RIP Jud Heathcote …

Former Michigan State basketball head coach, Jud Heathcote, died at the age of 90 yesterday.  He won the national championship in 1979 when the final game was “Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird”.  Heathcote took over at Michigan State in 1976 and stayed through 1995 where he turned over the reins to a long-time assistant named Tom Izzo who remains the coach at Michigan State today.

Rest in peace, Jud Heathcote.

The hiring of Art Briles by the Hamilton TigerCats of the CFL lasted about 24 hours.  In an announcement yesterday, the team owner and team CEO said that they had terminated Briles and that they had not realized how intensely negatively his hiring would be viewed by fans and social media.  It also appears that CFL Commissioner, Randy Ambrosie, played a part in this “U-turn” of thinking.  If so, I would have to give Ambrosie high marks for initiative and action.  It would appear that he saw something that he believed was going to be detrimental to his league and he took action.  That would indicate to me that he is not going to be a potted plant in the corner of the room as the CFL Commissioner.

Art Briles is an interesting test case for the concept of “second chances”.  Remember, Briles has not been charged with any criminal acts let alone been convicted of criminal acts.  Partly because of that situation, there are still facts about the sordid mess at Baylor under his watch that are unknown; hearing only one side of a partial story is hardly a firm foundation on which to draw conclusions.  What we do know is that there were more than a few instances of sexual assaults perpetrated by Baylor football players on students at that school and that Briles did not put a stop to it.  He may have even gone so far as to act to try to cover up the actions of his players.  Whatever happened there, it was bad and there is no way to sugar-coat that.

So, the question now is this:

  • Does Art Briles have the opportunity to get a “second chance”?

Remember, Art Briles is 61 years old; if he is going to have that opportunity, it will necessarily have to happen in what will seem like an awfully brief time after his messy departure from Baylor.  I cannot imagine him getting a job with an NCAA school any time soon; I suspect there would be more than a tad of outrage if a high school hired him as its football coach; given the tenuous stances that the NFL has taken on matters related to “assaults on women” (sexual and non-sexual), I doubt that any team’s PR folks would be happy to have to explain that hiring.  Now, it would appear as if the CFL is closed off too.

I said above that there are still facts of the Baylor mess that remain in doubt – one of which is just how many sexual assaults we are talking about here.  Let’s assume that there was a half-dozen such events for the sake of argument.  [Aside: One victim claims that more than 50 women had been raped and some of them had been gang-raped.  I do not know the number; I find the idea of a “half-dozen rapes” to be horrific.]

Perhaps, Art Briles had the opportunity for a ”second chance” and squandered that opportunity when the second of those alleged sexual assaults came to his attention and he did not take action to prevent a third occurrence.  Or maybe when the third came to his attention and …

I surely do not feel sorry for Art Briles this morning and I think the CFL and the Hamilton TigerCats acted in the best interests of that league and that franchise.  At the same time, I think that Art Briles may be an example of someone who is just not going to get a chance at redemption and that is an unusual – not unique but unusual – circumstance in our society.

The other big news this morning is the mega-contract signed by Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.  It is a 5-year extension worth $135M with a $50M signing bonus and a total of $92M guaranteed.  That is the biggest contract with the most guaranteed money in NFL history and some Detroit Lions’ fans have freaked out over it.  As if on cue, the negative stats generated by Matthew Stafford hit the Internet almost as soon as the contract details and his passing stats were publicized.  I will list the negatives here only to demonstrate the depth of the angst of some Lions’ fans:

  • Stafford’s teams are 0-3 in playoff games.
  • Stafford’s teams have only won 1 road game against teams that finished the season with a winning record.  [Someone had to do a lot of digging to come up with that one.]
  • Stafford’s teams are only 5-46 against teams that finished the season with a winning record.  [That might explain the lack of success in the playoffs where opponents almost always will have a winning record.  No?]

With all the outrage out there on the table, I think signing Stafford up for a 5-year extension was a good thing for the Lions.  Stafford is not the best QB in the NFL; he will be the highest paid QB in the NFL – until the next mega-contract gets announced – but he is better than about 20 other starting QBs in the league and he is only 29 years old.  The Lions had three options:

  1. Sign Stafford up – and the going rate for franchise QBs these days is lots of money per year and lots of money guaranteed in the deal.
  2. Lose Stafford after this season and draft a new QB and develop him – and simultaneously pray the guy you draft is not the second coming of Joey Harrington.
  3. Sign an experienced NFL QB in free agency – but not one that will cost $27M per year with $92M guaranteed.  [Translation:  That means shopping in the aisle that has folks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and Matt Schaub on the shelves.  This is the Jets/Browns/Rams model…]

The first option is clearly expensive and by comparison with some other top shelf NFL QBs the first option means the Lions “overpaid”, but isn’t it really the most sensible thing for the team to have done?

Even more interesting is the possible impact this contract could have on upcoming QB contracts and contract extensions.  I have not had the time to look at every starting QB’s contract situation but here are ones that I know will be coming up soon:

  • Drew Brees:  His contract is up at the end of the 2017 season; he has won a Super Bowl; he has thrown for 5,000+ yards 5 times going into the 2017 season.  On the other hand, he will be 39 years old once NFL free agency begins.  It will be interesting to see the “time-adjusted value” of his stats and accomplishments.
  • Kirk Cousins:  He makes about $24M this year on his second franchise tag.  He will get a contract that is in the same neighborhood as Matthew Stafford’s and that is a far cry from the low-ball offers he has gotten from the Skins in the last two years.
  • Matt Ryan:  His contract is up at the end of the 2018 season; when that happens, he will be 33 years old as he potentially becomes a free agent.

Finally, on the subject of NFL QBs, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is accused of using a machine to stamp his autographs. That’s terrible! Back in my day, star QBs had the decency to have the team trainer hand-forge their signature.”

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



8 thoughts on “RIP Jud Heathcote …”

  1. I wonder if Art Briles might well served by a criminal trial. Acquittal might free him to coach again.

    1. Doug:

      First they would have to find something to charge him with and from my reading of reports of the “Baylor Mess”, I am not sure there is sufficient “criminality” to warrant the effort by prosecutors. Then there would be the matter of empaneling a jury in Waco that was “unaware” of all the issues and who Art Briles is. Good luck with that…

  2. I’m not sure it would help. After all, there would be evidence “out there” as well as the “evidence everyone knows about” making the rounds. It would also open him up to a civil suit, where the standard is much lower to lose your shirt. Ask OJ Simpson.

    Ask Shoeless Joe Jackson if he ever got his reputation and career back even though he was acquitted by a jury and FWIW his actual involvement with the Black Sox fix was dubious. He did confess to a grand jury and recant that confession later, and no real evidence has emerged that he threw anything.

    1. rugger9:

      Agree. Just as Dave Bliss is never going to outlive his reputation, I think that is also the fate for Art Briles.

  3. Here’s something that says Stafford may be worth a great deal of money:

    He got the Detroit Lions to the playoffs three times.

    Usually to do that you have to be a Delta pilot.

  4. I love when the words “Kirk Cousins,” “$24 million,” and “low-ball offers” are bandied about in the same conversation.

    1. Tenacious P:

      Two years ago, the Skins would not guarantee more than $40M to Cousins for a “long-term deal”; last year, the team announced it was guaranteeing $52M – – but $28M of that $52M was the franchise tag he was playing under this year which is guaranteed as soon as the ink dries on the franchise tender offer. That is a lot of money, but in today’s market for franchise QBs, that is a low-ball offer.

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