Reinventing College Football

 

Before I even get started here, let me make something crystal clear:

 

THIS AIN’T NEVER GONNA HAPPEN!

 

There is more than too much inertia and “history” built into the current incarnation of college football to assure that this sort of restructuring would be out of the question.  Nevertheless, just as a flight of fancy come with me on a gedankenexperiment where we reinvent – or reimagine if you prefer – college football.  What I want to do is to wave my magic wand and freeze college football as it exists today and then reinvent it.  I am not talking about the game; I do not want to invent a game where there is no tackling or where there is no such thing as pass interference.  I want to reinvent the way the game is structured/organized.

 

[Aside:  If Vice President Al Gore could presume to “reinvent the government” 20 years ago, I think I can presume to reinvent college football.  And, by the way, the non-implementation of my ideas here will have about the same lasting effect on college football as Vice President Gore’s actions had on the government.]

 

The top tier of college football in 2016 had 128 teams in what they call FBS or what I call Division 1-A.  That is the perfect number for my reinvention idea.  So, pour yourself a cup of coffee and put on your thinking cap while you take a trip in my fantasy world for a moment.  It just might be more interesting than a stroll down memory lane…

I want to break up the 128 Division 1-A teams into two equal parts.  Let me call these parts the “Big Boys Category” and the “Little Boys Category”.  I want to put 64 teams in each of the two categories and then I want to break each of the categories into 4 conferences of 16 teams each and each conference into 2 divisions of 8 teams each.  The Big Boys Category would consist of:

  • The SEC Teams (14 teams)
  • The Big 10 Teams (14 Teams)
  • The PAC-12 Teams (12 teams)
  • The Big 12 (10 teams) – – plus – –
  • The “14 Best Teams” from the other Conferences

The Little Boys Category would consist of the “other 64 teams”…

Now I want to divide those teams into 4 conferences and I will do that on a geographical basis.  The 14 teams that I added to this category from the “other existing conferences” would go into the existing structure on the basis of best geographical fit only because there has to be some sort of criterion here to avoid a ton of tsouris along the path leading to the assignments.

The Little Boys Category will be divided up into 4 conferences of 16 teams also and I would do my best to make this as geographically consistent as possible.  I am not focusing on the Little Boys category here nearly as much as the Big Boys Category but that will change later on…

In the new 16-team conferences in both Categories, there will be NO interconference play in the regular season.  An 11-game regular season schedule will consist of 7 games for each team in one’s division plus 4 games against teams in the other division of the same conference rotating the inter-division schedule every year.  In each conference, the two division winners will have a playoff to determine the conference winner.

The 4 conference winners in the Big Boys Category will get automatic berths in an 8-team CFP that will happen in January.  The other 4 teams in that CFP bracket will be selected by either a committee or a set of computers or a “college football czar” – makes no difference to me – and the winner of that 8-team tournament will be the College Football National Champion for the year.

I can hear lots of mumbling at this point with regard to “So, what’s the big deal here?” or “All he wants to do is change the composition of the conferences.”  As Lee Corso would say:

“Not so fast, my friend …”

You see, I want to do the same thing in the “Little Boys Category” but I want the playoffs there to have some sort of meaning or gravitas.  In fact, I think my idea here would make the Little Boys Playoff bracket almost as interesting as the one for the Big Boys.

What I want to do here is to steal the concept of relegation from the British soccer leagues.  Here is the deal:

  • The 4 finalists in the Little Boys Playoff Tournament will be promoted to the Big Boys category for the next season.
  • Geography will be the primary determinant for which team goes to which Big Boys Conference but in the case where that is not a clear choice, the team that finished higher in the Little Boys Playoff would get to choose where they will go.
  • To make room for them, there would also be a selection process – don’t care who does it or how – to determine which 4 teams from the Big Boys Category get relegated.  The easiest would be to relegate the worst team in each of the 4 conferences and then add the best 4 teams from the lower category.  Since college football never does anything in the easiest way, I am sure no one would like do it that way…

My reinvention of college football has pluses and minuses; I will be the first to acknowledge that.  Let me do the pluses first:

  1. Teams will play much more balanced schedules if they have to play all of their games “in conference”.  Every game will matter as much as every other game.  Athletic directors will not go out searching for a glorified scrimmage game against Comatose State because there will be no place on the schedule to put such a waste of time.
  2. Bowl games at the end of the season will be a lot more interesting because of the lack of interconference play.  There will be an element of inter-conference rivalry that develops and there will be a curiosity factor to see how conferences fare against one another.
  3. The big money will be with the Big Boys Category and so there will be a significant monetary incentive to win and to stay in the Big Boys Category.  Relegation will be more than just an affront to alums; relegation will be a good swift kick in the wallet.  A late season head-to-head game between two teams that are both 1-8 will be meaningful to each team – and particularly meaningful to each coach and athletic director.
  4. The Little Boys Category teams that do very well in a season can get to spend the next season trying to establish themselves in the Big Boys Category where the big money is.  That makes the Little Boys Playoff Tournament very important to the teams and the coaches – – and that will make that playoff into something that fans might be interested in.

The posers at the NCAA will not be able to complain that too many of their student-athletes will play too many games under my phantasmagorical new system.  Most teams will play only 11 games plus a bowl game (perhaps).  The best teams will play 11 regular season games plus 2 games in a conference tournament plus as many as 3 games in a CFP-like tournament for a maximum of 16 games.  In the current rendition of college football the two best teams play a 15-game schedule.  My idea is NOT a huge expansion of an already over-exposed sport.

Please note that I have refrained from including here one of my pet ideas from NCAA Mythical Picks.  Please note that the decision(s) on relegation will not be made on the basis of an on-field tournament where the losing team has to play on to see if it will be relegated or not.  My imaginary SHOE Tournament from Mythical Picks is fun for me to imagine; it would never work in reality.

I can hear screams of upset already over the idea of relegation because that relegation would potentially interrupt/destroy longstanding rivalries.  There is no “schedule flexibility” in my scheme so if one party to the annual “Big Deal Game” sucks wind for a year, they may indeed have to forego next year’s “Big Deal Game”.  You know what?  Life will go on…

I would be open to the idea of extending the relegation/promotion opportunities to the teams that finish in the Top 4 of the Division 1-AA national tournament that already exists.  The reason I would not mandate it from the start is that it is not clear to me that all of the schools in Division 1-AA would want to try to grow their football program into one that might continue to exist at the Division 1-A level.  For example, Ivy League teams would probably not want to do that and I really do not know how the folks at this year’s four finalist schools in the Division 1-AA tournament would feel about “being promoted” to the Little Boys Category of Division 1-A.  For the record, this year’s finalists are:

  • Eastern Washington
  • James Madison
  • North Dakota St.
  • Youngstown St.

By the same token, I would not presume to extend the relegation/promotion concept down from Division 1-AA to Division II or from Division II to Division III.  I know that sort of thing happens in the British soccer leagues and that is the model for my idea.  I just don’t know if it is a good idea to implement this all the way up and down the ladder here in American football.

Earlier on, I said that I really did not care how various selections would be made in this reinvented system.  Actually, that is not completely correct.  I do care that the humans involved in the decision making are people who can and will spend the time to pay attention to what they are doing.  A committee composed of athletic directors and coaches and journalists is not going to be satisfactory for a simple reason:

  • Those folks have other full-time jobs and commitments that preclude them from spending 40-50 hours per week doing nothing but focusing on the tasks at hand such as adding 4 at-large teams to the Big Boys Category CFP and/or picking the 4 worst teams in the Big Boys Category to relegate.  That is not a job done by simply reading stat compilations; the selectors need to take the time to watch the candidate teams and make decisions based on the “Eyeball Test” as well as the “Statistical Test”.

Oh, by the way, that same statement would eliminate a totally computer based selection process.  Computers are not yet to the point where they might perform any sort of “Eyeball Test”.

I made a passing reference above to a “college football czar”.  I doubt that I would have difficulty convincing you that finding an acceptable person to assume that position would be impossible.  However, I will offer a nominee for the job.

 

Larry Culpepper – the Dr. Pepper stadium vendor.  After all, he invented the College Football Playoff, right?

 

That completes your tour of my fantasy world for the reinvented game of college football.  It will never come to pass, but I had fun contemplating it.  And now, let me go and adjust my meds …

But don’t get me wrong I love sports………

 

 

A Group Of 5 Football Tournament? No Thanks…

 

According to recent reports, some folks have begun to think that there ought to be a playoff bracket in college football for the so-called “Group of 5” schools.  In case you don’t know who the Group of 5 schools are, they are the schools that make up the 5 Division 1-A conferences that play – for the most part – minor league college football.  Here are the Group of 5 conferences in alphabetical order:

  • American Athletic Conference
  • Conference USA
  • Mid-American Conference (The MAC)
  • Mountain West Conference
  • Sun Belt Conference.

And probably because it is ever so proper to be “inclusive” in one’s thinking these days, the idea of this minor-league college football playoff would also be open to independent teams which this year would include:

  • Army
  • Brigham Young
  • UMass

This is such a bad idea; let me count the ways.  First, outside the highly provincial micropolises of the schools in these conferences, let me break some news to these folks here:

  1. There is a huge wave of indifference regarding just about everything involving football in each and every one of conferences.
  2. Every once in a while, a school such as Boise St. or W. Michigan (this year) captures enough non-local interest such that people wonder if those guys at that one school in that year year might actually be able to play with the “big boys”.  Often, that lone school from those 5 conferences can do that – – but no one else in those conferences can.  These conferences are where “Homecoming Game Opponents” are found…

That first reason that this is a bad idea leads directly to the second reason this is a bad idea.  If no one really cares and there is only one team in that Group of 5 every once in a while that can “play with the big boys”, then no one will pay attention to a tournament.  Oh, there will be faux attention paid just so the schools at the “kiddies’ table” get enough of the faux attention to stay at the kiddies’ table and be happy that they are there.  This playoff idea is like planting the seeds of an environment wherein the Group of 5 teams become a permanent underclass in the football hierarchy but they cannot complain because they have their tournament to focus attention on themselves.

Division 1-AA has a tournament.  Other than times when a player like Randy Moss comes from that tournament or when Carson Wentz becomes the overall #2 pick in the NFL Draft, does the Division 1-AA tournament create any goosebumps for anyone outside the school communities of the teams involved?  I’ll pose the same question about the Division II and the Division III national playoffs:

 

If you are reading this rant here, you must have some basic level of interest in sports and so you are the perfect audience to respond to this question, “Do you care even a little bit who wins or who is “snubbed” by not being invited to the Division II and/or the Division III football tournament brackets?”

