Football-free Friday 1/29/21

For the last 5 months, Friday rants were devoted to football as has been the custom here in Curmudgeon Central for years.  However, this particular Friday is always a deviation from that schedule because even in non-COVID seasons, there is no football of significance happening on this weekend.  I view the Pro Bowl – even when it is played – with even lower regard than I do the Exhibition Games that lead up to the NFL regular season.  So, let us just agree to call this Football-free Friday.

The Baseball Hall of Fame will have no new inductees next summer from the voting of the Baseball Writers Association of America; no player on the ballot this year received the requisite 75% of the votes cast to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame.  The three highest vote counts went to:

  • Curt Schilling
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens.

From my perspective, people with a vote in this matter have chosen to vote against these three players for different reasons.  Bonds and Clemens are both inexorably tied to PED use – not proven to legal standards but proven to the standard of a preponderance of evidence for many baseball fans.  Schilling is merely “politically odious”; many of his public pronouncements go well beyond the standard of “politically incorrect”; many of his pronouncements are in the category of loathsome.  [Aside:  I am not going to list some of them here because I really believe that they need no additional airings.]

All three players have one year left on the Baseball Writers’ ballot; after that, their candidacy will be in the hands of a Committee known as the Today’s Game Committee.  Here is the membership of that Committee:

“The Today’s Game Committee shall consist of 16 members, comprised of members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives, and veteran media members. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. shall act as the non-voting chairman of the committee and shall act as non-voting Secretary of the Committee.”

Schilling took the unprecedented action to petition the Hall of Fame to direct the Baseball Writers to take his name off their ballot for next year; he says he does not want to give the writers another year to harp on his personal views as they go about their voting.  Surprisingly, the writers have protested to the Hall of Fame that Schilling must remain on the ballot because their rules say he belongs there.  Yes, you are right; this contretemps has all the gravitas of an argument over “Tastes Great” versus “Less Filling”.

My position on the propriety of including controversial figures in the Baseball Hall of Fame is not black and white – – so let me try to explain.  The Baseball Writers try to include “character” and “integrity” issues in their criteria for entry to the HoF.  That leads to a conundrum quickly:

  • Steroids were illegal in the 90s when they were rampantly used in MLB; there was no baseball rule about that but there were legal restrictions.  So, does that make PED users automatically ineligible on the basis of a “character flaw” as a “lawbreaker”?
  • PEDs – by definition – give the user “performance enhancement” meaning they promote his ability to accumulate great stats that the writers then view as the basis for his candidacy.  So, should PED users be disqualified on the basis that their stats are in question?  Well, if that is the case, then how could someone like Gaylord Perry be in the HoF when he threw thousands of illegal spitballs over the course of his career that accumulated stats sufficiently noteworthy …?
  • When a player lies about using PEDs – or about gambling on baseball – should the lies themselves be disqualifying indicating of a lack of “integrity”?

If I had a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame – which I do not – I would vote:

  • To include Bonds and Clemens and other PED users/suspects posthumously and with the provision that their plaque in the Hall says explicitly that there is plenty of reason to believe that these players were PED users and that PEDs may well have inflated their statistics cited in the Hall of Fame.
  • To include Pete Rose posthumously and with the provision that his betting on baseball and his lying about betting on baseball be included on his plaque with the notation that his gambling behaviors did not enhance his ability to accumulate his statistics.
  • To include Curt Schilling in the HoF because he is one of the best big-game performers ever.  [See some stats below]  The idea that Curt Schilling and his odious political views will somehow pollute the Baseball Hall of Fame is beyond ludicrous.  Cap Anson and Ty Cobb were fundamentally flawed human beings – Anson also bet on baseball games – and they are in the Hall.  There is more than a little evidence that Cobb and Tris Speaker colluded to fix a game or two even after the 1919 Black Sox scandal and that the Commish looked the other way.  Speaker is in the Hall.  I think Curt Schilling is a social troglodyte – meaning no disrespect to cave dwellers in antiquity.  But he will not be the most repugnant person in the Hall of Fame if inducted.

Anyone can Google Schilling’s career stats for themselves.  I want to present just a couple of things that take a bit of searching through those stats to indicate why I believe Curt Schilling’s on-field body of work makes him eligible:

  1. In the history of baseball, only 4 pitchers have recorded 300 strikeouts in three different seasons.  Those 4 are Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Curt Schilling.  That is rather good company Schilling is keeping there…
  2. He started five postseason games where a loss would have eliminated his team; he won every one of them.  No other pitcher did that.
  3. Overall in postseason play, Schilling started 19 games and was the pitcher of record in 13 of those 19 games.  His record for his career in the post season was 11-2 with an overall ERA of 2.23.

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times related to another member of the Baseball Hall of Fame – – about whom there is no debate regarding his proper inclusion there:

“Yogi Berra, the late Yankees legend, is about to get his own commemorative postage stamp.

“New U.S. Postal Service motto: It ain’t delivered till it’s delivered.”

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



NFL Comings And Goings

Yesterday, I went through the NFL to look at teams that have QB issues/concerns which will need to be addressed in the offseason or the draft.  So, let me begin today with a report about one of the QBs who just retired, and that retirement set some of yesterday’s “QB issues” in motion.  The NY Post reports that  ESPN is going to try to get retired QB, Philip Rivers, to sign on with ESPN as “an NFL analyst”.  According to the current reporting, the idea would not be for Rivers to replace anyone in the ESPN Monday Night Football booth – – at least for now.  However, as the NFL looks to open negotiations for renewals of its rights packages, one of the hopes at ESPN is an expanded package for that network perhaps to include more Monday Night Football doubleheaders.

Never having heard Rivers in a telecast, I have no idea if he would be a curse or a blessing to that profession.  However, I am encouraged by this report in that it says that the suits at ESPN want to keep the Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick team together for another season.  That crew had some bumps in the road early on, but they improved markedly by the end of the season.  I have no illusions that they will make me forget Gifford, Cosell and “Dandy Don” Meredith, but they acquitted themselves very well in the last month or so of the 2020 season.

And speaking of Philip Rivers and his retirement, that seems to have generated a lot of sports radio segments and blog postings soliciting comments to ponder the question:

  • Is Philip Rivers the best QB never to have won a Super Bowl?

As is always the case when this sort of question is posed, there is a cadre of the responders who belong to the school of thought that if something happened more than a year ago, it is not to be given “reality status” because it was only reported in hieroglyphics.  More than a few callers on local sports shows and blog responders are confident that the answer to the question above is in the affirmative.

Let me take a crack at answering this by starting out with the following statement:

  • Notwithstanding his lack of a Super Bowl ring, I believe Philip Rivers belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

I hope that statement allows me to discard the label of a “Philip Rivers hater” – – because I am not such a person.  Now let me say that he is not necessarily the best QB never to win a Super Bowl because of these four players from yesteryear – – listed alphabetically to preclude any debate about ordering among the four:

  • Sonny Jurgensen
  • Dan Marino
  • Warren Moon
  • Fran Tarkenton

Those four men are in the Hall of Fame and Rivers should join them in the Hall – – and then you can easily insert his name – alphabetically – onto that list of his peers.

In a sort of related NFL retirement announcement, tight end, Greg Olsen, announced his retirement earlier this week.  He had toyed with retirement last year and did some work with FOX on XFL 2.0 games where he showed potential behind a microphone.  Presumably, he will return to FOX in a football analysis role now that he has tried a comeback and once again decided that it is time for him to hang up the jockstrap.

There are reports that the Houston Texans are about to hire Ravens’ assistant coach, David Cully as they next head coach.  If that comes to pass, that will fill all the head coaching vacancies for this year’s offseason, and it will make several things clear:

  • Eric Bieniemy will be outside looking in at a head coaching job once again.  I know the fact that he did not get a job or a job offer will usher in a chorus of shouts focused on “racism”.  And it may indeed be nothing more than racism at work here.  Or … maybe there is some other force at work here that no one knows about or has uncovered.  After all, the final coach hired this year is a Black man and the team that hired Cully is one of the teams that had also interviewed Eric Bieniemy.
  • [There is a case to be made that Robert Saleh hired by the Jets is also a minority selection – – but not necessarily a minority by NFL standards,]
  • There are some surprising hires in this year’s coaching sweepstakes – – assuming the reports about David Cully and the Texans are correct.
  • Of the seven new hires in the NFL, none of them have NFL head coaching experience.  Only one of the new hires – Urban Meyer – has spent time as the head man at the college level.
  • The Jets and Chargers went with “defense guys”.  The Lions, Falcons, Eagles and Texans went with “offense guys”.  The Jags went with a “college guy”.

