Tom Brady – – Retiring?

Another weekend of exciting football has determined that the Super Bowl champion this year will be either the Cincinnati Bengals or the Los Angeles Rams.  Normally, on the Monday after the Conference Championship Games, about the only things people talk about are the two teams and how they match up and what sorts of juicy storylines might exist involving the two teams or individual players on the two teams.  Today, there is an added wrinkle:

  • Over the weekend, both ESPN and reported that Tom Brady is hanging up the cleats and will retire to spend more time with his family.
  • The Bucs, Tom Brady’s father and Tom Brady’s agent have all said that is not the case; Brady is pondering retirement but has not yet made a decision.

And so, on this day, sports pundits also have the option to offer up commentary on their individual readings of the tea leaves on that matter.  I have exactly no information on the subject, but I do think that if Tom Brady finally chooses to retire in this off-season that choice would add another ripple in the space-time continuum of sports.  If he retires, there is one more team in the “Quarterback Acquisition Sweepstakes” because as of this morning, there are 3 QBs listed on the Bucs’ roster:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Blaine Gabbert
  3. Kyle Trask

I cannot believe that the Bucs would elevate Gabbert to the starting position without seriously trying to get someone else for that job.  Trask was a second-round pick last year – – out of Florida – – but never saw the field in the 2021 regular season; only the Bucs’ coaching staff has a reasoned analysis of Trask’s state of readiness to be a starting NFL QB.

Brad Dickson had an interesting reaction to the rumor of Brady’s retirement:

“ESPN just reported that Tom Brady is retiring. Man, first Stephen Breyer and now Brady. What is it with all these 83 yr olds suddenly retiring?”

There is a possibility for a “Hollywood style ending” here.  Imagine if the Bucs were to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo from the Niners – – either by trade or by signing him as a free agent.  The result is that Jimmy G would replace Tom Brady as a starting QB in the NFL – – but not in New England where it appeared as if that was “The Plan” just a few years ago.  Starring Joe Flabeetz as Jimmy G…

Speaking of the New England Patriots, the team lost two staff members over the weekend.  According to reports this morning, the Las Vegas Raiders have signed Pats’ Director of Player Personnel, Dave Ziegler to be their new GM replacing Mike Mayock who was fired several weeks ago.  In addition, the Raiders signed Pats’ offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels to be their head coach.

McDaniels is the more visible of these two folks.  He has been part of the Pats’ assistant coaching staff for a total of 18 seasons; he had a short and not very successful stint as the head coach of the Broncos about 10 years ago and he infamously signed on to be the head coach of the Colts in 2018 only to back out of that deal to return to the Pats’ sideline.  I assume this means that Rich Bisaccia is on the job market now; it would be awkward for him to go back to his previous job as the Special Teams coach for the Raiders after taking over as the interim head coach in mid-season in the midst of the “Jon Gruden Saga” and guiding the Raiders to a wildcard playoff slot.  [Aside:  I am on record here saying I thought Bisaccia deserved significant consideration as the Coach of the Year in the NFL for the job he did.]

Dave Ziegler is less publicly known.  He has been with the Pats’ organization for 9 years after several years with the Broncos in their scouting department.  Ziegler held various positions with the Pats getting greater responsibility with each reassignment until he was named as the Director of Player Personnel before the start of the 2021 season.

The Ziegler/McDaniels tandem will make a decision over the next couple of months that could also influence this year’s “Quarterback Acquisition Sweepstakes”.  Derek Carr is entering the last year of a 5-year deal with the Raiders.  According to Carr will make $19.9M in 2022 and will then be an unrestricted free agent come 2023.  Carr is 31 years old; so, the key questions for the two new guys on the block in Las Vegas are pretty simple:

  1. Are you guys comfortable with Derek Carr as your QB for next season?
  2. Are you guys comfortable with signing Derek Carr to an extension?

Meanwhile, the Giants hired the Bills’ offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll as the Giants’ new head coach.  There is a parallelism between the hirings in Las Vegas and the hirings in NYC.  The Giants previously hired Joe Schoen from the Bills as their GM who will be joined in New York by a coach from the Bills organization.  The situation in Las Vegas is the same – – except the new hires came from the Pats and not the Bills.  I am sure that some folks will see these happenings as evidence of nepotism at best and racism at worst.  I think both GMs simply demonstrated a survival tendency with their choice of a head coach:

  • This is the first time each man has been a GM; like head coaches, there are only 32 of these jobs on the planet.
  • Most people who reach that level of responsibility are driven to succeed in a very competitive workspace.
  • It would be strange to see a “first time GM” with no previous record of success at the job just “take a stab” at hiring his head coach; sticking with someone he already knows and has worked with seems like s survival strategy to me.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding a happening in the Niners/Packers playoff game from a week ago:

“The Packers had only 10 men on the field when the 49ers kicked the winning field goal in their playoff game.

“Apparently the missing guy was off doing his own research on blocking kicks.”

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



Football Friday 1/28/22

The sun has set and risen 7 times; astronomers will tell you that means seven days have passed.  Here in Curmudgeon Central the message is more specific – – it is once again Football Friday.  As is customary, I will begin with a review of last week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  3-0-0
  • Total:  3-0-0
  • Money Line Parlay:  1-0  Net profit for the week = $511

That “perfect week” of selections brings the cumulative results for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  44-37-2
  • Total:  59-57-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  7-12  Net profit for the season = $367


NFL Commentary:


It isn’t that nothing happened in the world of college football last week; it’s just that nothing in that realm “sparked joy” as I sat down in front of the keyboard; and so, I deleted the two notes I had taken.  [Hat Tip to Marie Kondo…]

Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement this week.  It was time.  “Big Ben” will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one of these days and deservedly so.  However, had he tried to play through the 2023 season, the collective memory of his career would have been tarnished.

Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger for an outstanding and entertaining career – – including a couple of iconic moments such as his pass to Santonio Holmes over 3 defenders in the corner of the end zone to win the Super Bowl in 2009.

  • Bonne chance, Big Ben…

In terms of what the Steelers do now to find a replacement for Roethlisberger, they have two QBs on their roster – – Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.  Rudolph has had sparks of competence in some of the games he has started when Roethlisberger was injured, but I think that the Steelers are looking at the AFC North with Joe Burrow in Cincy and Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and thinking – – “Is Mason Rudolph really good enough?”  Dwayne Haskins would be a complete crapshoot on the Steelers’ part; he showed little if any nuanced QB attributes in a brief stay here in DC and did not play enough with the Steelers to show anything at all.

This is not a “vintage year” for quarterbacks in the NFL Draft; the Steelers own the 18th pick in the Draft; more than likely, they would need to “trade up” to assure that they get “their guy” in this Draft.  Stay tuned for more on that front…

In terms of NFL QBs who might go to Pittsburgh, the two most frequently cited players are Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.  Both men have ways of “getting out of their current contract” and choosing where to wind up; it is not as simple as pure free agency, but both could possibly be playing elsewhere next year.  The Steelers should be attractive to either Rodgers or Wilson.  The Steelers have a stable coaching situation; the defense is excellent; the pass catchers on the roster are clearly better than average but not great.  Stay tuned for more in this front too…

Reports yesterday said that the Bears hired Matt Eberflus to be their head coach.  Eberflus had been the defensive coordinator for the Colts over the past 4 seasons.  I am a bit surprised with the Bears’ decision here, but none of my surprise comes from the fact that I think Eberflus is a bad choice.  Hear me out:

  • The Bears’ defense is the strength of the team.  The Bears only won 6 games, and they ranked 28th in the NFL in points scored.
  • The Bears have a rookie QB who needs plenty of tutelage if he is going to become their franchise QB.  Justin Fields has a lot of physical talent; he needs to learn how to be a “QB” and not merely an “athlete”.
  • I would have thought the Bears would hire an “offensive guy” as the head coach to focus on the development of Justin Fields instead of a “defensive guy”.
  • And now you see why I am not a GM in the NFL…

Reports earlier this week also said that the Broncos have decided to “go offensive” with their choice of a new head coach this time around; they are going to hire Nathaniel Hackett whose last job was as offensive coordinator of the Packers over the past three seasons.  Like the Bears, the Broncos’ strength is its defense; unlike the Bears, the Broncos went to the other side of the ball in terms of their hiring decision.

The Packers with Hackett as the offensive coordinator finished the 2021 season 13-4 and earned the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.  The Packers achieved that status with Aaron Rodgers playing QB.  Let me make one thing very clear:

  • Unless Aaron Rodgers engineers a situation where he gets traded to the Broncos, Coach Hackett will have to make do with significantly inferior QB play in 2022.

I have mentioned Aaron Rodgers twice already so let me try to explain his situation as I understand it – – and remember, I am not an NFL GM:

  • Rodgers’ has a contract with the Packers for 2022.  After that, he would be an unrestricted free agent.
  • Ergo for 2022, I think he has three options.  He can retire; he can play for the Packers; or, he can demand/engineer a trade to another team.
  • Rodgers said in a press appearance earlier this week that he is not interested in being part of a “rebuild” so you can cross half the teams in the NFL off the list of possible teams he would play for.

