NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2017

Just a quick introduction here for new readers who do not recognize what this annual occurrence is.

  • It is NOT a mock draft;
  • It is NOT an expert opinion;
  • It is NOT the result of contacts throughout the country in the world of college/NFL football.

This is nothing more than a compilation of some notes I took while watching college football games on TV last year.

Because I like college football, I watch lots of games.  Over the years, I have formed the habit of keeping a notepad next to me as I am watching and when I see a player who I think might “graduate” to the NFL, I make some notes.  At this time of year, I dig those note up and try to decipher my handwriting – which is not always easy and may result in some transcription errors – to put together my sense of some names that should be called during the NFL Draft sessions.

My “methodology” here has several humongous flaws that need to be stated clearly and unambiguously:

  1. Since I am doing this by making notes on games I watched on TV, that limits the players I see to ones on the larger schools and better teams.  Let me be clear here; if I have the choice of watching a game between two SEC teams or a game between two Sun Belt teams, I will watch the SEC game 99 times out of 100.
  2. I live on the East Coast.  I am more likely to see a game that starts at noon Eastern Time between two Big 10 teams than I am to see a game that starts at 10:30 PM Eastern Time between two PAC-12 teams or two Mountain West teams.  I really do not have an “East Coast bias”; what I have is an “East Coast biological clock”.
  3. For some teams, I will only see them play once; I do not pretend to have seen every play for any team in the country last year.  That means there may be an excellent pro prospect on one of those teams that I did not notice.  Maybe that is because I am a doofus; maybe the player had a sub-standard game; maybe he was injured for that game.  Whatever…
  4. I am not connected with nor privy to any sort of extended network of people who scout football.  The only opinions in here that are not my own will be clearly marked as such.  Some long-term readers of these rants know that I do this every Spring and when they think they saw someone at a small school or at a school that might not be on my “go to list”, they will send me an e-mail and I will excerpt it here.

Now that the purpose and the limitations of what is to follow are out in the open, let me begin with my notes on Quarterbacks.

Various commentators have said that this year’s crop of QBs entering the Draft is not a good one.  I guess I have to agree with them because as I went through my notes filtering the players into position categories, I discovered that I only had made notes on 2 QBs:

  1. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss):  My notes say he is “big enough” because he can throw the football “accurately” and “with touch when needed”.  I said he might be a late first round pick based on what I saw.  That is unlikely to be the case now because he tore up his ACL in a game after the one I saw and he was subsequently “dis-invited” to the NFL Combine due to an off-field issue regarding a bar fight.  If I were a GM and the medical folks told me that it looks as his knee is going to be OK and the background investigators told me that the bar fight was unlikely to be repeated, I would surely look closely at Kelly in the 3rd round.
  2. Deshaun Watson (Clemson):  My notes say he is “big and mobile” and that he is “poised when pressure is on”.  [For the record, that note was made during the late stages of the CFP Championship Game against Alabama.]  I also said – from a previous game – that he is “not consistently accurate” with his throws and “does not always lead receivers well”.  I said he was probably a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.  If you believe the mock drafts, he will be gone sometime early in the 1st round.  Whatever…

Just for the record, there are a bunch of other QBs who are getting a following as the Draft approaches.  I saw lots of them and made no notes about them last year.  I saw Josh Dobbs; I saw Brad Kaaya; I saw Deshone Kizer; I saw Pat Mahomes.  I have no notes on any of them.  I am not sure I saw Mitch Trubisky at all because I have no notes on any other UNC players here.

Just as the draft experts are “down” on this year’s QB entries in the draft, those same experts say that there is quality and depth in the Running Backs coming out.  My notes would tend to agree what that overall assessment:

  1. Leonard Fournette (LSU):  It does not take a lot of genius to watch him play and realize he is a big, fast, strong running back who can “run over people and run around people too”.  I also noted that he is a “powerful and effective pass blocker” who “picks up blitzes well”.  I said he is “definitely a 1st round pick”.
  2. Dalvin Cook (Fla St.):  My notes say that his “acceleration through the hole is outstanding” and that he is “elusive once in the secondary”.  I also had him as “1st round pick”.
  3. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford):  His “speed” and “cutting ability” make him a prospect as a 3rd down back or a slot receiver.  I also noted that he is a “good pass receiver”.  I did note that he does not appear to be the sort of back would turn out to be a “featured RB in the pros”.   I had him as a “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick.”
  4. Joe Mixon (Oklahoma):  “Excellent runner and good pass catcher” along with “breakaway speed” indicate that Mixon has a future in the NFL.  I said he was “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick” – – but that did not take into account his off-field/character issue which could make him drop a round or so.
  5. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma):  He is a “power runner” and “runs over defenders not around them”.  He is “not a breakaway threat” but he will “get tough yards inside”.  Screen graphic had him as 6’ tall and 235 lbs.  That is a reasonable size for a power runner in the NFL.  I said “3rd to 5th round pick?”
  6. Alvin Kamara (Tennessee):  My notes say, “he is a slasher but not big enough to play all the time” but he “might be a great 3rd down back because he is a really good receiver”.  I had him as a “late round pick”.
  7. Jamaal Williams (BYU):  He looked very good in the BYU bowl game and gained about 200 yards.  I said “always makes another yard or two after contact”.  “Tough runner” and “good enough speed” were two other comments.  I said “late round pick”.
  8. D’Onta Foreman (Texas):  He is a big back with “surprising speed” but “not elusive”.  My notes say “third day pick”.
  9. Devine Redding (Indiana):  My notes say he is “built like a bowling ball” so he is “hard to hit”.  He is “not big enough or fast enough to be a feature back” but he is a guy who just “keeps on plugging”.  “Might make a team if he can play special teams?”  I said “7th round pick or UFA”.

Let me move on here to Tight Ends.  I only have notes on three players at this position.

  1. OJ Howard (Alabama):  I was impressed with his “really good speed for a man as big as he is” and his “good hands”.  He is a tight end who “can get deep”.  He “blocks well enough” in the run game but his “value is as a receiver”.  I said “1st round or 2nd round pick.
  2. Jordan Leggett (Clemson):  He is “big and fast with good hands”.  He also “takes plays off/does not block much”.  Assuming teams are convinced that he will give full effort all the time, I had him as a “3rd day pick”.  If they think he is going to be a malingerer, he will need to find another way to make a living.
  3. Jeremy Sprinkle (Arkansas):  He is “big, strong and excellent blocker for run game”.  “Catches well but not a lot of speed” makes him more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.  My notes say “third day pick”.

Before leaving the Tight Ends, I have to include here a message from a reader of these rants who lives in a suburb of Akron, OH.  He tends to be upset with me when I do not take MAC football as seriously as he does but our exchanges tend to be sarcastically tolerant.

“You never see Division II football so you never see Ashland University.  [Absolutely correct.]

“So, you never heard of Adam Shaheen the [Ashland] Eagles tight end.  [Once again, absolutely correct.]

“Put his name in your draft column next year and you will look smarter than you are.  [OK, I did that.  Looking smarter than I am is not all that difficult.]

I went and looked up Adam Shaheen’s stats; he caught 57 passes and 16 TDs last year.  More interesting from a draft potential standpoint is that he is 6’6” tall and weighs 275 lbs.  It is a big step from Division II football to the NFL, but this is a big man.  I will listen for his name…

Now on to the Wide Receivers…  Before I go through my notes, I have to admit that I am rooting for Cooper Kupp (E. Washington) to go in the early rounds.  After Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) urged me to follow his exploits in Division 1-A last year, I saw that he put up some prodigious stats against defenders who will never see the field in an NFL uniform.  I have no idea if he can play on Sundays, but I am rooting for him…

  1. Corey Davis (W. Michigan):  I saw him play twice last year – in the MAC Championship Game and against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.  He was the best WR on the field in both games.  My notes say “great hands” and “really fast out of his cuts”.  Wisconsin game showed “he can play against top college defenders”.  I said “1st round pick”.  For the record, he caught 97 passes for 1500 yards in 2016.
  2. Mike Williams (Clemson):  He has “excellent hands” and “makes plays on poorly thrown balls”.  I said he “helps pad stats for [Deshaun] Watson.”  I said “1st round”.
  3. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma):  He is a “little guy who is always getting behind the defender”.  He has “good hands and good speed”.  I said “2nd round maybe 3rd”.
  4. Chris Goodwin (Penn St.):  My notes say “big enough and probably fast enough” and “has good hands”.  He also “blocks downfield”.  I had him “going in 4th or 5th round”.
  5. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M):  I said he is “tall and skinny” but “has glue on his hands/catches everything”.  Looking at the stats, he is only 185 lbs and in the NFL if you are going to be that small as a WR, you need to be really tough and/or really fast.  In my notes I said “maybe 4th round/probably lower.”
  6. Gabe Marks (Washington St.): “Not very big but quick with good hands” is my comment.  “Worth a shot in the late rounds”