I noted that none of these new head coaches has NFL experience.  I do not want to make that into an unvarnished positive for teams that give a coach his first shot at the top job but consider this:

  • If I asked you to name the best coaches in the NFL right now, I suspect you would come up with a list similar to this one:
  • Bill Belichick – – had previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Pats in 2000.
  • Pete Carroll – – had previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Seahawks in 2010.  Also had a successful career as a college head coach.
  • John Harbaugh – – had no previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Ravens in 2008.
  • Sean Payton – – had no previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Saints in 2006.
  • Andy Reid – – had no previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Eagles in 1999.
  • Mike Tomlin – – had no previous experience as a head coach when hired by the Steelers in 2007.

My point here is that previous NFL experience is not always an indicator of a successful new hire.  Fans surely hope that the 7 teams have chosen well with their new hires.  History suggests that several of those hirings will not turn out the way anyone involved with the teams or the coaches would prefer.  But for the moment, things are looking up around the NFL in terms of new coaches and new systems and all the cultures that will be changing around the league.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we will take a wait and see posture…

Finally, with the announcement of next summer’s induction class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame coming very soon, here is an anticipation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“QB Peyton Manning, a first-time finalist, would seem a shoo-in for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

“Pundits predict a record number of audibles in his induction speech.”

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



NFL QB Issues And Questions…

In the NFL, quarterbacks usually get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when  the team loses.  I doubt there is a cure for that.  As this year’s NFL off-season begins to accrete mass and gain momentum, there is an unusual amount of uncertainty surrounding NFL quarterbacks; we have a quality QB who have already announced his retirement; we have QBs wanting to be traded – or rumored to want to be traded – ; we have QBs who are reportedly frustrated with their coaches or former coaches; we have …  You get the idea.

So, today I want to try to make some semblance of sense out of all this.  I shall do this division by division looking at teams with QB “issues” and/or QB “needs”.  Let me start with the AFC East:

  • Bills:  No issues and no needs; they have their franchise QB.
  • Dolphins:  Rumors that players and coaches may not be all that enamored with Tua.  They have the 3rd pick overall in this year’s draft and some Mock Drafts – – for whatever they are worth – – have them taking another QB there.  My guess is that the Dolphins would trade Tua rather than demote him.
  • Jets:  They need better play from their QB; the question for the new Jets’ regime is simple; can Sam Darnold provide that better play?  Rumor has it that Deshaun Watson wants to be traded to the Jets.  The Jets pick second and twenty-third in the first round of the Draft; they have assets they can trade…
  • Pats:  This is a team that needs a serious upgrade at QB.  The Cam Newton experiment did not work; Cam Newton is a shell of his former MVP self.  However, a reincarnation of John Unitas is not going to resurrect the Pats’ dynasty without a concomitant upgrade in the corps of pass-catchers.

In the AFC North:

  • Bengals:  Assuming Joe Burrow’s rehab is complete, they have no QB issues or needs.
  • Browns:  They have their guy on the roster already.
  • Ravens:  No issues.
  • Steelers:  I think Ben Roethlisberger is in the same situation as Cam Newton; his body is betraying him.  If I read the reports of his contract correctly, he will make $28.8M next year – base salary plus easily achievable bonuses – meaning he has little incentive to retire.  After next year, he will be a free agent; that is when he will be motivated to retire.  The Steelers need a replacement for him now and that replacement is not currently on the roster – even with the signing of Dwayne Haskins off the scrap heap.  If the Steelers cut Roethlisberger, they will have $22.4M in Dead Cap Money to deal with.  The Steelers have a QB problem…

In the AFC South:

  • Colts:  Philip Rivers retired, and Jacoby Brissett is an unrestricted free agent.  Jacob Eason is the other QB on their roster.  The Colts put a playoff caliber roster around Rivers last year; they can do that for another QB this year.  They need to acquire an NFL-competent QB for certain.
  • Jags:  They pick first in the Draft and they need a QB badly.
  • Texans:  This is a soap opera.  There is obvious friction between Deshaun Watson and the owner and the team President; reports say Watson wants out.  Watson’s contract with the Texans runs through 2025; according to, the Texans would take a dead cap hit of $67.5M in 2021 if they cut or trade Watson; that would leave a team that finished 4-12 last year in dire straits to field a functional squad.  I think Watson will stay in Houston because it will be difficult for the Texans to absorb that dead cap hit and because the goofy owner there will likely come to recognize that the team has already alienated part of the fanbase, and he need not pour salt into that wound and piss off another piece of the fanbase.
  • Titans:  They have their QB…

In the AFC West:

  • Broncos:  They have 3 young QBs on the roster and my reaction to all of them is, “Meh!”  They pick 9th in this year’s Draft; so, that may not provide them with the upgrade they might want.  They may need to entice one of this year’s free agent QBs to take up residence in Colorado – – if they can.
  • Chargers:  They have their QB…
  • Chiefs:  They have their QB …
  • Raiders:  Some Raiders’ fans are less than content with Derek Carr as the franchise QB but Carr is more than merely a solid player who does not embarrass himself or the team when he is on the field.  Marcus Mariota is a more-than-competent backup.  The Raiders did not make the playoffs this year and played poorly down the stretch – – but the reasons for those failures go well beyond QB play in Las Vegas.

Moving to the NFC, let me begin with the NFC West:

  • Cardinals:  No QB issues or problems here…
  • Niners:  Jimmy G has had difficulty dodging the injury bug.  He is signed through the end of 2023 and stands to make $26M next year.  However, if he is released or traded, reports that his dead cap hit is only $2.8M (I do not understand how that happens but that is what it says.)  So, the Niners could be in the free agent marketplace for a QB if they are concerned about that injury history.
  • Rams:  People have reported that Sean McVey has fallen out of love with Jared Goff.  The other two QBs currently on the Rams’ roster are John Wolford and Blake Bortles.  Goff is signed through the end of 2024 and his dead cap hit for next year would be $65.5M.  The Rams are a playoff team; I just do not see them hamstringing themselves with that much dead cap money.  I will be surprised if Jared Goff is anywhere else next year.
  • Seahawks:  No QB issues here.  Just move along…

In the NFC  South:

  • Bucs:  Tom Brady is signed for next year; he will make $27.9M.  So long as he does not retire or suffer an incapacitating injury, the Bucs QB situation is resolved.
  • Falcons:  Matt Ryan is still a capable franchise QB for the team.  He is getting to the point where the Falcons should begin to hold auditions for his ultimate replacement.  On the Falcons’ roster now are Matt Schaub (not a QB for the future because of his age) and Kurt Benkert (If you believe he is the Falcons’ QB of the future, tell me where he played college football without Googling).
  • Panthers:  Teddy Bridgewater is signed through the end of 2022 and the Panthers have 3 other young QBs on the roster.  My guess is that the Panthers will stand pat here – – but if a quality free agent shows interest there…?
  • Saints:  Will Drew Brees retire?  I think he should; if he does the Saints will eat $22.6M in dead cap money.  Jameis Winston is an unrestricted free agent.  Taysom Hill has one more year to go on his contract and Trevor Siemien still has a key to the team’s facilities.  The Saints should be active in the QB marketplace this year…

In the NFC North:

  • Bears:  The team declined Mitchell Trubisky’s fifth year option, so he is an unrestricted free agent.  Nick Foles is still there and signed through the end of 2022.  If the Bears cannot entice a free agent to come to Chicago, they will likely try to resign Trubisky since he “knows the system”.  However, the ceiling does not appear to be extremely high if they take that path.
  • Lions:  Matthew Stafford has asked to be traded – – following in the footsteps of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson as quality players who do not want to play for the Lions.  Stafford will be 33 years old next year and is signed through the end of the 2022 season.  Stafford should draw lots of attention on the trade market and the Lions need plenty of help.  Stafford fits perfectly with the Colts playoff caliber roster in search of a QB and he would also fit with the Pats, Saints, Steelers and WTFs.  The Lions have only 1 pick in the first round of this year’s Draft (#7 overall) and you can expect them to get at least one more in exchange for Matthew Stafford.
  • Packers:  Aaron Rodgers’ comment that his future is uncertain has created a melodrama here.  He is signed through the end of the 2023 season and he will collect a total of $73.5M over the course of that contract.  If you hear about him retiring, that is the money he would leave on the table.  If the Packers were to trade him – – or release him if you want to think waaay outside the box – – the dead cap hit for the team would be $31.6M.  For a team that had the best record in the NFC last season, that makes little to no sense.  My prediction is that Aaron Rodgers will get past his current state of butt-hurt and will be wearing #12 for the Packers again in 2021.  The curtain will fall on this melodrama.
  • Vikes:  They have their QB – – for better or worse…

I purposely saved the NFC East for last because there are so many question marks and moving parts here that I did not want to tire anyone out in the early parts of this rant.  Grab yourself a cup of coffee – – or an adult beverage if that is of your choosing and the time is right – – and let me dive in here.

