff victories are a clear reflection of our championship-level program…But my focus is on continuing to grow that.”

“We’ve always focused on the program. We’ve never sold out to win one game.”

Despite McCarthy’s unwillingness to adapt a more nearsighted approach to team-building, general manager Ted Thompson helped acquire players with plenty of star power. Among the notable additions were tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, and offensive guard Jahri Evans.

Green Bay will get its first look at the newest Packers when pads come on during Thursday morning’s first training camp practice.

The Neighborhood debates: Derrick Rose or John Henson? (AUDIO)

MADISON, Wis. — With the Milwaukee Bucks and free agent point guard Derrick Rose reportedly having mutual interest in a free agency signing, the boys of The Neighborhood were at odds. Nelson said he didn’t mind bringing on Rose if it meant unloading some cap space, while Eric found reasons to keep Rose off the team no matter the cost.

5:23 | Nelson isn’t having any of Eric’s comparison to Malcolm Brogdon
8:30 | Eric keeps bringing up the 2013 rape allegations
10:07 | Nelson thinks Rose could be a great player for the Bucks
11:13 | Nelson challenges Eric to name a better option than Rose
12:43 | The poll results are unveiled

Baseball at Wisconsin: Progress Report

MADISON, Wis. — I’ve started research for my next in-depth report and I wanted to take this opportunity to let our listeners/readers know where I’m at in the process. I’ll try to do these somewhat regularly as a way to inform the public, but also allow feedback on parts I may be getting wrong or new directions to consider.

Topic: Baseball at the University of Wisconsin and if it’s possible to revive the program

Interviews completed:
Terry Gawlik | Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Administration, University of Wisconsin

Interviews Requested:
Jeff Block | head coach of club baseball, University of Wisconsin
Pat Richter | former Athletic Director, University of Wisconsin
John Vodenlich | head baseball coach, University of Wisconsin | Whitewater
Bud Selig | former MLB commissioner and Milwaukee Brewers owner, University of Wisconsin alum
Herb Kohl | former Milwaukee Bucks owner, U.S. Senator, University of Wisconsin alum
Steve Schmitt | Owner of Big Top Baseball and Madison Mallards

Interviews declined:
Barry Alvarez | Athletic Director, University of Wisconsin

Summary of information gathered so far: In speaking with Terry Gawlik, it appears very unlikely Wisconsin will ever revive its baseball program unless there is a substantial surplus of revenue. Operating costs have run at or very near revenue generated in each fiscal budget report for at least the last 10 years. Barry Alvarez also appears to have no willingness to bring baseball back to Wisconsin at this time.

Suggestions? Eric.rogers@madcitysportszone.com

The Neighborhood: Feigin reveals timeline for All Star Game, Bucks D-League name

MADISON, Wis. — Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin joined “The Neighborhood” on Sunday morning to reveal timelines for hosting a future All Star Game and a team name for the new Development League affiliate in Oshkosh.

Feigin discussed the process the Bucks used to submit proposals to host a future All Star Game, which will be either in the 2020-2021 season or the 2021-2022 season. That process, he explained, involved a shared interest with the NBA to bring an All Star Game to Milwaukee.

“It’s a matter of when,” Feigin began. “…Part of our campaign and what we’ve said to the NBA is ‘We’re all in this together. This is a huge message for a small-market team to have [the All Star Game] on an international stage.'”

“My expectation is if we didn’t get it for 2021, some team that was maybe a little more deserving might get it, but there’s no way we’re not going to get it in the near future, which is important to us.”

Feigin also announced a timeline for naming the D-League team being established in Oshkosh, which broke ground on arena construction early last week.

While a team name is set to be announced in the “next couple weeks,” the Bucks have made it a priority that they’d like the name to be taken seriously, thus, names like the “Deer Ticks” and “B’Goshs” are not being considered. Feigin said at least one of the names up for discussion was submitted by a fan, but he didn’t provide any other hints.

The Neighborhood: What decisions should the Packers make in free agency?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — I’ll begin by admitting I’m not an expert on the salary cap, and I don’t have a direct line to Ted Thompson’s office. But with about $42 million in cap space heading into the offseason, here are some of the options the Green Bay Packers are faced with, along with my predictions of how they’ll handle them. My predictions are only for those positions in which Green Bay also has options in free agency.

Center

Incumbent: J.C. Tretter has just finished up his four-year, $2.6 million contract and is an unrestricted free agent. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 13th-best center in the league based on this past season’s performance, despite missing the last half of the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL). That’s nothing new for the Cornell product, but it’ll cost him when it comes to contract negotiations.

Options: A.Q. Shipley | Arizona Cardinals, Joe Hawley | Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brian Schwenke | Tennessee Titans, John Sullivan | Washington Redskins

Prediction: With Corey Linsley as the only other experienced center on the roster and Tretter the best available, he’ll likely come back on a one-year contract.

Guard

Incumbents: T.J. Lang ranked as the No. 6 right guard in the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus, and has expressed his willingness to return to Green Bay at age 30. Don Barclay suffered a shoulder injury in November and was replaced by rookie Jason Spriggs, who showed promise for the future protection of the Green Bay backfield.

