Character Counts

In case the name is not familiar to you, Jack Easterby is the Executive VP of Football Operations for the Houston Texans; his name frequently comes up in various reports about the turmoil that supposedly exists in the Texans’ front office.  I have no idea what is going on there but there was a report this week that Easterby hired Dylan Thompson to be the “character coach” for the Texans.  Several points here:

  • Easterby had been the “character coach” for the Patriots prior to his arrival in Houston.
  • Easterby hired Thompson in that role after Thompson had been the “character coach” for the Lions under Matt Patricia’s regime in Detroit.
  • That means at least 3 teams in thee NFL (Pats, Lions and Texans) have “character coaches”.
  • When I read about this personnel decision, I had no idea what a “character coach” did for a living.

A not-so-thorough bit of research revealed that one of the more specific duties for the position is to assist young players in the transition to life as a professional athlete on the field, in the locker room and in society.  That is certainly not a bad idea although I would have no clue as to how to do that should anyone ask me to give it a try.  Evidently, these are some of the skills and abilities necessary for the job:

  • Be available as a guiding counsel for players and their families when issues arise in their mental/emotional lives.
  • Facilitate communication and relationship building among players, coaches and staff thereby creating unity and harmony.

I learned three things from reading about this hiring decision by the Houston Texans:

  1. I learned that at least 3 teams have a position known as character coach.
  2. I learned – sort of – what a character coach does with a team.
  3. I learned that I would last less than 8 hours as a character coach before leaving in a dense fog.

Sticking with the NFL, in one of his interactions with the press around the time of the Super Bowl, Roger Goodell expressed his disappointment with the outcomes of the most recent hiring cycle for head coaches – – referring clearly to the fact that only one Black man was hired for seven open positions.  Specifically referring to that hiring record, he said, “It wasn’t what we expected and it’s not what we expect going forward.”

The poster child for the successful Black assistant coach who cannot seem to land a head coaching job at the moment is Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator for the KC Chiefs.  Everyone who pays even fleeting attention to the NFL for the past several years recognizes the success that the Chiefs have had as an offensive unit – – and yet Eric Bieniemy will be back in his same job in KC again next season.  The most common conclusion drawn for that situation is that he has not been hired because of racial prejudice in the hiring process itself.

I am confident that racial prejudice is part of the “problem” here, but I think it is too easy to pass off the problem with a declaration that it is the entirety of the “problem”.  It is almost glib to say that NFL owners are predominantly white men of European ancestry and that they hire people “who look like themselves”.  There is a glaring counterexample from the sports world to that easily arrived at answer.

Donald Sterling was forced to sell his NBA franchise and was banned from the NBA for life after his obvious and odious feelings about Black people were made indelibly clear to the public.  At the same time, Donald Sterling hired – and retained for a long time – a Black GM (Elgin Baylor) and he hired/approved the hiring of about a half-dozen Black head coaches.  A man whose public image is far more tainted with “racial prejudice” than any current NFL owner found a way to hire people who did not look like himself.  I am not trying to justify Donald Sterling nor am I trying to justify the NFL hiring decisions for new head coaches in 2021.  All I am trying to point out is that this issue is not simplistic.

Moreover, because it is not simplistic, it is not something that should lead the NFL Commissioner to say that it did not come out “as expected”.  Things can come out “as expected” under two conditions:

  1. They are well understood and have been observed many times.  Example:  Drop a pencil off a desktop and it will fall to the floor and not rise to the ceiling – – as expected.
  2. Serendipity is at work.  Many complicated and generally unnoticed factors are at work and the outcome is the result of unseen processes and interactions.  Translation:  You may think you know why it happened – – but you do not.

It is easier for folks to seize upon the first situation here because it offers the comfort of letting folks think they understand the hows and whys of a complicated situation.  That convenience and that comfort level, however, do not make the first situation above necessarily correct.

According to reports, Eric Bieniemy interviewed for the Jets’ head coaching job and for the Texans’ head coaching job.  He probably interviewed for others as well, but those two are important to note here because both the Jets and the Texans hired a minority candidate in this hiring cycle.  But they did not choose to hire Eric Bieniemy – – so how might we come to think about that situation?  Let me offer two possibilities here while acknowledging that there must be several more factors involved:

  1. Eric Bieniemy interviews terribly.  I do not know that to be the case but given his record of success as an offensive coordinator and the fact that he was interviewed for jobs where minority candidates were eventually selected reduces the impact of the “racial factor” just a bit.
  2. There is a structural flaw in the NFL’s hiring system that has disadvantaged Eric Bieniemy as compared to other minority head coaching candidates.

Let us explore that second possibility.  Bieniemy’s success means that he is employed and working full time for a team in the playoffs for up to 5 weeks after the teams with “failed coaches” have fired their incumbents and gone looking for someone to come in and “change the culture”.  Coaching candidates who were unemployed at the time the coaching searches began could have been contacted/interviewed prior to the end of the previous season.  Coaching candidates on teams that did not make the playoffs could have been interviewed the day after the season ended.  Eric Bieniemy had a full time job with the Chiefs and could not be conveniently/thoroughly interviewed until after the AFC Championship Game three weeks after the season ended.

There is some pressure for a team to hire the new coach early in the process; that new coach needs to assemble his staff and the longer he waits the greater the chance that one of the assistants he wants will have taken a job elsewhere.  So, the process itself puts someone like Eric Bieniemy at a disadvantage.

The NFL has tried to encourage the hiring of minority coaches – and specifically Black coaches – for a while now.  The Rooney Rule and the Amended Rooney Rule which offers compensatory picks to teams that groom and develop minority coaches who get head coaching jobs are well meaning.  But there is a disincentive built into the whole process and it effects assistant coaches on the more successful teams; it penalizes success.

The obvious solution is to have a new rule – – call it Rooney Rule III – – that says there will be no hiring of new head coaches in the NFL until some time after the Super Bowl game.  Teams will still be required to interview multiple minority candidates and the compensatory picks can still be in place – – although I am on record thinking that is not such a good idea, but what the heck – – and then hiring season can be declared open.  The problem here is so obvious that I hesitate to mention it,

  • Good luck trying to enforce the delay in the hiring decisions.  There will be more accidental circumstances where team officials and coaching candidates just happen to bump into one another in the month of January than can be counted.  Coaching candidates will use so many “burner phones” that cell phone manufacturers will see an uptick in sales.

What is the solution here?  Frankly, I do not know.  What I do know is that if the powers that be in the NFL – – and to a much lesser extent in the NFLPA – – continue to make hiring decisions into transactional events and if it decries outcomes after the fact instead of stating what “ought to happen” before the fact, not a whole lot is going to change.

Hold on a minute; I have an idea …  Maybe the NFL needs to hire itself a “character coach”?  It can’t hurt.