  • Cowboys:  This situation is a soap opera married to a melodrama subsumed in an episode of the Perils of Pauline.  And what else would  you expect from the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones?  Dak Prescott is a free agent – – unless the Cowboys put the franchise tag on him for a second time giving him a guaranteed salary of something in the neighborhood of $38M for 2021 and almost assuredly giving him unrestricted free agency after that.  The Cowboys hit the jackpot in the free agent market last year signing Andy Dalton as their backup QB and he saw plenty of action in 2020 due to Prescott’s injury.  However, Dalton is also an unrestricted free agent this year; his deal was a one-year deal with no team option in it.  Other QBs on the Cowboys’ roster are Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci.  If any of them are “the answer” then I have no idea what “the question” might be.
  • Eagles:  Look at their situation one way, and they have a QB controversy between Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts.  Look at it another way and they have one QB who has problems between his ears (Wentz) and another QB who played well in one game and was decidedly mediocre in two others.  Look at it a third way and the team has made a financial – and personnel – commitment to Carson Wentz that is more than merely significant.  Wentz and Doug Pederson reportedly had a major falling out; Pederson is gone; Wentz won that battle.  Wentz’ contract runs through the end of the 2024 season and the Eagles would have to eat $59.2M in dead cap space by releasing him or trading him this year.  I call that a serious commitment.  My guess is that the Eagles will put Carson Wentz under center next year with a new coach and a “new system” and that Jalen Hurts will be on the team with a few “special packages” that he will run a few times a game.  Status quo ante is maintained…
  • Giants:  The Giants have the most stable QB “situation” in the division so long as you believe that Daniel Jones is indeed an NFL-caliber franchise QB.  He shows flashes of being just that – – and then he finds a way to make a humongous mistake at just the wrong time in a game.  Daniel Jones is certainly not one of the top 5 QBs in the NFL – – but there are probably a dozen teams that would welcome him with open arms as their QB in 2021 if they could shed their incumbent QBs without debilitating dead cap hits.
  • WTFs:  Alex Smith is the best QB on the roster and gives the team the best chance to win football games; that is the good news.  Alex Smith is 38 years old and is one bad hit away from a permanent disability; that is reality.  Alex Smith is signed through the end of 2022 and he would create $10.8M in dead cap money for the WTFs should they cut or release him; that is the financial reality here.  The other QBs on the roster are Kyle Allen (erratic and injury prone), Steven Montez (totally unknown) and Taylor Heinicke (maybe a player or maybe a one-hit wonder?)  The WTFs could be looking for help at the QB position but they do not have a lot of “draft capital” to offer in a trade (they pick #21 this year) so they might have to go looking at the free agent marketplace.

Just so you can have a more complete picture of this situation, here are the meaningful QB free agents on the market in 2021 in alphabetical order:

  • Jacoby Brissett:  If the Pats do not show interest, I would find that to be a telling negative about him.  I suspect the Colts will have their eye on a QB higher on the food chain…
  • Andy Dalton:  He can go just about anywhere if he is willing to be a backup again.  If he wants to start, perhaps he looks to the Bears or the Broncos?
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick:  If the Dolphins are thinking of trading Tua, they might want to resign Fitzpatrick.  If not, maybe the Steelers sign him to give one of their youngsters another year to learn the game?
  • Cam Newton:  I think he is done as a starter.  His place in the league now is as a reliable backup to one of the “young and upcoming QBs” as an insurance policy against injury.  Is that a fit with the Chargers or Bengals or Dolphins if they keep Tua?
  • Dak Prescott:  He will be with the Cowboys next year either on a franchise tag or with a very lucrative long-term deal.  He holds all the cards in this negotiation; all he needs to do is not to overplay the hand.
  • Tyrod Taylor:  I am sure he would love a shot at a starting QB job; if so, maybe the Broncos, Pats or Bears might be attractive.  Personally, I think he would be a perfect addition for the WTFs as their backup to Alex Smith.
  • Mitchell Trubisky:  When all the smoke clears, I think he winds up back in Chicago with the Bears.
  • Jameis Winston:  Things did not end well for him in Tampa; the question on the table in this year’s free- agent market is simple.  Has one-year under the tutelage of Sean Payton rehabilitated him?  If folks think so, he will be in high demand – – think Colts, Bears, Lions, Broncos, Pats…  If not, he will have to settle for another one or two-year deal as a clipboard holder somewhere…

So, there are my thoughts on NFL QBs and NFL free agency for the upcoming offseason.  To give you and idea of how fluid some of these situations are, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

For what it’s worth: In the wake of his Saturday performance (in the NFC Wildcard round), some will argue that at this moment, Taylor Heinicke is the NFC East’s best quarterback.”

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



Not All Is Well Today …

Normally, when I get an email from the “reader in Houston”, it contains stats or sports history that augments or corrects something I recently wrote.  When I received an email from him yesterday, I was not sure what stat or historical event I had missed in yesterday’s rant; so, I opened the email with heightened curiosity.  Instead of a long and detailed email, this one was short and to the point; it dealt with the Fan Controlled Football league I mentioned yesterday.  Here is the entirety of its contents:

“Including the playoffs, “Fan Controlled Football” is a supposed six-week long season joke.”

My guess is that the “reader in Houston” will be paying the same amount of attention to FCF as I will…

While I am in the mode of citing emails that have come to me, here is something from a former colleague and it cites a statistical comparison among Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers that I failed to hear on the telecasts last weekend:

“I’m sure you realize that Brady has now won as many NFC Championship Games in one season as Brees and Rodgers have in their careers.”

To be honest, I had not realized that until the moment I read his email…

Even I, as a person who hob-nobs with folks of a curmudgeonly persuasion, do not know anyone who hopes that 2021 is as bad a year as 2020 was.  Even I, as a curmudgeon in good standing within that community, am pulling for a major improvement year over year.  Nevertheless, there are two situations this morning that give me pause when I try to let a smidgen of optimism ooze its way into Curmudgeon Central.

The first situation is the feasibility of holding the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed from last year.  The problem here is simple and straightforward; the coronavirus is running amok in Japan right now; there are all sorts of restrictions in effect in Japan – and in Tokyo specifically – aimed at containing the viral spread.  Obviously, everyone wants those restrictions to be successful.  Equally obviously, the Summer Games could be a monstrous super-spreader event if thousands of spectators accompany the thousands of athletes from around the world to Tokyo in the summer.

Indeed, there are mitigation strategies that can be effected.  None of those strategies is perfect; authorities must be vigilant to minimize the possibility of a new outbreak.  The authorities have another concern; it is an economic one.  The facilities for the games are in place; they have been paid for – with some borrowed money to be sure – and they have not yet generated any revenue to offset any of those costs.  There is pressure to hold the games and get something back on the investment made because without the Games this summer, the IOC has said they will cancel this set of games and prepare to hold the next ones in Paris in 2024 and then in LA in 2028.  If that is the fate of the 2020 Games, it will not be until 2032 that Tokyo might begin to offset the expenditures already encountered.

Staying purely in the economic realm – and leaving aside issues related to epidemiology, public safety and/or morality – there are potentially negative consequences in Japan for any decision regarding the Games scheduled for the summer:

  • Postponement will cause a delay of revenue to offset sunk costs and will reduce any influx of foreign money from tourism that was anticipated for 2021.  Not good…
  • Holding the games and bringing lots of people to Japan this summer when the coronavirus is still “alive and well” in various parts of the world could cause yet another outbreak in Japan that could shut down the economy as a means to confine the virus.  Not good…

Meanwhile, the other situation that does not portend peaches and cream for 2021 relates to MLB.  If 2021 were destined to be a “normal sports year” teams would be setting up facilities in Florida and Arizona for the onset of Spring Training about now.  Instead, there are reports this morning that Arizona officials have sent a letter to MLB asking for a delay in the start of Spring Training there because of the high rate of COVID infections in Maricopa County.  The report I read in the Washington Post said that the officials there do not have the authority to order such a delay meaning this could evolve into a negotiation with MLB.  Unfortunately, any negotiation with MLB will have to involve the MLBPA as well; history tells us that those two entities have difficulty agreeing on even basic things like Tuesdays always following Mondays.

Already, the union has opposed a proposed delay in starting Spring Training.  The union seems to see that step as a slippery slope to a place where MLB will want to shorten the regular season and – once again – reduce player salaries as happened in 2020.  Maybe so … but can we concoct a conspiracy theory that links the MLB owners’ nefarious desire to cut players’ pay with a request from Arizona government officials asking for a delay based on epidemiological projections?  That could take a lot of arm-waving and rhetorical flourishing…

Folks with rose-colored glasses will look at the two paragraphs above and point out that it is a hurdle that can probably be ironed out in a three-way discussion among adults.  Well, there are a couple of other issues simmering in the MLB/MLBPA cauldron of contention:

  • MLB offered the union the possibility of a universal DH.  That is an issue that has been something the union has wanted in the past because DH players generally command more in salary than would a 25th player at the end of a team’s bench.
  • In return, MLB wants the union to agree to an expanded playoff structure at the end of the regular season.  More playoff games mean more TV money; evidently, the owners’ proposal does not slip enough of the “new money” in the direction of the players.
  • The union has rejected this package.  The two sides cannot agree on how to share more revenue…

So, what might seem to be a simple pandemic related set of negotiations where economics and public health are balanced one against the other, [Aside:  How does “public health” lose out in that balancing act?] you can see that those conversations will devolve quickly into multidimensional discussions with plenty of room for bickering.