Let me take those options in order.  Aaron Rodgers played in 2021 at the MVP level; if he does not win that award, he will get a significant amount of support for it.  Retirement is not a way to “get out of a contract”; as I understand it, he cannot “retire” in 2022 and then “unretire” in 2023 and come back as a free agent.  Rodgers certainly does not need the money, but given his level of play at age 38, there is no reason to believe that he could play another 4 or 5  years and pull in another $120-150M in salary with endorsements on top of that money.  That is a lot of cheese…  Rodgers salary for 2022 – – not counting various bonus possibilities – – would be in the neighborhood of $26M; personally, I cannot see him leaving that money behind in addition to foregoing much larger future revenues.

Rodgers can always return and play for the Packers; even if the team is head-over-heels in love with Jordan Love as their QB of the future, it was clear to almost any observer not part of Jordan Love’s nuclear family that Rodgers is still a far superior QB.  I cannot imagine the Packers telling Rodgers to take a hike.  That extends to the idea of the Packers initiating talks with any other team for just any old compensation for Aaron Rodgers.  The big question here is:

  • Was the ill will that was so widely reported last year between Rodgers and the Packers’ “management” as vitriolic as it was portrayed – – or was all that a bit over-dramatized?

Aaron Rodgers said he would likely make his decision(s) about next year by the time the franchise tag designation period is over; that would be March 8th.  Some have speculated that if the Packers designate Devante Adams with a franchise tag or sign him to a longer term deal, that might have a significant affect on Rodgers’ final decision.  Apparently, the “chemistry” between those two players extends beyond just pass catcher and pass thrower.

Finally, Rodgers could engineer a trade.  I put it that way because I just don’t think the Packers are going to be the ones to initiate that sort of thing.  However, if it comes to a trade, I expect that it would happen well before the NFL Draft because the Packers will certainly want a bounty of Draft Capital in return for a guy who played at an MVP level just this year.  The fact that the Broncos just hired Rodgers’ latest offensive coordinator will surely stir up a “Rodgers-to-the-Broncos” narrative.

[Aside:  I have a friend who has been a Patriots’ fan for the last 30 years.  He has fantasized about the Pats getting Aaron Rodgers form the day the “rift” between the team and the QB first surfaced.  I am certain he still harbors that fantasy so let me say here that I just do not see a “California-cool” Aaron Rodgers flourishing under “The Patriot Way”.  But remember, I am not an NFL GM…]

Dwight Perry looked ahead to an NFL announcement scheduled for next week and offered the following analysis in the Seattle Times:

“The Washington Football Team is revealing its new name on Groundhog Day.

“Maybe they’re trying to limit themselves to only six more weeks of bad football.”

The playoffs this year provide evidence that Professor Perry’s analysis is correct.  Consider that from the 2011 through the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Football Team – – under its previous name – – had three assistant coaches on its staff:

  • Sean McVay was the tight ends coach
  • Matt LaFleur was the QB coach
  • Kyle Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator

No one in the team hierarchy obviously saw much coaching potential in that trio because all of them were let go in 2013.  All three made the playoffs this year while the Washington cumulative record since their departure has been 52-76-1.  Just as a comparison, those three head coaches led the Rams, Packers and Niners to a combined record of 35-16-0 this season…

Last week, I commented on the 2021 TV audience figures and how about 90 % of the biggest TV audiences happened when NFL games were on the air.  The four Divisional Playoff games last weekend upheld that standard:

  1. The “least watched game” was the Bengals/Titans game on Saturday afternoon.  The average audience for that game was 30.1 million viewers.
  2. Next up is the Niners/Packers game on Saturday night; its average audience was 36.9 million viewers.
  3. On Sunday afternoon, the Rams/Bucs game drew an average audience of 40.0 million viewers.
  4. And on Sunday night, the Chiefs/Bills game was watched by an average audience of 42.7 million folks.  One report said that the audience for this game peaked at 51.7 million viewers.  {No, I do not know how they are able to measure that…]

So, turning to last weekend’s playoff games, let me offer some observations I made during my time in front of the TV set.  Yes, I was one of the millions of fans who watched all the plays in all the games…

Bengals 19  Titans 16:  Ian Eagle and Trent Green called the game on CBS and did a great job.  Both men let the video present the obvious – – like the QB was sacked on the play – – and tried to analyze/explain how that came to be the outcome of the play.

The Titans acquired Zach Cunningham after the Texans cut him and he went through the waiver process.  I am too lazy to go and look up how many teams had a worse record than the Titans at that point of the season, but it had to have been two dozen.  So, here is my question:

  • How the Hell did two dozen teams – ones that were not doing all that well in 2021 – decide to pass on Zach Cunningham?  It is inconceivable that 20 teams or so looked at a guy in his mid-20s who had already led the NFL in tackles for a season – – what you expect linebackers to do – – and pass on him.  And that is another reason why I am not an NFL GM…

I guess the Titans’ analytics department can show that it was a good decision for the Titans to go for a 2-point conversion early in the 2nd period after a defensive penalty put the ball at the 1-yardline.  Rather than take the lead at 7-6, the Titans tried to make it 8-6 which is a distinction that does not make much of a difference to me.  Unfortunately for the Titans, the try failed.  And now you may begin to understand why I do not work in any NFL analytics departments…

I made a note that it seemed as if the Bengals were controlling the clock and not the Titans and that was “surprising”.  Well, I was right; the Bengals had the ball for 33:25 in the game and  the Bengals defense held Derrick Henry to 62 yards on 20 carries.  Here is another telling difference in the game stats:

  • Bengals were 7 of 15 on third-down conversions
  • Titans were 1 of 8 on third-down conversions

The Titans’ Front Seven on defense did its job; the Titans sacked Joe Burrow 9 times in the game for a total loss of 68 yards.  They have not kept “sack stats” for the entirety of the NFL’s existence but since those stats have been kept, this number of sacks has happened to four other QBs in playoff games.  Yes, you are correct; the Bengals are the only team to win a playoff game where they also gave up 9 sacks.

A good part of the Bengals’ success has to be attributed to the Bengals’ defense that recorded 3 INTs from errant Ryan Tannehill throws.  At least for last Saturday, 3 INTs trumped 9 sacks…

With the Bengals advancing to the AFC Conference Championship for the first time since 1988, the longest extant streaks for NFL teams not making it to the Conference Finals is shared by two teams:

  1. The Washington Football Team – under its previous name – won the NFC Championship game in 1991 and then went on to win the Super Bowl that year.  Since 1991, the team has been to the playoffs only 7 times and its playoff record is 3-7.
  2. The Detroit Lions lost that same NFC Conference Championship game to the Washington Whatevers in 1991.  Since 1991, the Lions have been to the playoffs 8 times but their playoff record since then is 0-8.  Five of the eight losses were by double digits and four of the eight losses were by 3 scores or more.  Yowza!!

Niners 13  Packers 10:  In the first half, the Niners looked more like a 7-10 team than a playoff team with a 10-7 record – – but the Niners’ defense kept grinding and prevented the Packers from scoring after the initial possession until allowing a field goal with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.

I posed this question to myself midway through the third quarter:

“Is this a defensive game or an example of inept offenses in the cold weather?”

Well, I think it was a bit of both.  The Niners won the game despite gaining only 212 yards on offense (106 rushing and 106 passing incidentally) while the Packers only managed 263 yards on offense.  Here are the stats that caused me to ponder this question in the first place:

  • After scoring a TD on its first possession of the game, the Packers next first half possessions resulted in lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, blocked field goal.
  • The Niners possessions in the first half went like this – – three and out, three and out, three and out, three and out (total offense at this point of minus 15 yards), INT.

The Special Teams decided this game; you can decide for yourself if the Niners won that battle or if the Packers lost that battle.  After  you get through that internal debate here is the bottom line:

  • The Niners had 113 return yards and the Packers had 77.
  • The Packers gave up a 45-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
  • The Packers allowed a makeable 39-yard field goal try to be blocked to end the first half.
  • The Niners only TD came via a blocked punt that was recovered and run into the end zone.

By the way, before the opening kickoff, Troy Aikman said that the game would likely be decided by the Special Teams.  That is a top-shelf reading of the tea leaves…

Rams 30  Bucs 27:  Three playoff games and all three were decided by a game-winning field goal as time expired.  As a fan with no specific rooting interest for any of the participating teams, it would be difficult to script a  set of circumstances more riveting.  I made a note at the end of this game as I tuned over to the last game of the weekend:

“Best playoff weekend ever?  Hope 4th game is not a blowout.”

Indeed, this game had plenty of excitement to get things going on Sunday.  The Rams turned the ball over 4 times in this game – once at the Bucs 1-yardline – and still managed to win the game.  Like the Bengals winning after yielding 9 sacks, the Rams defied the odds by winning after that many turnovers.