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



A Strange Mixture Today …

Yesterday, I wrote about the investigation into the sexual harassment issues alleged to have happened in the front office of the Washington Football Team about a decade ago.  By total coincidence, the headline on the lead story in the Washington Post sports section today reads:

  • “Ex-cheerleaders, team settle lewd videos case”

As is always the case, no details of the settlement were available.  That means – theoretically – that it is equally probable that the women dropped the suit because they knew they would lose in court OR that the details of events that took place back then were sufficiently skeezy that the team did not want them publicized regardless of the outcome of the case.  Of course, it could also be an admixture of those two possibilities as well.  You make the call here.

In addition, the team has decided not to have any cheerleaders at least for the moment; the team has decided to:

“… temporarily pause offseason activity of game  day programs including cheerleading and music.”

The team also demonstrated that it has not lost its grip on management-speak with the following pronouncement:

“The time is right to reimagine out entire game day experience, to reinvent it in such a way that reflects our modern identity and aligns with what today’s fan seeks.”

So, in the spirit of “reimagination” and solely with the intent of  suggesting what this fan seeks in terms of a “game day experience”, let me make two suggestions to the new leadership in the Washington Front office:

  1. Upgrade the food selections.  The status is that food at the stadium is better than “sushi at the 7-Eleven” but not a whole lot better.  I am not suggesting the team reincarnate Julia Child to oversee the food offerings, but there is a mile and a half of improvement potential here.
  2. Cut the parking fees back.  Fans should not have to tap into their personal lines of credit just to pay to park their car on game day.

About two years ago, I mentioned that there was a push to include break dancing as a demonstration sport in the 2024 Paris Olympics.  Well, that is indeed going to happen.  As with all sports involved in the Olympics, the IOC relies on international organizations to codify and regulate the sport itself.  Break dancing falls under the umbrella entity known as the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) which also intends to have ballroom dancing, salsa dancing and Lord know what other dances entered into the sports world and accepted around the world.

Based on a recent report in the Washington Post a “breaking competition” involves a “series of dance battles”:

“The dancers don’t know the music ahead of time and have to improvise on the spot.  Judges score them based on personality, technique, variety, creativity, performance and musicality.”

In other words, it is ice dancing without the ice.

The IOC is interested in attracting a young audience to maintain the allure of the Olympic Games as a television property.  Break dancing is something that “skews young” demographically; so, the acceptance of break dancing as a demonstration sport is not a huge surprise.  The fact that it will take place in the Paris Olympics is not a shock either; break dancing is very popular in France where it is evolving into a team sport and has caught the fancy of product managers in the “energy drink sector”.

Here is my guess as to my reaction to the competition in 2024:

  • I will check out break dancing because it is new and different.
  • After about 2 or 3 routines where I have been unable to discern any elemental differences in “personality” or “musicality” and I have concluded that the lines between “technique” and “performance” are opaque to me, I will move on and do something else.

Since I seem to be referring to things in the Washington Post this morning, let me point you to a column today by Sally Jenkins.  I was unaware that the NFL and a team of medical experts were working toward gathering and analyzing data about controlling the spread of COVID-19 and that all that data has been shared with the Center for Disease Control.  Moreover, the data show that the NFL managed to achieve an extremely low positivity rate over the last season – – and there are lessons to be learned.

Based on testing of about 7500 players and staff with over 950,000 tests administered, the NFL’s positivity rate for coronavirus was 0.08%; that compares to the US population at large with a positivity rate of 7%.  The difference there is a factor of 100; that is not an accident.

From the outset of the pandemic, medical folks have hailed the need for and the value of “testing and tracing”.  In addition to the 950,000 tests, the NFL also deployed contact tracing and used proximity trackers to highlight potential contacts that may not have been recalled and relayed to the tracers.

This column is worth reading because it shows what can be achieved in terms of limiting the spread of COVID-19 when a concerted and organized effort is in place to do that.  There are kudos that need to go out to the league, the league’s medical folks and the players’ union.  There is information for everyone to learn about the efficacy of various procedures to limit COVID-19 spread here.  Almost everything Sally Jenkins writes is worth reading; this one is definitely worth the time.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times from a while ago regarding the addition of some “modern sports” to the Olympics:

“Skateboarding has been added to the medal events for this year’s Olympics, and break dancing will likewise be in the lineup at the 2024 Paris Games.

“Somehow not passing IOC muster: a motion to change the Olympic motto to ‘Sicker, Hipper, Gnarlier.’”

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



RIP Marty Schottenheimer

Marty Schottenheimer died on Monday after dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease for more than 5 years.  He was an NFL player and coached 4 teams (Cleveland, KC, Washington and San Diego) over a 21-year coaching career.  His teams only had 2 losing seasons in that time and his regular season record was 200-126-1.  His teams underperformed in the playoffs and Schottenheimer never made it to the Super Bowl but – ironically – coaches from his coaching tree made it there including Bruce Arians, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Mike McCarthy – – all of whom won a Super Bowl game.  He ranks seventh in the NFL all time in wins as a coach and I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Marty Schottenheimer.

Yesterday, I received an email from Gregg Drinnan, formerly the sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News and currently the author of the Taking Note blog you can find here.  It contained a link to a report on the status of a CFL team undergoing a name change akin to the one underway here in Washington.  The Edmonton Eskimos are no more; the team joined other teams in various sports that now eschew names that have racial/ethnic overtones.  The helmet logo for the team over recent times has been a pair of the letter “E” and that seems to be driving the search for a new name.

The team sought fan input for the new name and got 2,047 suggestions.  The team has narrowed it down to a list of seven new names and it is now asking fans to rank the seven from first to worst.  Here is the list; it is a Sesame Street list brought to you by the letter “E”:

  • Eagles
  • Eclipse
  • Elements
  • Elk
  • Elkhounds
  • Evergolds
  • Evergreens

According to one report:

“The team says the group selecting the name will take the results into account after the survey concludes Sunday.”

The Elk and/or the Eagles would be the winners for me – – but I doubt that folks in Edmonton care what I think on this matter.  I do think it is interesting however that a team seemingly mesmerized by the letter “E” recently hired a new head coach named Jaime Elizondo.

Moving on …  It has been 7 months since allegations of sexual harassment and a “toxic work culture” in the front office of the Washington Football Team surfaced.  An attorney has been investigating the matter first at the behest of Danny Boy Snyder but subsequently answering to the league itself.  So far, all we have heard are crickets.  I read recently that the investigation is “nearing completion” – – to which I say, “high time”.  It is not clear what Roger Goodell is going to do with whatever report of findings he receives but various advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the National Women’s Law Center are demanding a full and public release.

Roger Goodell is in an unenviable position here.  If he opts not to release the findings of this prolonged investigation, there will be screeches of “COVER UP” from plenty of sports writers and broadcasters.  As a matter of fact, it would be difficult to come up with an explanation for such a decision that avoided some degree of “cover up”.  After all, if all those allegations were baseless and provably wrong, it would clearly be in the best interest of the NFL and Danny Boy Snyder to get that message out there.