 

Some say that this tournament idea can bring money to the Group of 5 schools that will give them the chance to “graduate” and compete with the “big boys”.  That is nonsense.  The amount of money that the CFP brings into the conferences involved in the top tier of Division 1-A football will dwarf the pittances that the Group of 5 tournament might draw in one’s wildest imagination.  Second, this will soon become the “Miss Congeniality” Prize for the smaller programs and will almost immediately take any and all of them out of consideration for participation in one of the bigger New Year’s Day Bowl Games – where there is real money involved.  I am confident that if I were to say awake for 72 consecutive hours I could come up with a worse idea for the Group of 5 teams.  I am not about to do that; I am, however, going to say that they better not get what they seem to be wishing for.

About 35 years ago, I was the President of the PTA for my sons’ elementary school.  Yes, I did that for an entire year and did not commit sufficient mayhem or physical violence that I was arrested and/or charged with some sort of violation of the law.  One of the debates ongoing at that time in our county was the extent to which classes in the school system should be offered in various languages.  Foreign languages were never my favorite courses in school and I am only proficient in two languages:

  1. English – and –
  2. Profane.

As my year-in-the-box progressed, there was a suggestion by a group of parents that the school system offer algebra taught in their culturally native language.  That is where I got off the train.  I asked for – and was granted – a time slot where I could address the school board and whatever other local politicians may have been in attendance at this open meeting.  Here is a paraphrase of what I told the school board that evening:

 

I hope you realize what you might actually be doing if you were to consider the idea of teaching algebra to high school students in something other than English.  What you would be doing is to lay the foundation for those students to become a permanent underclass in the US.  Like it or not, the fact of the matter is that the language of the generic economy and society here in Virginia – and in almost all of the US – is English.  Being bilingual – or even multi-lingual – is an asset for students, but they also have to know English to succeed – or to have an equal shot at success.  You can teach them lots of courses in lots of languages, but if you try to pretend that mathematics is something they can only learn in their “culturally native language” you are consigning these students to second-class citizenship.

[Aside: The Chair of the School Board happened a black woman.  She reacted to my closing statement.]  If I were an evil person and my intention was to consign a subset of the population to the status of “permanent underclass”, the first thing I would do would be to give them as poor an education as I could and to fill their time in school with things that will not be useful to them in the economy and the society that they will have to try to succeed in.  For a while, this country did that with slaves in the South until most of us figured out that was not the way to go.  If you pay more attention to feelings than you do to reality and your responsibilities as overseers of education, you will start down that path again.  Don’t do it.

 

Change the issue from teaching algebra in something other than English to high school students in the US to the idea of a minor-league football playoff and the outcome is similar.  If the Group of 5 wants to be sure they are never taken seriously and have a permanent seat at the kiddies’ table of college football, then this idea for their playoff is a great way to head on down that road.  No one is going to travel a thousand miles to see that championship game in person and precious few are going to tune on TV.  Imagine the burning interest in the game leading up to that championship contest.  This is an idea whose time has not yet come and is not going to come…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding one of already existing minor bowl games that would compete with a “Group of 5 Tournament” for attention:

“The Foster Farms Bowl was sparsely attended. Utah doesn’t really move the meter in Northern California, while Indiana doesn’t even move the meter in Indiana.

“Hint to bowl officials: Next year, please offer free Foster Farms chicken nuggets to every fan in attendance. Proposed slogan: ‘Come for the nuggets, stay for the football.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Bad Ads 2016

 

What follows here has become a predictable year-end event.  For those who have seen these sorts of things before, let me apologize while I take  a paragraph to let new readers know what lies ahead.

I watch a goodly amount of sports on TV.  That practice means that I get to – or have to – watch a lot of advertisements.  After all, those advertisements are the mechanism by which I get to watch all of my sports for next to nothing.  In and among the myriad ads, there are some that are genuinely stupid and/or insulting and/or confusing and/or disgusting.  I try to make a note of these sorts of ads and then put them together here as a way to end the current calendar year and to hope – against all hope – that the ads next year will not be so bad.  It never works out that way…

I have to admit that 2016 was a “different year” when it comes to finding “Bad Ads” related to sporting events.  I need to put everything that follows here into perspective:

  • In 2016, none of the ad campaigns featured on sporting events could come close to being as annoying/stupid as the “campaign ads” that polluted the public airwaves throughout the Presidential primaries and then in the general election campaign.  Those political ads were unctuous, slimy, misleading, weasel-worded assaults on the intelligence of the electorate.  The creators and promulgators of those ads – regardless of party affiliation – deserve severe punishment for the bullsh*t they inflicted on the populace.  Boiling in oil and/or drawing and quartering seem to be candidates for the appropriate punishments.

With that out of the way, let me go to my notes and see what sorts of things the ad mavens decided to inflict on viewers of sporting events.  A relatively recent trend in advertising seems to be ads for prescription drugs that one is supposed to ask their doctor about.  I don’t know about you, but I talk to my doctor about symptoms, aches and pains, changes in my well-being and the like.  None – as in not a single one – of those conversations has ever begun because I watched an ad on TV.  Anyway …

The year in advertising/promotion got off on a bad foot right away.  In January 2016 as the NFL playoffs were leading up to Super Bowl 50 which was to be telecast on CBS, that network ran promos touting Super Bowl 50 as:

“The most historic event in television history.”

Let me see here …  Super Bowl 50 as the most historic event in television history vis á vis:

  1. Lee Harvey Oswald shot to death on live TV by Jack Ruby
  2. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon
  3. The hostage taking and murders at the Munich Olympics
  4. President Nixon’s resignation speech
  5. The explosion of the Challenger spacecraft
  6. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall
  7. The end result of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, TX
  8. September 11,2001

Those 8 television moments are ones that come to mind because I remember seeing them and recalling where I was and what the circumstances were when I saw them.  I am certain that many folks can add to this list.  And the upshot of this list – with or without any additions from others – is very simple:

 

Super Bowl 50 is not even close to any of these events in terms of being ”the most historic event in television history.”

 

Annually, the Super Bowl is an event filled with new ads and marks the start of new ad campaigns.  Last year, Colgate used an ad spot to tell me how much water I consumed if I left the water running while I brushed my teeth.  According to the ad, I would waste more water doing that than some people have available to them for a week.  Given my background in science/engineering, my first reaction was to wonder how long it took the guy in the ad to brush his teeth and what was the flow rate of the faucet.  However, that quickly passed and I realized that this argument was one I had heard before:

  • As a kid, my parents used to tell me to eat all of my veggies because there were children starving in China.  Maybe in your family, the children were starving elsewhere; it doesn’t really matter.  The point is that the veggies – or the water in this case – are here and the starving children – or the water-deprived folks – are there.  There is a huge flaw in that argument…

[For the record … I do not let the water run while I brush my teeth.  I do this out of habit and not in any misguided empathy for people who happen to live in arid places like the Gobi Desert or Sudan.]

I encountered an Internet ad on Feb 4 2016.  It told me that I should buy a gift card from some pizza purveyor and then use it as a stocking stuffer.  The visual for the ad shows a gift card in a hand poised over a Christmas stocking hung on a mantel.  Given that this was February when it appeared on my computer screen, I figured there were only 2 possible explanations:

  1. Some “Internet ad placement specialist” somewhere hit a wrong keystroke and put a leftover ad from the previous Christmas season in queue for viewing about 6 weeks late.
  2. Some company has decided to get a jump on the marketing for Christmas and has decided to get the Christmas ad campaign going 10 months early.  If so, that would be a crime against humanity.

There is an ad for a drug that counteracts “repeated or chronic constipation” that is not alleviated by laxatives, a massive intake of prunes or the normal things one might resort to when one suffers from a “blockage down-south” so to speak.  At one point, the actor on the ad looks directly into the camera and says plaintively,

“My chronic constipation kept coming back …”

My first reaction on hearing that was “No sh*t!” but I realized that would be a cruel response to anyone with constipation.  So let me simply say that this moron reading lines in this commercial whose chronic constipation keeps coming back does not understand the meaning of the word – CHRONIC.

Dominos Pizza is a regular in these annual compilations.  Earlier this year, they had a promotion where you would get a free pizza after you placed 6 online orders of $10 or more.  They then proceeded to suggest six circumstances wherein you might order from Dominos in order to get that free pizza.  One of their suggestions was “a hot date”.  Seriously?  If you have “a hot date” and you order Dominos Pizza, my guess is that there will be no follow-up hot dates.

Another “repeat offender” that shows up here every year is Taco Bell.  This year they introduced their “Dollar Breakfast Menu” with 8-10 items that – slow down here – all cost one dollar.  Looking at all of these choices displayed on my TV screen, this is the thought that ran through my mind:

  • So, what do they charge you for the Kaopectate milkshake you are going to desperately need after chowing down on those bad boys for breakfast?

Applebees introduced the “Burger Quesadilla” to its menu.  Before you get too excited, this is merely a burger where the bun is replaced by a quesadilla; on the creativity scale this ranks about where Whack-A-Mole ranks.  Naturally, Applebees shows us smiling customers eating this new culinary delight.  One woman is so agog with this new concept that she says,

“Mind blown!”

My dear.  If the concept of substituting a quesadilla for a bread roll is mind blowing, I fear for your existence.  If your brain were converted to TNT, you might not be able to clear your sinuses.

KFC spent much of the year trotting out a bunch of D-List celebrities pretending to be Colonel Sanders.  Then they concocted silly and irrelevant circumstances for each of these reincarnated colonels to make a fool of himself.  The only way this ad campaign might become even marginally interesting would be for KFC to try to pass off Kermit the Frog as “the real Colonel Sanders”.

There is an annoying ad for Subway where a couple marks important dates in their life by which Subway sandwich is on sale on that day of the week.  For example, they named their daughter Terry because she was born on the day that the chicken teriyaki sandwich was discounted.  These mouthbreathers are annoying on top of being stupid.

 

Memo to Subway:  Annoying and stupid is not the exacta you should seek for the “characters” in your ads.

 

JP Morgan Chase has a retirement planning service ad that shows a couple with a pig on a leash walking around town.  The theme of the ad is that you should be able to live your life the way you want to live your life and if that means having a pet pig on a leash, well, mazel tov!  At the end of the ad, the couple – still with the pig on its leash – go into a bank to speak to a banker.  Look, I will be happy to take this ad off the Bad Ads list and retract my statement that this is abjectly stupid as soon as I see a real banker dealing with real customers who have a real pig on a leash in an actual bank.