Before leaving the Wide Receivers, I am aware that John Ross (Washington) has gotten a lot of attention after breaking the NFL Combine record for time in the 40-yard dash.  I saw Washington play last year and I have no notes on Ross.  Maybe I was up getting a snack when he made some dazzling plays…?

Next up are the Offensive Linemen.  I used to try to differentiate them by position but over the past several years I have seen that NFL teams move these “big uglies” [ /Keith Jackson ] around from place to place on the line.  So, I’ll just combine them here:

  1. Cam Robinson (Alabama):  He is “big and strong and a good run blocker”.  He is “not agile in pass blocking but makes up for it with strength”.  I said, “Good enough to start for Alabama = 2nd round or better”.
  2. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin):  My notes say he is “big and strong and plays hard all the time”.  “Pass blocking is good and run blocking is better”.  I had him as a “1st or 2nd round pick”.
  3. Erik Magnuson (Michigan):    I said, “excellent run blocking” and “good enough pass blocking”.  “Got outside to lead running plays to his side”.  I said, “probably goes around 3rd round”.
  4. Pat Elfein (Ohio St.):  He is a “bulldozer as a run blocker” and “adequate in pass blocking – missed a blitz badly”.  I noted, “3rd round”.
  5. Isaac Asiata (Utah):  My notes say “really good interior run blocker and good enough as a pass blocker”.  I said he would go “3rd round or 4th round?”
  6. David Sharpe (Florida):  He is a “huge man” who is “dominant run blocking”.  “Needs work in pass blocking against speed rushers/not very quick” is the reason he will not go early.  I said, “late round pick”.
  7. Taylor Moton (W. Michigan):  I was much more focused on watching Corey Davis when I tuned into a W. Michigan game but I also made this note about Moton – –  “he is a good run blocker and a better pass blocker”.  I said, “could be a bargain in 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Damien Mama (USC):  I noted that he was “very big and very effective at power blocking” but that “he isn’t very mobile”.  My assessment was that he “can start at USC so that means some team will probably take him late in the draft”.
  9. Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M): “Big strong run blocker but not so good in pass protection”.  “Should get a tryout”; “final round pick”?
  10. Josh Boutte (LSU):  My notes say “just a huge man who is not fast but awfully strong”.  His “lack of speed/quickness will drop him in the draft”.  I said he is “worth a pick in the final round just because of his size.”

Before leaving the offensive side of the ball, let me share part of another e-mail dealing with an offensive lineman.

“IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] guard, Ethan Cooper, is athletic and quick even though he is 320 lbs …  He dominates D-II [Division II] opponents and if he does well at the [NFL] Combine, he could be drafted.”

And now, I shall proceed to the defensive side of the ball and focus on Defensive Backs first.  As with offensive lineman, I have given up on trying to figure out if NFL teams will take a DB and play him at cornerback or at safety; so, all I am doing here is to give you an idea of what I saw in terms of secondary players.