I will not be surprised if the NFL seeks to limit damage here with the release of a redacted report.  Normally what happens with redacted reports is that there is a flurry of anger that “the public’s right to know” is being denied followed by a few speculative reports on what the redacted sections “must be about” and then the matter tends to fade to black.  That would be the easiest way out for The Commish…

His less wonderful scenario would go something like this:  [Remember, this is hypothetical; I am not suggesting any of this is factual…]

  • The findings of the report are myriad and disgusting.  Publicizing them will anger fans and “broadcast partners” and sponsors.
  • The findings of the report make it clear that the firing of several front office folks back in July 2020 was a necessary but not nearly sufficient response to the problems.
  • The source of any additional punishment becomes unclear because the report does not fully identify all the malefactors.

In that case, The Commish risks the wrath of fans, TV execs and sponsors and/or the wrath of at least one of the team owners – – and the owners are the Commish’s boss.  Reports say that Roger Goodell makes more than $40M per year in his job.  He may well earn his money as he finds his way along this thorny path.

Finally, I said here that Roger Goodell faces a dilemma.  So, let me offer him this smidgen of free advice:

  • When life gives you dilemmas, make dilemmanade.

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



An NBA All-Star Game ?

As I mentioned yesterday, the NBA plans to hold an All-Star Game this year in Atlanta on March 7th.  More than a couple of the league’s top players – – ones who are sure to be chosen to participate in the event such as LeBron James, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard – – have reacted negatively and publicly to the idea.  In the original NBA schedule set forth before the league began play just before Christmas, there was a 5-day hiatus built in; now that gap is to be filled with an All-Star Game and the associated nonsense that accompanies that event.

Before anyone clutters his/her mind with arriving at a justification for holding an All-Star Game while the US continues to fight off a pandemic, the answer is simple:

  • An All-Star Game – – and its associated nonsense – – will bring in more revenue to the league and therefore ultimately to the players than will a 5-day gap in the schedule.
  • Gussy this up however you will, this is simply a cash grab.

It is important to note here that the NBPA is not fighting the league tooth and nail over this issue.  To my mind, that reinforces my conclusion that this is a cash grab, and the union figures it to be in the best interests of its membership to “goose up” revenues considering losses incurred last season.  You may wonder why top-shelf players have reacted negatively to the idea of a concocted All-Star Game and it would be wrong to think that they all are getting so much guaranteed money that increased revenues are of little importance to them.

While that may in fact be true – – although I suspect it is not the case – – I think those players really wanted to have that break in the season as part of their overall “load management” for the season.  Moreover, it is the top-shelf players who are directly affected here.  LeBron James and James Harden etc. are the players who will be chosen to participate in the All-Star Game; Joe Flabeetz and Sam Glotz will be able to take a 5-day holiday as planned.  Moreover, the league rules and the existing CBA require players selected for the All-Star Game to show up and play if they are not injured.

This is a real labyrinth for the league, the union and the star players. Consider four possible courses of action and potential outcomes:

  1. Drop the idea of an All-Star Game after raising the possibility of holding it.  Both the league and the union would look pretty silly and it would signal another capitulation to the star players showing who actually runs things in the NBA.
  2. Make the All-Star break longer than 5 days to give participants some down time.  The only real problem here seems to be the fixation of starting the playoffs in mid-May to avoid as much as possible any overlap between the playoffs and the NFL regular season.  Extending the All-Star break cannot translate into extending the end of the regular season significantly.
  3. Hold the All-Star Game as envisioned now but allow players to opt out as a one-time “Pandemic Exception”.  This is probably the least onerous way out of the maze.  Yes, some will assert that the league and the union are knuckling under to pressure from the star players; but that would be less stinging than if the game were canceled entirely as above.  The loser here would be the “aura” of the NBA All-Star Game because ratings will not be nearly as high with Joe Flabeetz playing in place of LeBron James.
  4. Follow the money; put the game on the schedule and let the players be the “bad guys” who refuse to play.  This is the short-term gain in exchange for long-term pain solution.  The NBA has achieved its stature in US sports on two support pillars.  The first is television money; the other is by marketing its superstar players.  Forcing a showdown here would pit the superstars against TV money meaning there will be hard feelings among either the players or the TV execs down the road.

There are no easy ways out of this discombobulation now that the subject has been put in front of the NBA fanbase so long as this devolves into a power struggle.  If, on the other hand, there can be meaningful compromises made on all sides – – and I include the TV execs here as one of the sides being willing to compromise – – then maybe this does not have to devolve into hand-to-hand combat.  There is no imminent confrontation involved here regarding CBA negotiations; the current CBA runs through the end of the 2023-24 season (both sides can mutually opt out at the end of 2022-23 season) so any ill will generated here will have time to be tempered.  Maybe that is the best news to take away as of this morning…

Back before the NFL regular season began, I said that if Alex Smith ever stepped onto an NFL field in a real game, he would be the Comeback Player of the Year even if his ONLY participation was to do a kneel down at the end of a game.  Well, Smith did a lot more than that – – he was 5-1 as a starter this year – – and he was indeed the Comeback Player of the Year.  Remember, this man had 17 surgeries on his broken leg; at one point he was in the ICU in critical condition; at another point, the amputation of his leg was a real possibility.  Alex Smith’s injury was abnormally severe.

The Comeback Player of the Year award is decided by a vote of 50 media folks who cover the NFL.  I am not one; I do not know any of the people who do the voting.  Nevertheless, I am surprised that Alex Smith was not the unanimous selection this year; he received 49 of the 50 votes cast.  According to various reports, the “other vote” was for Ben Roethlisberger who returned from elbow surgery in the previous year.

Meaning exactly ZERO disrespect for Ben Roethlisberger, I believe that vote was miscast.  The fact that the vote was not unanimous is hardly important let alone critical, but I do wonder how someone could equate the depths from which the two QBs had come to regain a position as a starter in the 2020 NFL season.

Finally, when athletes recover from severe injuries or personal circumstances, people say the athletes “have heart”.  The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm has its own definition of “heart”:

Heart:  1.  The part of the body that is usually said to have been in the right place when an idiot does something stupid.  2.  Female rock band of the 1970s that has been responsible for more alone-in-the-car head-banging, grip-the steering-wheel sing-alongs than mom or dad care to admit.”

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



The Bucs Win The Super Bowl !

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Bucs; the combination of an efficient offense and a dominating defense made them Super Bowl champions last night.  After watching the Bucs last night, it is hard to fathom how that team lost to the Bears back in October scoring only 19 points in that game.  Let me make 5 overview comments/takeaways from the game last night:

  1. I did not like the officiating; they made several calls that looked “ticky-tack” to me and yet allowed lots of behavior that could well have drawn unsportsmanlike conduct flags.  The officiating did not decide the outcome, but I have seen games with better officiating.
  2. The injuries to the Chiefs’ OL were significant.  The Bucs have a good pass rush; last night it looked like the Fearsome Foursome.
  3. Todd Bowles called a great game on defense for the Bucs; he turned the Chiefs into a one-dimensional offense.
  4. Purely from an entertainment standpoint, this game was not particularly interesting from about the second quarter on.  The outcome was not really in doubt for the last 35-40 minutes of playing time.
  5. Between the advertisers’ virtue signaling and the NFL’s proclamations to demonstrate how “woke” it is and CBS’ incessant hawking of its new show, Clarice, are you ready to take to the streets to demand the return of the Budweiser frogs, the Clydesdales and the day-trading baby in his crib?