The stats say that the Bucs ran the ball only 14 times in the game.  Actually, it was only 13 times because one of the “rushing attempts” was a Tom Brady kneel down to end the first half.  Meanwhile, Brady dropped back and attempted 54 passes in the game – – completing 30 of them.  Back in September when these teams met – and the Rams won by 10 points – Brady attempted 55 passes.  So, why was the game plan a reprise of the one that was unsuccessful in Week 3?  Was that Brady’s idea or Byron Leftwich’s idea or Bruce Arians’ idea?  Because it was not a good idea…

And speaking of bad ideas:

  • Cooper Kupp led the NFL this season in pass receptions, yards receiving and TD passes caught.  Given that trifecta and with 28 seconds left on the clock in a tie game, someone thought it would be OK to give single coverage to Kupp.  He merely caught a 44-yard bomb from Matthew Stafford and set up the chip shot field goal to win the game.

Chiefs 42  Bills 36 (OT):  At the end of the Rams Bucs game, all I asked was for this final game of the weekend not to be a blowout.  I got that and more as an answer to my wish.  The game went to OT, and it was an offensive contest from start to finish with lots of good plays by both teams.  The total offense generated by the two teams was 974 yards; compare that to the 475 yards of combined offense in the Niners/Packers game from the day before.

The Chiefs had the #1 rated defense in the NFL in total yards allowed for the season.  Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs ran up 552 yards in this game.  Normally, the Chiefs amass lots of passing yards when their offense is clicking; in this game they managed three so-called “chunk plays” in the running game:

  • Patrick Mahomes scrambled for 34 yards
  • Mecole Hardman had a 25-yard run
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a 22-yard scamper
  • The Chiefs amassed 182 yards rushing on 27 attempts (6.7 yards per carry).

On the other side, Gabriel Davis had himself a career-day for the Bills catching 8 passes for 201 yards and 4 TDs.  Davis has been with the Bills for two seasons after being drafted out of UCF.  For the entirety of the 2021 season, he caught 6 TD passes and the most receptions he had in a single game was 5.  He caught 5 passes in a game twice in 2021, once against the Bucs and then against the Panthers.

[Aside:  I believe that Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are the two most entertaining QBs to watch in the NFL at this time.  I can entertain arguments that some other QBs are as good or better – – but for pure entertainment value, these are my two “go-to guys”.  In this game, both QBs led their team in rushing; Mahomes gained 69 yards on 7 carries and Allen gained 68 yards on 11 carries. ]

The final two minutes of regulation time saw 25 points go up on the scoreboard.  The Bills scored 2 TDs generating 15 points; the Chiefs got a TD and a field goal to leave the scoreboard tied at 36 as time expired.  I am convinced that at least one of the “Football Gods” has hexed the Bills in playoff games.  Consider:

From 1990 through 1993, the Bills lost 4 consecutive Super Bowl games – – all of them against NFC East teams.

  • In the Super Bowl loss to the Giants by a score of 20-19, Scott Norwood’s last second field goal attempt from 47 yards out sailed “wide right”.  That was 1991…
  • The Bills scored to take the lead over the Titans with 15 seconds left in a wildcard playoff game.  Then came the famous “Music City Miracle” giving the Titans a 22-16 victory.  That was in 1999…
  • The Bills take the lead over the Chiefs by 3 points with 13 seconds left on the clock.  The Chiefs rally to score a tying field goal and win in OT.  That was 2022…
  • Charlie Brown had a better relationship with “The Fates” than the Buffalo Bills do.

[Aside:  Note that the Chiefs got the ball trailing by 3 points with 13 seconds left to play in the game at their own 25 yardline.  Three plays and 44 yards later, the Chiefs kicked the game tying field goal to send the game to OT.  Compare that to the Cowboys two weeks ago who had 14 seconds on the clock and called a QB draw that ate up the rest of the clock and sent the Cowboys home for the season.]


NFL Games:


For the record and before we get to this week’s selections in another Abbreviated Six-Pack, let me announce that I have no strong feelings about any of the picks and games here.  Challenge any of my selections here, and if you are eloquent and rational in  your challenge, I could very well come away agreeing with you.

(Sun 3:05 PM EST) Bengals at Chiefs – 7.5 (54):  It was not all that long ago – – Week 17 of the 2021 NFL regular season to be precise – – that the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Cincy on a field goal as time expired.  Seems as if the Bengals have that scenario down cold in their playbooks, no?  In fact, the Chiefs have won 11 of their last 12 games and that loss to the Bengals is the only blemish on the record.

The game in Week 17 was an offensive explosion with the two teams combining to gain 889 yards.  Joe Burrow feasted on the Chiefs’ defense back then posting this stat line:

  • 30 of 39 for 446 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

Burrow’s favorite target of the day was JaMarr Chase who caught 11 balls for 266 yards; plenty of NFL receivers would call that a month’s worth of output.  I have no reason to believe that this game will devolve into a “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive display.

By the way, the record for most passing  yards by both teams in a playoff game is 881 yards.  That mark was set by Tom Brady and Nick Foles (and Trey Burton too) in Super Bowl LII.  Might the Burrow/Mahomes collaboration this weekend eclipse that number?

I believe there is one significant injury situation relative to this game:

  • Tyrann Mathieu did not practice for the Chiefs on Wednesday after missing most of last week’s game in the NFL concussion protocols.
  • Mathieu was able to “fully participate” in Thursday’s practice with the Chiefs.
  • Mathieu – at full capacity – is an important part of the Chiefs’ defense and stopping the “other guy’s QB” is going to be the most important factor in this game.

I think the scoreboard operator will not have to battle boredom in this one; I like the game to go OVER; put that in the Six-Pack.

And, with that hook on top of a full TD in the spread, I’ll take the Bengals plus the points; put that in the Six-Pack too.


(Sun 6:40 PM EST) Niners at Rams – 3.5 (46):  As noted above, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay worked together in the past.  Now that they are head coaches, Shanahan has dominated the matchups; in fact, Shanahan’s Niners have beaten McVay’s Rams in the last 6 consecutive meetings.  In Week 18 of this year, the Niners needed a win over the Rams to assure themselves of a wildcard slot; they got that win.  Lest your memory fail you, that game went to OT and the Niners won with a field goal on the second possession of OT.  The Niners’ offense was dominant in that game gaining 449 yards to only 265 yards for the Rams.

Last week, the Rams had a 20-3 lead on the Bucs and stumbled their way to make it a nail-biter.  Against the Niners three weeks ago, the Rams had a 17-0 lead and eventually lost that game.  Those sorts of performances lead me to wonder:

  • Maybe the Rams are their own worst enemy when taking an early multi-score lead?
  • Maybe the Rams know best how to beat the Rams?

The game is in LA at SoFi Stadium but that may not be nearly the advantage one might think.  The Rams are only 5-3 at home while going 7-2 on the road this year.  The Niners are similarly better on the road this year; the Niners are 4-4 at home and 6-3 on the road.

Both teams run the ball well; in the two meetings so far this year, the Niners have run it better than the Rams; Cam Akers is back with the Rams for this game after missing the balance of the 2021 season.  The Niners have to run the ball well to set up their passing game which is not robust; the Rams prefer to run the ball but can air it out when needed – – see what happened in the final moments of the Rams’ win over the Bucs last week above.

I think the Niners have the ability to win the line of scrimmage on defense; and with their zone blocking, they can hold their own against the Rams’ defense.  If that plays out, I like the Niners in the game, so I’ll take them plus the points here; put that in the Six-Pack.

Let me review the Abbreviated Six-Pack here:

  1. Chiefs/Bengals OVER 54
  2. Bengals +7.5 against Chiefs
  3. Niners +3.5 against Rams

And here is a Parlay play just for the heck of it:

  1. Niners @ +165
  2. Chiefs/Bengals OVER 54 @ minus-110  To win $406 on a $100 wager.

Finally, back toward the top of this rant, I discussed the TV audiences for last week’s amazing playoff games.  So, let me close with a few observations about television itself as an entertainment medium”

“Why should people pay good money to go out and see bad films when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?”  [Samuel Goldwyn]

And …

“Television is a device that permits people who haven’t anything to do to watch people who can’t do anything.”  [Fred Allen]

And …

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your own living room by people you wouldn’t have in  your home.”  [David Frost]

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



Sean Payton Is “Stepping Aside”

Yesterday, New Orleans Saint’s coach, Sean Payton, announced that he will be on hiatus from coaching in 2022.  Payton emphasized that he is not retiring; he simply wants a year off – – after which, he will decide what to do from that point forward.  Sean Payton is 58 years old; he has been in the “football coaching business” since 1988 and he has been the head coach of the Saints since 2006.

The “smart money” has him headed to the broadcasting booth next Fall; that would keep him involved with football, but it would change his calendar demands significantly.  Being a head coach in the NFL is a job that calls for about 90 hours a week of commitment; doing color analysis or studio work on TV for the NFL requires a bit more travel time but a lot less overall time.