Car manufacturers seem to revel in producing and showing dumb ads.  Let me begin with the one for the Audi Q-7.  According the disembodied voice in the ad, the car demonstrates that “a higher form of intelligence has arrived.”  Immediately I begin to wonder what this sedan got on the SATs but those thoughts went away quickly because what I see on the screen is the car clipping along at a high rate of speed on a foggy road.  Perhaps what the meant to say is that the car is a higher form of intelligence as compared to a boulder.

Audi decided to double down on this theme and by the time Spring arrived, they were not only asserting that this car was highly intelligent, they were declaring that intelligence is the new rock and roll.  It is jarring when an ad touting intelligence says something so trivially inane.  If I told you that I think intelligence is the new kielbasa, would that be any dumber than what Audi was trying to tell me?

Matthew McConaughey was back again this year doing creepy ads for Lincolns.  The creepiest – and the dumbest – one involves him dressed in suit walking to the edge of a swimming pool and doing a backwards belly-flop into the water fully dressed.  Question:

  • How and/or why is that supposed to motivate anyone to think about buying a Lincoln?

Equally low on the intellectual scale you will find the “Chevy Focus Group Ads”.  This series of ads features “real people not actors” with the group led by a facilitator with a mellifluous voice who says nothing important.  Actually, that is a good thing because the evident IQ level of the focus group participants suggests that Chevy spent a lot of time searching for people who live under the left side of the bell curve.

In the category of abjectly annoying ads for automobiles, all I have to do is to put two things in juxtaposition:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. You Don’t Own Me.

Right about now, I suspect you have just finished shaking off a sensation similar to the one most folks feel when they hear fingernails scraping on a blackboard…

There is a local car dealer here in the DC area who brags that he only sells “certified pre-owned cars”.  Really?  You take the time to certify for me that the car has had a previous owner?  Why is that important?  What this guy sells are “Used Cars”; you can probably deduce that from the fact that most of them are models from 2 or 3 years ago.

There is a radio ad for one of the online universities that says they provide each student with access to a “success coach”.  Maybe this university should teach a course in “redundancy”.  Have you ever heard of a coach whose mission was to teach you how to fail?

Coors had a mercifully short ad campaign where they touted their beer as “tough but fair”.  I tried to understand what those adjectives meant with respect to beer.  Here is the best I could come up with:

  • Coors is tough to drink because it is a fair-to-middling beer.

I am sure that the good folks at Coors and their ad agency has something else in mind…

Even dumber than the Coors ad campaign was one for Shock Top Beer.  Some guy in a bar is lured into a staring contest with a Shock Top Beer tap.  Not surprisingly, the beer tap wins the contest.  Message for the consumer?

  • You have to be as dumb as toast to drink Shock Top Beer.

Southwest Airlines now touts their Transfarency.  This can mean “low fares with no added fees” and it can mean that you can use your reward miles “any way you want it/anytime you need it”.  Here is the problem.  The ads have fine print on the bottom of the images on the screen – really small fine print.  If you look quickly you can see that “Rules and Regulations apply” which means that these ads are not as “transfarent” as they would like you to believe.

e-Trade had an ad where they used a “Benedict Arnold character” as someone to hawk their online trading product because – after all – Benedict Arnold knows all about being a traitor – er trader.  Maybe this would be clever to a third-grade class; maybe not.  One thing is for sure, Benedict Arnold is not a warm and fuzzy figure of American history and culture.  People who think using a stylized Benedict Arnold as a spokesperson for their product might someday take the next step and try using a stylized Pontius Pilate.  That would be a breakthrough in lunacy…

I will close this year’s compendium of bad ads with one that is local to the DC area.  One of our local stations “guarantees their weather forecast will be accurate to within 3 degrees.”  This is multi-level stupid.  Let me count the ways:

What does “guarantee” mean here?  What would I as a viewer receive as a recompense if the forecast was off by 4 degrees?  The answer is simple; I would get nothing.

Now that I know this station offers meaningless guarantees, my trust in its product is on shaky ground.  So, why should I tune in to see its next big investigative report that it will be touting someday if I don’t trust what the station says?

Back to the weather … When I hear a forecast and it says tomorrow’s high temperature will be 96 degrees, I realize that tomorrow is going to be uncomfortably hot.  Do I care if it is only 92 degrees or if it is 100 degrees – thereby falling outside the “guaranteed range”?  Not really; I will still be uncomfortable.  Here is what I want from a weather forecast where accuracy is important – and none of it has to do with a temperature range:

  1. Rain or no rain
  2. Snow/sleet/wintry mix or no snow/sleet/wintry mix.
  3. If “Snow”, then how much?  There is a huge difference between 2 inches and 16 inches.

In closing, let me offer all of you a chance to purchase a product that I guarantee will be effective and will make your life easier and more pleasant.  For three easy payments of $29.95 I will send you a giant spray can of Unicorn Repellant.  Never again will you need to clean up those annoying unicorn droppings from your yard; never again will you have the paint scraped from your house due to unicorn horns; never again will you be awakened in the middle of the night with unicorn cries as they play leap-frog in your back yard.  If you ever see a unicorn in your yard after using my repellant spray, just send us back the unused portion and we’ll refund your money.  One dose of my unicorn spray will last for weeks.  If you hurry and order now, I’ll double the offer and send you two giant spray cans of Unicorn Repellant; just pay additional shipping and handling.  But wait; there’s more …

Actually, there isn’t any more.  Those are all the ads from last year that I found annoying or stupid or ineffective.  As is always the case, I wish that the folks in creative at the ad agencies and the folks who deal with those people from the product side would make a New Year’s resolution to make ads more entertaining and less silly for 2017.  As is always the case, I doubt that’s gonna happen – – meaning I will be back doing this sort of thing again next December.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

The LVQB Award for 2016

 

My distaste for Mock Drafts months in advance of the NFL Draft and/or anything that even resembles “Bracketology” more than two weeks before Selection Sunday should be clear to anyone who reads these things.  There is another form of this same sort of silliness that infects the NFL:

Weekly projections starting in October as to who is the MVP.

Since the award is based solely on the regular season, we have reached the point in the season where such projections can begin to be meaningful so articles of that type from here on out are acceptable.  All the earlier ones are wasted bits of memory somewhere out there on the Internet.

Another thing that ought not to surprise readers here is that the world is viewed differently here in Curmudgeon Central.  I will look at the MVP Award and probably agree that the recipient is deserving and move on.  I doubt that the selection – whoever it is – will give me agita.  However, recognizing that the MVP is a quarterback about 75% of the time, I often think of it as the MVQB award.  And that leads me to look at the world differently and wonder who – in 2016 – might be the LVQB or the Least Valuable Quarterback.

I eliminate from consideration all of the 3rd string QBs who never see the field; obviously, they have no particular value to a team but that does not make for an interesting discussion.  That criterion eliminates Tony Romo from consideration here even though he is taking down a large chunk of salary cap room for the Cowboys while contributing nothing so far this year.  In my mind, the LVQB is someone who is out there on the field on a regular basis but performs in such a way as to make his teammates and his coaches wish he were somewhere else.

The nominees are – in alphabetical order of the teams they play for:

 

Cleveland Browns – RG3 and Cody Kessler and Josh McCown as a tandem:  Note that I have not included Charlie Whitehurst or Kevin Hogan to this list because neither of them lasted long enough to throw 30 passes in the season.  The stats for Browns’ QBs do not really tell the tale for two reasons.  First, the team is always behind and has to throw the ball to try – ineffectively – to catch up; and second, the offensive line is so porous that the team has had to start 5 different players at QB this year because of injuries.  I will combine stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • RG3 QB rating is 58.5; Cody Kessler is 92.6; Josh McCown is 72.3.
  • They have thrown 12 TDs and 10 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.5%
  • They average 6.7 yards per attempt.

 

Houston Texans – Brock Osweiler:  If the Texans’ Front Office does not have a deep sense of Buyer’s Remorse about now, they are comatose.  They signed Osweiler to a 4-year deal worth $72M with $37M guaranteed 10 months ago.  Now he is on the bench having put up these sorts of stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 71.4.
  • He has thrown 14 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is under 59.6%.
  • He averages 5.8 Yards per attempt.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles:  I have to admit that I thought the Jaguars were going to be a division winner this year and much of that thought was based on the progress Bortles had made last year as a maturing QB.  Let me be polite here and say that train jumped the tracks in 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 75.8
  • He has thrown 21 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is 57.8%
  • He averages 6.0 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, he and his teammates have gotten his coach fired already this year.

 

Los Angeles Rams – Case Keenum and Jared Goff as a tandem:  The Rams gave up a lot of assets to move to the top of last year’s draft to take Goff so Keenum was a “placeholder” from the outset of the season.  Goff has played only a couple of games but has certainly not set the world on fire while in there.  I will report combined stats here other than the two QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • Keenum’s QB rating is 76.4.  Goff’s QB rating is 65.7
  • They have thrown 13 TDs and 17 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.7%
  • They average 6.4 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, they and their teammates have gotten the coach fired already this year.

 

New York Jets – Ryan Fitzpatrick:  I presume the Jets’ braintrust recognized that 2015 was an aberrant performance by Fitzpatrick and that is why they did not sign him until the 11th our and 59th minute.  He had an excellent year last year and in order to regress to the mean, he is now having an awful year.  He was benched for Geno Smith earlier this year which is inglorious to be sure and then he was benched in favor of Bryce Petty which seems to have been a desperation move by the team.  Here are Fitzpatrick’s stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 69.1.
  • He has thrown 10 TDs and 15 INTs
  • His completion percentage is 56.8%
  • He averages 6.7 yards per attempt.

 

San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick as a tandem:  When Chip Kelly has to decide which QB to put on the field, it is like he is deciding whether he would rather be hung or shot. In case you forgot, Kaepernick signed a 6-year contract with the Niners for a total of $116M with $61M of it guaranteed back when it appeared that he might become a real NFL QB.  I will combine their stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately.

  • Kaepernick’s QB rating is 86.6.  Gabbert’s QB rating is 68.4
  • They have thrown 18 TDs and 9 INTs
  • Their completion percentage is 56.0%
  • They average 6.2 yards per attempt.

 

Before announcing my selection here – The Committee’s vote was unanimous because it consisted of only one member, me – let me assure folks who may be frustrated with the QB play of their favorite team that I did consider Carson Palmer, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Trevor Siemian and the troika of QBs in Chicago for the list of nominees.  I can understand how fans of the teams they play for may not be fully satisfied with their performances in 2016, but I put them a clear step above the nominees here.