I must correct an erratum from last week’s Final Football Friday.  It came to me in an email from the person who is the Chief Logistics Officer for our annual Las Vegas Fall Pilgrimage – – a tradition seeking a return to normalcy in 2021.  Last week, I said that a memorable Super Bowl moment was Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass against the Eagles falling incomplete.  Then I added this:

“Why that is particularly memorable is that if it had been complete, the Pats would have won the game AND Tom Brady would have broken the all-time NFL record for most yards passing in a game – a record that has stood since 1951.”

Here is the correction that needs to be made from my email notification:

“A minor nitpick – if I recall correctly, the Iggles won that NE SB by 8 (41-33), so I think your statement is wrong.  So actually they would have needed a 2-point conversion just to tie.”

That is not a “minor nitpick”; that is what happened in Super Bowl LII; my memory was faulty.

While I am in the mode of passing along email comments, I also received one over the weekend from the “reader in Houston” with another correction/clarification from the Final Football FridayIn there, I said that Tom Brady had not been rated as a high school prospect when he graduated.  That is technically accurate – – but there is more to the story and a lot of the additional information can be lifted from the email I received:

“I don’t know which ratings service(s) that you’re referring to, but is probably the most “reliable” high school rating service. It never had a chance to rank Brady in 1996 because it didn’t start until the early 2000s.

“FYI – Chad Pennington (Jets), Giovanni Carmazzi (49ers), Chris Redman (Ravens), Tee Martin (Steelers), Marc Bulger (Saints) and Spergon Wynn (Browns) were the six QBs drafted ahead of Tom in the 2000 NFL draft.

“As Brady came along before the advent of, there was no ranking for him by them, when he was at Serra HS (San Mateo) before going on to Michigan.  Even at Michigan, he had to sit behind Brian Griese for two years and then, though he became the starting QB his last two years there, he platooned with Drew Henson.

“Even if was around in 1996, Brady wouldn’t have even been the best QB in California, since Carmazzi threw for almost 10,000 yards in his high school career and there’s definitely no way to really know where Tom would be ranked in the entire national recruiting class.”

The reader wonders what rating service(s) I was using; the answer is none of them.  I did a Google search on something like “Tom Brady high school prospect ratings” and got nothing; so, I varied the search a bit hoping to clarify and still got nothing.  Ergo, I concluded that he had not been rated as a prospect coming out of high school since the same sort of search query worked in the other cases cited.

I also mentioned last week that the Washington Wizards are off to a miserable start – – they are 5-15 as of this morning – – and Bradley Beal is getting frustrated.  He leads the league in scoring average (33.5 points per game), but he told a local reporter:

“I just hate losing…it’s been tough.”

Beal has been with the Wizards since the 2012-2013 season.  In that time – – and not adding in the results for the current season – – the Wizards record has been 309-337.  You would think he would have acclimated to losing by this point…

And speaking of the NBA – obliquely – the league is going to stage an All-Star Game in early March.  What a bad idea that is…  The league is struggling to put on its regular season games amid the pandemic and its byzantine COVID-19 protocols.  And so, instead of just taking a breather in the schedule hopefully to clamp down a bit on positive tests and contact tracing demands, the NBA will gather up a lot of players and move them to a site where they can play a totally meaningless couple of games along with even more meaningless events like the Slam Dunk Contest.  Someone in the NBA Executive Suites must have been sleep-deprived for about 96 hours to come up with that idea.

Finally, I said the NBA should take a break in the season “hopefully” to clamp down a bit on COVID-19.  Let me close today with the definition of “hopefully” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Hopefully:  A word meaning ‘probably not.’  As in, ‘Hopefully, I will be able to make your newborn’s upcoming circumcision.’”

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



Football Friday 2/5/21

Well, the NFL did it.  They started their regular season on time; they had a full playoff schedule on time; two days from now, they will hold the Super Bowl on time.  Given the state of the pandemic back in August, I was far less than certain they could pull it off – – but they did.  There was a smidgen of “scheduling legerdemain” in the middle of the regular season, but they got here as planned.  They deserve kudos simply for that feat.

So, this is the Final Football Friday for the season.  As is my custom, I chose not to pay attention to the Super Bowl game and any of the hype leading up to it for the two weeks that intervene between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl Game.  This year, there has – mercifully – been less hype than usual so I was not tempted to make any comments during the last couple of weeks.  I do have an observation from the last two weeks and a hypothesis for what I think I observed:

  • Observation:  There seemed to be even more “listicles” published this year than usual.  One of them listed – and ranked – the 55 best plays in the history of the Super Bowl.  [Aside:  This is Super Bowl LV – – hence the numerical tie-in.]
  • Hypothesis:  With fewer sponsored parties, reduced numbers of media with “boots on the ground in Tampa” and fewer celebrities on hand to be sure that people notice that they are there, writers had to find other content to fill up space.  Making lists is a relatively easy way to do that…

The article about the 55 best plays did get me thinking about previous Super Bowl games and moments that stand out in my memory.  As I thought about them, I realized that about half of them were plays that led directly to – or assured – victory for a team and that half of the were plays that sealed the fate for the losing team.  Hey, this is Curmudgeon Central here; it is not the land of milk and honey.

So, humor me for just a minute while I give you the plays that came to my mind separated into winning and losing categories:

  • Winning:  David Tyree’s miracle catch holding the ball to his helmet against the Patriots.
  • Losing:  “Wide right.”  For fans of the Giants and the Bills, there is nothing more to say.
  • Winning:  Marcus Allen runs, and reverses field several times and runs about 80 yards for a TD against the Skins.
  • Losing:  The Seahawks using Marshawn Lynch as a decoy and throwing a pass at the 1 yardline.
  • Winning:  Julian Edelman’s miracle catch against the Falcons keeping the game-tying drive alive in the 4th quarter allowing the game to go to OT.
  • Losing:  Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass is incomplete on the final play in the loss to the Eagles.  Why that is particularly memorable is that if it had been complete, the Pats would have won the game AND Tom Brady would have broken the all-time NFL record for most yards passing in a game – a record that has stood since 1951.

And then there is one play involving two players that won the game for one team and lost it for the other team.:

  • Winning/Losing:  On the final play of the game, Titans; WR, Kevin Dyson, caught a pass that would provide a victory for the Titans if he makes it to the end zone.  He does not do so because he is tackled at the 1 yardline by Rams’ LB, Mike Jones.