If you saw his news conference announcing his “stepping aside”, you realize that Sean Payton is comfortable with who he is and is comfortable behind a microphone.  [If you have not seen that presser, here is a link to it.  It is 32 minutes long.]  It is not a stretch to imagine him taking a deal from one of the NFL’s “broadcast partners” for the 2022 season as a  trial run.  But Payton made it clear in his news conference that he is not shutting the door on the coaching phase of his life.

Contractually, he is the coach of the Saints through the 2024 season; that means if another team were to try to coax him out of his decision to “step aside”, they would have to trade with the Saints to acquire his services.  There are teams looking for head coaches and there are owners who would see Payton as a significant upgrade on the sidelines who might be willing to open up the checkbook to sign him for next season, but after listening to the news conference, I really believe that Sean Payton is not going to be doing any coaching in 2022.

On the assumption that rumors turn out to be correct and Payton lands a job with a network, let me offer a minor caution.  As I said above, Payton is clearly comfortable behind a microphone – – but that does not translate immediately into his being a good color analyst on TV.  Moreover, successful coaches do not always translate into good color analysts either – – lest the TV execs be blinded by the huge success of John Madden.

  • John Madden and Dick Vermeil were both successful NFL coaches and excellent color analysts on TV.
  • Jon Gruden was a successful NFL coach and an annoying presence on TV.
  • Bruce Arians is a successful NFL coach and was a dud on TV
  • George Allen is in the Hall of Fame as a coach and was absolutely awful in a mercifully brief broadcasting career.

I would argue that coaches translate much more naturally to studio positions than to game analysts.  Some of the current coaches doing studio jobs are Jimmie Johnson, Bill Cowher, Rex Ryan and Tony Dungy.  Personally, I doubt that any of them would be good as game analysts without a ton of practice work off the air.

To give Sean Payton a fair chance to succeed in the booth so that he has a real comparison to make in terms of plotting the direction of the rest of his life, his new employer needs to invest time and energy in giving Payton “rehearsal games” preferably with some of his intended play-by-play partners.

So, what might happen under the following scenario:

  • Sean Payton leaves the sidelines in 2022 but the itch to be a head coach demands scratching…

Around this time next year, I think there are several teams that would be extremely interested in hiring someone with Sean Payton’s coaching record.  [152-89-0 with 9 playoff appearances in 15 seasons.]  Here are some off the top of my head:

  • Saints:  After all, he is still under contract with the team…
  • Cowboys:  Payton has plenty of ties to the Dallas area having coached there before going to the Saints – – and Jerry Jones has expressed a fondness for Payton over the years.
  • Giants:  Payton is from the “Parcels coaching tree” and Bill Parcels’ image still evokes “glory” in the minds of Giants’ fans and owners.
  • Seahawks:  I think Pete Carrol needs a playoff run in 2022 to continue to be welcome as the head coach in Seattle.
  • Panthers:  Owner David Tepper seems like someone who will spend whatever it takes to get what he wants.

One more broadcasting thing before I close today…  Rumor has it that NBC will “move on” from Al Michaels as the play-by-play guy on Sunday Night Football and replace him with Mike Tirico.  I like Mike Tirico as a play-by-play announcer; but in all candor, he is a significant step down from Al Michaels.

Finally,  there is one other great example of a highly successful coach who left that business and became an outstanding color analyst on TV.  I am referring to Al McGuire who teamed with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer to be the best announcing team for college basketball over a 10-year period in the 1980s.  Rest in Peace, coach…

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



Wall to Wall Baseball Today

For the tenth time in a row, the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) have chosen not to enshrine either Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I have no interest in rehashing the arguments favoring and/or opposing enshrinement; my position on membership in the Hall of Fame has not changed:

  1. Honorees should be in the Hall of Fame for their achievements on the field.  It should not be personality-driven; it is not a “Gentlemen’s Club”; in fact, it more closely resembles a “Rogues’ Gallery”.
  2. Some players used PEDs in their career meaning that some of their achievements have a partial basis in biochemistry in addition to God-given skills.
  3. Great players who used PEDs – or are credibly suspected of having used PEDs – should be in the Hall of Fame with a statement about those PEDs included on their plaques.

There are several fallouts from the balloting that was revealed yesterday which I find unfortunate.  The Baseball Hall of Fame has been around since 1936; the National League has been around since 1876.  Of all the players ever to take part in a major league baseball game over almost 150 years of existence:

  • Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any other player.
  • Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award more times than any other player.
  • Pete Rose got more base hits than any other player.
  • AND none of those three players are honored in the Hall of Fame.

On one hand, that does not make me happy; on the other hand, I am not going to generate any excess stomach acid over what I consider to be unfortunate circumstances.  The election process for admission to the Hall of Fame is clear and well-known; none of the three players cited here passed the threshold for admission.  There were no “ballot irregularities”; the election was not “stolen”; the appointed jurors in this matter have rendered their verdict.

While on the subject of players who failed to get into the Hall of Fame yesterday, let me say that I believe the BBWAA voters took into account some other “stuff” beyond PED use in their voting.  Curt Schilling, in his public persona, is not a very likeable hominid; I find some of his pronouncements to be repugnant.  Having said that, Curt Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame based on Reason #1 above.  I probably would not enjoy listening to his enshrinement speech, but my agreement or disagreement with him on political/social issues should be irrelevant in the process of evaluating his accomplishments on a baseball field.

Enough about the Hall of Fame voting…  Last weekend, Dwight Perry had this note in his Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times:

“Only 22 days till pitchers and catchers don’t report.”

I wish I could say that Professor Perry is dead wrong in his pessimism – – but I cannot…

In one other baseball item, The MLB Executive Council has rejected the proposal by the Tampa Bay Rays to have a “split season” with Montreal.  This idea has been percolating for a couple of years; the Executive Council gave the green light to go ahead with planning for such a move.  It was finally put to the Executive Council as a formal proposal and the Executive Council shot it down.  How this came to pass is pretty straightforward:

  • The Rays have not drawn well in their current circumstance for about 20 years.  The cause(s) of that lack of attendance include the stadium itself, the location of the stadium, fan apathy, other things that compete with baseball for leisure time and money…
  • Probably, all those factors are in play.
  • I am aware of two “new stadium sites” in that area which have been proposed and turned down.  There may have been more than two such proposals, but I only recall a proposal to build one on the water in St. Petersburg and another to build one in a historic area in Tampa.
  • The idea of a “split season” would make the Rays’ home games more compelling because it would increase their “scarcity”.

Here are data to keep in mind as you ponder the idea of the Rays “splitting their season” with  another city.  For 2021 here are the average attendance per game figures for the “small market teams” in MLB:

  • Miami Marlins – – 7,934 fans per game – – ranked 30th in MLB
  • Oakland A’s – – 8660 fans per game – – ranked 29th in MLB
  • Tampa Bay Rays – – 9396 fans per game – – ranked 28th in MLB
  • Baltimore Orioles – – 9793 fans per game – – ranked 27th in MLB
  • Every other team drew more than 10,000 fans per game.
  • Twelve MLB teams drew more than 20,000 fans per game.

I have no ties to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area other than to visit there in order to take in Spring Training games in some years.  Therefore, I cannot pretend to know what the answer(s) might be to get the Rays’ attendance to reflect the team’s on-field performance.  The Rays won 100 games last year; they had the best record in the American League by 5 full games.  Viewed from afar, something should be done…

Finally, here is another observation from Dwight Perry:

“The Toronto Maple Leafs, worth $2 billion according to data compiled by Sportico, are the NHL’s most valuable team.

“In other words, the Leafs are raking it in.”

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



Gruden V. NFL – An Update

A quick reset here…  Jon Gruden was fired by the Raiders after some socially unacceptable emails he authored about a decade ago became public.  Those emails were somehow compiled as part of the investigation into the “toxic work environment” in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team – – under its previous moniker.  Gruden filed suit against the NFL claiming that the release of those emails was “tortious interference” with his coaching contract with the Raiders and that release is what got him fired.

To the surprise of exactly no one with an IQ higher than Bok choy, the NFL filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit citing two fundamental reasons:

  1. The NFL did not leak the emails
  2. As the author of the emails, it was Gruden who is to blame for their content, and it was the content that got him fired.

On the assumption for the moment that Point #1 above is true – and I have no reason to doubt that it is true – it would seem that Gruden’s lawsuit is improperly targeted.  If someone wanted to sue me for releasing a herd of elephants onto the National Mall in Washington DC, there would have to be some evidence of elephants on the Mall and evidence that I had something to do with their presence there.  For the record, I have never been involved with the release of a herd of elephants anywhere on the planet to include the National Mall in Washington DC.

However, someone, somewhere and for reasons not yet fully understood did interfere with Gruden’s contract of employment by making those emails widely known.  If an individual – or individuals – could be tied to the release of those emails, then it would seem that Gruden would have a basis for action.  And again, if Point #1 above is true, then someone likely had or still has access to at least part of the reported 650,000 emails that were collected in the league sponsored investigation of the Washington Football Team Front Office.