  1. Jamal Adams (LSU):  He is “big and athletic” and he “plays both run and pass very well”.  I did not see him do anything that he did not do well.  I said “1st round pick”.
  2. Marshawn Lattimore (Ohio St.):  He “covers really well” and “kept up with every fly pattern run by Michigan”.  I think he will “go in the 1st round”.
  3. Malik Hooker (Ohio State):  My notes say “big” “quick” and “very athletic”.  My assessment was simple, “Has to go in 1st round”.
  4. Marlon Humprhey (Alabama):  My notes were totally positive.  “Fast and athletic” … “great in coverage” … “sure tackler” … you get the idea.  Naturally, I thought he was a “1st round pick”.
  5. Jabril Peppers (Michigan):  He “is everywhere on the field” doing “everything except punting”.  His versatility should mean “he is gone somewhere in the 1st or 2nd round”.
  6. Adoree Jackson (USC):  My notes say “very fast and good in coverage” and “only question is size – big enough for NFL?”  Overall, I thought 3rd round”.
  7. Kai Nacua (BYU):  He is a “big hitter as a safety who covers well enough to be a corner(?)”.  He was “also out there on special teams”.  I said, “3rd or 4th round”.
  8. Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin):  He played well against Cory Davis in the Cotton Bowl and my comment was “is he big enough to be a DB in the NFL?”  The trend in the NFL now is for tall/rangy cornerbacks and Shelton is neither.  Thus, I said “probably late rounds”.
  9. Corn Elder (Miami):  In addition to a great name, he is “great against the run” with “good speed”.  However, he is “not quick to react to cuts made by receivers” so “he is a project” for an NFL coaching staff.  My guess was “4th or 5th round”.
  10. Nate Gerry (Nebraska):  My notes say he is a “big hitter” and “quick to fill on run plays”.  I also noted he “might not be fast enough to play CB in the NFL”.  So, maybe he is a safety?  My assessment was “late round pick”.
  11. Justin Evans (Texas A&M):  He is “strong against the run” but “not so good against the pass”.  The NFL is a passing league so my guess was “late rounds”.

Now let us look at the Linebackers.  I will mix together guys who played inside linebacker and outside linebacker and even some defensive ends whose real chance to make an NFL roster would be as an outside linebacker/edge rusher.

  1. Reuben Foster (Alabama):  Here is my opening comment, “If the ball carrier is there, Foster is there.”  He is a “big hitter” and “fast and athletic”.  My assessment was “has to be a 1st rounder”.
  2. TJ Watt (Wisconsin):  Somebody is likely to draft him simply for genetic reasons; yes, he and JJ Watt have DNA similarities.  My notes say that TJ Watt is a “sure tackler” and a “good edge rusher on blitzes”.  Overall I thought he would be “gone by round 2”.
  3. Derek Barnett ( Tennessee):  He is “strong against the run” and an “excellent pass rusher from the outside”.  I had him as a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.
  4. Solomon Thomas (Stanford):  Maybe he is a DE; maybe he is an OLB; definitely, he is “big, strong, fast”.  He “plays run very well” so he is “not a liability when doing something other than rushing the passer”.  I thought he was a “3rd round pick”.
  5. Taco Charlton (Michigan):  He is a “pass rusher first and foremost”; his defense against the run is “adequate”.  I said “3rd round pick”.
  6. Takarist McKinley (UCLA):  He is a “pass rusher off the edge – nothing more” but he has “exceptional speed around the OTs”.  I also noted that he “chased down two plays to the opposite side of the field for short gains”.  However, “run defense is not very good/gets pushed around”.  My assessment was “3rd day pick”.
  7. Rich Brown (Mississippi St.):  He is big and strong and a “run-stuffer”.  I also wondered “can he cover NFL TEs?”  My guess was 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Jordan Evans (Oklahoma):  He has “good speed for pass coverage” and “plays the run adequately”.  His pass rush seemed “half-hearted”.  The Big 12 does not yield a lot of defensive players so my guess was “late round pick”.
  9. Ben Boulware (Clemson):  My notes say “strong against the run and not real good against the pass”.  That probably makes him a “late round pick” at best.

Before leaving these linebackers/defensive ends/hybrid players, I have another e-mail to share with you.  This comes from a long-time friend who is a Villanova alum:

“While you are busy slurping Cooper Kupp in FCS football [what I always call Division 1-AA football], there is a real pro prospect from that level here in Philadelphia at Villanova.  Tanoh Kpassagnon could be a defensive end or an outside linebacker for an NFL team.  [Aside:  I would not even try to pronounce that name or give it a phonetic spelling here.]

“He dominates opponents in the run game and rushes the passer to (sic).  And he plays on most of the Nova special teams too.”

OK, so now you know about another small school player that I never saw even one time.  Make of those comments what you will and keep an ear out for his name in the draft.

In terms of Defensive Linemen, here are my notes.  There are not a lot of them but I do like the ones I have on this list.