I understand that “value” in the title of this anti-award ought to imply that the cost to the team receiving these underwhelming performances is part of the calculus.  For that reason, I will take the Browns’ tandem and Blake Bortles off the list of nominees first.  Next, I will take Ryan Fitzpatrick off the list because his is a short-term deal and the Jets really had no choice when you consider the other three QBs on their roster this summer.

That leaves a short list of three.  All of them are worthy.  The Curmudgeon Central Committee decision is:

 

The LA Rams tandem of Case Keenum and Jared Goff.

 

The Rams gave up two first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks essentially for the right to take Jared Goff first in the 2016 NFL Draft.  These two QBs do not represent a large monetary investment or a salary cap problem for the Rams, but the loss of those picks over last year and this year’s draft are going to have a negative impact on the team for a while down the road.  Any prospective new coach needs to assess the talent needs of the team as a whole in light of two “lost draft picks in 2017” along with the potential of either of these QBs to turn into a serious NFL QB before taking the Rams’ job no matter what the salary offer might be.

I realize that the mere consideration of a Least Valuable QB Award at this time of year is out of step with the festive spirit of the season.  I do not intend this to be a buzzkill and so let me close with the definition of “buzzkill” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Buzzkill:  Someone who brings up the subject of world hunger during a lap dance.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Legalized Sports Betting – The Time Has Come

If you have been a reader here for more than a month or so, you surely realize that I am a proponent of legalized betting on all sporting events. My advocacy on this issue is based on two realities:

    1. Having sports betting in an “illegal status” does not mean that it does not happen – as I will try to demonstrate later in this rant.

    2. Legalizing it – and regulating it – will create a new source of tax revenue for governments at various levels of our society. These new tax revenues would not be imposed on anyone against their will; people who do not bet on baseball or football games would not be paying any of the new taxes that would flow to the coffers of governments. It would be a consumption tax.

I would like to welcome a former opponent of sports betting to my side of the aisle. David Stern – as the NBA Commissioner – did not think that betting on NBA games was a good idea and surely did not embrace the good folks in Las Vegas who set lines on all of his games. However, he recently spoke to a convocation called the Global Gaming Expo held in Las Vegas where he addressed the benefits of legalized sports betting and – more importantly – how legalized sports betting would ultimately become a protector of the integrity of the games themselves.

    Mr. Former Commissioner, welcome aboard the Wagering Wagon…

In his remarks, Stern said, inter alia:

“The belief that gambling will lead to bad things is an outdated notion.”

And ,,,

“Let’s not talk about the ‘evils’ of gambling when it comes to sports. The industry has come to accept that a properly run gaming association will be protective toward sports.”

The Global Gaming Expo is an event sponsored by and hosted by the American Gaming Association (AGA). This is a trade organization; it is made up of people and entities directly involved in the casino industry; it cannot possibly be seen as a neutral observer when it comes to opinions and positions with regard to gambling issues. Nevertheless, it is not a criminal entity either; it does not exist to destroy the fabric of Western Civilization. In early September of this year, the AGA released a report that had the following estimate in it:

    For the second year in a row, betting on football games (NCAA games and NFL games combined) Americans would wager something slightly north of $90 billion dollars. That is billion with a “b”.

The legalized sports betting industry would handle about $2B this year and the rest of the betting would be done illegally. Approximately 97% of all that money wagered only on football games this year will happen in an underground economy that is illegal, unregulated and untaxed. So much for the idea that passing a law to make gambling illegal will stamp it out…

    I have said before and I will repeat it here. The various pieces of legislation at the Federal, State and Local levels that make sports betting illegal should be called the Local Bookies’ Full Employment Acts.

I am sure that someone else can point to another study where the amount of illegal wagering is not nearly as high as what the AGA has put out there. However, if you read a study that says it is only a trivial amount of money or that this entire issue is under control by the authorities, you can surely dismiss that report as fanciful – even if that is your fondest desire.

I recall reading a report about a year ago that said that the FBI estimated that almost $4B had been wagered illegally on the Super Bowl that year. Like the AGA, you might argue that the FBI might inflate that figure a tad to justify some sort of budget submission to the Congress. On the other hand, they would not have a figure to inflate if in fact the “problem” of sports betting was under control…

One of the major Impediments with regard to legalizing, regulating and taxing sports betting is Federal legislation that does not allow States to decide individually if they want to allow sports betting or not. In plenty of States, it is currently illegal to bet on the Jets +3.5 points against the Patriots but it is not only legal people are encouraged to play the State run lottery games. That fact alone denies a moral stance against sports betting. The most offending Federal legislation here is something known as PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. While well-intentioned, this needs to be repealed and then replaced with something far more rational. PASPA demonstrates clearly the kernel of truth in the old aphorism:

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

The State of New Jersey has – so far unsuccessfully – tried to initiate sports betting there. The US Conference of Mayors has joined with the AGA in calling for a “national discussion” to change the ways that sports betting is regulated. Legislators in Pennsylvania have passed a resolution calling on the US Congress to repeal PASPA. I mention these actions here not because they have changed the way things are but to demonstrate that I am not alone in thinking that the time has come for a major change here.

Finally, since all of this is about legalizing a form of gambling, let me close with a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald related to another form of gambling that has been legalized:

“World Series of Poker final table getting close, the annual popular gathering spot for egomaniacs wearing sunglasses indoors.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

The calendar has turned the page 12 times since last I set out to embarrass myself in public. Once again, it is time for me to do a team-by-team prediction for the NFL season that will start later this week. The outcome here will be my sense of the final record for all 32 teams come January 2017. This is not something that will mysteriously disappear from the website; I know from history – and just plain common sense – that there are going to be huge errors in these predictions. I will make then nonetheless; I will leave them here so people can mock me later on and I will even do a post-mortem sometime in January of February of next year and grade myself on what follows here.

Sometime during the season – or at the end – someone will stumble across these predictions and latch on to one of my glaring errors wherein I thought a team would go 4-12 and they actually went 10-6. Often, the fanboy who discovers such an error will accuse me of being a hater and will demand an apology from me on behalf of the team and all of its fans. I will not issue such an apology and one is not merited because:

    I do not “hate” – nor do I “love” – any NFL team. These predictions – call them guesses if that makes you feel better – come from a look at the team schedules and rosters and not much more than that. I do not engage in wishful thinking about any team in either a positive or negative sense.

    Apologies are associated with acts that are malicious in their intent or in their execution. There is no malice contained here and certainly no damage will be done to any team or fan by any prediction I make. Ergo, an apology would be irrelevant and out-of-place.

    What I do owe anyone and everyone who reads this stuff is an admission at the end of the season that some – many – of these predictions were downright wrong and that I was a dunderhead to have thought what I did before the season began. Read the post-mortem in early 2017; you will plenty of such admission(s).

Before I get to the teams and their projected records, let me identify 8 coaches who I believe are on a hot seat for the 2016 season. I am not hoping that these coaches get fired; I just think their employment situations are less stable than their peers. I will list them alphabetically lest someone think I have some preferential order in mind here:

    Gus Bradley (Jags): I had him on this list last year but the Jags showed definite improvement in 2015. I think that the Jags are a team on the rise and that Bradley will in fact be back next year. However, if I am dead wrong on that and the Jags regress to something like a 3-13 record, he will be toast. So, I put him on the list for the sake of completeness.

    Jim Caldwell (Lions): Last year, the team rallied to win 6 games in the second half of the season to finish 7-9. If you do the math there, that means the Lions were 1-7 in the first half of the season. Presumably, the Front Office saw the second half surge as a harbinger of good things for 2016. If that is the case and if the Lions do not build on that surge, I suspect that Jim Caldwell will be moving on at the end of the 2016 season.

    Jeff Fisher (Rams): The Rams underachieved last year and I thought that the Rams had not been “playoff relevant” for a while now, so I went and looked up Fisher’s record there. It is not pretty:

      He has been with the Rams for 4 seasons. The combined record is 27-36-1 and there have been no playoff appearances for the Rams.

      Moreover, his last winning season (with the Titans) was all the way back in 2008.

    Fisher signed a 5-year contract in 2012; this is his “contract year”. The Rams now play in LA where teams that contend for titles draw plenty of attention and adulation and where bad/mediocre teams fade into obscurity very quickly. Fisher and the Rams had better win this year.

    Jason Garrett (Cowboys): In no way would he be responsible for a bad year by the Cowboys. In fact, you might argue that he enters the season in the situation where he has brought a knife to a gunfight. But expectations were really high for the Cowboys this year; Jerry Jones has been hyping the 2016 season ever since the 2015 season ended. So, if the Cowboys really tank this year, Jerry Jones may need to do something symbolic to show his fanbase that he is doing more about “winning” than talking about “winning”. So, put Garrett on a hot seat even if he does not deserve to be there.

    Marvin Lewis (Bengals): I believe that Lewis is the coach – not named Belichick – with the longest tenure with his team in all of the NFL. Granted, he took over a dysfunctional team in a dysfunctional franchise and got everything headed in a positive direction. The Bengals owe him a lot for that.

      Some perspective here. Lewis has had the Bengals in the playoffs 7 times in 13 seasons. Prior to his arrival in Cincy, the Bengals had been in the playoffs a total of 7 times in 37 seasons.

      Before Lewis arrived, the team was not-so-affectionately known as “The Bungles” and they earned every morsel of that moniker.

    Here is the problem; the Bengals have not won a playoff game in the 13 years that Marvin Lewis has been the coach there. The team is 0-7 in playoff games and have lost in the opening round in each of the last 5 seasons. Last year’s loss was due to a total loss of focus/control/discipline on the part of two defensive players. That sort of “loss” falls under the heading of “coaching”. I think Marvin Lewis needs a playoff win this year…

    Mike McCoy (Chargers): This is his 4th season in San Diego. In his first year, the team went 9-7 and made the playoffs (and won a playoff game too). In his second year, the team went 9-7 again but missed out on the playoffs. Last year – under a blizzard of injuries – the Chargers were 4-12. McCoy is on a hot seat if the team goes 4-12 again. He does not have to win his division – I do not think the Chargers can do that – but they have to be better than getting the overall #3 pick in the draft once again.

    Mike Mularkey (Titans): He took over in mid-season last year and went 2-7 in his 9 games then. Management gave him a shot to move things forward this year but his coaching record is not one that inspires a lot of confidence. He has been a head coach for 3.5 seasons. Back in 2004 (with the Bills) he had a 9-7 record. Since then, his cumulative record is 9-32. Add to that negativity the fact that the Titans’ roster is “talent-challenged”. I think this hot seat will be ”Habanero Hot” come January 2017.