Thanks for humoring me; you will notice I did not try to dredge up 55 memories here…

The Six-Pack from two weeks ago was a winner but did not come close to getting me to break even for the season; two weeks ago, the record was 3-1-0.  So, with just this week left, here is how things went down between September and today:

  • College:  20-25-1
  • NFL:  35-43-2
  • Combined:  55-68-3


College Football Commentary:


For the last week or so, there has been far too much coverage given to a non-event that happens with college football every year.  I am referring to National Signing Day when high school recruits decide where they will play college football – – or at least where they will try to play college football.  The currency in this pursuit is the number of stars that recruiting analysts put on the players in the “meat market”.  I will not even pretend to understand how these gurus arrive at their rankings and I most certainly do not understand why people focus on that sort of nonsense.

Just for fun, I took a couple of the “name players” for the Chiefs and the Bucs who will be on display this Sunday and went back to find out how many stars they got from the raters when they were coming out of high school.  I did not do it for every player on the two rosters; that would be far more work than it is worth.  However, here is a sampling.  Remember, the highest rating is 5 Stars:

  • Tom Brady:  Not Rated – – already you can see where this is going…
  • Patrick Mahomes:  3 Stars
  • Ronald Jones:  4 Stars
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire:  3 Stars
  • Mike Evans:  3 Stars
  • Tyreek Hill:  Not Rated
  • Ndamukong Suh:  4 Stars
  • Chris Jones:  5 Stars
  • Lavonte David:  Not Rated
  • Frank Clark:  3 Stars

The prosecution rests, Your Honor…


NFL Commentary:


Bob Molinaro had this note in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week; I think he is definitely on to something here:

New rules: It’s curious how during NFL postseason games almost nobody on the offensive line holds, pass defenders get away with grabbing receivers, and rarely is anybody detected for illegal blocks on kick returns. It appears that the refs are following orders to let ‘em play. But if a laissez-faire approach is good for the playoffs, why not just let ‘em play all season?”

I am sure that some folks would argue that playoff teams are all well-coached and that players would naturally be more focused on their “mechanics” under playoff situations and that would be the explanation for the paucity of penalties.  Even if I stipulate all of that to be true, it remains curious that the officials rarely go reaching for that  yellow flag…

As I said at the top here, the NFL deserved kudos for getting to this point in the schedule – – on schedule.  The folks in the TV trucks who produce the shows deserve kudos for making the regular season games appear to be as normal as possible under the circumstances; however, those kudos do not carry over to the playoffs.  All season long, the telecasts proved to viewers that it was completely possible to endure a full game without about 50 “crowd shots” interrupting the game.  The reason there were no “crowd shots” was simple; most of the time there were no crowds in the stands.  And the telecasts worked just fine…

Then came the playoffs when some games had some live fans in attendance.  The producers could not resist silly “crowd shots” then – – particularly the highly sauced fans in frigid climates shedding their coats and shirts to demonstrate that they are willing to look like asses to support their team on the field.  Really?  Did that add to one’s enjoyment of the game?  Is that the sort of behavior that the league and its “broadcast partners” wants replicated?

About a week ago, I wrote here about the advocacy campaign to get Tom Flores into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  If that campaign is successful, what should that do with some other coaches who are eligible for consideration.  Let me go to the stats:

  • Tom Flores:  Regular Season record = 97-87-0 (.527)  Playoff record = 8-3  Super Bowl rings = 2.
  • Coach A:  Regular Season record = 170-150-0 (.531)  Playoff record = 12-7  Super Bowl rings = 2
  • Coach B:  Regular Season record = 200-126-1 (.613)  Playoff record = 5-13  Super Bowl rings = 0
  • Coach C:  Regular Season record = 111-83-1 (.572)  Playoff record = 3-6   Super Bowl rings = 0.

Compare Tom Flores to Coach A here; their qualifications are almost identical.  When comparing Tom Flores (and/or Coach A) to Coach B or Coach C, the question becomes the value put on Playoff record and Super Bowl rings as opposed to seasons upon seasons of regular season games under their leadership.

  • Coach A is Tom Coughlin
  • Coach B is Marty Schottenheimer
  • Coach C is Don Coryell

If you gave me the swing vote and only one of these four coaches could be in the HoF, my vote would go to Marty Schottenheimer.  I do not expect a lot of support for that position – – but that is how I see it.  [Aside:  This position is not a sympathy vote given that Schottenheimer has entered hospice care this week; I have thought for a decade that he belongs in the HoF.]


The Super Bowl Game:


I am certain that you have seen plenty of references to Super Bowl records held by Tom Brady; I know I saw them by the bushel over the past week and a half.  However, Bob Molinaro provided one in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that I have not seen anywhere else:

Tidbit: Tom Brady is only the second quarterback to start an NFL conference championship game in three decades. The other: Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts.”

As I am sure you are aware, I will be in front of my TV set ready to watch the culmination of this NFL season.  There will be two anomalies regarding my viewing this year:

  1. I will actually glance at the halftime show this year.  I have no idea who the performer is and what his claim to fame might be – – and I do not care enough about that deficiency to go to Google for information.  I will be interested to see how the show can possibly go on without 500 mouth breathers crowding around the stage and gyrating out of sync with the “music”.
  2. I will take note that there are no Budweiser ads this year.  The Clydesdales are getting a year off; for the first time in 37 years, Budweiser will not have an ad on the Super Bowl.  [By the way, a 30-second slot during the game costs $5.6M this year and CBS says all the slots have been sold as of earlier this week.]  Not to be maudlin or nostalgic here, but I can recall a time when Super Bowl ads were funny and entertaining.  Now they are advocacy ads which are about as entertaining as political attack ads.

For the final two weeks of the NFC playoffs, THE storyline was the advanced age of the two QBs – – Brady/Brees followed by Brady/Rodgers.  That will surely not work in this game; Patrick Mahomes can hardly be considered “middle aged” for an NFL QB.  However, another “birthday storyline” seems to have been overlooked:

  • The trendy thing to do in the NFL for the past several years is to hire head coaches who are still using their second razor blade.
  • The two Super Bowl coaches this year buck that trend.  Andy Reid will be 63 years old next month; Bruce Arians is 68 years old.
  • Just thought I’d point that out…


KC – 3 vs Tampa Bay (56):  Everyone knows that there is plenty of starpower  on the two offenses here but you should not fail to recognize that both coaches are high-octane play callers for those offenses.  In addition, both defensive coordinators (Todd Bowles for the Bucs and Steve Spagnuolo for the Chiefs) love to “bring pressure”.  If those defensive minds hold true to form, the QBs on the field will have ample opportunities for big plays.  My first selection is that the game will go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

The injury to Chiefs’ LT, Eric Fisher, is a big deal simply because the Bucs have two excellent edge rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett.  I expect to see Patrick Mahomes “on the move” a lot in this game.  It will be important for the Bucs to put lots of pressure on Mahomes without having to rush 6 defenders because if the Bucs have a deficiency, it is in their secondary.  If the Bucs have to commit more than half the defenders to put pressure on Mahomes, I think the Bucs are cooked.  In the obverse, the Chiefs are not great at stopping the run and Ronald Jones/Leonard Fournette have provided the Bucs with a solid run game in this year’s playoffs.  How will that confrontation play out?  The Money Line this morning has the Bucs at +145; I like the odds there; put the Bucs to win straight up in the Six-Pack.