  1. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M):  He is an “excellent pass rusher” and “he plays the run very well too”.  He “plays hard on every play”.  My assessment is 1st round pick guaranteed”.
  2. Jonathan Allen (Alabama):  He is a “monster against the run” and he “generates serious pass rush right up the gut of the offense”.  A screen graphic said he was 285 lbs; my comment is “he plays bigger and stronger than that” and “he plays faster than 285 too”.  My comment was “he has to go in the 1st round”.
  3. Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama):  He is a “run-stuffer but not a pass rusher inside”.  He would probably be better appreciated if he were not playing next to Jonathan Allen all the time.  I said, “3rd round pick”.
  4. Malik McDowell (Michigan St.):  He is a “big strong run defender” who can “generate some pass pressure inside”.  I said he was a “2nd round pick maybe 1st”.
  5. Ryan Glasgow (Michigan):  He is a “300 lb. nose tackle who stops the run”.  He has a “low center of gravity so he can add weight upstairs to become immoveable”.   I said “gone by 3rd round”.
  6. Jarron Jones (Notre Dame): He “spends a lot of time in the offensive backfield” and he “can put pressure on the QB outside”.  He is “big and quick but not fast”.  I said he was a “3rd/4th round pick”.

I only had one note on a Punter:

  • Toby Baker (Arkansas):  My notes say he is a “big kid” who “has lots of hang time on punts”.

I had a note on only one Kicker:

  • Andy Phillips (Utah): “Kickers are little guys; this guy is short and stocky – unusual.”  He “provided the margin of victory over BYU” last year.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the speed shown by WR John Ross at the NFL Combine:

“Ex-Washington receiver John Ross set an NFL combine record by running a 4.22 40. For perspective that’s how long it takes the Cleveland Browns to be mathematically eliminated most seasons.”

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

 

 

The Free Agent QB Market – 2017

Yesterday, we learned the fate of Tony Romo.  He is now an announcer and not a quarterback.  As is often the case, the answer to one question creates new questions that need new answers.  The answer to “Where will Tony Romo play football in 2017?” turned out to be “Nowhere,” and that generates quarterback questions for NFL teams.

By my count, there are 7 NFL teams that have serious problems at the quarterback position but it would be a mistake to lump all 7 into a single category.  I think there are 3 teams that could be playoff caliber teams if they were able to upgrade the quarter back position and I think there are 4 teams that just need a decent quarterback to reach the level of “respectable”.

Tony Romo would have been a consideration for at least 2 of the 3 teams in the “might be a playoff team with a better QB” and now that he is off the market, it might cause other dominoes to fall involving teams in both categories.  Let me go through my list of teams starting with the 3 teams that need upgraded QB play to be playoff contenders:

  1. Denver Broncos:  They are in a tough division; the Raiders are very good; the Chiefs’ roster is loaded.  The Broncos have a good defense – not as good as it was when they won the Super Bowl but still a good defense.  At QB, they have no one on the roster who – at this time – causes defensive coordinators to stay awake at night.  If the Broncos want to make the playoffs – and not “waste” a good defensive unit – they had to have an eye out for Tony Romo to hit the free agent market.  Now that he will not do so, the Broncos should become players in the QB free agency market.  Trevor Siemian was OK when he played last year and Paxton Lynch may have great “upside”, but there is plenty of room for an upgrade here in the 2017 season.
  2. Houston Texans:  The Texans’ situation is the same as the Broncos only more so.  The Texans’ defense is excellent; they led the NFL in yardage allowed last year; and they will get JJ Watt back in action next year.  They play in a mediocre division so they got to the playoffs last year even with sub-standard play from the QB position.  On the Texans’ roster this morning at QB are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  I have to think the Texans coveted Tony Romo and will now have to turn their covetous eyes elsewhere.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars:  Yes, I know the Jags only won 3 games last year.  The issue in Jax is simple.  They have added talent to the roster via free agency and via the draft over the last several years; but last year, Blake Bortles was just plain bad.  If that is what he is going to be as a QB down the line, then the Jags need to do something to change their situation.  I do not know what Jags’ head coach Doug Marrone and/or Jags’ QB coach Scott Milanovich think of Blake Bortles.  Here is what I am confident about:
  • If they do not find a way to improve the QB play in Jax relatively soon, their tenure in Jax will not be a long one…

Certainly, the Broncos and the Texans will be scanning the free agent market to see if any of the QBs there make sense as acquisitions in terms of economics and in terms of fit with the offensive philosophy of the teams.  Maybe the Jags also enter that marketplace but if they want to sell a veteran free agent on coming to Jax, they had best put together a solid economic offer because as noted above, the Jags won exactly 3 games in 2016.  As these teams begin to move, the other 4 teams in need of QB help can begin to shop around.