Options: Kevin Zeitler | Cincinnati Bengals, Ronald Leary | Dallas Cowboys, Larry Warford | Detroit Lions, Luke Joeckel | Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: I see this as a position the Packers only address in the draft, so the only move here is to re-sign Lang to a multi-year deal, while potentially cutting Barclay loose. With the promise of Spriggs and the frugal nature of Thompson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barclay released.

Tight End

Incumbent: Jared Cook came over from the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams on a one-year, $2.75 million contract, and despite missing six games with a high ankle sprain, he performed admirably and became a keystone to their success entering the postseason. He averaged 55 yards and four catches per game over the last 10 games (including playoffs).

Options: Martellus Bennett | New England Patriots, Jack Doyle | Indianapolis Colts, Vernon Davis | Washington Redskins, Jacob Tamme | Atlanta Falcons

Prediction: After earning a Super Bowl ring with New England and making it clear he wants to get paid, Packer fans dreaming of a Bennett-to-Green-Bay scenario can forget about it. At 29 years old, Cook is productive enough to warrant a two-year deal to remain in Titletown.

Running Back

Incumbents: Neither Eddie Lacy, nor Christine Michael were dominant forces in the backfield for the Packers, but because of that, Green Bay can cash in when it comes to negotiations. Lacy logged just 360 yards and no touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. Michael was seldom-used, logging 114 yards on 31 carries in Green Bay.

Options: Le’Veon Bell | Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount | New England Patriots, Latavius Murray | Oakland Raiders, Danny Woodhead | San Diego Chargers

Prediction: Thompson doesn’t like to go with what he doesn’t know, so I don’t see him contacting any of the above options (Bell will re-sign with the Steelers anyway). It’s already being reported that Lacy is likely coming back on a one-year deal worth about $2 million. And with Ty Montgomery looking like a more sure bet, Michael will try to find work elsewhere.

Outside Linebacker

Incumbents: Nick Perry finally had a breakout year, posting 11 sacks, 35 solo tackles, and 17 assisted tackles. Julius Peppers‘ numbers weren’t as great, but he was still effective at 7.5 sacks, 15 solo tackles, and eight assisted tackles.

Options: Chandler Jones | Arizona Cardinals, Melvin Ingram | San Diego Chargers, Malcolm Smith | Oakland Raiders, Barkevious Mingo | New England Patriots

Prediction: While it’s been a nice ride for 37-year-old Peppers, he’ll likely hit the free market and end his career with his first team | the Carolina Panthers. After finally seeing one of “his guys” break out, Thompson will re-sign Perry to a three-year contract and probably overpay. Don’t be surprised if the Packers tease us with a nibble in free agency on an OLB.

Safety

Incumbent: It was a career year for Micah Hyde, matching his personal-best three interception mark on the season. That’s despite making a switch to slot cornerback due to injuries in the Green Bay secondary.

Options: Eric Berry | Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Jefferson | Arizona Cardinals, Barry Church | Dallas Cowboys, Johnathan Cyprien | Jacksonville Jaguars, Quintin Demps | Houston Texans

Prediction: Hyde had a relatively team-friendly contract of four years, $2.3 million, and after earning the performance-based escalator last season, I don’t see why that changes. He’ll earn a three-year deal with the Pack. Plot twist: Thompson nabs one of the above options at safety, but it’ll be a player we know little about.

While cornerback was largely ignored in this post due to the fact that Green Bay doesn’t have any on expiring contract, I’d expect that to be the area where the Packers find a piece in free agency. The best players available are A.J. Bouye (Houston Texans), Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams), Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo Bills), Morris Claiborne (Dallas Cowboys), and Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings).

Bucks to announce D-League details on Wednesday

OSHKOSH, Wis. — The Milwaukee Bucks are set to make an announcement regarding their future NBA D-League team Wednesday in Oshkosh, reports WBAY-TV.

Oshkosh is one of the three finalist cities team president Peter Feigin alluded to during an interview on The Neighborhood late last summer. While no potential team names were mentioned at that time, Feigin said they would take the process seriously. Other cities being considered are Sheboygan and Racine.

The announcement is expected to include details about the construction of a new arena to house the franchise. The WBAY report says Oshkosh investors are proposing a $15 million, privately-funded arena that would seat about 3,500 fans for D-League games, while doubling as a concert venue holding 4,000 people. Construction is expected to begin next month.

Feigin told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network that a determining factor for which city would house the D-league team would have to bring “attendance, an in-bred fan base, and the financial support…A lot of it is who the partnership group is and then what the excitement, and the activity, and the pre-sales are.”

Milwaukee has been among just a handful of NBA teams without an affiliate, relying upon the league’s “flexible assignment rule” when sending players to the Development League to build up their skills. If everything goes as planned, the Bucks would become the 25th of 30 NBA teams to have its own affiliate.

The Neighborhood: “Nigel Hayes, please stop talking”

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes has been in the headlines in recent weeks not only for being named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, but for pushing the NCAA to pay its athletes.

On Sunday morning, Eric Rogers and Mike Becker took time on “The Neighborhood” to put Hayes in his place. Is Hayes in a position to beg for money? Listen below:

 

Tune in every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on 106.7 FM / 1670 AM The Zone.