There are almost a thousand proposition bets out there for the game this year.  I will not pretend to have “studied” this list of opportunities, but just to fill out six selections in the Six-Pack here are four picks from the prop bets menu:

  1. Patrick Mahomes OVER 327.5 yards passing @ minus-115.
  2. Patrick Mahomes OVER 0.5 INTs @ +140
  3. Mike Evans to score a TD anytime in the game @ +120
  4. Bucs OVER 27.5 points for the game @ +105

Finally, since these Football Fridays have all contained selections taken from the world of gambling, let me close the season with a comment on betting offered by journalist and author, Damon Runyon:

“It may be that the race Is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong – but that is the way to bet.”

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



Baseball Today …

I recently suggested that MLB and the MLBPA cannot agree on anything more controversial than Tuesdays following Mondays.  As if to demonstrate the salience of that assertion, the union turned down another proposal for the 2021 MLB season.  Previously, it rejected a proposal to give the union something it had asked for in the past (universal DH) in exchange for a delayed opening of spring Training and expanded playoffs in October.  Now it has rejected a proposal containing:

  • Delayed Spring Training and Opening Day leading to a 154-game season with players getting full pay not pro-rated pay.
  • Expanded post-season schedule.

Here is part of the statement from the union as to what is unacceptable in the latest proposal that they rejected:

“Although Player salaries would not be initially prorated to a 154-game regular season, MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service time protections in the event of further delays, interruptions, or cancellation of the season.”

Here is why the ongoing kabuki theater between MLB and the MLBPA is important.  The current CBA that enables an MBL season to occur in the first place expires on December 1st, 2021.  There has been “labor peace” in MLB since the union walked out on the 1994 regular season in 1994 leading to the cancelation of the World Series that year.  If the folks involved in these negotiations cannot figure out how to handle a season altered in some way by the reality of COVID-19 – – something that could not have been envisioned when the current CBA was under negotiation – – how can they go back to square one and get a new deal done expeditiously?

The 2021 season could be in jeopardy purely for reasons related to COVID-19 and/or for reasons based on the inability of the two parties here to find a way to adapt to the potentially overwhelming effects of the ongoing pandemic.  That is bad enough, but the 2021 season could be in jeopardy also if these jamokes cannot figure out how to stop hating one another and start working toward a new deal.

Back in 1994 when baseball went through its last strike, MLB was a $3B enterprise; in 2019 when MLB had its last “normal regular season”, MLB was a $9B enterprise.  What that tells me is that the owners and the union are now looking at three times more revenue they need to share, and they cannot find a way to do that.  What comes to mind here are the dying words of Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

“A plague o’ both your houses!”

The sport of baseball – – that thing that earns owners nice profits and rewards players with millions of dollars for playing a game – – took a serious hit in 1994.  The sport lost popularity and losing popularity is tied directly to revenue.  It took major baseball events such as the steroid-fueled home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 and the end of the Cal Ripken consecutive game streak at 2632 also in 1998 to rekindle growing fan interest.  Baseball attendance had gone down season over season between 2016 and 2019 but only slightly.  Baseball does not need to put itself in a bad light regarding the fanbase as we come out of the “COVID-19 Era” of sports in the US.

  • Memo to MLB and the MLBPA:  Do not make the 2021 regular season into something no one recognizes as “baseball” unless the coronavirus makes you do so.
  • You have gone for 25 years without pissing off your fanbase; try to figure out why that situation is a benefit to all of you and then how to maintain that status quo.
  • If there must be ANY modification to the 2022 MLB season, it had better be due to COVID-19, World War III or the Zombie Apocalypse and not to your petty nonsense in negotiations.

There is another baseball item to chew on today.  Last week, the Colorado Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals for Austin Gomber (104 innings pitched in MLB) and 4 minor league prospects.  Moreover, the Rockies agreed as part of the deal to pay $50M as part of Arenado’s guaranteed $194M through 2026; the Rockies paid to get rid of Nolan Arenado.  Let that wash over you for a moment…

I think Arenado is the best third baseman in MLB – – with all due respect to Anthony Rendon and Manny Machado who are both excellent at the position.  Arenado has been in the major leagues for eight seasons and has won a Gold Glove in all eight.  Trading Arenado in any deal that does not bring back at least a known MLB entity or another quality player who “needs to be moved” is tantamount to waving a white flag and telling the world that the Rockies are not going to be serious players for the next several years.

I read one “analysis” that said the reason for the trade was for the Rockies to save enough money to resign Trevor Story when he becomes a free agent at the end of 2021.  I have no interest in bashing Trevor Story; he is a quality MLB shortstop.  However, I have three points to make regarding that bit of “analysis”:

  1. Trevor Story is very good – – but he ain’t Nolan Arenado.
  2. Trevor Story PLUS Nolan Arenado makes for an outstanding left side of the infield for any MLB team.
  3. Might Trevor Story look at the Arenado trade as “waving a white flag” and wonder why in Heaven’s name he would want to sign on with the Rockies as a free agent?

In the wake of any trade, there is always a statement from both sides regarding the exchange.  Normally, they are diplomatically worded and cordial.  This time, John Mozeliak – Cards’ President of Baseball Operations – simply said:

“Today, we got better!”

Finally, apropos of nothing, here is an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Hallmark:  A company that has made untold millions off the fact that it’s a bitch to come up with something nice to say about the people you love.”

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

No NFL Combine – – Say It Ain’t So…

The NFL Scouting Combine is a coronavirus casualty; the event – normally held in February – will be held this year remotely.  Instead of having hundreds of players who have declared for the Draft to be invited to Indianapolis plus coaches and scouts from all 32 NFL teams plus a large contingent of media personnel, the NFL will handle player interviews virtually and will do the “physical stuff” in a menu of separate “pro days” held on college campuses around the country.  Here is an excerpt from the memo sent from NFL HQs to all teams:

“Any workouts will take place on individual pro days on college campuses. We will work with the schools to encourage consistency in testing and drills across pro days and ensure that all clubs have access to video from those workouts, irrespective of whether the club is represented at a particular workout.”


“Club interviews of prospects and psychological testing and assessments will be done virtually…”

I am certain that once the Super Bowl Game is in the past so that all NFL reporting must have a tie-in to that game, you will begin to hear about how this will make it even more problematic for teams to construct their draft boards.  Here is a foreshadowing; it will not be more difficult; it will merely be more inconvenient.