It will not surprise me to learn that this specific lawsuit is tossed by the judge.  Nevertheless, I do not think this drama has run its course.  Unlike my “elephant metaphor” above where no one recalls any reporting of an elephant stampede on the Mall, there is clear evidence that Jon Gruden’s emails were leaked to the press.  How and why did that happen?  Recall the TV series, X-Files:

“Mulder, the truth is out there.”

Moving on … The NFL overtime rules have gathered criticism again after the Chiefs won the OT coin toss, took the ball, scored a TD and won last weekend’s game against the Bills without allowing Josh Allen and company to touch the ball.  People have come up with suggested changes to the rule, but all of the suggestions have flaws unto themselves.

One suggestion was to have the home team pick a spot on the field and then for the home team to choose whether or not to play offense or defense from that spot.  That is an interesting gimmick that will send the stat nerds into an orgasmic frenzy calculating new models for how to make those choices; but in the end that is just a new way to do the opening kickoff for the overtime period.  There is a minor flaw in most of the rule proposals that demand both teams touch the ball:

  • The team getting the second possession – assuming the first team scored a TD and now has to defend its goal line only – will play strategically differently on that possession than it has for the entirety of the season up to that point.
  • Punting is not an option; the team on offense will go for it on 4th down anywhere on the field.
  • Defenses will play only to keep the ball out of the end zone and not care a fig about anything else.
  • The game will ultimately be decided in this situation by a game that is not the same game that got the two teams into this situation.

I have a two-pronged proposal.  One of the key elements of my proposal is to maintain the strategy and tactics of the game that were employed in the first three quarters of the game all the way through to the endpoint:

  1. For all regular season games, if the score is tied at the end of 60 minutes of play, the game will go into the books as a tie.
  2. For all playoff games, if the score is tied at the end of 60 minutes, the teams will take a 5-minute break; then there will be a coin toss; then the teams will play a 15-minute period at the end of which a winner will be decided by the score.  If the score is still tied at that point, then there will be another 15-minute period and so on until at the end of a period there is a difference in the score of the two teams.

Ties in the regular season are not poison; if they were, then the current rule for regular season overtime games would not be tolerable because it allows for the possibility of a tie game.  So, just accept those results as possible game outcomes and proceed from there.

Ties in the playoffs cannot be tolerated because only one of the two teams in the field can advance while the other has to go home.  To have arrived in a playoff game that is tied after 60 minutes of play, each team had to play at least 17 regular season games and qualify for the playoffs by comparing their record to other teams in their conference.  It took the NFL 272 games to create the playoff field and those 272 games were played under a specific set of rules that guided strategy and tactics.  So, why abandon them now?

Not to worry folks; none of this will be adopted.  It is too simple and straightforward.  Consider me a voice crying in the wilderness…

Finally, if there was an “aggrieved party” in the way the overtime period unfolded between the Chiefs and the Bills, it would be Josh Allen.  So, what did he have to say about the existing NFL overtime rule:

“The rules are what they are, and I can’t complain about that because if it was the other way around, we’d be celebrating, too. So, it is what it is at this point. We didn’t make enough plays tonight.”

The young man has an abundance of class…

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



2022 Winter Olympics – A Cautionary Tale

Today, I want to consider the imminent Winter Olympic Games in Beijing – – not because I cannot wait for them to start nor do I have any significant interest in the events.  Rather, I want to consider the start of the Winter Games this year as another instance where sports intersect politics.  That intersection is rarely a pleasant and uplifting moment; I do not expect this one will be either.  Moreover, this upcoming intersection is a three-dimensional one because sports and politics are also traversing an axis involving money.  Oh, joy…

There are numerous “actors” in this impending drama.  I am happy to consign the IOC and all the International Governing Bodies for the various sports to the role of bankers, financiers, fat cats – – you get the idea.  They live mainly on the money axis which has major influence on anyone and everyone who lives mainly on the politics axis.  Political decisions provide the opportunity to make money – ostensibly in an honorable fashion – and the money-folks share some of that wealth with the folks who make favorable decisions in the political realm.  That mutually beneficial interaction continues apace with the precision of a Swiss watch, and it is at work in these Games.

The “problem” facing folks in the political realm is that they rarely can behave without someone somewhere disagreeing with whatever it is they seek to do.  In China, those folks are labeled as “dissidents” and the people in power seek to minimize their voice and their effectiveness on the areas of disagreement.  That is the way things are in China; that is not the way things are done in other parts of the world; both sides here need to recognize those two facts; both sides here need to agree to disagree on which “system” is best.

Into that muck and mire, we now need to add a whole bunch of athletes who have spent major portions of their lives to this point preparing to compete in the Games that provide the money that will flow from their endeavors.  All would be well if there were not political opponents of the Chinese society/political system who would choose to use the Games as a way to try to effect change in China.  Those people are motivated by their belief that things could be “better” in China if only the Chinese government would behave the way those people think the Chinese government ought to behave.

Therein lies a significant problem – – and potentially a danger for some athletes:

  • The Chinese government does not accept the premise of those who would change the way China goes about its political and social business that things would be much better with significant changes implemented.
  • These games are being conducted in China – – where there are laws on the books that can/will be enforced by the Chinese government.
  • The fact that things are done differently in other countries – or in an athlete’s home country – is not particularly relevant.

Long before the Games were to begin, the political/social controversy surfaced.  I should not need to make a list of all the areas of disagreement that exist between the “Chinese way” and the “democratic way”; suffice it to say there are numerous bones of contention.  The US government – and some other governments – have taken a purely symbolic posture here and have declared that they will send athletes to compete but will not send any diplomats to be VIP spectators at these Games.  Rather than couch my opinion as to the effectiveness of such a move in lofty terms of diplomacy, let me say that these actions are as likely to effect significant change in China as a one-legged man winning an ass kicking contest.  Nonetheless, having taken that action, people outside China can pat themselves on the back in the assurance that they “done good”.

The word is out to the athletes and team officials; the Chinese government does not want protests and demonstrations.  That may not be the way we do things here, but the Games are not here.  If someone chooses to demonstrate in a way that is either illegal or offensive to the Chinese authorities, the rules that will apply to the adjudication of the matter will be the Chinese rules.  Almost 50 years ago, there was a TV series here in the US called Baretta; one of the lines in the theme song for that series was:

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time…”

For athletes and team officials in China for these games, might I suggest that this become one of your mantras during your days there…

One of the things that has been reported about the upcoming Games is that all athletes will have to report a variety of health data on a daily basis as a COVID protocol for the Games.  They will do this via an app that will have to be downloaded to electronic devices that the athletes have with them.

  1. Memo to Olympic Athletes:  That app you will have to install onto your device(s) can and most certainly will collect other data about you and your movements and your discussions and your activities.
  2. Be careful; be very careful…
  3. And when  you get home and “delete the app”, consider that it might still be there without you knowing that it is still there.

Lest anyone think that the Chinese officials are planning to look the other way if there are “improper behaviors” at the Games, consider these words from Yang Shu – the director general for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Winter Games;

“Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations are also subject to certain punishment.”

The triple point of sports, politics and money about to play out in a very public manner could be interesting – – and it could be dangerous.  Athletes who also see themselves as  Social Justice Warriors have probably bought into the idea that “Silence/Inactivity Equals Complicity” when faced with any sort of wrongdoing.  I will not be watching a lot of the TV presentations for these Games because winter sports do not particularly interest me, but I do hope that there are no incidents that result in long term negative repercussions for any participants in the Games.

Finally, today has been more about politics than I normally prefer to include; so, let me close with this observation by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith:

“Politics is not the art of the possible.  It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

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



Football Friday 1/21/22

Football Fridays are dwindling down to a precious few.  Taking both quantity and quality into account, this is my favorite weekend of football in the NFL season.  There are 4 games on the card and every one of them projects to be a gem.  So, let me get this train rolling with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  5-1-0
  • Total:  5-1-0
  • Money Line Parlays: 1-1  Net profit for the week = $18

Those results bring the cumulative record for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  41-37-2
  • Total:  56-57-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  6-12  Net loss for the season = $144

[Aside:  Before going any further into this week’s offering, I am skeptical that I will find 6 things to offer as selections  on the card this week.  So, consider this week’s “Six-Pack” in a figurative sense and not a literal sense.]


College Football Commentary:


Yes, there actually are some things to say on that subject this week…

The Texas Longhorns hired Gary Patterson late of TCU as a “Special Assistant to the Head Coach”.  This could be a great move by Texas because Patterson is a defensive guy and won lots of games in 20+ years at TCU because of his defenses.  The Longhorns’ defense for the last several years has been mediocre at best and embarrassing at times.  Remember they gave up 56 points to Kansas in a loss last season.  Assuming that head coach Steve Sarkissian takes heed of the advice/guidance provided by his new “Special Assistant”, this could be a big deal for the Longhorns.

Next, in something that I consider to be “good news for now”, it appears as if the idea of expanding the CFP from 4 teams to 12 teams is doomed.  The ACC announced that it is opposed to such an expansion; and if the conference commissioners were telling the truth a few months ago, that should mean that the PAC-12 and the Big-10 are also similarly opposed since those three conferences pledged allegiance to one another to counter/protest the SEC poaching Texas and Oklahoma from the Big-12.