Make no mistake; I recognize that proposals from the owners in MLB are always going to tilt the economic benefits on the table toward the owners’ side of the table.  That has been the case in baseball since its beginnings and it continues to this moment.  At the same time, the MLBPA is not an organization steeped in virtue.  Here is a statement issued by the MLBPA to the possibility of delaying the start of Spring Training – – and therefore the regular season:

“While we, of course, share the goals of a safe Spring Training and regular season, MLB has repeatedly assured us that it has instructed its teams to be prepared for an on time start to Spring Training and the Regular Season and we continue to devote all our efforts to making sure that that takes place as safely as possible.”

“As safely as possible” – – so long as it does not involve any postponement that might be related to increased safety levels as suggested by local officials and epidemiological models…

Finally, having mentioned MLB above, let me close today with George Bernard Shaw’s opinion of baseball:

“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.”

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



RIP Henry Aaron

Henry Aaron died last weekend.  I went to his page at looking for some interesting stat about his career other than the fact that he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record and would up hitting 755 home runs in his career.  Here are just a couple of things I found there:

  • From 1955 to 1975, Henry Aaron was voted onto the All-Star team 21 consecutive times.
  • He received votes for MVP in 19 consecutive seasons but only won the MVP Award 1 time.
  • He is the all-time MLB leader in RBIs (2297) and in Total Bases (6856).

One other “interesting” thing about Aaron is that his Topps Baseball Card for 1957 shows him in a left-handed batting stance.  Really?

Rest in peace, Henry Aaron…

Dwight Perry paid tribute to Aaron in the Seattle Times yesterday:

“And a tip of the baseball cap to Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, who passed away at age 86 on Friday and whose average output in 21 seasons as a Brave — .310 average, 35 homers, 105 RBI — would be the envy of 99.9% of big-league hitters.

“’Throwing a fastball by Henry Aaron,’ opposing pitcher Curt Simmons once famously said, ‘is like trying to sneak the sun past a rooster.’”

Jared Porter was fired as Mets GM after ESPN revealed that he had sexually harassed a reporter in Chicago several years ago and even sent her a picture of “himself”.  Porter was a scout for the Cubs at the time so there would seem to be some responsibility on that organization to find out how and why that sort of thing happened to the degree that it did.  The woman reporter was sufficiently upset at the incident(s) that she left the country and left the sports writing business.  Even if you are inclined to think that she overreacted to the situation, you have to recognize that what happened there had to be most unpleasant for her.

Porter had only recently been hired by the Mets for their GM position; he was in the job for about 5 weeks when this story broke.  On one hand, you have to give the Mets’ organization credit for acting swiftly and decisively in this matter – – whether you agree that the punishment is appropriate for the crime or not.  On the other hand, you must wonder about the background investigation and the vetting processes used by the Mets when they hire executives.

In much more positive news regarding MLB, the Toronto Blue Jays signed free agent outfielder George Springer to a 6-year contract worth $150M.  Springer will be 31 years old at the end of this season, so the duration of this contract is not outrageous.  Over his 7-year career, he has been an All-Star 3 times; his career batting average is .270 and his career OPS is .852; he has played all three outfield positions over his career with the Astros.  The Blue Jays, the Rays and the Yankees ought to make the AL East an interesting division to watch in 2021.

Moving on …  Greg Cote had a tidbit in the Miami Herald a while back; I made a note of it on my clipboard and then proceeded to forget it was there and did not notice it until this morning.

“Johnny Manziel is coming out of retirement to play in something called the Fan Controlled Football league. The FCF is to debut with four teams in February. Over/under on the startup league folding: June 1.”

Obviously, the question here is what makes the FCF different from the myriad other Spring Football leagues that have sprung up and then disappeared.  The league website offers a few clues:

  • Teams are co-owned by groups that are not traditional team owners.  Richard Sherman is a co-owner of a team; Austin Ekeler is a co-owner; Trevor May is a co-owner; Marshawn Lynch is somehow involved with a team named the Beasts.
  • Fans can be involved with drafting players each week – – so I presume the teams are fluid.
  • I am not quite sure what all this means, but this comes directly from the league website:  “The games will stream on Twitch with fully-integrated play calling. You’re in the feed with the owners, (sic) They have advice, but you vote on the calls.  Select the best play and it’s relayed right to the QB.  Top fans on leaderboard have the most voting power.”

Games will be played in Infinite Energy Arena – in suburban Atlanta; that tells me this league will resemble Arena Football more than say XFL football.  The games will be 7-on-7 and somehow the fans will call the plays.  The games are billed as a “fusion” of sports, fantasy sports and video games.  I will not pretend to understand enough about this new league to make a cogent comment on it, please go here to get a far more detailed explanation of what the league is about and perhaps you will understand many of the terms used here better than I do.  For example, I have no idea what “stream on Twitch with fully-integrated play calling” could possibly mean.

Finally, the FCF is clearly an organization filled with optimistic vision.  My father used explain optimism like this:

“You can complain that rose bushes have thorns or you can enjoy the roses between those thorns; it’s up to you.”

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



Football Friday 1/22/21

Today we have an example of the adage:

“What goes around, comes around.”

The Earth has rotated on its axis 7 times and that means it is once again time for a Football Friday.  Much as I would prefer not to have to review the selections in last week’s Six-Pack, that is the way these things always begin.  So, here is the sorry-assed news:

  • College:  0-0-0  (Season is over)
  • NFL:  1-5-0  (Ugh!)
  • Combined:  1-5-0  (Ugh, again!)

That sorry-assed performance drops the cumulative totals for this season to:

  • College:  20-25-1
  • NFL:  32-42-2  (Disgusting!)
  • Combined:  52-67-3  (Shameful!)


College Football Commentary:


The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM)  suffered through a dismal season in 2020.  The team record was 0-10; only one of the losses was by one-score; cumulatively, the team was outscored 420-163.  Not surprisingly, the school fired coach Matt Viator because of that season and hired Terry Bowden to take over the program.

Bowden has had experience building/rebuilding programs; he was successful at Samford and at Akron.  He also has big-time coaching experience as the head coach at Auburn and most recently as an “offensive analyst” at Clemson in the Dabo Swinney regime.

Obviously, having looked at some of the film from ULM’s season in 2020, Coach Bowden recognized that there was a lot of repair work to be done.  He enticed Rich Rodriguez to get off the patio swing and return to coaching at ULM.  Rodriguez is an established “offense guy” who had success as a head coach but never the success that was anticipated when he took those head coaching jobs.  The arrival of Rodriguez in Monroe, LA is accompanied by his son, Rhett Rodriguez, who has experience as a college QB at Arizona in the PAC-12 and who has 2 years of college eligibility left.

Normally, a vacancy at a Sun Belt school that has just gone 0-10 is filled with an energetic young coach looking to make a splash and move up the coaching food-chain.  Terry Bowden and Rich Rodriguez may be energetic and enthusiastic, but there is no way to portray than as either “young” or “eager to move up the coaching food-chain”; Bowden is 64 years old and Rodriguez is 57.  This could be an interesting situation to watch starting next season…

The University of Hawaii football program faces everyday challenges that are of little consequence to many other college football programs.  Every away game for the Rainbow Warriors is an event; I believe the shortest flight from Honolulu to the Mainland is a 2400-mile jaunt to San Francisco; an in-conference away game at Air Force or Colorado State involves a flight of 3350 miles.  Now, the program faces a challenge for its home games too.

About a month ago, the Aloha Stadium Authority announced that it would not be hosting any “fan-attended operations” at Aloha Stadium for an indefinite period.  You guessed it; Aloha Stadium is the home field for the University of Hawaii.

Basically, Hawaii has to find itself a field to play on for the 2021 season and beyond – – until they get a new stadium built.  The Stadium Authority said that the closing of the facility was based in finances – – an aspect of running the facility that had been devastated by the COVID-19 effects on football games specifically and the economy in general.  Aloha Stadium was scheduled to undergo significant “renovations” but the money for those things just is not there presently.  A local TV station in Honolulu reported that,

“Aloha Stadium has been deemed unsafe to hold crowds of any manner and is facing condemnation.”