  • Is Devonta Smith going to drop out of the first round because no team will have a scout with a stopwatch in hand to witness his 40-yard dash?
  • Will any team shy away from a player they had on their board as a QB prospect because they cannot look him in the eye and ask him, “If you were a vegetable, which one would you want to be?”  [Answer:  Kale … so everyone would just leave me alone…]
  • Is it important at all to watch a 340 lb. offensive lineman demonstrate his vertical leap – – whether watching in person or on video tape?

The cancelation of this year’s Combine is not worth lamenting; the Combine is a made-for-TV event that only allows for some guy – –  “Butch in Dubuque” – –  to sound authoritative when he prepares a Mock Draft in mid-April notwithstanding the fact that said Mock Draft is meaningless.  I think the world can do without such exposition very nicely and I will second the assertion made here by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Idle thought: The world would be a quieter place if fewer people pretended to be NFL draft experts.

Moving on …  NBC Sports Network  (NBCSN) is going dark by the end of 2021.  If NBCSN is not in your “power rotation” of channels to check out, this is where you might find English Premier League games, NHL telecasts, motorcycle racing, winter sports, NASCAR events, dog shows, car auctions and the Tour de France.  If your conclusion from seeing that overview of the network’s content is tepid, I can easily agree; other than EPL games and NHL games, there is not a lot of stuff on NBCSN that I find compelling.  Moreover, a lot of the stuff they televise is not prime material for any sort of telecast.  Let me just use the car auctions as an example.  While you look at the car up for sale a bunch of folks hold up numbered paddles indicating their bids for the car you are looking at while a couple of car enthusiasts gush over the various restoration efforts that have been performed on the vehicle.  Not exactly a lot of dynamic action going on there…

In any event, some of the content from NBCSN will “migrate” to USA Network which is also owned by NBCUniversal.  USA Network is not part of my “power rotation”; it is not in the “sports cluster” of channels on my cable box, so I had to go and look up what sort of programming they offer.  A cursory glance tells me that the only thing they carry that is close to “sports” is professional ‘rassling; other than that, it seems to be a home for Law and Order SVU reruns, a bunch of shows featuring someone named Chrisley, movies and NCIS reruns.  How the Premier League and the NHL will fit into that milieu is not clear to me.

Some of these items and other NBCSN “properties” will migrate to NBCUniversal’s new streaming platform, Peacock. What has not been announced is the fate of what I call the “NBCSN local channels”.  Here in the DC area, there is a channel that has the NBCSN logo, but it focuses on sports in the Washington/Baltimore area exclusively.  There are similar “local channels” in other major sports markets around the country and none of the reporting about the demise of NBCSN has indicated what might happen to those outlets.

Back in mid-December as the NBA was about to start, I made this comment:

“There will be loads of attention paid to the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards based on their blockbuster trade of Russell Westbrook and John Wall.  But … what if both teams just stink…?”

The Rockets are treading water; as of this morning, they are 8th in the Western Conference with a record of 10-9.  The Rockets have won 6 games in a row and 7 of their last 10.  With about 30% of the season gone, the Rockets are not a compelling story, but they are relevant.

The Wizards … not so much.  As of this morning Les Wiz are dead last in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 4-13.  Bradley Beal has been electric this season averaging 35 points per game with one game where he poured in 60 points.  A major problem for Les Wiz has been defense; Beal commented after one game that the team cannot cover a parked car; he is absolutely correct in that analysis.

Finally, here is an item relating COVID-19 and the NBA from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced on his 72nd birthday that he’d gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, telling AP: ‘Sciencewise, it’s a no-brainer.’

“In other words, good shot selection.”

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



New Coaches And A Novel Confrontation

Back when lots of teams were looking for new head coaches, I said I wanted to wait until all the jobs were filled before commenting.  That time has come; so, here are my comments about how things look for those teams and their new head coaches:

  1. Chargers hired Brandon Staley – – formerly the defensive coordinator for the Rams.  His defense last year led the NFL – – but was it talent or coaching that led to that result?  The Chargers are clearly hoping that coaching was at least an equal contributor.  Staley is young (38 years old) and has only been coaching as an assistant in the NFL for 4 years.  Plenty of question marks here – – as they say on Draft Day, he has lots of upside…
  2. Eagles hired Nick Sirianni – – formerly the offensive coordinator for the Colts.  His success or failure will depend on two things.  Can he “fix” Carson Wentz?  Can Howie Roseman (GM) do a better job of roster building than he has done for the past 2 seasons?
  3. Falcons hired Arthur Smith – – formerly the offensive coordinator for the Titans.  Smith made Ryan Tannehill into a quality QB in Tennessee; with Matt Ryan on the Falcons’ roster, he has raw material that starts at a higher level of ability.  The big difference is that in Tennessee he had Derrick Henry too; and in Atlanta, he has nothing similar in the running game.  Jury is out…
  4. Jags hired Urban Meyer – – formerly a college football national champion.  Time will tell if Meyer’s brand of football translates to the NFL with anything near the success he had in college.  However, he should be a big success for the Jags in the ticket-selling department.  Jax is about a 90-minute drive from Gainesville, FL where Urban Meyer coached the University of Florida very successfully.  Getting Meyer and presumably Trevor Lawrence in the Draft should sell plenty of tix in Jax – – and the Jags surely have plenty of tix to be sold…
  5. Jets hired Robert Saleh – – formerly the defensive coordinator for the Niners.  Common wisdom is that he was the best hire of the offseason.  He is a “defense guy” who will bring intensity to the sidelines and the team facility.  He is sort of the anti-Adam Gase.  New Jets’ GM  Joe Douglas has a positive reputation around the league and the ability of Saleh and Douglass to work together – – and to keep meddlesome ownership at bay – – will be important to watch here.
  6. Lions hired Dan Campbell – – formerly the tight ends coach for the Saints.  He was an interim head coach with the Dolphins in 2015, so he has a smidgen of experience in the job.  Campbell played for the Lions during his playing career, so he pretty much understands the dysfunctionality of the franchise – – and yet he took the job.  Give him points for that…
  7. Texans hired David Cully – – formerly assistant coach and WR coach for the Ravens:  Cully gets high praise from coaches and players around the league but his success in Houston depends on two things over which he has little control.  The first is the executive tandem of Cal McNair (Chairman and CEO of the Texans) and Jack Easterby (Exec. VP of Football Operations).  McNair is not highly regarded around the league and Easterby has been described as “the NF’s most polarizing exec”.  The second one is the mindset of Deshaun Watson.  Good luck coach.

The mention of Deshaun Watson’s name necessitates a comment on his demands to be traded and the subsequent dismissal of that demand by the Texans new GM (Nick Caserio) saying that the team “has no interest in trading the player”.  There have been other misstatements and missteps by the team execs recently; you can find them in a dozen different places; the message here is that the Texans’ executives are totally tone deaf.  And now they have the largest asset under their control saying he no longer wants to play in Houston.

Defense Readiness Condition 1 – – DEFCON 1 – – was/is the US military’s status when “nuclear war is imminent or has already begun; maximum readiness, immediate response.”  I refer to that because we may see the NFL version of DEFCON 1 take place in Houston.  The statements made by the two sides are absolutely incompatible; neither side gives any impression of yielding any ground; what happens next?

