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………