Surely, the change in venue for the Pro Bowl – – in years when the NFL actually plays the Pro Bowl – – from Aloha Stadium to other venues on the Mainland did not help the financial situation faced by the Stadium Authority.  The Pro Bowl was played in Aloha Stadium from 1979 to 2015 save for two seasons; those games had to be a major influx of revenue for the facility.

This will not be an easy time for the Hawaii Athletic Department; existing venues in Hawaii for a college football game are far smaller than what is normal and expected; visiting teams share the gate and – obviously – the gate will be smaller with a smaller seating capacity.  Stand by on this one; I have a gut feeling that this story has chapters yet to be written…


NFL Commentary:


I said before that I intended to wait until all the NFL coaching vacancies were filled to comment on them in context.  I still plan to do that, but I want to address something that arose in an email exchange with a reader.  I do not know this person in real life; from context clues in his communications, my guess is that he is in his 30s; if I am way off, I am sure he will let me know about that.  I mention his age because I believe it colors – and maybe even limits – some of his perspective here.

We had several exchanges of emails so let me paraphrase his original comment to me which set the exchange in motion:

  • Why is everyone making a big deal about the Jaguars hiring Urban Meyer?  Being  a successful college coach does not translate to being successful in the NFL – even the best college coach, Nick Saban, was not a winner in the NFL.  I think the job of a college coach is totally different from the job of an NFL coach.

Let me take the issues presented there separately:

  • The reason the hiring of Urban Meyer is a “big deal” is that Urban Meyer is the most successful college coach out there other than Nick Saban – – and Nick Saban has shown exactly no interest in leaving Alabama to return to the NFL.  [Aside:  In a relaxed moment, I can hear Coach Saban saying that he has the best football job in the country, and it would be foolish for him to leave it because … Mrs. Saban raised no dumb children.]
  • Whenever a coach goes from college to the NFL – – and to some degree when a coach leaves the NFL to go to a collegiate job – – there is a natural anticipation regarding how well he might do in that different environment.
  • I agree that the two jobs are far more different than they are similar.  The roster assembly is different; there is something in the NFL called the Draft which keeps a coach from even talking to some players he may covet.  College players are still “boys” to a large extent; NFL players are adults.  College players may be rebellious and do stupid things; NFL players generally have plenty of money which opens possibilities for them to do even dumber things…  The jobs are quite different and lots of folks want to see how coaches adapt when they move from one level to the other.
  • Most importantly, I tried to convince my interlocutor that not all college coaches flop in the NFL.  Yes, Nick Saban’s record over a 2-years period with the Dolphins was only 15-17.  Even worse, Steve Spurrier was 12-20 over a 2-year period with the Skins.  And Lou Holtz only lasted a single season as the head coach of the Jets finishing at 3-13.  Those are three very accomplished college coaches all of whom won National Championships and they all flopped at the pro game.
  • Further back in history, Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma teams dominated college football.  In 17 seasons there, Wilkinson’s record was 145-29-4; his teams won the National Championship 3 times.  From 1953 through 1957, his teams won 47 consecutive games – – a record that still stands.  After he left Oklahoma, he entered politics and broadcasting before trying his hand at coaching the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL.  He lasted only a year and a half; his record there was 9-20.  So, there is another phenomenally successful college coach who did not translate his success to the NFL.
  • However, there were some college coaches who went to the NFL and excelled.  Dick Vermeil took over a terrible Eagles’ team and got them to the Super Bowl after 4 seasons; he then went on a long coaching hiatus and came back to win the Super Bowl with the Rams.  Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll won Super Bowls after moving up to the NFL from successful college coaching stints.  Moreover, two of the most significant innovators in football history introduced their innovations to the world in the pro game after having had success at the collegiate level.
  • The first innovator is Bill Walsh – – the father of the West Coast Offense.  He took the Niners to the Super Bowl 4 times and won 3 of those games.  One of the major accomplishments on his résumé that got him the Niners’ job in the first place was his success at Stanford
  • The second innovator is Paul Brown.  His Cleveland Browns dominated the NFL in the 1950s playing in seven NFL Championship games then.  His teams in the 1950s were the dynasty of the NFL akin to Lombardi’s Packers and their dynasty in the 1960s.  Brown’s college experience was at Ohio State – one of the same stops Urban Meyer has made in his coaching odyssey.

Perhaps the fascination with the Urban Meyer hiring boils down to a curiosity on the part of fans to see if he more resembles Bill Walsh in terms of success in the NFL – – or if he is a reincarnation of Lou Holtz at that level.  So, just sit back; relax; enjoy a favorite beverage and watch…

The NFL playoffs are now down to the Final Four – – except the NCAA would get all huffy if the NFL ever chose to label this part of the playoffs as such.  So, how did we winnow the field down from 8 to 4?

Last week, the Chiefs held on to beat the Browns 22-17.  The Chiefs dominated the stat sheet but managed to make it a nail-biter down to the 2-minute mark in the second half.  Of course, you know that Patrick Mahomes had to leave the game with a “concussion” or a “choke out” or a “neck injury” or a whatever.  The Chiefs won the game in the end because they converted a 3rd and 14 with a 13-yard scramble by Chad Henne followed by a 4th down pass reception from Henne to Tyreek Hill for a first down.  Baker Mayfield played well, and Nick Chubb was a handful in the run game all day long averaging 5.6 yards per carry.  This was an entertaining game to watch; the better team won the game.  Having said that, the Browns are a team on the rise…

The Bucs beat the Saints 30-20.  The popular storyline was the clash of two QBs in their 40s in this playoff game; the real story of the game was the turnover stats:

  • Saints turned it over 4 times – – 3 INTs and 1 lost fumble.
  • Bucs turned it over ZERO times.

Three of those 4 turnovers led to TDs by the Bucs on a short field.  The 4th turnover gave the ball to the Bucs in a position to run out the clock at the end of the game.  The two QBs really spread the ball around in the game; Tom Brady completed passes to 9 receivers; Drew Brees completed passes to 10 receivers in the game.  It was interesting to watch these two QBs who will both be in the Hall of Fame soon after they retire from the game, but it was not nearly as entertaining as the Chiefs/Browns game.

The Packers beat the Rams 32-18.  This game was not as close as the score would indicate; the Packers gained 484 yards on offense while the Rams only managed 244.  The Rams’ defense was hobbled by the limited play of Aaron Donald due to a rib injury suffered two weeks ago.  The score was 25-18 at the start of the 4th quarter – – but I never had the feeling that the Packers were going to lose the game.

The Bills beat the Ravens 17-3.  The Ravens dominated the stat sheet particularly in the running game; the Ravens gained 150 yards on the ground to only 32 yards gained by the Bills.  The Ravens had the ball for more than 35 minutes and were 7 of 17 on third down conversions.  And still, they scored only 3 points in the game.  This was a one-score game late in the 3rd quarter with the Ravens threatening to score the tying TD when Bills’ DB, Taron Johnson, intercepted a Lamar Jackson pass in the end zone and returned it 101 yards for a Bills’ TD that put the game on ice.

Lamar Jackson had to leave the game after he slammed his head on the turf scrambling for a ball that was snapped over his head.  The only other active QB for the day was Tyler Huntley who had been elevated from the practice squad earlier in the week.  In about a quarter of play, Huntley was 6 of 13 for 60 yards passing and he gained 32 yards on 3 scrambles.  Not a bad showing for an undrafted rookie QB in a divisional playoff game…


NFL Games:


Tampa Bay at Green Bay – 3.5 (51):  There was a period in the late 1980s when the Packers were not very good; over a 6-year period, the Packers record was 33-61-1.  [There was a strike-shortened season in 1987; that is why the total number of games is not divisible by 16.]  Over the same period, the Bucs were even worse; their record was 25-70-0.  The two teams were in the same division then and played each other twice a year; those games were not-so-lovingly referred to as “Bay of Pigs Games”.  Not so in 2021; these are two very good teams and the game should be a good one.

The Bucs’ defense made Drew Brees look ordinary last week.  I think the key to this game is the ability of the Bucs’ defense to do something similar to Aaron Rodgers this week.  The Packers have won 7 games in a row and have scored an average of just over 33 points per game in that span; therein lies the challenge for the Bucs’ defense.

The Packers’ defense has its own challenges for the game.  The Bucs’ running attack has been getting better as the season progressed and Ronald Jones plus Leonard Fournette present a formidable pair of running backs.  If the Bucs can present a balanced offense running the ball and using play action, the Packers’ defense could be in for an awfully long day.

The weather forecast is for cold – as should be expected in northern Wisconsin in January.  That would seem to be a factor in favor of the Packers; The Bucs have not been practicing in temperatures nearly so frigid.

I think both offenses here will have success.  I like the game to go OVER and I like the Bucs plus the points; put those selections in this week’s Six-Pack. 