    Rex Ryan (Bills): Like Jason Garrett above, he may be looking at a season where a sterling record is highly improbable. Nonetheless, given the braggadocio and the setting of ultra-high expectations that is the hallmark of any Rex Ryan press conference, he might be out of a job come January if the team falls below .500. For the record, Ryan has an overall losing record as a head coach (54-58-0) and his last winning season was back in 2010.

I should point out that last year I listed 7 coaches who I thought were on a hot seat – whether or not I agreed that they should be there. At the end of the 2015 season 5 of those 7 coaches were out of work; 2 of the 5 did not make it to the end of the season with their teams. So there…

Now that the appetizer course has been consumed and the dishes cleared, it is time to get down to business. I shall begin in the AFC…

AFC East: I predict a total of 31 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the AFC East the 5th strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Patriots: I think they will win 11 games and win the division for the 8th consecutive season and do so comfortably. The schedule maker was not overly kind to the Pats; they open the season on the road in Arizona with Jimmy Garropolo at QB. The next 3 games are not nearly as fearsome since all of them are at home in Foxboro. I suspect Tom Brady will return to a team in Week 5 that is sitting on a 2-2 record. If – I said IF – the Pats are 4-0 at the end of 4 games, be prepared for Bill Belichick to extort an unusual price from some QB-hungry GM in the off-season. Here is an example of what I mean:

      When the Pats sent Chandler Jones to the Cards last offseason – see below – they got an offensive guard named Jonathon Cooper almost as a sweetener in the deal. Cooper was once a high first-round pick and as of this morning he is listed first on the depth chart for the Pats at right guard.

    Jets: I think they will win 8 games and that they will – once again – win those games thanks to their defense. If Ryan Fitzpatrick improves markedly over his performance last year, he will be the ultimate “late bloomer”. If he regresses to the mean, the Jets will finish 8-8. If last year was a fluke in the positive direction and the football gods decide to give him a fluke in the negative direction, the Jets are in real trouble. The schedule for the Jets from Week 1 through Week 7 is hardly a pushover:

      Vs Bengals
      At Bills
      At Chiefs
      Vs Seahawks
      At Steelers
      At Cardinals
      Vs Ravens

    Dolphins: I think they will win 6 games this year. Last year was supposed to be the year that Ryan Tannehill “took a big step forward” as a QB. That did not happen; the coach got fired and the team brought in a new regime where the head coach – Adam Gase – is a “Certified Quarterback Whisperer”. I think the past is prologue; Tannehill will continue to be mediocre; the Dolphins’ OL will do him no favors. The schedule in September is also daunting:

      At Seahawks
      At Patriots
      Vs Browns
      At Bengals

    In the off-season, it appears to me that the Dolphins let young free agents walk and then they signed older free agents. Usually teams that do that have the idea that this is the season to make a push for a deep playoff run. I just do not see that happening in Miami. For example, the Dolphins traded to acquire Byron Maxwell from the Eagles in the off-season. Maxwell played really well for the Seahawks two years ago; last year he stunk it out with the Eagles. The Dolphins inherited an expensive contract in this exchange (6 years and $63M in total) and they really need Maxwell to be the player he was in Seattle and not the player he was in Philly.

    Bills: I think they will win 6 games this year and that Rex Ryan will be collecting the rest of his contract money without having to freeze his butt off on the sidelines in Buffalo next December. There are myriad injuries on the defensive side of the ball – and Marcel Dareus will serve a suspension for missing a drug test. Rex’ brother, Rob, is the defensive coordinator this year; and to be polite, Rob’s defenses have not been good at all for the last several seasons. The Bills have a tough patch in the middle of their schedule. Between 2 October and 20 November, the Bills play seven games (and have their Bye Week); five of those seven games are on the road and three of those road opponents are the Pats, Seahawks and Bengals. Ouch…

AFC North: I predict a total of 32 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the AFC North tied for 3rd as the strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Steelers: I think they will win 11 games and win the division on the strength of their offense. Normally, one thinks of the Steelers as a defensive squad; not last year and not this year either. Look for Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Bryant and LeVeon Bell – when he gets back from suspension – to light up the scoreboard. If their defense is as porous as I suspect it will be, there may be plenty of chances to “Bet the OVER” in Steelers’ games this year.

    Bengals: I think they will 10 games this year and will be one of the two AFC Wild Card teams. If they do win 10 games, that will be the fifth year in a row that the Bengals have collected double-digit wins. As mentioned above, the Bengals may then need to win their first-round playoff game for Marvin Lewis to keep his job. The Bengals open the season with 4 of their first 6 games on the road. Adding a veteran like Karlos Dansby who is still productive to their defense may be what that defense needs in terms of “maintaining its composure”.

    Ravens: I think they will win 8 games and miss the playoffs again. Last year was an anomaly; the Ravens looked more like a M*A*S*H unit than an NFL team by the end of the season. Joe Flacco – even when he was completely healthy – had a horrible season last year; he is a better QB than he showed then. The Ravens are starting to show some age. Steve Smith Sr. is back; so is Terrell Suggs; both are still fine players and both of them are long-in-the-tooth.

    Browns: I think they will win 3 games but they will not have the overall #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. RG3 will show marked improvement playing for an offensive minded coach who has not yet made up his mind that Griffin simply cannot be an NFL QB. That was his status in Washington. There just is not sufficient talent on the squad for the team to resemble – even faintly – a .500 team in the NFL. Circle 16 October on your calendar.

      On that day, the Browns will travel about 500 miles to the southwest to play the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

      That appears now to be the “Dog-Breath Game of the Year” on the 2016 NFL schedule.

AFC South: I predict a total of 29 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the AFC South the 7th strongest division in terms of total wins. Or you could call it the 2nd weakest division if you prefer… Here is the breakdown:

    Jaguars: I think they will win 10 games and win the division. If they do that, you can surely take Gus Bradley off the coaching hot seat I described above and if they do that it will be the first winning season in Jax since 2007. The division title could well come down to the final game on New Year’s Day between the Jags and the Colts in Indy. Blake Bortles improved a lot last year; he needs to continue on that performance arc; a healthy Julius Thomas at TE and a returning Allen Robinson at WR will help him achieve that goal. TJ Yeldon was a good RB last year and this year he will get a breather now and then with Chris Ivory on the roster. The Jags’ defense is the question mark …

    Colts: I think they will 9 games and not make the playoffs. I understand that Andrew Luck is back and healthy and I know for sure that Andrew Luck is a really good QB. My issue with the Colts is that two of their weaknesses (mediocre OL and sub-standard defense) were on display all of last year and neither of them seems to be in a significantly different place this year.

    Texans: I think they will win 8 games this year. The Texans signed Brock Osweiler away from the Broncos in the off season and set up this circumstance:

      Brock Osweiler will take home $21M this year and that is more than Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Cam Newton will make. Seriously …

    The Texans have a top-shelf WR in DeAndre Hopkins; that will help Osweiler to show as a good – and hopefully for the Texans’ fans ‘better than average” – QB this season. Actually, the bigger question mark for the Texans involves JJ Watt who is the best defensive lineman in the game right now. He missed all of the exhibition games and was just cleared medically for practice. The team says he will play in Game 1; his performance level under those circumstances has to be in question. The Texans need him to be himself when he does play if they are going to get significant business done on defense.

    Titans: I think they will win 2 games this year and be on the clock with the #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as of 2 January 2017. By the way, winning only 2 games is not something that ought to stun the fanbase in Tennessee; this team has only won 5 games in the last two seasons combined. Marcus Mariotta showed promise as a developing QB talent last year; the team has DeMarco Murray and high draft pick Derrick Henry to run the football. The problem is that they have Manny, Moe and Jack to play WR. They signed Andre Johnson in the off-season; Johnson has been a really good WR in the past but he is running on fumes in terms of career and productivity in 2016.

AFC West: I predict a total of 36 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the AFC West the strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Raiders: I think they will win 11 games this year and win the division. If they do that it will be their first winning season since the team went 11-5 in 2002; that team went to the Super Bowl. The schedule sets up the Raiders for a fast start. Between September 11 and October 30, the Raiders play 8 games but only 1 of those opponents made the playoffs last year. Immediately after that opening half of the season, the Raiders have 4 consecutive home games on the schedule plus a Bye Week thrown in. That gets them all the way to the first week of December! Over the past several years, a serious shortcoming for the Raiders has been their OL. That unit showed improvement last year and if that continues, this team will be a tough out for anyone. Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are for real…

    Chiefs: I think they will win 10 games this year and make the playoffs as one of the AFC Wild Card teams. Last year, the Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles to injury and never missed a beat; in fact, they won 11 straight games after he went down. Make no mistake, if Charles is back at 90% of what he was prior to that injury, he will be a big plus to the Chiefs offensive flexibility. LB, Justin Houston, is on the PUP List meaning he cannot play for at least the first 6 games – and he may be out for the year. That will not help the Chiefs defense at all; Houston is a player. Two road games – at Pittsburgh and at Carolina – will be challenging for the Chiefs.

    Broncos: I think they will win 8 games this year and miss the playoffs. I understand that they won the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense last year and not because their offense was any good. However, that offense now lacks the cerebral/leadership aspects that the aging Peyton Manning brought to the huddle and that defense is missing a couple of good players (Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan) who decided to go elsewhere and “get paid”. The Broncos are not going to crater and join the Browns and Titans at the bottom rungs of the AFC, but they are not a playoff team in 2016.

    Chargers: I think they will win 7 games this year and miss the playoffs and that they will be in the market for a new coach in January 2017. [Aside: For the record, I do not think the team will win the referendum in November to get the needed public funding for their new stadium in San Diego either.] The team will not be as bad as they were last year but the porous OL and the lack of a sound running game does not auger well in this very tough division. Of course, last year’s first-round pick, RB Melvyn Gordon, might help out that anemic running game if he shows the form he did in college. Gordon’s rookie year was a borderline disaster; he carried the ball 185 times for a little less than 650 yards and zero TDS. To make that worse, he coughed the ball up 6 times…

So, let me summarize the AFC here. Their playoff bracket will be:

    #1 Seed: Steelers via tiebreakers
    #2 Seed: Pats via tiebreakers
    #3 Seed: Raiders via tiebreakers
    #4 Seed: Jags as “the other” division winner
    #5 Seed: Bengals via tiebreakers
    #6 Seed: Chiefs via tiebreakers

I have to admit that I took a short break here and indulged in an adult beverage in order to get set to move to the second half of this magnum opus. I shall now move on to the NFC…

NFC East: I predict a total of 28 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the NFC East the weakest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Skins: I think they will win 9 games this year and that will be sufficient to win this sorry-assed division. People say that Kirk Cousins needs to show that he can improve from last season. Excuse me; but he set a franchise record for passing yards last year and the franchise has been around since 1932. Kirk Cousins is playing for a long-term contract and it means a lot to him. He is playing under the “franchise tag” this year taking down a cool $19.2M. If he has another year similar to last year, his agent will use that number as the basis for opening the negotiations. It will not be a huge surprise if Cousins has some great stats because the Skins’ running game may not be nearly as good as it has been in recent years. The team let Alfred Morris walk; Matt Jones is a talented runner but he was hurt last year and got hurt again in the exhibition season. On defense, the question mark(s) are at safety where there are some good tacklers on the roster but none of them are “cover guys”.