  1. Chicago Bears:  The fans in Chicago are probably happy to see that Jay Cutler is gone along with Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The Bears spent a lot of money to sign Mike Glennon and a little bit of money to add Mark Sanchez to the roster.  Glennon gets $18.5M guaranteed and a total of $45M if he plays out his 3-year deal.  But, what if he is not “the answer”?  Surely, John Fox and QB coach, Dave Ragone, know that Mark Sanchez is not “the answer”.  So, do the Bears go shopping in the free agency market yet again or do they go to the draft for a “development project”?
  2. Cleveland Browns:  Well, they acquired Brock Osweiler as part of a salary dump and roster cleansing by the Texans.  The Browns have 3 QBs on the roster as of this morning, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.  As has been the case since the Browns re-entered the league in 1999, they are in desperate need of an upgrade at the QB position.  However, trying to shop in the free agent marketplace presents the Browns with a dilemma.  The team is not any good now and is not likely to be good in the next few years.  The Browns are a long-term development project as a team.  Many of the free agent QBs are at stages of their career where they may not be of any value to the Browns by the time the team elevates to the status of “not awful”.  If I assume that will take a minimum of 3 years, then which of the available QBs would I want to commit myself to for something longer than 3 years?  My answer is:  None of them.
  3. NY Jets:  The Jets already dipped a toe in the QB free-agent market signing Josh McCown to a 1-year contract.  Call this what it is; this is kicking the can down the road.  The Jets may or may not have a serviceable QB for 2017; time will tell.  The Jets are in the midst of a roster reboot that – like the Browns – will take several years; they will not have Josh McCown as their QB in 3 years when McCown will be 40 years old.  Neither young QB on the Jets’ roster has shown he can play and the Jets may be in the position of drafting a QB yet one more time.  When last season turned to a disaster and the Jets never allowed Christian Hackenberg to see the field just for the sake of experience, that tells me that Hackenberg cannot play dead in a “Spaghetti Western”.  The Jets have to guess correctly about the QB position eventually; even the blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.
  4. SF 49ers:  Somehow, the new folks in charge of football in SF decided that the Bears miserable showing in 2016 was not the result of poor QB play.  The Niners have already signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley who made up the majority of the Bears’ QB cadre last year and produced a season record of 3-13 and scoring only 17.4 points per game.  Once again, this is probably nothing more than a temporizing move since both contracts are 2-years in duration.

To have a market, one needs buyers and sellers.  If you doubt that statement, ask any stock broker.  If these are the teams who represent the buyers, let us now take a look at some of the sellers – the remaining free agent QBs themselves.  Like the teams on the “buyer side”, I think the QBs fall into 2 categories – free agents who might go somewhere knowing that their job is backup QB and free agents who might go somewhere with the idea that they will be the starting QB.  Let me start with eleven potential backup QBs and a brief comment on each:

  1. Austin Davis:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2012.  He started 10 games and his team record in those games is 3-7.
  2. David Fales:  He is 26 years old.  Last year was his rookie season in Chicago and he is already a free agent.  Ka-beesh?
  3. Blaine Gabbert:  He is 27 years old.  In 6 seasons, he has started 40 games and the team record in those games is 9-31.  Shudder …
  4. Bruce Gradkowski:  He is 34 years old.  His last start was in 2010; his last pass attempt in the NFL was in 2012.  His arm should be well-rested…
  5. Shaun Hill:  He is 37 years old.  In 11 seasons, he has started 35 games and the team record in those games is 17-18.
  6. Thad Lewis:  He is 29 years old.  His last NFL action came in 2013 when he started 5 games for the Bills.  Not a lot of mileage on those tires …
  7. Matt McGloin:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the league 4 years and the team record in his starting assignments is 1-6.  Hi-ho …
  8. Dan Orlovsky:  He is 33 years old and I was not aware he was still in the NFL.
  9. Ryan Nassib:  He is 27 years old.  The Giants released him and then signed Geno Smith as their backup.  ‘Nuff said…
  10. Christian Ponder:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL for 6 years but he has not seen the field since 2014.  He has had time to ponder his future …
  11. TJ Yates:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2011.  In that time, he has started 7 games and his team record in those games is 4-3.