Buffalo at KC – 3 (54):  If the NFC Championship Game is a battle of two sure-fire Hall of Fame QBs who have been entertaining football audiences for next-to-forever, this game is a battle between two young gun QBs.  The weather in KC for Sunday calls for a 40% chance of rain with temps in the 30s and 10 mph winds.  Given the way Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes can throw the football, I would have wished that this game could be played in a Sun Belt locale or a dome, but football is a game where players need to adapt to the elements.

Teams always have difficulty matching up with Tyreek Hill; one key to this game is the ability of TreDavious White to keep Hill from wreaking havoc in the Bills’ secondary.  Another key to the game is the mirror image of this one; how will the Chiefs’ secondary deal with Stefon Diggs to keep him under some semblance of control.

Since Week 9 of the regular season, the Chiefs are 8-1 straight up but only 1-8 against the spread; they have not won a game by two scores since beating the Jets 35-9 on November 1st.  Meanwhile the Bills have been hot over their last 8 games – – all wins.  Seven of those eight wins were by double-digits and the point differential over that span is +135 points.

The Bills’ defense was outstanding last week; I do not think they will be able to hold the Chiefs to 3 points this week.  The Chiefs’ defense will need to be on top of its game to contain the Bills’ offense – – and they have film from last week and the Ravens as to how that might be possible.  This game is going to be a fun game to watch.

I like this game to stay UNDER and I like the Chiefs to win and cover at home; put those selections in the Six-Pack.

Let me review the four selections in this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Bucs +3 against Packers
  • Bucs/Packers OVER 51
  • Chiefs – 3 over Bills
  • Chiefs/Bills UNDER 54.

Finally, having spent some time discussing the general fascination of the Jags hiring Urban Meyer as their coach, let me close with this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired college-coaching icon Urban Meyer as their new head coach.

“But no, he had to be told, you can’t sign 10 Alabama players to letters of intent.”

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



College Football Stuff Here…

I begin today on a personal note.  There is a benefit to being an old fart; yesterday afternoon, my number came up and I received my first dose of the Moderna Vaccine.  The selection process is the mirror image of ageism; rather than experiencing an adverse action as a result of my advanced age, I received a benefit based on nothing more than my date of birth.

And … regarding any worries I might have that I was just “microchipped” such that the chip can be interrogated to locate me and track me, I have two simple responses:

  1. Why would anyone give a damn [Hat tip to Rhett Butler] regarding my whereabouts?
  2. My cell phone already does that.

Earlier this week, I mentioned the firing of Tennessee head football coach, Jeremy Pruitt, and said that it was due to some recruiting violations that had come to light during an internal university investigation.  As is normally the case, the NCAA super-sleuths did not uncover these violations of NCAA rules; someone else did and that is how the NCAA found out about it.  If you are seeking Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple, do not waste your time looking in Indianapolis, IN – – home of the NCAA.  There you are most apt to find the likes of Inspector Clouseau, Barney Fife and/ or Inspector Gadget.

However, as further reporting brings to light more of the details at Tennessee, there is reason to heap scorn on the incompetence resident in Knoxville.  I will cite in a moment the allegations pending against the outgoing regime there but just to set the stage, let me review a few facts that are not remotely in dispute:

  • The University of Tennessee (UT) is now embarked on its fifth search for a head football coach since the end of the 2008 season.  Jeremy Pruitt was preceded in that job by Butch Jones, Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin.
  • [Aside:  In late 2020, UT extended the contract of Coach Pruitt through the end of the 2026 season and gave him a raise.  I suspect that no one in the chain of command there will raise his/her hand today to say it was a good idea back then,]
  • The Vols began the 2020 season with two wins over South Carolina and Missouri.  Then they lost 7 of their last 8 tames with the only win coming at the expense of woebegone Vandy in mid-December.
  • Kevin Steele was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator about a month ago; he is now the “Acting Head Coach”.   If sanctions and recruitment restrictions are headed in UT’s direction, it would make sense to name him the “Permanent Head Coach” because he will surely work cheap and it will not matter who is the head coach because the team is going to “struggle” for the next several years.

So, what is it that Coach Pruitt is alleged to have overseen as the major domo of the Tennessee football program?

  • A source told Dan Patrick and Patrick reported it on his radio program that potential recruits would get McDonald’s bags from assistant coaches that contained cash money instead of a Big Mac and large fries.
  • [Aside:  No, I do not give the assistant coaches there “creativity points” for finding new variants on the “hundred-dollar handshake”.]

As I noted a couple of days ago, the reason that Pruitt got the job at UT in the first place was that the coaching search at that time turned up a name that did not sit well with some virtue signalers, social justice warriors and some of the local sports radio yakkers in the local area.  That bit of history gives some context to this observation by Pat Forde at

“Good job, Vols. Good effort. You got your program back — whatever that means — and it’s a bigger dumpster fire than ever. You’ve surpassed even Auburn as the Dysfunction Capital of the Southeastern Conference. Maybe leave the radio guy’s opinions out of the coaching search this time.”

Speaking of college football coaches and the SEC, I was interested to see that Doug Marrone – – recently fired as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars – – has decided to put some luster back on his coaching résumé by taking the job of offensive line coach at Alabama under the tutelage of Nick Saban.   Here is Marrone’s performance as a head coach from 2009 to 2020:

  • He was 25-25 at Syracuse over a 4-year span
  • He was 15-17 with the Buffalo Bills over a 2-year span
  • He was 1-1 as the interim coach of the Jags at the end of the 2016 season
  • He was 22-42 as the head coach of the Jags over a 4-year span.
  • That record pretty well defines, “Meh!”

Doug Marrone is only 56 years old; I would be shocked if he did not aspire to at least one more “head coaching gig” before he hangs up his whistle for good.  And so, he does the football coaches’ equivalent of a pilgrimage to the cleansing waters of Lourdes; he takes a job with Nick Saban to assimilate by osmosis the essences of winning football from “The Guru”.  If you think I am exaggerating, please check this out; it is a compilation of 21 former Nick Saban assistant coaches who went on to get head coaching gigs.  Oh, by the way it was compiled in 2019 so there may be an addition to two to the list…

Finally, in keeping with the college football heading for today’s rant, here is a pertinent comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Michigan football center Zach Carpenter has entered the NCAA transfer portal.

“Forget the victors — hail to the first Uber out of town.”

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



March Madness Dates Announced

The NCAA announced some alterations in the standard schedule for March Madness recently.  The first change came several weeks ago when they announced that the entire tournament would be held in Indianapolis – all 67 games.  That announcement made sense; there are enough court facilities in town to provide game venues; it would allow for much less travel and an enhanced – if not perfect – “bubble environment”; and it is about as neutral a site as could be picked ahead of time.  Yesterday, the NCAA announced that the normal pattern of games would be different in the 2021 tournament:

  • Normally, the 4 play-in games – – the First Four in NCAA parlance – – would take place on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday.  In 2021, all four games will take place on the Thursday after Selection Sunday – – March 18,2021.
  • That movement requires a change in the first-round games since the four winners of the play-in games need to take part in the first-round games which normally would begin on the Thursday after Selection Sunday.  This year, the first-round games will be held on Friday and Saturday – – March 19 and March 20, 2021.
  • That would push the second-round games to Sunday and Monday – – March 21 and March 22, 2021.
  • Sweet Sixteen games will be Saturday and Sunday – – March 27 and 28, 2021 – – this year as opposed to Thursday and Friday as in the past.
  • Regional finals will be Monday and Tuesday – – March 29 and March 30, 2021.
  • The Final Four games will be Saturday April 3, 2021 with the Championship Game taking place on Monday April 5, 2021.

It will be interesting to see how fans react to the new timing of the games.  There are several positive aspects to it not the least of which is that four of the teams involved in two of the play-in games do not have to do a turn-around from Sunday to Tuesday to play their first tournament game.  That put the winners of the first set of play-in games on a schedule to play Tuesday, Thursday and then Saturday if they won the first two games.  This scheduling spreads out those games.

I will reserve judgement regarding the shifting of the Sweet Sixteen games and the regional finals simply because I can convince myself that it is either a significant change or a trivial one depending on how I look at it.  So, rather than make a pronouncement now, I think I will just experience this different schedule and react to it after the fact.

We have seen that COVID-19 has a way of wreaking havoc on sports schedules for the past year or so.  This scheduling is ambitious particularly considering the number of COVID-19 cases that have been detected among college basketball players and coaches so far in this patchwork season. tracks canceled/postponed college basketball games for the season; as of this morning there have already been 125 such cancellations/postponements and according to the website, there are 15 more to add to the list between now and Saturday, January 23,2021.

As I said, this is an ambitious plan and given my enthusiasm for March Madness, I certainly hope it goes off without a hitch.  Now, all I have to do is to tamp down that little voice in the back of my head quoting Robert Burns :

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men, gang aft agley.”