    Cowboys: I think they will win 7 games this year. Before Tony Romo got hurt such that he will miss at least half of the season, I thought that the Cowboys had put together a balanced offense that would score enough points to overcome the porous Cowboys’ defense. Look, Dak Prescott may be this year’s version of Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie; it could happen. However, if he is something significantly below that, the Cowboys may be reduced to running an offense akin to the wishbone with Ezekiel Elliot and Alfred Morris carrying the ball because behind Prescott sits Mark Sanchez. Recognize that the Broncos cut Sanchez last week and handed the QB job to a guy who has never thrown a pass in a real NFL game. Oh, and as I mentioned, the Cowboys’ defense is not all that good…

    Giants: I think they will win 7 games this year. The reason the Giants faded last year – and cost Tom Coughlin his job – was that the defense just plain stunk. The team went out and spent money on defenders; but when I look at what they got, I just shrug my shoulders. Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon are nice players but that’s all they are. The return of a healthy Victor Cruz would be a nice addition for Eli Manning; Cruz has not been healthy enough to see the field since the early part of the 2014 season. Is he ready yet?

    Eagles: I think they will win 5 games this year as they start to clean out the mess that the Chip Kelly regime left behind. I do not know what caused Kelly to jettison the talented players that he did nor do I know why he acquired some of the marginal players that he did. What that roster needed – and still needs to some extent – is a thorough housecleaning. Trading Sam Bradford makes sense in the long term and I think it demonstrates that no one in the Eagles’ braintrust thinks this team is going anywhere this year. Fans will clamor to see Carson Wentz on the field; if the adults in charge of the team can put in some earplugs and not listen to the fans, Wentz will spend the year learning his craft on the sidelines and in the classroom and Chase Daniel will be the starting QB.

NFC North: I predict a total of 32 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the NFC North tied for 3rd place as the strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Packers: I think they will win 12 games this year and win their division handily. The return of Jordy Nelson from the DL and the presence of an Eddie Lacy who is no longer trying to emulate the body type of William “The Refrigerator” Perry assures that the Packers will have the dominant offense in the division. The defense played well last year and there is no reason to suspect that they will forget how to play this year. The Packers open with two games on the road and then 4 consecutive games at home in Lambeau Field. Strange scheduling …

    Vikings: I think they will win 10 games this year and will be an NFC Wild Card team. I had them winning 11 games before Teddy Bridgewater’s non-contact injury last week. With Shaun King – or eventually the recently acquired Sam Bradford – at QB, the presence of Adrian Peterson becomes even more important than normal. The problem for the Vikes’ offense is pretty simple; they have to have someone – anyone – at QB who can make the passing game into something more than a desperation move when they face 3rd and 13. Unless they do that, Peterson will look at 8-man fronts on 75% of the snaps. And remember, Peterson is 31 years old and has run the ball in the NFL 2,381 times in real games. He is an amazing physical specimen, but that sort of work history has to mean there is wear and tear on those tires… Mike Zimmer got the coaching job in Minnesota because of his defensive prowess. He will need that unit to play well for the team to contend this year.

    Lions: I think they will win 5 games this year and I think they will be shopping for a new coach come January. The departure of Calvin Johnson is hugely significant for a team that does not run the ball very well at all. Golden Tate has been a good #2 receiver for his career; now we shall see how he fares when “the guy on the other side of the field” does not draw most of the attention on 90% of the plays.

    Bears: I think they will win 5 games this year. I know that, historically, John Fox’s teams improve significantly in the second year of his tenure. I just do not think he has the roster to make that happen. Jay Cutler played with lots less drama than usual last year; can he continue to do that with a team that has a truly mediocre OL in front of him and a dearth of running backs behind him? I like John Fox as a coach; I think this rebuilding process in Chicago is going to take him a bit longer than previous ones took.

NFC South: I predict a total of 34 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the NFC South tied for 2nd place as the strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Panthers: I think they will win 13 games this year and win their division by a mile. That assessment takes into account the “hangover” that most teams that lose the Super Bowl face in the following season. The Panthers won 15 games last year without Kelvin Benjamin who is a really good WR and who is back this year. Back in 2014 before his injury, Benjamin caught 79 passes for 1005 yards. The schedule sets up nicely for the Panthers given that they should dominate their division opponents in those divisional games. For the final quarter of the season this is the lineup:

      Vs Chargers
      At Skins
      Vs Falcons
      At Bucs

    Bucs: I think they will win 7 games this year. Jameis Winston played very well last year and seemingly set aside any serious concerns people may have had about his maturity and his dedication to his craft. The Bucs lost 4 in a row at the end of last year and that is probably why there is a new coaching regime in Tampa. Lovie Smith was a “defense guy”; Dirk Koetter is an “offense guy”. Hey, it’s a change; sometimes change is good and necessary; sometimes change is merely … change.

    Falcons: I think they will win 7 games this. I like their signing of Mohamed Sanu to play WR on the side away from Julio Jones. Teams were totally focused on Jones on every play last year; he is a great receiver, but he needs a little breathing room. A healthy and productive Devonta Freeman at RB helps with that too. What the Falcons really need is some improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Head coach Dan Quinn is a “defense guy”; he and his staff need to make that happen…

    Saints: I think they will win 7 games this year. I know that Drew Brees is still there and that he and Sean Payton have a Vulcan mind-meld when it comes to offensive football. He is coming to the end of his career and I will not be surprised to see him put out a great statistical season. The problem here is the same as it has been in New Orleans for the past several years; the defense just plain stinks.

NFC West: I predict a total of 34 wins for the 4 teams in this division. That makes the NFC West tied for 2nd strongest division in terms of total wins. Here is the breakdown:

    Seahawks: I think they will win 11 games this year and will win the division in a tiebreaker with the Cardinals. The Seahawks have ridden their defense to 4 straight playoff appearances and it would surely seem as if they can do that one more time this year. Last year, the team had to deal with the “distractions” provided by Kam Chancellor and Marshawn Lynch. Chancellor is not holding out this year and Lynch is in retirement. I really enjoy watching Russell Wilson play QB. There are some real issues with the team:

      Russell Okung was their best OL – despite a history of injuries that made him miss games. He is now gone and playing for the Broncos.

      Jimmy Graham suffered a torn patella tendon last season. His return to the field is still up in the air as is his ability to recover his previous form once he is there. A torn patella tendon has basically shelved Victor Cruz for almost 2 years; some people never come back from that surgery.

    Cardinals: I think they will also win 11 games this year and they will be the first NFC Wild Card team in the playoffs. The Cards will score points this year; they may be the 2016 version of “The Greatest Show on Turf” – – so long as Carson Palmer stays healthy. [Aside: Also so long as Palmer forgets his last “real” NFL game where he threw 4 INTs and lost 2 fumbles in the playoffs against the Panthers last year.] Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown at WR present formidable challenges to any defense in the league. Jermaine Gresham is not exactly chopped liver as a TE. Can the Cards’ defense hold up its end of the bargain? The acquisition of Chandler Jones from the Pats is supposed to make that happen. One other question about the Cards has no simple answer:

      Is the door closing on this team for a major run in the playoffs/Super Bowl? Carson Palmer is 37 years old; if some intern in the Front Office there is drafting a 5-year plan for the team, he would be wise not to include Carson Palmer in there as the starting QB for all of the 2020 season. The window is not shut – – but it is not opening any wider either.

    Palmer is not a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination. However, recognize that the QBs behind him on the Cards’ depth chart as of this morning are Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley. If you were an opposing defensive coordinator, would either of those guys keep you awake at night to the same extent as Carson Palmer?

    Rams: I think they will 6 games this year, miss the playoffs and start hunting for a new coach in January 2017. This is a tough division to play in with a rookie QB – even a rookie taken with the overall #1 pick. When the Rams do win, it will usually be because their excellent defensive unit controlled the game.

    Niners: I think they will win 6 games this year, miss the playoffs and continue to have turmoil among the coaching staff, the GM and the owners’ suite. Look, I think Chip Kelly is a smart guy whose offensive system can work in the NFL. I also think he is stubborn to a fault. Meanwhile, the decision making tandem of Jed York and Trent Baalke has not shown itself to be anything more than marginally competent ever since they got into an ego-based showdown with Jim Harbaugh two years ago. The problem with the Niners is a talent deficiency and that will show itself more than a few times in the upcoming season.

So, let me summarize the NFC here. Their playoff bracket will be:

    #1 Seed: Panthers – in a walk
    #2 Seed: Packers – in a walk
    #3 Seed: Seahawks – via tiebreaker with Cards
    #4 Seed: Skins – the “other” division winner
    #5 Seed: Cards – via tiebreaker with the Seahawks
    #6 Seed: Vikings

Please note that my projected first round NFC Playoff pairings give us a rematch between the Vikings and the Seahawks from last year. You will recall that the Vikings lost that game when a chip shot field goal sailed about a mile to the left of the goal posts. That game was in Minnesota; this year’s game would be in Seattle. It might be interesting…

So let it be written; so let it be done.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The Big 12 Expansion

The Big 12 Conference is looking to expand. Actually, the Big 12 Conference is trying to live up to its name because at the moment the Big 12 Conference consists of only 10 teams. If they add two more, they will hit some sort of magical threshold set by the overseers of collegiate athletics and will be allowed to stage a Big 12 Conference Championship Football Game. Strip away every other motivation you may hear or read; that is the basis for this endeavor at its foundation.