There is money to be made from CFP expansion and that is why it will eventually happen.  But expanding from 4 teams to 12 teams in the current hierarchy makes no sense.  Even with only 4 teams involved, the semi-final games were “drama-free”; adding 8 more teams to the tournament will make the early round games even worse.  There have been years when I thought that it would be a good idea to have 6 teams participating; I am sure someone can point to a year where 8 teams might have been a good set up.  But even at 8 teams, the odds of having a balanced college football tournament field are long ones.

Eventually, the dollar signs will prevail here and there will be expansion – – but a 12-team CFP field will certainly be “ho-hum” for the first round and only slightly less interesting in the second round.

  • Memo for the CFP “Custodians”:  Approach any and all ideas for expansion of your product with caution.  More is not always better…

Here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times on the subject of CFP expansion:

“Expand the College Football Playoff?  We already have a 14-team tournament.

“It’s called the Southeastern Conference.”


NFL Commentary:


There appears to be some symmetry in the world of “playoff football” …

Last weekend – – the NFL’s Wildcard Round – – supplied strong evidence in support of the following proposition:

  • It would be a BAD idea for the NFL to expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 14 teams to 16 teams.

In fact, the results from last weekend’s games supplied strong evidence in support of the following proposition:

  • It would be a GOOD idea to contract the number of teams in the playoffs from 14 teams to 12 teams.

If everyone could take off their fanboy hat for just a moment and look back at last weekend’s games:

  • Four games were never in doubt after the middle of the second quarter.  The average margin of victory in these four games was 22.5 points.  The “Drama Coefficient” in those four games was ZERO.
  • The two games that ended as “one-score games” were lost by the losing team as opposed to won by the winning team.
  • In one of the two games that ended as “one-score games”, the officiating crew led by Jerome Boger made the game infuriating no matter which side you were rooting for.


  • Do we as fans need/want any more of that sort of thing as “playoff games”?

The two teams that “got in” as the #7 seeds in the two brackets were the Eagles and the Steelers.  Let me just say that it was not a great weekend for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because both of those teams soiled the sheets on national TV for any NFL fan to see. Does any fan of “football” – – not a fanboy for a specific team – – think that things would have been a whole lot better if there were #8 seeds added to the mix?

I believe that there are two reasons why the NFL is the sports juggernaut that it is:

  1. Football lends itself to wagering almost seamlessly.  When the concept of the point-spread was introduced about 75 years ago, football was the primary beneficiary
  2. Football games are events and not occurrences.  The regular season is now 17 games held a week apart – – save for Thursday night aberrations.  Every game has an impact on a team’s potential to make it to the playoffs.  Only in late September does that situation obtain in MLB after about 160 regular season games; only in mid-April does that situation obtain in the NBA after 82 regular season games.

Given that second condition, there should be no reason for anyone who is a “custodian of the game” to add another playoff game to the mix when – most of the time – it will be a laugher.  The only force pushing for it is greed – – and greed is a powerful motivator.  But as fans, we need not go along with the mindset that making more money is better for the fans than merely making a mountain of money.

For the first time ever, the NFL “treated” fans to a Monday Night Football presentation of a playoff game.  What did we get?  We got a 34-11 blowout that was as much of a nail-biter as a Popeye the Sailor cartoon until we figured out how Popeye was going to get a slurp of his spinach.

Bengals 26  Raiders 19:  This was clearly the worst officiated game that I saw all season long.  The NFL grades out every official on every play in the regular season and then puts together the “best at their positions” to do the playoffs.  How can anyone think that is a bad idea?  Here’s how:

  • Officiating teams are indeed teams just as the players on the opposing sidelines are teams.  They work together as a unit and working together for officials is enhanced by practice and repetition – – just as it is for the teams on the field.  Throwing together highly graded officials who have never worked together for playoff games makes no sense; that is the sort of thing to do in the Exhibition Season to see which officiating crews work best together; it is not something to “experiment with” in the win-or-go-home stature of the playoffs.

I do not want to pile on the officiating crew any more than as happened already, but I am not going to shed a tear at a report from the middle of this week that Jerome Boger and that crew will not be working any games this weekend – – despite whatever grading the individuals received.

Bucs 31  Eagles 15:  Do not be fooled by the 16-point margin of victory here; this game was 31-0 at the start of the 4th quarter; the two Eagles’ TDs came in garbage time.  It appeared that Eagles’ QB, Jalen Hurts, somehow forgot how to throw a football accurately somewhere between the warmups and the kickoff.  He completed only 23 of 43 attempts and some of those “misses” were by a mile.  Over the course of the regular season, the Eagles led the NFL in rushing; last week they managed to gain only 95 yards on the ground, and it was the Bucs who dominated time of possession 33 minutes to 27 minutes.

Niners 23  Cowboys 17:  The Cowboys did themselves in committing 14 penalties in the game – – three on defensive end Randy Gregory that were so obvious Ray Charles would have thrown the flag.  I assume you have seen or heard about the infamous “QB draw with 14 seconds left in the game” that ran out the clock because there were no timeouts available, so I will not describe the situation here.   But that play does raise some interesting issues:

  • The Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and play caller – – Kellen Moore – – has been anointed by “NFL insiders” as a certified offensive genius.  If he called that play, he needs to turn in his “genius card” and go eat at the table of mere mortals.
  • The Cowboys’ head coach – – Mike McCarthy – – defended the call as the right one and challenged the intellect of anyone who doubted it was the right call.  OK, he is defending his coaches and players from a full ration of criticism and scorn; I get that.  But he is the head coach, and he is on the headset listening to the call; so, his inaction means he really thought that was a good play at the time?  Or is it that he is just there on the sidelines like a Christmas tree ornament?

When I boil away the emotion and the rhetoric that has infused that game-ending fiasco, I come back to an important line from the movie, Forrest Gump:

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

The Niners deserved to win this game demonstrating a balanced offense that gained 172 yards passing and 169 yards rushing.  The Niners had the ball for 34 minutes, converted 6 of 13 third-down attempts and only turned the ball over once.

Let me pause here to present some recent data regarding the Dallas Cowboys as “America’s Team”.  The Cowboys won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 season; that was the same year that the Jacksonville Jaguars entered the NFL as an expansion team and finished 1995 with a 4-12 record.  I doubt that I would have to spend a lot of time convincing most NFL fans that the Jags are not a franchise with a huge national following or any sort of glorious winning tradition.  Nonetheless, consider these stats from the start of the 1996 season until today:

  • In the playoffs, the Cowboys’ record is 4-11
  • In the playoffs, the Jags’ record is 7-7

Chiefs 42  Steelers 21:  The game was scoreless for the entire first quarter and the Steelers led 7-0 with a defensive TD in the second quarter.  That happened with 10:41 on the clock; from that point until the 9:14 mark in the third quarter, the Chiefs scored 35 unanswered points.  For those keeping score at home, that is 35 points in 15 minutes and 25 seconds.  This game was embarrassing:

  • In the first half, the Steelers had  8 possessions.  They punted 7 times and kneeled out the ball to end the half on the eighth possession.
  • In the first half, the Steelers’ “best possession” was 6 plays for 20 yards encompassing 3 minutes and 47 seconds before executing the punt.

Seriously, did anyone outside the city limits of Pittsburgh believe the Steelers had a ghost of a chance to win this game?  I know that one of the NFL mantras is that “defense wins championships”, and the Steelers have a very good defense.  But  the Steelers’ offense has been weak at best for most of the year and was miserable last weekend; the offense was too much of a burden for the defense to bear.

Oh, and by the way …

  • Memo to everyone who earlier this season thought the Chiefs’ had serious offensive problems:  Not really…

Bills 47  Pats 17:  This was the biggest beat down of the weekend and the biggest difference was in the stat lines produced by the two QBs:

  • Mac Jones:  24 of 38 for 232 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs + 18 yards rushing
  • Josh Allen:  21 of 25 for 308 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs + 66 yards rushing

The Bills never punted in the game and never turned the ball over; they scored on every possession save the final one to kneel out the game.  It is difficult to lose when doing that.

Back in early December, the Pats beat the Bills only throwing the ball 3 times in the entire game and running the ball down the Bills’ throats.  Noting of that sort happened last weekend; the Pats ran the ball 20 times and gained only 89 yards.  I said last week that the Bills could adopt the defensive strategy to shut down the Pats’ run game and force Mac Jones to beat them.  I do not know if that was the explicit game plan on defense, but it seems to be what worked here.

For the last 20 years, the Pats were a significantly superior team as compared to the Bills; that situation no longer obtains; in fact, the Bills are the superior team now.  This rout was not a fluke; my eyes tell me that overall, the Bills are faster at just about every position than the Pats are, and superior speed is very difficult to overcome.