[The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.]

Moving along …  There certainly has been a barrage of Internet ads for the HBO documentary on Tiger Woods.  One of the promotional come-ons was the assertion that in this documentary,

  • “The raw truth about Tiger Woods is about to be revealed.”

I am not big on documentaries in the first place simply because too many of them are nothing but video versions of opinion pieces; if you know more than a little bit about the producer of the documentary you pretty much know what it will “reveal” and/or “document”.  They are not all that different from op-ed pieces or magazine essays where you know about the views of the author as you consume the first paragraph.

With that prejudice against documentaries as a category of events that reveal “the raw truth”, you will not be surprised to learn that I missed the first installment and plan to miss any subsequent installments.  However, I find it interesting that the folks at HBO were able to put together this “revelation of raw truth” without anyone asking how such “raw truth” might have escaped the journalistic probing and “seeking of the truth for the benefit of the American public” over all those years.  For way too long, the nominal journalists who cover golf have given a pass to plenty of impolite and/or anti-social behavior by various golfers and then those folks took that “look-the-other-way” school of reporting to an art form with Tiger Woods.

The reason there might even be “raw truth” to reveal about Tiger Woods is because he has had nothing but fawning coverage – bordering on idolatry – for about 20 years.  A major component of the existence of such “raw truth” is the complicity of the toadies who covered golf and Tiger Woods.

Finally, the effect of COVID-19 on the NBA has also been significant this season causing the NBA to add new restrictions to its virus protocols.  One such restriction is a limitation on postgame hugs and handshakes among the players.  Bob Molinaro captured that element of the NBA protocol recently in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

These times: Thunder guard George Hill, on the NBA’s updated COVID protocol: ‘We can sweat 48 minutes a game with (an opponent) next to us, but we can’t talk to them afterwards. It makes no sense.’”

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



Social Justice Warriors And Virtue Signalers

Regular readers here know that I do not hold social justice warriors and virtue signaling in high esteem.  It is not that I disagree with the need for advancement in social justice in the US; it is that many social justice warriors take their actions and their pleadings beyond reason.  And virtue signaling is shallow and disingenuous.  Today, I want to address three sports issues that impinge on both social justice warriors and virtue signaling.  What I hope to do is to add a bit of rational thought to the three sports issues that does not seem to be there now.

Let me start with a column in the Washington Post written by Kevin Blackistone.  You can find it here and the online headline reads:

“Why the WNBA can’t wait: Kelly Loeffler should get the Donald Sterling boot”

For the record, I read Kevin Blackistone’s columns in the Post regularly and I enjoy them.  He is an advocate for social change; but normally, his words are reasoned and rational; in this particular work, I think he went over the edge.

Let me be clear from the outset.  I am not someone who is politically or socially aligned with Sen. Loeffler; were I a citizen of Georgia, I would definitely have voted against her in the Senatorial election earlier this month.  I have not supported her in the past; I do not support her now.  Exclamation Point!

The WNBA players themselves – – specifically including players on her own Atlanta Dream squad – – united to campaign against Ms. Loeffler as is their right, and it is to their credit that they acted on what they perceived to be right.  At least some of that political support and activism came as a result of Ms. Loeffler’s continuous support of the unsubstantiated claim that the Presidential election was “rigged” and/or “stolen” notwithstanding the myriad rebuffs of that claim by various levels of the US Federal judiciary.

Ms. Loeffler is a part owner of the WNBA franchise and Kevin Blackistone’s column calls for her to be “booted from the ownership ranks” comparing her to Donald Sterling.  I do not read minds, so I do not know if she and Mr. Sterling share similarly rancid views of race and gender, but I do know that there is a big difference between Kelly Loeffler as a franchise owner and Donald Sterling as a franchise owner:

  • Donald Sterling’s rancid views of Black people and women were in a position to cost the NBA lots of money/revenue.  His unpopular views threatened the pocketbooks of the rest of the owners and the league itself.
  • Kelly Loeffler owns part of a WNBA franchise; the revenues and economics of the WNBA are well beyond the decimal points of the NBA which is the parent company of the WNBA.  Even if fans boycotted Atlanta Dream games – – every Atlanta game on the WNBA schedule – –  the NBA would never notice the difference.

Removing an owner solely for their political/social views and expressions is a path fraught with danger.  Removing an owner who threatens the bottom line for the league is a totally different story.  This is not a matter for the WNBA or the NBA; this is a matter for the WNBA players and fans.

  • If Ms. Loeffler’s views are so toxic, why would any player in the WNBA play for the Atlanta Dream in good conscience?
  • If her views are so toxic, should any player in the WNBA on any other team take the court when the opponent is the Atlanta Dream?

That is the meaningful locus of activism that will carry the day – – not a bunch of moguls meeting in secret and pronouncing their decision(s).  And just imagine the social justice warriors who normally get their knickers in a knot any time a bunch of men do something “bad” to a woman…

The second issue of this type today is a campaign by the marketing folks at Coors Light to have Tom Flores elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Listen to their exhortations on the TV ads and the strongest point made is that he is the first Latino QB and the first Latino head coach in the NFL – – and therefore why is he not yet in the Hall of Fame.  I find that argumentation interesting…

No less a social justice warrior and advocate for equal treatment than Rev Jesse Jackson has routinely pointed to sports as the meritocracy where minorities of all kinds could show their unique skills and expertise to be a winner/champion and there was nothing that recalcitrant majority folks could do about it.  So, let me list here Tom Flores accomplishments in the “meritocracy of sports”:

  • As a QB, he was mediocre – – maybe just a tad better than that but certainly not “really good”.  He had a 9-year career as a player; he started 68 games; his teams were 31-33-4 in those 68 starts.  For his career, he threw 93 TDs and 92 INTs.
  • Bottom Line:  As a QB he is not remotely qualified to be in the Hall of Fame.
  • As a coach, he was good-but-not-great.  He had as 12-year coaching career going 98-87-0 in those years.  However, to his credit, his record in the playoffs was 8-3-0 and he won 2 Super Bowl Championships.  One argument against his selection for the Hall of Fame is that every modern era NFL coach in the Hall of fame has won more than 100 regular season games; Flores did not.
  • Bottom Line:  As a coach I believe he is a stretch to belong in the Hall of Fame and the question boils down to something other than his Latino heritage, “Do 2 Super Bowl rings plus Latino heritage” make up for a 98-87-0 record on the sidelines?”

Frankly, I would not vote to put Flores in the Hall of Fame along with coaches like Shula and Lombardi and Landry and Noll from the modern era.  At the same time, I would not be sufficiently upset if the Selection Committee put him in the Hall of Fame to declare that I would never again visit the facility.  But I do find it a bit unseemly – and even smarmy – for a beer company to be touting a nominee for the Hall of Fame and for him to have allowed it to happen.

The final issue has its roots in late 2017.  The University of Tennessee had had enough of its football coach, Butch Jones, at that point and fired him unceremoniously.  The Athletic Director – and presumably some others in the university hierarchy – let it be known that they wanted Greg Schiano to be the next coach at Tennessee.  At that point, there was a confluence of special interests.  Some folks were against Schiano because he was “not an SEC guy” and others were either genuine social justice warriors or only normal folks who felt an abject need to virtue signal here.  That second contingent of protestors were opposed to Schiano because he had been on the same coaching staff at Penn State with Jerry Sandusky.  There were no allegations that Schiano had done anything wrong – – let alone that he had also abused young boys in the Penn State showers.  It is just that he was there, and all that bad stuff happened and that had to make him a bad guy too.

The combination of protesting factions prevailed and kicked out the Athletic Director – – replacing him with Phil Fulmer the longtime coach at Tennessee who himself had been unceremoniously fired about 10 years prior to all that.  Fulmer went out and hired Jeremy Pruitt for the job.

Pruitt was singularly unsuccessful in the position.  In three seasons at Tennessee, the Vols record was 16-19 and the conference record was 10-16.  It was not the worst coaching record in recent times in Knoxville; Derek Dooley was 16-21 in his three years at Tennessee with a conference record of 5-19.  At the same time, Jeremy Pruitt will not cause the Tennessee alums to forget the names of Johnny Majors and/or Doug Dickey as coaches of the Vols.

Just this week, it was announced that Pruitt was “fired for cause” by the university meaning that Tennessee is going to try to avoid paying him the $12.5M buyout contained in his contract.  [Aside:  I suspect that law firms across the country can smell the “billable hours” here and are looking for ways to get in on that action.]  Pruitt is not accused of anything criminal or smarmy; he is accused of sufficiently severe recruiting violations that could bring significant NCAA sanctions down on the school.

So, the question that needs to be asked of the social justice warriors and activists who got their way in 2017 is simple and straightforward:

  • “So, how’d that work out for you?”

