Last week, I mentioned that South Carolina fired Will Muschamp and paid him $13M as a buyout to his contract. And so, the annual game of Football Coaches Musical Chairs begins in earnest. [Technically the music began right after the first week of the season when the coach at Southern Mississippi resigned, but now there is an opening at an SEC school and that means there are more coaches interested in marching around to the music now.] Rumors have begun about who is interested in taking the job and who is not; rumors have begun about who South Carolina is interested in and who it is not; lots of rumors and few facts.
South Carolina is either a great place to coach or a career-killer depending on how you look at it. For a young upcoming coach seen as a successful guy at a smaller program – – think PJ Fleck back in 2016 going from W. Michigan to Minnesota – – South Carolina could be a career killer. The Gamecocks get the pleasure of playing Clemson, Georgia and Florida every year; then the luck of the draw can get them one or more of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and/or Texas A&M in any given year. It is not easy to win 10 games in a season with that kind of schedule.
On the other hand, the expectations at South Carolina are not unrealistic. Fans and boosters there do not expect the Gamecocks to be in the CFP every other year; in fact, some of them might be orgasmic if South Carolina ever got into CFP consideration.
The job at South Carolina seems to me to be a job that is perfect for an established coach who needs a “comeback job”. Three names of that ilk are floating around:
- Hugh Freeze was let go at Ole Miss after some pretty sleazy NCAA recruiting and personal conduct issues there; he is now at Liberty University cleaning up his reputation and may be ready to return to a bigger program. Liberty is 8-1 this year and its only loss was by one point to NC State.
- Steve Sarkisian flamed out at USC over “alcohol-related incidents” and he is now the OC at Alabama. Spending time with Nick Saban has proven to be a cleanser for “troubled coaches” in the past – – think Lane Kiffin – – and perhaps Sarkissian is now “sufficiently presentable” to be a head coach once again. Prior to the flame out at USC, Sarkissian had been successful in starting a major rebuilding of the football program at Washington.
- Bill O’Brien wore out his welcome with the Houston Texans where he was the coach and the GM. However, O’Brien has won the Big-10 Coach of the Year and the “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award in the past. He may be unorthodox in his methods – and he certainly was a bad NFL GM – but might he or another defrocked NFL coach be interested in a college job at an SEC school?
Moving on… With the passage of every weekend, the likelihood grows that the winner of the NFC East will have a losing record. Here we are in Thanksgiving week and the division leader has 6 losses and 1 tie while the other three teams all have 7 losses. All the teams have 6 games to play; do the math and you will see that the division winner needs to win either 4 or 5 of the remaining games to avoid a losing record for 2020. Yes, these teams play one another over the next 6 weeks meaning one of them could rise up among these flawed teams and soar to a winning record – – if it can win an out-of-division game or two also. And there is the rub; as of this morning, the NFC East teams are a combined 4-19-1 against teams not in the NFC East.
There is precedent for a division winner to have a losing record:
- In 2010, the Seahawks finished the regular season at 7-9 and made the playoffs. They hosted a wildcard game in the playoffs and won that game.
- In 2014, the Panthers finished the regular season at 7-8-1 and made the playoffs. They hosted a wildcard game in the playoffs and won that game.
- The NFC East winner this year – whoever it is – will host a wildcard game in the playoffs and …
- For the record, home teams’ combined record so far this year is 86-73-1.
Looking at the remaining schedules for the four teams:
- Cowboys: WTFs, at Ravens, at Bengals, Niners, Eagles, at Giants. 3 home games and 3 away games. Combined record of opponents = 21-37-2.
- Eagles: Seahawks, at Packers, Saints, at Cards, at Cowboys, WTFs. 3 home games and 3 away games. Combined record of opponents = 34-26-0.
- Giants: at Bengals, at Seahawks, Cards, Browns, at Ravens, Cowboys. 3 home games and 3 away games. Combined record of opponents = 31-28-1.
- WTFs: at Cowboys, at Steelers, at Niners, Seahawks, Panthers, at Eagles. 2 home games and 4 away games. Combined record of opponents = 31-28-1.
From this vantage point, the Cowboys would appear to be shoo-ins based on the current record of their opponents; the fly in that ointment is that they play division opponents 3 times and the Cowboys have the worst in-division record of all these flawed teams. The return to health of Andy Dalton leads me to suggest that the Cowboys will win the NFC East at 7-9.
From this vantage point, the Eagles would appear to be doomed. Perhaps they will be favored at home in the final game of the season against the WTFs, but they will be significant underdogs in their next 4 games. The “good news” here is that the Eagles could finish the year 3-12-1 giving them a shot at a “Top 5” pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Finally, here is an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Hunting: A sport that satisfies men’s innate desire to wear earflaps and a tartan jacket while freezing their testicles off by remaining largely motionless for several hours so that every so often they may get the chance to kill something.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………