The Neighborhood: Bucks can’t backdoor Antetokounmpo

The Milwaukee Bucks signed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a four-year, $100 million contract extension on Tuesday afternoon, locking up a key member of the franchise through the 2020-21 season. Antetokounmpo’s deal puts the Bucks in a great position because the Greek Freak took about $6 million less than a max contract to give Milwaukee room to operate when it comes to future roster moves.

But will Antetokounmpo be rewarded for his generosity or will the Bucks take advantage when it comes to his next deal?

Antetokounmpo has been one of the most vocal supporters of the city of Milwaukee and didn’t ask for an additional fifth year on the contract due to the potential of a fluctuating salary cap after the 2017 collective bargaining agreement is reached. A fifth year could have bound Milwaukee into a bad financial situation should the salary cap drop below the Bucks’ expectations. The deal also includes to player option for that fourth year, keeping Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee for the full length of the deal.

There are some instances of instability in the Bucks’ organization, however, that should keep Antetokounmpo’s head on a swivel.

Last season, the Bucks went a disappointing 33-49 and missed the postseason even after adding free agent gem Greg Monroe. It took until after the All-Star break for head coach Jason Kidd to move Antetokounmpo to point guard, which provided almost instant success for the 21-year-old phenom. Antetokounmpo finished with an average of 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He also became the youngest Bucks player to record a triple double, logging 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a Feb. 22 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

There was also the security breach from this past May, in which several Milwaukee Bucks players had their financial information stolen, including social security numbers, addresses, compensation, and more. An email scam compromised their security, which is cause for concern when thinking long term about what that means for Antetokounmpo.

I’m not saying the Bucks have it out for Antetokounmpo or any other player, but let’s hope the young Greece native isn’t naïve to some of the corruption that happens in major and professional sports in the United States. If Milwaukee wants to have future chances at greatness and win a championship for the first time since 1971, they’ll make good on their debt of gratitude to Antetokounmpo and lead him to the top of the NBA mountain.

The Neighborhood: Packers 2015 struggles have carried into 2016

Many were willing to write off the Packers’ week one offensive struggles as a fluke, getting past an improving Jaguars team on the road. Upon closer inspection though, some of the things that plagued Green Bay’s offense in a disappointing 2015 season have carried over to 2016.

The return of receiver Jordy Nelson looked like it would be a cure-all for what ailed Green Bay in 2015, but the numbers for Aaron Rodgers have actually gotten worse. His completion percentage went from 60.7 to 57.1 and the yardage per game has dropped from 218.9 to 189.5. While not significant differences, an indication of Rodgers’ inconsistencies can be summed up by his passer rating. Based on a maximum score of 158.3, Rodgers has now gone 14 straight games without eclipsing the 100-point mark, dating to last season. His previous longest streak was four games (three times).

But not all of the offensive woes can be pointed at Rodgers. After management decided to release three-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton, the offensive line hasn’t been able to keep Rodgers upright. He’s been sacked six times this season, tied with the Browns for the fourth-most in the NFL. The inability to convert talent on the field into yardage and points is highlighted when comparing against other NFL teams. Green Bay ranks 28th in total yardage and 30th in total passing yardage.

Whether it’s a rift in the locker room or something happening in their personal lives, the Packers can’t seem to get clicking on offense. If they can’t figure out their issues, fans will look back on this era as a waste of great talent. During the Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers era, Green Bay has just two Super Bowl rings to show for it.

Sheboygan Armory would be used for more than Bucks basketball

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Joe Wolf is spearheading an effort to bring a Milwaukee Bucks NBA Development League team to Sheboygan, but his proposal to refurbish the Armory would mean a venue for community events and youth programs as well.

“We’d like to provide a safe zone for kids,” Wolf told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network on Sunday. “There are a lot of troubling things in the Sheboygan community that we’d like to take out of the kids’ lives and we’d like to set the right foundation.”

Wolf is the leader of Lakefront Jewel Group, which hopes to raise enough funds to renovate the Armory, which hasn’t seen much action since the 1990’s. The Armory was once home to the Sheboygan Red Skins, a National Basketball League team operating from the years of 1938 to 1949.

One of the community issues Wolf hopes his plan will protect children from is rampant drug use. According to a WHBL interview in 2015 with Samaritans Hand director Kent Kollath, one of the most common drugs used in Sheboygan County is heroin.

“Actually, the impact in Sheboygan County is bigger than anybody would even be aware of. People aren’t really aware of all the overdoses that they don’t hear about. The problem is huge and all of the problems related to the heroin problem; homelessness, crime, it could be prostitution, neglect of their children — it’s just flooding our city.”

 
A Sheboygan County data report from 2014 shows heroin as one of the most prevalent drugs used in eastern Wisconsin.

SheboyganCountyHeroin
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The Bucks have set the goal to have an affiliate team up and running by the 2017 season. It’s a lofty goal, but one Wolf says they can realistically meet.

 

Milwaukee has narrowed down its choices for their affiliate team to three and hopes to make a decision by mid-September before gaining NBA approval.