  • Watson signed a contract with the Texans that extends through the end of the 2025 season.  He got a $27M signing bonus and $110M in guaranteed salary in that contract.  It contains a no-trade clause and an annual salary “de-escalator” of $500K if he does not attend team workouts.  You can find more of the details here.
  • The Texans say they have no interest in trading “the player”.  What are the options?  If the Texans were to release him, they would take a dead cap hit of $67M next year.  They would be hard pressed to field a competitive team with what is left of next year’s cap.
  • The Texans could try to play “chicken” with Watson.  If he were to try to hold out and force a trade late in the offseason by that means, the Texans have financial remedies.  They can fine him up to $100K for missing minicamp and they can fine him up to $50K per day for missing training camp (7 weeks of Training camp @ $50K per day = $1.75M)  Then, they can fine Watson 1/16th of his $10.54M base salary for this season for every regular season game missed.
  • Watson could threaten to retire…

And there you have DEFCON 1 – – NFL style.

It would seem to me that the only way Deshaun Watson can blink is if he fires his agent and says that this confrontation was the doing of his former agent and that he now wants to play for the Texans.  That preserves his public forthrightness and his stature as a man of his word.

It would seem to me that the only way the Texans can blink is do some cleansing in the front office ranks – – and Cal McNair is part of the family that owns the team so he ain’t going anywhere.

Hence, the best move for all concerned is indeed another blockbuster QB trade in the NFL for this offseason.  If that is the pathway, it ought to happen before or during the NFL Draft in late April; between now and then there will be a war of words and a tsunami of speculation about what is coming next in the mess.  However, if this gets anywhere near the level of DEFCON 1 – – NFL style – – the league needs to step in and make sure the two sides avoid that condition.

Finally, with the reference to DEFCON today, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Nuclear Weapon:  A device that is now in the hands of just about everyone and can apparently be assembled with little more than confectioners’’ sugar, isopropyl alcohol and a can of creamed corn.”

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



Rest In Peace, John Chaney

John Chaney died over the weekend at the age of 89.  He was the head basketball coach at Temple for next-to-forever and is most deservedly a part of the Naismith Hall of Fame.  Chaney was a charter member of the “Tough Love School” of coaching; he would not fit in well in today’s world of coaches being kinder and gentler that he was.  His teams played ferocious defense; he demanded that.  It would have been fun to watch one of his Temple teams play one of Bob Knight’s Indiana teams back in the day…

Rest in peace, John Chaney.

As I am sure you have heard/read, the Rams and Lions exchanged QBs over the weekend and the Lions got three draft picks in the process.  The rumors that the Rams’ coaching staff was not enamored with Jared Goff proved to be accurate; they shipped him off to the Lions – even under new management the Lions must be considered part of “NFL Purgatory” – and they tossed in two first round picks and a third-round pick.  It seems clear to me that the Rams believe they will be serious Super Bowl contenders next year with upgraded QB play from Matthew Stafford.

It is the “draft picks” part of this trade that I find interesting.  Most commentators place great value on two first round picks plus a third-round pick; they call it “draft capital”.  The Rams seem to be selling that “draft capital” short and the Rams have been doing that for a while now.  Assuming that they do not trade to acquire a first-round pick between now and the 2023 NFL Draft, the Rams will have gone 7 consecutive years without a selection in the first round:

  • 2017:  Traded this pick as part of the deal that got them Jared Goff in 2016.
  • 2018:  Traded this pick to the Pats for Brandin Cooks.
  • 2019:  Traded this pick to the Falcons to move down in the draft for lower round picks.
  • 2020:  Traded this pick to the Jags for Jalen Ramsey
  • 2021:  Traded this pick to the Jags for Jalen Ramsey too.
  • 2022:  Traded this pick to the Lions for Matthew Stafford.
  • 2023:  Traded this pick to the Lions for Matthew Stafford too.

I believe that “draft capital” is highly overrated.  The NFL Draft is a gamble and not an investment; “draft capital” is more akin to a “poker stake” in the NFL Draft shuffle.  I use poker as my analogy purposely because to win at poker you need a combination of luck and skill and that is exactly what you need to be successful in the NFL Draft.  The Rams now – – and 50  years ago under George Allen – have chosen to give up their position in the first round of the Draft in exchange for what they consider to be known talent entities.  If it works, watch lots of other teams try to copy that behavior; if it flops, the pundits will point to the Rams’ braintrust as a pack of naïfs.

Here is why I find the Draft to be interesting but not all that important.  Consider a Draft where there have been no trades and consider that each of the 32 teams would make the best selection available when it came their turn.  To make it simple, consider only the first two rounds for a moment:

  • “Worst Team” has Pick 1 and Pick 33
  • “Best Team” has Pick 32 and Pick 64

If each team is picking the best player every time, there is a marginal difference between the “Best Team” at Pick 32 and the “Worst Team” at Pick 33.  In terms of great improvement potential for the “Worst Team” the difference lies in the talent gap between Pick 1 and Pick 64.

However, the same conditions exist at the interface of every round of the Draft; the “Best Team” picking at 65 “evens out” the “Worst Team” picking at 64 and then at the end of the third round, the “Best Team” picking at 96 evens out the “Worst Team” picking at 97 and so it goes.  The net result of a “perfect Draft” of this type is that the big advantage for the “Worst Team” is that they get Pick 1 and the “Best Team” gets Pick 224.  Not exactly Earth-shattering…

The NFL Draft is interesting because the teams are NOT perfect in their selections.  Every team in the NFL passed on taking Tom Brady several times; the Niners traded up to get a kid from Mississippi Valley State University that few folks had ever heard of named Jerry Rice; in 1965, the Bears had back-to-back first round picks at #3 and #4 and they took Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers with those picks.  [Aside:  The two players taken ahead of Butkus and Sayers in that Draft were Tucker Frederickson and Ken Willard.]

The trade that took place this weekend means that the Rams have their eyes on a Super Bowl appearance in the next year or three and are convinced that Matthew Stafford’s improved play at QB will be the impulse that gets them there.  Meanwhile, the Lions seem to recognize that they have a major rebuilding project in front of them – – as they seem to have had for the last 30-50 years – – and that they want to have more chances to strike it rich in the Draft poker game.

  • Shuffle up and deal …

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot two weeks ago:

Inside info: Gamblers and other interested parties might have appreciated knowing beforehand that Drew Brees played out the season with a torn rotator cuff and torn fascia in his foot. This according to an Instagram post by wife Brittany Brees.”

To which I say:

  • Are we sure that “gamblers and other interested parties” were in the dark here?

Finally, let me wish everyone here a Happy Virtual Groundhogs Day.  The normal pomp and circumstance associated with today has been replaced by a virtual ”ceremony” whereby the large ugly rodent makes his annual prediction on the arrival of Spring.  The pandemic strikes again…

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