Candidly, there are slim pickings on that list above.  That is not to say that the remaining list of 4 QBs represent the motherlode of quarterbacking excellence but there is something to think about with these four free agents:

  1. Jay Cutler:  He is 33 years old.  I have never been a huge fan of Cutler all the way back to his days at Vandy but when he gets protection and is in rhythm, he can throw a football as well as anyone.  People complain about his “body language” and his “surly demeanor” and his “lack of leadership”.  If I were a coach, I might worry about that stuff too unless my alternative was to take my chances with a Tom Savage (in Houston) or either young QB (in Denver).  Even if Jay Cutler is truly as big a pain in the ass as he is often portrayed to be, he can still throw the ball better than any of those guys.  I also think that Cutler would be a good fit for the offensive philosophy in Houston where the Texans have tried to use QBs in the pocket and not in “free-lance mode”.  Now that Tony Romo is off the market, I think this is where the Texans ought to look.
  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick:  He is 34 years old.  He had a career year in 2015 starting all 16 games and leading the Jets to a 10-6 record; his performance in 2014 was pretty good too.  However, he has been in the NFL since 2005 and those are the only two seasons where he has been “better than a journeyman”.  Surely, he wants to have a shot at a starting job but at his age, it might be difficult to convince a “building team” to take him on and his résumé might be insufficient to tempt the really good teams who merely need a QB upgrade.  If he has a landing spot, I think it would be Jax in the event that the new coaching staff there has a severe case of agita brought on by watching Blake Bortles botch a bunch of possessions in 2016.  [Aside:  Bortles has been in the NFL 3 years; his record in Jax is 11-34 as a starter; he has thrown 51 INTs in those 3 seasons.  It is not as if the Jags are looking to replace Joe Montana here…]
  3. Robert Griffin III:  He is 27 years old.  I put him on this list as opposed to the list above because I believe that he only wants to be a starting QB and will likely make that clear in any interviews/negotiations.  I do not think he is any prize as a starting QB even though he did have that one magical season in Washington in his rookie season.  If indeed he “plays hardball” and signs with a team with the understanding that he will be the starter unless he completely screws the pooch in training camp, my guess is that he will not make it out of training camp.
  4. Colin Kaepernick:  He is 29 years old.  On one hand, Colin Kaepernick took the Niners to the Super Bowl and made a game of it.  He also led the Niners to the playoffs in another season his record in playoff games is 4-2.  That sort of “positive stuff” is not to be found on any other stat sheets here.  Then comes the negative stuff…  Last year – playing for a team short on talent around the roster – Kaepernick started 11 games; the Niners’ record in those games was 1-10.  At the end of the season, the new football regime in SF decided to jettison Kaepernick – along with Blaine Gabbert – in order to make room to sign Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.  As my mother used to say, “You are known by the company you keep.”  A coach/GM who takes on Colin Kaepernick has to be convinced that he has been in a career slump for the last couple of seasons and that the “real Colin Kaepernick” is one we saw when Jim Harbaugh was the Niners’ coach.  I am not sure where Kaepernick is a “great fit”, but when I look at the QBs on this list and then look at the QBs who are on rosters in the NFL as backups, I have to say that he has the skills to be somewhere.

And that last entry on the list brings me to the topic of “collusion” and/or “blackballing” because those terms have been tossed around by some folks who think Colin Kaepernick should have been signed by now.  It seems to me that these two things are related but they are not the same thing.  Blackballing is a way of “counting votes” in a secret ballot system whereby a single negative vote (a black ball) or a significant minority of negative votes can deny entry in to club or organization.  In the extreme, if there are 100 members voting on 1 new member and there are 99 affirmative votes and 1 negative vote (the black ball), membership is denied.