Reportedly, the search began with 20 possible schools that might be invited to join and there is a perspective that needs to be placed on that original list of 20 schools. The Big 12 Conference is the scion of the Big 8 Conference which was spawned by the old Southwest Conference. The Southwest Conference was at one time a big deal; Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Arkansas and sometimes TCU were prominently displayed in the “Top Ten” in the country. I do not want to portray today’s Big 12 as something akin to the Sun Belt Conference or Conference-USA, but today’s Big 12 has lost a lot of the luster that was associated with its previous incarnations. So, when I saw the “original list” of 20 possible invitees, I wondered if any of the “conference historians” had chimed in.

Yesterday, reports began to emerge that the list had been cut from 20 to 13. Here are the 7 schools that supposedly will not be invited to the Big 12 party:

    Arkansas State
    Boise State
    East Carolina
    New Mexico
    Northern Illinois
    San Diego State
    UNLV

Meaning not a shred of disrespect to any of those schools or any folks associated with any of those schools, there is no “football royalty” in any of those bloodlines. If indeed the Big 12 Search Committee – or whatever it may call itself – spent more than an hour-and-a-half considering that entire list of 7 schools, then it has far too much time on its hands.

The 13 schools that remain on the list are:

    Air Force
    BYU
    Cincinnati
    Colorado State
    Houston
    Memphis
    Rice
    South Florida
    SMU
    Temple
    Tulane
    UCF
    UConn

To me, the choice is pretty simple if that is the list. I would add BYU and Houston for these reasons:

    BYU has a consistently good football program that will add to the conference strength of schedule for the teams there. Moreover, it is geographically close to other Big 12 schools and it is not a school where scandals and probations from the NCAA abound.

    Houston is right in the heart of “Big 12 Country” and the school happens to be in a city of more than 2 million people – that is a big market for the conference to tap into.

Please notice that Temple and UConn are still on the list. I suspect – but do not know for sure – that they are there for the same reason that the Big 10 Conference added Maryland and Rutgers a couple of years ago. The thinking is that having “representation” there will make Big 12 football more interesting in the heavily populated Northeast market. I think that is searching for Fool’s Gold.

I have lived all of my life in the Northeast Megalopolis. One of the things that is clear to me as a denizen is that college football is just not that big a deal with the vast majority of the sports fans here. Picture the “football map” of 30 years ago where the Big 10 never got east of Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State and the ACC never got north of Maryland. Think about those northeastern states of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and all of New England. Ask yourself now:

    Where are the “big time football schools” where the teams are consistently good and the crowds are big and rabid?

Well, here is the list:

    Penn State

If you want to embellish a bit:

    Boston College fields good teams most of the time but never fields a great team. Let me just say that tickets for BC football are not “hot commodities” in the Boston area where tickets to the Red Sox and/or the Patriots set the standard for “hot commodities”.

    Syracuse used to be consistently good and has drawn some good crowds in the past but today Syracuse is far more of a basketball school than a football school and it has been that way for about 20 years.

Different parts of the country embrace different sports to a different degree. It is just the way things are. In the northeast, people care about baseball far more than do people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. There is no value judgment in that statement; it is just a fact. If the Big 12 seeks to market its product in the northeast, it is going to be met with a lot of yawning and passive resistance; people there would not even care enough about it to engage in active resistance.

The Big 12 is in the business of marketing college football. They really need to do a market analysis not of their product – which of course they will see as pure and wonderful and virtually irresistible – but of their target audience. Let me give an example here:

    The American Vegan Society will put on a Gala Dinner with dancing and entertainment in Vineland, NJ later this month.

    It would make no sense at all for the National Pork Board to hand out coupons for ham steaks and other promotional materials at this event.

I am not saying that the Big 12 is considering something as abjectly stupid as my example here but it is close.

Finally, let me close with a comment about college football from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald. It relates to a part of the country where college football is indeed a really big deal:

“A four-star recruit announced his commitment to Florida State by pulling up in a Lamborghini adorned with Seminoles logos. Here’s the scary thing: What are the five-star recruits driving?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The Tail Wags The Dog

In far too many circumstances, we see examples of the tail (big time athletics particularly football) wagging the dog (a university nominally in place to provide educational opportunities). The late Dr. Myles Brand for whom I had little regard as the head of the NCAA said that it was time for the university presidents to reclaim authority at their institutions from athletic directors and coaches. Let me just say that has not happened yet.

Yesterday, CBSSports.com reported that the University of Tennessee has cancelled classes and will close most of the campus offices on Thursday September 1 because that is the date of the opening football game of the season against Appalachian State. According to an e-mail from the school, they will add a day to the end of the semester to “keep the number of days in the academic calendar consistent”. They did not say “consistent” with whatever but I will assume they mean consistent with however long a semester has been at Tennessee recently.

Of course, the reason given is that there will be traffic congestion and parking issues on campus for that weeknight game and canceling classes will somehow make it easier for people to get in and out of the parking lot at the football venue in mid-day to begin their “preparations” for the game. For the record, I found 11 college football games that will be played on Thursday 1 September all of which will start between 7:00PM and 9:00 PM and none of the home teams decided they needed to cancel classes to ease traffic congestion on that day. Here is a link to that list. Oh by the way, there are lots of games scheduled on weeknights on plenty of campuses around the country this year. What is the OVER/UNDER on the number of schools that will cancel classes and close the campus offices on the day of the game for traffic reasons?

In the wake of the Baylor football mess – and that story is not yet concluded as there are now reports that some high rollers at Baylor want Coach Art Briles back next year after serving only a 1-year suspension – many folks have called for reforms to athletics and athletic departments. Only a fool would try to argue that the status quo is the best that it could possibly be. Some folks have called for a “College Football Czar” or College Football Commissioner” to set things right. Really? Let me toss out the names Roger Goodell, Bud Selig, David Stern etc. Are you trying to tell me that those men have handled disciplinary matters and scandalous behaviors in a model fashion? The existence of a “Commish” is not a panacea.

What we really need is an outbreak of common sense and common decency. In 2016, that is about as likely as finding a unicorn but that is what we need. Let me give you one example:

    The SEC – and the PAC-12 – to their credit have rules in place that forbid an athlete to transfer into any school there if that athlete left behind “serious misconduct issues” at his/her previous school. That is a positive step; there is no doubt about that. I will assume that as time progresses, there will be constantly improving levels of reporting of such incidents and more vigilant investigations by member schools to uncover any such incidents of “serious misconduct.” Kudos to the SEC and the PAC-12 here. Except …

      Mississippi State – an SEC school – just admitted as a freshman a top-shelf football recruit who punched a woman sometime before he enrolled. That was OK with the school and with the conference because he was not a transfer student and therefore was not covered under the existing rule. Puhleeez …

That is what I like to call a distinction without a difference. A football athlete who punches a woman has been involved in something akin to “serious misconduct”. If that “serious misconduct” happens at another college, then the perp cannot transfer to Mississippi State; if that “serious misconduct” happens at Mississippi State, the school will part company with him; however, if it happens while the perp is a “free agent” then – – – it’s all good.

If we had an outbreak of common sense and/or common decency, however…

One step in the right direction would be to institute the following restriction at every college in the country that participates in intercollegiate athletics at any level:

    No assistant coach, coach, factotum in the athletic department or athletic director should ever be part of the process that investigates allegations of player misconduct nor should any of those folks be any part of the decision process to mete out discipline to an athlete when an investigation turns up evidence of misconduct. Period. No exceptions.

If any of those folks are involved in any of these processes, you have built in a conflict of interest situation that cannot help the process come to a fair, reasonable and logical conclusion. If the NCAA had the ability to do anything akin to organizational introspection, they might come to realize that they have a principle that underlies many of the eligibility rules in their tome of a rule book. That principle is:

    No athlete should have access to benefits or privileges that are not available to all students at a member institution. This is a foundation element to the ideal of the “student-athlete”.

Well, that ought to mean that an athlete ought not have access to the benefit of an athletic director or a coach of his being part of any disciplinary processes that involve him when that benefit would not be available to any random student on campus.

The late Dr. Myles Brand was a university president before he took over as NCAA major domo. He wanted the university presidents to assert their authorities over coaches and athletic directors. It did not happen then and it surely is not happening now. In 2016, university presidents agree that it is OK to cancel classes because football season is about to begin. The tail continues to wag the dog.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Why Continue The Olympics…?

I recall an adage that says we should always celebrate things that come to an end because that gives us the opportunity to start things anew. Well, I am back from our journeys and ready to resume ranting here – at least until our next scheduled travel adventures. Moreover, I return to the keyboard with a sense of affirmation and I shall bask in that feeling for today.

Back in March 2007, I wrote that it was time to “shut down the Olympics”. Here is how I began that rant:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to shut down the Olympics. I’m not talking about anything that is partial or temporizing. I mean it is time to cancel, negate, nullify, stop, cease and desist any, all, each and every activity that has to do with the Olympics. And the time to do it is now.

“They were shut down for a couple thousand years and civilization managed to march forward somehow. Then the Olympics were resuscitated and civilization continued to move forward. No big difference here. Therefore, since the Olympics have become nothing more than a scandal ridden set of events run by a bunch of preening snobs whose only interest is self-interest, I say it is time to call another halt in the Olympics for another 2000 years.”

Then, in April 2008, I wrote that it was time for the Olympics simply to go away. Here is how I concluded that rant:

“So let me get to the bottom line here. The games have been turned into a medley of events where most of the events don’t belong there in the first place; the athletes are merely a bunch of self-indulgent employees of some sponsor; the people organizing the games are about as noble as gun-runners; the television coverage is overdone and cloyingly sweet and pseudo-poignant. And they wonder why the TV ratings were lower this year when these events were on an 18-hour tape delay than they were in Atlanta when they were live. If you can’t see why, then you are suffering from rectal blindness.”

I have also suggested on more than a few occasions that the purported economic “benefits” of hosting Olympic games are more a mirage than reality. As much as I like sports, the Olympics make no sense in the world of 2016. So, how does this provide me with a glow of affirmation?

As I was on hiatus, the Washington Post published two columns by very responsible regular contributors to their Op-Ed page saying that my suggestions from 8 or 9 years ago are not so outrageous – and in fact ought to be given serious consideration.

Charles Lane’s column minces no words; it follows a headline that reads:

    “Stop the Olympics”

If you compare Mr Lane’s objections to the Olympics to my commentary from before, you will find that we agree on most points and that he has added more reasons to halt the games that occurred in the years between 2007/08 and the present. He points out specifically that prosecutors in France are currently investigating allegations that the IOC awarding of the 2020 Summer Games to Tokyo involved “payoffs” – or as we called them in the neighborhood where I grew up. “bribes” and/or “extortion”.