Rams 34  Cards 11:  At one point in the season, the Cards had the best record in the NFL.  Since Halloween, the Cards are 4-6 but that record is worse than it looks.  Included in those 6 losses are these two embarrassing clunkers:

  •  Nov 14:  Panthers 34  Cards 10
  •  Dec 19:  Lions 30  Cards 12

In their final 5 games, the Cards went 1-4.  I mention this because they played like a team that did not belong in the playoffs last week.  This was another flat-out beat down.  Yes, the Cards had to play without DeAndre Hopkins and that had to hurt their chances, but that does not explain the 375 yards of offense given up to the Rams nor the 6 of 13 conversion rate by the Rams on third downs.

The Cards’ offense was no better than the Cards’ defense here.  The Cards only had the ball for 24:14 in the game; the total offense was 183 yards; the Cards were 0 of 9 on third-down attempts and 1 of 2 on fourth down attempts.  I know the Rams’ defense is very good – – but that showing was embarrassing.

The return of Cam Akers to the Rams’ backfield was impressive; he could be an important offensive piece for the team this week against the Bucs.  In the game against the Cards, he carried the ball 17 times and caught 2 passes accounting for 95 yards from scrimmage.

The Rams got a Pick Six off a totally misguided pass attempt by Kyler Murray who threw the ball underhanded while being tackled in his end zone.  The ball was like a soft pop foul in baseball, and it was picked off at the Cards’ 3-yardline and run in for a score.  That made the game score 21-0 and pretty much ended any suspense one might have been imagining as to the game outcome.  Both Peyton and Eli Manning were biting their tongues in the aftermath of that play…

Let me offer an off-the-wall observation here:

  • I don’t think the Cards are a well-coached team.  They were undisciplined against the Rams; and as noted above, they cratered in the second half of the season.  I don’t know if this “issue” belongs to Kliff Kingsbury or to his assistants, but some sort of introspection and “self-analysis” seems needed here.


The NFL Games:


(Sat 4:30 PM EST) Bengals at Titans – 3.5 (47.5):  Here are two “big deals” that favor the Titans in this game:

  1. They had a BYE Week last week to rest and recuperate and game-plan.
  2. Derrick Henry is back and cleared to play.

Here are two big deals that favor the Bengals in this game:

  1. Joe Burrow is the better QB in the game and has been en fuego lately.
  2. The Bengals rush defense – the one having to deal with Derrick Henry – ranked 5th in the NFL last season giving up only 102.5 yards per game.

The Titans’ pass defense has not been very good this year (25th in the NFL) and the Bengals’ pass offense is the heart of the offense.  This game will be won and lost at the line of scrimmage.  If the Titans’ OL can set up the run and if the Titans’ DL can get pressure on Burrow, the Titans should win handily.  The question is, can those two units do that …???  The Weather forecast for Saturday in Nashville calls for sunny skies with a high temperature of 40 degrees and a low of 24 degrees.  Those conditions should not be an assist for the Titans’ pass defense; I think the Bengals will keep this game close; I’ll take the Bengals plus the points; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST) Niners at Packers – 5.5 (47):  Forget the players and the game strategies for a moment and focus on the weather forecast for Green Bay tomorrow:

  • The high temperature for tomorrow will be 20 degrees.
  • The low temperature for tomorrow will be 1 degree below zero.
  • This game is tomorrow night…

According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.”

Nonsense!  Those players and coaches on the sidelines will be wearing cloaks in Green Bay tomorrow night…

In any weather conditions, the Packers should look to contain the Niners’ running game and put the burden on Jimmy G. to beat them.  That strategy is even more important if Jimmy G has to deal with frostbite in addition to the Packers’ defense.  I think this game turns on this aspect – – how well can the Packers contain the Niners’ running game.  These teams met in Santa Clara back in September with the Niners winning by 2 points.

The Niners reported that Jimmy G was “limited” in practices this week with his injured thumb; if he cannot play efficiently for the entire game and the Niners have to use Trey Lance in these circumstances, I think this will be a mismatch.  There are too many unknowns here; I have no selection for this game.

(Sun 3:00 PM EST) Rams at Bucs – 3 (48):  On a typical January weekend, weather for a football game in Tampa is not much of a factor; such seems to be the case for this weekend.  On Sunday the temperature range is between 37 and 61 degrees with little chance of rain.  The Rams beat the Bucs by 10 points back in September in LA; Matthew Stafford threw for 343 yards on that day.  This weekend, the focus for the game has to be on the Bucs’ OL.  Both OT, Tristan Wirfs and C, Ryan Jensen had to miss part of last week’s game with injuries; both are All-Pro linemen; both are listed as “questionable” for this game meaning they will try to play and then see how things go.  If the Rams’ defense with Von Miller and Aaron Donald get to go against subs, this could be a LONG day for Tom Brady who is not exactly a “scrambler”.  The Bucs’ defense dominated the Eagles last week, but the Rams’ offense plays at a different level than the Eagle’s offense; I think the defensive edge here goes to the Rams sufficiently that they can win the game outright; so, I’ll take the Rams plus the points here; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

(Sun 6:30PM  EST) Bills at Chiefs – 2 (53.5):  Here is another rematch from the regular season.  Back in October the Bills went to KC and beat the Chiefs by 18 points; Josh Allen had a big day throwing for 315 yards and rushing for 59 yards.  That was just about the time when the Chiefs were putting the pieces together for a late run to the playoffs.  The Bills’ defense led the NFL in pass defense (163 yards per game allowed) and in total defense (272.8 yards per game allowed).  I do not think that will matter here; I think both teams will score a lot.  The weatherman should not be a major factor with temperatures on Sunday ranging from 33 to 43 degrees with no rain in the forecast.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

So, let me review this week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack:

  • Bengals + 3.5 against Titans
  • Rams +3 against Bucs
  • Bills/Chiefs OVER 53.5

And the temptation is too great to ignore an interesting Money Line Parlay here:

  • Bengals at +160
  • Rams at +135  to win $511 on a $100 wager.

Finally, since these are winter football games where winter weather can be a factor, let me close with this characterization of winter days from Bill Watterson – – the creator of Calvin and Hobbes:

 “I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”

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



USFL 2.0

In yesterday’s rant, I mentioned the USFL in passing.  After I proofread the rant and posted it, I went to see what is up regarding the USFL simply out of curiosity.  Here are a few things I learned from various reports:

  • “USFL 2.0” has no connection with the original USFL from 40 years ago other than the name and the trademarks from the old league which were “allowed to go dormant”.
  • FOX Sports has some sort of ownership stake in the enterprise that is not clear to me.  FOX does provide a TV contract to the USFL which gives it a measure of credibility/stability.  According to reports, FOX Sports will provide $150M to the league over the first 3 years of its existence and will seek to get an added $250M for the league from other “investors/partners”.
  • NBC will also telecast a significant number of games.  Scheduling calls for games on Saturday and Sunday with “special broadcasts” possibly on Fridays and/or Mondays.  [Aside: No, I do not know what a “special broadcast” might be.]
  • Mike Pereira is the Head of Officiating for the USFL and will remain as the “Rules Analyst” for FOX on NFL telecasts.
  • “Moose” Johnston is the Executive VP of Football Operations for the USFL and a color analyst for FOX on NFL telecasts.
  • This year, all games will be played in Birmingham, AL even though the teams will carry the names of cities around the country.  The idea is to save funds on travel costs and for all the teams to transition to their “real homes” by 2024.
  • The league will start with 8 teams; each team will have 38 roster players and 7 more players on a practice squad.

The league will hold its draft in late February.  According to reports, there are two “interesting” names that are already in the draft pool.  The first is Trent Richardson who came out of Alabama as the best thing since sliced bread at running back; he was drafted by the Browns with the third overall pick in 2012.  Richardson lasted two seasons in the NFL – the Browns traded him to the Colts – and then he went to the Saskatchewan Rough Riders and then to the Alliance of American Football and is now affiliated somehow with the Caudillos de Chihuahua of Mexico in the Futbol Americano de Mexico.  It seems to me that Richardson has taken to heart the lyrics of a song by Dion and the Belmonts from the 1960s:

“Oh yeah I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place I roam from town to town
And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl
I hop right into that car of mine and ride around the world
‘Cause I’m a wanderer, yeah a wanderer
I roam around around, around, around, around…”

The other interesting name in the draft pool that I ran across is Vinny Papale.  He graduated from Delaware in 2019 and has been to mini-camps with the Raiders, Eagles and Football Team.  He is the son of Vince Papale who made the Eagles as a walk-on back in the late 70s because Eagles’ coach Dick Vermeil was impressed by his work ethic.  His father’s story was told in the movie, Invincible where Mark Wahlberg played the role of Vince Papale and Greg Kinnear played the role of Dick Vermeil.

There is a non-football side issue with the new version of the USFL that is interesting.  All players and everyone on the staff in the USFL will have the opportunity to get a “tuition-free and debt-free” college degree.  The league has a partnership with Capella University and Strayer University that will give players access to online classes for credit and in-person classes if they are available and are preferred by the players/staff.  Moreover, these universities offer masters’ degrees in several fields meaning that players/staff who finished an undergraduate program could earn a graduate degree if they are interested.