Blackballing does not necessarily involve collusion because no collusion is necessary.  If I belong to a club set up exclusively for right-handed people, then it is pretty obvious that someone in that club would vote against Steve Carlton or Phil Mickelson should that name come up for entry in the club.  If I were a member of that club passionately devoted to “the right-handed cause”, I would blackball either of those two individuals despite any other qualifications they may have.  I would open myself to criticism as a bigot and a royal doofus, but in the situation I just created, that is how I would behave.

Now, if my hypothetical club is a private club, I suspect that there is no legal reason that our bylaws and election procedures would be improper.  Stupid, yes; illegal, no.  I am not an NFL owner nor am I a GM, but I am confident that there is no such process among the owners with regard to who can and who cannot be a quarterback on any of the 32 NFL teams.  It is lazy thinking to apply this label improperly and then stand back in some sort of righteous posture having proclaimed the source of Colin Kaepernick’s unemployed status.

At the same time, collusion has a legal meaning and a colloquial meaning.  In a colloquial sense, consider that I and two neighbors own properties such that a developer needs an easement from one of us to allow him to develop some land near us; and also assume that we would prefer for that land to remain undeveloped.  If we meet at my house one evening and we all “pinky-swear” that none of us will give that easement to the developer without the agreement of the other two of us, we have colloquially colluded to prevent the developer from doing what he wants to do.  However, we are not depriving him of any of his rights and so our “pinky-swearing collusion” is not likely to be overturned by a court.

The rub in the Colin Kaepernick situation is that one of his rights would be affected by collusion among the NFL owners/GMs.  The operative CBA provides Kaepernick with the contractual right to free agency status; the owners have agreed to this; if the owners – or the GMs as the agents of the owners – then collude to prevent Kaepernick from being a free agent in the same way all those other QBs are free agents, then a court might look very unkindly on that behavior.

Recall in the mid 1980s, that the MLB owners colluded among themselves not to bid to sign any free agents who were not from their own teams.  That drove salaries down and that was an injury suffered by the players.  Courts awarded players something like $300M in judgments and penalties in those cases.  However, here is a key point:

  • The MLB owners shared information among themselves about what salaries they were offering to various free agents so that other teams might know what the player had in front of him during negotiations.  Even worse, they kept records of those interactions and those records were discovered.

About 20 years after those collusion findings, Barry Bonds sued MLB alleging collusion when he was a free agent – in his mid-40s – and got no offers from anyone.  In his case, he lost because there was either no documentary evidence of a concerted effort by the teams or if there was some such evidence, it was insufficient.  Just because a player is treated differently than other players of a similar stature, that does not prove collusion.  So, even if Colin Kaepernick enjoyed on-field stature similar to Barry Bonds – he most assuredly does not – , his lack of contract offers does not mean the owners have colluded to keep him out of the NFL.  Take a look at my list of 11 free agent QBs above and realize that some of them are not going to be signed this year – or maybe in any future years.  No collusion involved there; 32 teams would have decided independently to sign someone else.  If Kaepernick charges collusion, the burden of proof is on him and not on the teams.

I do not think that Kaepernick is being blackballed or colluded against due to his National Anthem protests any more than I believe that Thad Lewis is being blackballed or colluded against because he is African-American.  I think both of them are free agents at the moment and circumstances other than skin color or social protest form the basis of their continued free agency.  I would come to the same conclusion with regard to Adrian Peterson who remains unsigned as of this morning.  Yes, he had those domestic violence issues he had to deal with a couple of years ago.  I believe, however, his injury history over the past couple of years and the “high mileage” on his running back’s body coupled with reports that he wants $9M per year have more to do with his continued unemployment than collusion or blackballing over his legal issues.

I suspect that there will be only minor activity in the QB free agency marketplace.  With the draft only a few weeks away, I think teams will be spending much more energy on their “draft boards” than on free agent quarterbacks – most of whom will still be in that status after the draft is over and teams can see what they were able to get in the draft both at the QB position and at other positions on the field.  I suspect the next period of activity for free agent QBs will be in early May.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald about the virtue of NFL owners:

“NFL owners voted 31-1 to OK Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, with Dolphins’ Stephen Ross the lone dissenter. Ross has since been so heroically lauded in the media you’d think he’d rescued three nuns from a burning car.”

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

 

 

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………