With regard to the impending Summer Games in Rio about 2 months hence, here is what he has to say:

“In Brazil, where the 2016 Summer Olympics are supposed to begin Aug. 5, police and prosecutors have found evidence that Olympics-related infrastructure development became a font of payoffs and kickbacks. Potentially involved are some of the politicians implicated in the wider corruption scandal that has destabilized the Brazilian government, at precisely the moment it should have been devoting full attention to the security and efficiency of the Games.

“In response, IOC officials spout indignant rhetoric and issue earnest threats against wrongdoers, just as they have on what seem like a million previous occasions.”

Basically, the Olympics have become a haven for despotic governments, doped athletes and bribery/extortion all of which are supported on the backs of taxpayers in host countries.

Oh, but it gets even worse…

Robert Samuelson regularly writes for the Post’s Op-Ed page on economic matters. He wrote recently a scathing piece that obliterates any of the arm-waving inspirational pleadings regarding how the Olympics provide huge economic benefits for the host city/country. Let me give you just a flavor of some of the data he cites in his piece:

    2008 Beijing Summer Games Costs = $45B

    2010 Vancouver Winter Games Costs = $7.56B Revenues – $1.58B

    2012 London Summer Games Costs = $11.4B Revenues = $3.27B

    2014 Sochi Winter Games Costs = $51B

    2016 Rio Summer Games Costs sure to exceed $10B

Moreover, he cites research that says the Olympics can cost a host city/country tourism dollars. He points out that in 2012, Great Britain suffered a 6% drop in tourism in the year that they hosted the Olympic Games. The fact is that lots of people go elsewhere to avoid crowds.

Now, if you take one item from Robert Samuelson’s piece and juxtapose it with one item from Charles Lane’s piece you get the following:

[From Samuelson] “After 9/11, security costs also soared. In 2000, they were $250 million for the summer Sydney Games; by the 2004 Athens Games, they had climbed to $1.6 billion and have stayed near that figure.”

[From Lane] “In the words of the Olympic Charter:

    ‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’”

So, how successful can the Olympics be in promoting a harmonious development of humankind and in promoting a peaceful society if folks have to spend $1.6B every 4 years just to try to keep the games from blowing up like a Roman candle?

It is time for the Olympics – Summer Games and Winter Games – to go on hiatus as I just was. The difference is that I was gone for about 3 weeks; the Olympics need to be gone for something around 3 centuries.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter Two

Now that your eyeballs have stopped spinning in their sockets from yesterday’s lengthy – and often turgid – offering, let me get back to business. [Aside: I promise this will not be nearly as long as yesterday.] I recognize that folks will differ on some of the judgment calls I made yesterday regarding individual players. I also recognize that some folks would prefer to use something other than a 4-point scale to categorize the individual players. I have no intention – or interest – in trying to convince anyone that my way is the only way to do this or even the best way out of many ways to do this.

Having said that, the categorizations I proposed and populated yesterday represent the way I think about this issue. Now, if I am going to try to expand on the outcomes of taking QBs in the first round of the NFL Draft, I will certainly be in the best position to do so if I start from my own way of thinking about the subject. As they say on the car ads on TV:

“Your mileage may vary…”

Based on yesterday’s data dump, there have been 80 quarterbacks selected in the first rounds of the NFL Drafts since 1980 – not counting the 2016 draft that happened last week. In case you did not do the counting – and assuming that I counted correctly – here is the distribution of QBs in my 4 categories:

    There were 18 Franchise Players
    There were 15 Good Players
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

The first thing that I notice about those statements above is that they do not represent anything resembling a “normal distribution”. There are about as many Busts as there are entries in the “Top 2” categories. If I were to collapse the categories to a 3-point scale and combine the Franchise Players and the Good Players into one category – let me call it Worthwhile Selections – the distribution would look like this:

    There were 33 Worthwhile Selections
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

To use a baseball analogy, that looks like a “Dave Kingman Distribution”. Teams either hit a home run with a first round pick or they strike out. However, with all of the scouting and scrutiny and analysis that goes into these sorts of selections, it is not intuitively obvious to me how that is the outcome. However, I have a hypothesis here …

First, I am not trying to take sides in the ongoing argument about whether “modern analytics” is superior to the “old eyeball test”. I believe that both schools of thought have merit and have limitations. My suggested explanation for this “boom-or-bust” distribution of draft outcomes takes into account teams that may favor either methodology in terms of building their draft board.

Here is the basis of my hypothesis:

    College football is fundamentally a different game situation from NFL football.

The game itself is basically the same in terms of the size of the field and the length of the game and the majority of the rules that govern the game. However, the on-field aspects of college football and NFL football are quite different in much the same way that college football is different from high school football or Pop Warner football. Today, I just want to consider differences between college and pro football because that is where I believe the vagaries of the selection process reside.

I believe that the enormous difference in the overall talent level between college games and NFL games creates a distortion that is difficult to compensate for whether a team is using advanced analytics or grizzled veteran scouting reports. Focusing only on the quarterback position here, a college quarterback will sometimes face a defense that has no one on the field with sufficient athletic ability ever to play in the NFL. If that quarterback is from Lake Woebegone High School – and therefore above average like every other kid in that school system – he ought to look pretty good. He should have a nice stat sheet for the advanced analytics folks to feed to their algorithms and he should look “poised” “dominant” and “in command” to the veteran scout up there in the booth.

Sure, there are a few teams every year that can field a defense with 5 NFL quality athletes but none of them puts 11 defenders of that caliber on the field. So, a young QB who was a standout in college still has never seen or had to deal with opposition that is nearly as competent as the ones he will face in the NFL. The performance of many college QBs “looks better than it is” to the eyes of a scout and the stat lines gathered up by many college QBs “produce numbers that will never be close to duplicated” when faced with NFL defenses. My point here is that the evaluation process is inherently flawed no matter which approach a team chooses. The basis of that inherent flaw is the fundamental difference between college football and NFL football.

    [Aside: I believe this is the same “problem” that faces the “analysts” who assign five-star ratings to high school players as they graduate to college football and why so many five-star recruits turn out to be something less than that.]

If my hypothesis is correct, that would explain to some degree why teams drafting QBs in the first round have a roughly equal chance of making a Worthwhile Selection (41.25%) as they do in drafting a Bust (38.75%). The reason you are not likely to read many reports that champion this hypothesis is that the logical consequence of this hypothesis being correct has significant economic consequences – none of them positive – for segments of the sporting world:

    All the folks who spend months trumpeting their “draft boards” on radio and TV leading from the kickoff of the college season to late April would lose stature – – and income.

    All the folks who produce Mock Drafts – there is at least one out already for the 2017 NFL Draft! – would have to do so in sotto voce.

    All the folks who earn their livings traveling to college campuses to watch practices and then college games and talking to coaches might see their expense accounts curtailed.

There is little reason for lots of people even to think along the lines presented here. That does not mean they are right any more than it means I am right. I said what I put forth is a hypothesis not a law.

Another aspect of the drafting of first round QBs that is interesting based on the data from yesterday is that there are good years for QBs and there are bad years for QBs. However, the “bad years for QBs” break down into two categories:

    Bad Year Alpha: No QBs taken in the first round at all indicates that whatever methods of analysis were used to evaluate the crop of eligible QBs in that year found all of them “wanting”.

    Bad Year Beta: Teams that took a QB in the first round got a bust – no matter where they took their QB in the first round.

There were 4 Bad Year Alphas:

    1984: Despite the fact that no QBs went in the first round, there were 3 QBs taken in later rounds who had significant success:

      Boomer Esiason (Round 2) and Jeff Hostetler (Round 3) both took teams to the Super Bowl game.

      Jay Schroeder (Round 3) took a team to the AFC Championship game.

    1985: The best NFL QBs from this crop were Randall Cunningham (Round 2) and Doug Flutie (Round 11).

    1988: Stan Humphries (Round 6) led the Chargers to the Super Bowl once.

    1996: In retrospect, there is a good reason no team took a QB in the first round this year. When you have to debate “Who was the best QB taken this year?” and your choices are Danny Kannel and Tony Banks …

Call those “Bad Year Alphas” bleak all you want, the six Bad Year Betas listed below are much worse because in those years, teams that needed QB help spent a valuable asset – a first round pick – and no matter who they chose, they came up dry.

    1981: The Packers used the #6 overall pick on Rich Campbell. I must confess that I had forgotten the name “Rich Campbell” in the context of “football player” at either the college or NFL level until I did the research to write yesterday’s data compilation.

    1991: The Seahawks took Dan McGwire at #16 and the Raiders took Todd Marinovich at #24. Not only did both of them miss badly with those picks, they managed to pass on Brett Favre who was drafted in Round 2.

    1992: The Bengals took David Klingler at #6 and the Broncos took Tommy Maddox at # 25. Neither team got much of a return on their investment here…

    1997: The Niners took Jim Druckenmiller at #26. If he was the answer for the Niners, I do not know what the question was…

    2002: Talk about a Bad Year Beta for first round QBs… I doubt that anyone unrelated by blood to these three draftees would suggest that they had laudable NFL careers:

      David Carr #1 to the Texans
      Joey Harrington #3 to the Lions
      Patrick Ramsey #32 to the Skins

    2007: The Raiders spent the overall #1 pick on JaMarcus Russell and the Browns used the #22 pick to take Brady Quinn. That is simply depressing…

Before I wrap this up, allow me to let a bit of sunshine into the discussion here. There were banner years/vintage crops of NFL QBs in 3 of the drafts over the last 35 years. The first round in those years was highly productive:

    1983: John Elway, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino

    1995: Steve McNair and Kerry Collins

    2004: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The data suggest that taking a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft is a gamble. Sometimes it hits and the return on “investment” is huge; other times you go home with a hole in your pocket. Therefore, it seems appropriate at this point to offer up a few observations that folks have made with regard to the subject of gambling:

“In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win.” (George Bernard Shaw)

And …

“Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.” (John Dewey)

And …

“Luck never gives; it only lends.” (Swedish Proverb)

And …

“A gambler never makes the same mistake twice. It’s usually three or more times.” (Unknown) [Aside: the Browns have drafted a QB in the first round of the draft 4 times since 1999 and all of them have been Busts.]

Finally, I hope these last two Topical Rants have been satisfactory to “david” whose comment 6 weeks ago got me started. I enjoyed the data compilation and the fact that the data got me thinking about why only about 40% of first round QBs turn out to be Good Players or Franchise Players was a plus. So, let me say that if any other readers have thoughts about what might be interesting topics in the future, I remain happy to entertain them.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………