There is plenty of room in sports and in US society for people and athletes to advocate for social justice and social progress.  In fact, the US would not be nearly the country it seeks to be were it not for that open space.  However, there is another phenomenon at play here; those people and various organizations often overplay their hand – – the current jargon is they get out too far over their skis.  I think at least four things need to be done in this realm:

  1. Athletes, teams and leagues need to support actively – with words, deeds and money – those endeavors that are aimed at social progress which align with the values of the athletes, teams and leagues.
  2. Athletes, teams and leagues need to support endeavors aimed at social progress that simultaneously provide material benefits to the organizers/activists – – but they need to make those material benefits clear and acknowledge them.
  3. Fans – – and media outlets – – need to be wary of pleadings based entirely on race or national origin without extensive supporting evidence that specific injuries have happened.
  4. Media outlets specifically need to point out and perhaps even oppose social justice warriors and virtue signalers when there is no objective evidence to support their opposition to the target of their wrath.

Finally, one of the images that social justice warriors and virtue signalers like to portray is that they are altruists; they are acting in a way that is not necessarily in their own best interest but is obviously intended to augment the common good.  For that reason, let me close with this comment by H.L Mencken regarding altruists and altruism:

“Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy.  It is an art like any other.  Its virtuosi are called altruists.”

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



NFL Teams With “QB Issues” …

Today, I want to analyze NFL teams that have “QB issues” to deal with in the off-season.  At first glance, one might think that this list would duplicate the list of 6 teams out there looking for a new coach; and indeed, there is plenty of overlap.  However, as one counterexample, the Chargers have Justin Herbert on their roster and their new coach – Brandon Staley – ought not to be kept awake at nights wondering what to do at that position.  I think there are 13 NFL teams with “QB issues” and I want to divide them into 3 categories.

Category 1 are the teams that have a QB issue of their own making.  I put 5 teams in Category 1:

  1. Eagles:  The regression of Carson Wentz’ capacity to play QB has been stunning; the reports that he is disgruntled and would prefer to be out of Philly speaks to the way his regression was handled by the former coaching staff.  People say his contract makes him untradeable; the new coach there had better arrive with a plan for team improvement and a bucket of salve for a huge case of the red ass.
  2. Jets:  Sam Darnold has been in the NFL for 3 years and has started 38 games – – and the Jets still have no idea if he can be a franchise QB.  He started his career with a defensive-minded coach followed by two years under Adam Gase’s random regime.  The Jets do not know what Darnold can do and I doubt that Darnold knows either.  Should the Jets be done with their upheaval with the hiring of Robert Saleh – – or do they need a new QB in this year’s draft too?
  3. Lions:  Someone there allowed a rumor to start saying that the Lions might be looking to move on from Matthew Stafford.  I am not here to suggest that Stafford will be in the HoF someday, but he is a more-then-adequate starting QB who will be 33 next season.  If he leaves – or becomes less enthusiastic based on this rumor floating about, this is a self-inflicted wound by the Lions.  And what else might one expect from the Lions…?
  4. Niners:  Reports say that the Niners have an out for Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract this year and that they are considering exercising that out.  Jimmy G. has had injury issues in two of the last three seasons in SF; but when he was healthy for an entire season in 2019, the Niners went to the Super Bowl.  Garoppolo will be 30 years old next season.
  5. Texans:  If reports are accurate, the Texans’ owner and Deshaun Watson have found a way to put a gap between themselves.  Assuming that both parties have dispute resolution skills beyond that of third-grade playground adversaries, this is a spitting contest that needs to end immediately.  If the Texans must “move on” from Deshaun Watson over this “feud”, the Texans’ ownership will descend in the NFL rankings down to “Danny Boy Snyder level”.

Might there be a solution to the “QB issue” for two teams here in Category 1?  Carson Wentz and Jimmy G both have big contracts that make them – supposedly – untradeable; might an exchange of one for the other be feasible?  Each player gets a new venue to show his talent.

Category 2 are the teams with a talent deficiency at the position simply because the QB decisions made by the franchise over the past five years or so have not panned out.

  1. Bears:  Mitchell Trubisky lights things up occasionally; so do fireflies.  He has been in the league 4 seasons and started 50 games; he is only 26 years old; he has not shown that he is “the guy”.  Nick Foles is a great backup QB but never seems to work out as the “main man”.  The other two QBs on the Bears’ roster today are Tyler Bray and Kyle Sloter.  The Bears are between Scylla and Charybdis.  (Hat Tip to Homer…)  The Bears draft 20th in April; that does not seem to be the way they are going to resolve their issue.
  2. Broncos:  John Elway was one of the great QBs of NFL history; nevertheless, he has been singularly unable to find a competent QB for his Broncos save for the time that Peyton Manning “fell into his lap”.  Since Manning’s retirement 5 years ago, here are the 10 QBs that Elway has given his coach as a potential starter: Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemien, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Philip Lindsey and Drew Lock.  Of that mélange, Driskel, Lock and Rypien are still on the roster.  The Broncos draft 9th this year; will there be a QB available for them at that position?
  3. Jags:  The Jags have had QB issues since the days when Mark Brunell and/or Byron Leftwich were playing; that was about 15 years ago.  The current roster has Mike Glennon, Jake Luton and Gardner Minshew as the team QBs; perhaps you may think of all three as serviceable backups for a week or two but nothing more than that.  The good news here is that the Jags draft first in April in a draft where there are several excellent talents to be had.  We shall see…

Category 3 are the teams where the QB issue was created by – or at least exacerbated by – Father Time.

  1. Colts:  The Colts rolled the dice with Philip Rivers last year and made the playoffs.  If Rivers chooses to come back next  year on another 1-year deal, the Colts QB issue devolves to “kicking the can down the road”.  Other than Rivers, the Colts’ QBs are Jacoby Brissett and Jacob Eason.  Brissett has been in the league 5 seasons and has 32 starts under his belt.  Maybe he is a worthy heir apparent to Philip Rivers…  Or not…
  2. Saints:  Jay Glazer reports that Drew Brees is retiring now that the Saints’ playoff run in 2021 is over.  Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemien and Jameis Winston are currently on the roster.  None would appear to approach Brees in terms of productivity but – to be clear – the Saints’ QB issue is not nearly as dire a situation as exist for other teams on this list.
  3. Steelers:  Yes, I know the Steelers won their first 11 games in 2020 and made the playoffs.  Nevertheless, for the last month or so, Ben Roethlisberger looked like a shell of his HoF self.  If he comes back, the Steelers have a QB issue of one kind – – namely a limited capability starter.  If he retires, the Steelers have a QB issue of a different stripe – namely that neither Mason Rudolph nor Joshua Dobbs has shown a lot of evidence of being or becoming a franchise QB.  Dobbs has been in the NFL for 4 years and Rudolph for 3 years…
  4. Patriots:  Cam Newton is a shell of his former self; Brian Hoyer will be 36 years old next year; he has been in the NFL for 12 seasons and has shown that he is a journeyman backup QB over that lengthy period.  To be fair, the Pats; pass-catching corps is also talent deficient to a similar degree; both parts of the offensive unit need serious reconstruction.  However, there is no hiding the fact that the Pats’ need to effect a significant upgrade at QB.
  5. WTFs:  Ron Rivera has shown that his system can produce some winning football with Alex Smith at QB, but Alex Smith checks every box imaginable when it comes to “Reasons Why He Is Not The Guy You Build Around”.  In addition to his injury history, Smith will be 37 years old next season.   Taylor Heinicke has appeared in 9 NFL games – starting 2 of them – in  his 3 seasons in the NFL; he played exceptionally well in his playoff start this year – – but is that enough to tell the team that their QB issue is resolved?  Fans in Washington need to hope for Smith’s health to hold up and/or for Heinicke to be a diamond in the rough because the WTFs do not draft until 20th this year and there will likely not be a gemstone quality QB available then.

These 13 teams with a “QB issue” exemplify how and why it is important for a coach and  a GM to be able to work together constructively.  Bill Belichick could not coach his way to the playoffs with Cam Newton as the QB; Mike Tomlin could not overcome Ben Roethlisberger’s diminished performances at the end of the 2020 season; Ron Rivera squeezed every drop of juice from the lemons he had at the QB position in 2020.  Those are 3 top-shelf football coaches and their outcomes in 2020 demonstrate that a talent ceiling is something that cannot be overcome save for dumb luck.  John Elway as a GM demonstrated over the past several seasons that the ability to find a franchise QB is critically important to watching your coach have success on the sidelines on Sunday afternoons.

This list comprises 40% of the NFL franchises.  All of them need to address this issue directly; some will do so, and others will punt.  Stay tuned…

Finally, fans and coaches and GMs – and maybe even owners – of these teams will approach the offseason with vigor and optimism that these issues may be resolved positively and rapidly.  For that, let me provide this observation by Ambrose Bierce:

“Optimism: The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including that which is ugly.”

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