That educational opportunity will probably have no bearing on the USFL’s on-field product, but it is an interesting twist on ways to compensate young football players.

One final thing I learned about the USFL is something I am not sure is such a good idea.

  • The USFL will grant eligibility to any player who graduated high school in 2020 or earlier.

Some people graduate from high school at age 17; that means it is possible for a 19-year-old to be eligible for the USFL.  Yes, I know about Herschel Walker and about Maurice Clarett.  I also know that professional football is played in the main by adults who have spent a lot of time developing the musculature to withstand the violence of the game.  The vast majority of 19-year-olds are not ready to take that sort of punishment.

I recognize that this is a situation of “free choice” by the participants and that 19-year-olds are legally adults.  I still would prefer not to have them eligible for professional football.

So, there are some of the results of my meanderings through a Google search for “USFL”.  The plan is to start the league on April 16th.  The 8 teams will be divided into two divisions; each team will play a 10-game schedule consisting of 6 games against the other 3 division opponents and a single encounter with the 4 teams in the other division.  The top two teams in each division will make the playoffs and the season should be over by the 4th of July.

Bonne chance USFL 2.0…

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with words from Woody Allen:

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying.”

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



Going Beyond Baseball’s Economic Issues…

There was a comment on a recent rant asking about any sort of indication(s) of progress in the MLB/MLBPA negotiations.  The bottom-line answer is that the two sides seem to have begun their “thousand-mile journey” by taking a first step.  Reports said that the two sides met for an  hour and …

  1. The players were “unimpressed” by the offer made by the owners
  2. The meeting ended without physical violence.
  3. There was no announcement of the next scheduled negotiating session.

The negotiations ongoing here are about nothing other than money; the chasm between the two sides is simply that the players want more of baseball’s revenues to flow to them and the owners want to keep more of that same revenue for themselves.  Everything else that you will hear and read about is peripheral to or derivative of that fundamental issue.  So, I want to take the following position on the negotiations:

  • There is a mountain of money up for grabs here.  If anyone wishes to doubt that consider that Max Scherzer will make more than $40M per year for the next 3 years to start – hopefully – 30 times in a season for the Mets.  That means the Mets have a lot of money and Max Scherzer is getting a lot of money.
  • I can point to other examples here, but you get the idea.  No one involved in these negotiations on either side of the table is going to qualify for a $600 stimulus check from the government.
  • Ergo, I want to ignore all the economic issues confronting baseball today and assume that the two sides will have a kumbaya news conference once they figure out where the economic balance point is.  At that time, I’ll become interested in the economics once again.

What I want to do is to look at the on-field product that MLB and the MLBPA puts on for the fans who provide both sides with the money they are arguing over.  The reason I want to focus on that sort of stuff is that neither side is going to be happy if the revenue stream starts to flow less robustly.  And make no mistake, there are problems to be solved in the “product arena”.

The MLB/MLBPA “product” is entertainment; sometimes the entertainment is experienced live and in person; sometimes it is consumed via radio or TV.  Entertainment is enhanced when something happens on the field and some things that happen on the field are more entertaining than others.  So, consider the following stats from 2021:

  • For the season, there were 39,484 base hits in MLB games
  • For the season, there were 42,145 strikeouts in MLB games

In 1969, baseball faced a similar “problem”; hitters were overpowered, and the game slowed to a crawl.  So, they lowered the mound and there were more base hits meaning there was more entertainment for fans.  MLB and the MLBPA need to take a deep breath here and recognize that their arguments over revenue splitting might someday be trumped by the fact that revenues for baseball are in decline.  Maybe, the two sides need to work on how to improve the product with the same vigor as they pursue getting a bigger portion of the pie.

Let me say this as starkly as I can:

  • It will not matter if the new CBA contains measures to assure that teams are not tanking and living off shared revenues nor will it matter how long it takes before a  young player becomes eligible for salary arbitration if the public gets bored with the entertainment product and takes its interest elsewhere.

And just for giggles, consider the possibility of a shift in interest by the public in 2022.  Suppose that the hardliners on both sides of the table lock down these negotiations to the point that the season does not begin until May 1st.  I hope that does not happen, but please do not rule it out.  Starting in April 2022 will be the rebooted USFL which is partially owned by FOX Sports, and which already has a national TV contract.  I suspect that the execs in the USFL offices are lighting candles in churches all over the country praying for the baseball lockout to extend beyond their first couple of weeks on the air.

Football – collegiate and the NFL – now dominates the sports attention of the US public; it used to be baseball, but that day is gone.  If MLB is playing its normal schedule without making fans hear and read about spats among billionaire owners and millionaire players – – along with smug and oily agents – -, it would command much more attention that yet one more “Spring Football League”.  But if MLB is dark…???

Here is a challenge for Rob Manfred, Tony Clark and their minions:

  • Get the CBA done quickly and with minimal rancor such that two things happen.  First, Spring Training and the regular season begin “on time”.  Second, there is enough residual “good will” for everyone involved to come together again and to address changes to the game that will solidify baseball’s position in the US sporting cosmos.

Here is a challenge for sportswriters, columnists and TV “hot-takers”:

  • Let the CBA negotiators know that you are going to ignore them until and unless they have a press conference to announce the existence of a new CBA.  In George Orwell’s novel 1984, there were things called “unpersons”; they were erased from public memory; there was no record of their existence.  That is too harsh for the CBA negotiators but maybe they should be consigned to “unperson status” until they reach an agreement?

Did someone ask what sort of game changes might be needed to increase the entertainment value of MLB?  I am not going to pretend to have a magic balm that once applied to the game will cure everything instantly – – but I do think the time has come for serious consideration of these alterations:

  1. Implement an electronic means for calling balls and strikes.  If hitters have a more consistent strike zone to manage – – consistent from game to game and from first inning to ninth inning in a single game – – they are likely to get more hits meaning they are likely to produce more entertaining action.
  2. Lower the mound again?  To me, that is certainly a better idea than moving the pitching rubber back one foot.
  3. Pitch clocks – strictly enforced – along with limits on the number of pickoff attempts will also produce better pace of play and potentially more stolen base attempts (more action).
  4. Revisit the idea and the implementation of “instant replay” because it is never “instant”.

Since today was about baseball, let me close with some words from Henry Aaron:

“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball.  It took one afternoon on the golf course.”

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



Coaching Vacancies In The NFL…

The hunting season for NFL coaches may not be over – – but surely the majority of the “harvesting’ is done.  As of this morning, the Raiders still have their interim head coach – – but they have fired their GM, Mike Mayock – – and there are rumors that Jerry Jones might be sufficiently disappointed in the Cowboys’ self-inflicted exit from the playoffs to give in to his impulses and fire Mike McCarthy – – but that still remains to be seen.

  • [Aside:  I am not sure what McCarthy does for a living in Dallas.  He does not call the offense; he does not call the defense; he does not call the special teams.  If his job is motivation and coaching up the players to play “smart football” then he should be fired immediately because the Cowboys were flat last weekend and were beyond stupid on the field.]

In any event, let me review the teams that have actual coaching vacancies as of this morning and try to assess how good those jobs might look to potential candidates.  I’ll take them in alphabetical order to avoid any hint of rank ordering on my part.

Bears:  This roster needs improvement on the OL and at WR and the “draft capital” has been depleted in previous trades for Khalil Mack and in the deals that got the Bears earlier draft slots such that they could take Mitchell Trubisky and later Justin Fields.  If Fields is “for real” and can be developed over a year or two, that will ease the severity of the Bears’ situation, but Fields looked like an early work-in-progress when he got time as the starter in mid-season.  The biggest question mark facing a coach who seeks out this job resides about 200 miles north of Chicago in Green Bay, WI.  That question mark is:

  • Will Aaron Rodgers stay with the Packers?

The stark reality is that if Rodgers stays in Green Bay – and therefore in the NFC North – the Bears are not winning that division until he leaves.  This is neither the best job opening out there nor is it the worst – – unless Rodgers stays in Green Bay and plays as long as Tom Brady has played in the NFL…

Broncos:  Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Broncos desperately need a top-shelf QB.  One would think that having John Elway involved in the selection process for a starting QB would give the Broncos the inside track on resolving that issue.  Not so.  Ever since the end of the 2015 season when Peyton Manning retired, here are the QBs who have started for the Broncos:

  1. Trevor Siemian (24 games)
  2. Paxton Lynch (4 games)
  3. Brock Osweiler (11 games)
  4. Case Keenum (16 games)
  5. Joe Flacco (8 games)
  6. Drew Lock (21 games)
  7. Brandon Allen (3 games)
  8. Jeff Driskel (1 game)
  9. Brett Rypien (1game)
  10. Philip Lindsey (1 game)
  11. Teddy Bridgewater (14 games)

That represents 6 seasons of mediocrity and this year’s Draft class for QBs is ”not highly regarded”.  The rest of the Broncos’ roster is solid particularly in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver.  The coach that takes the job in Denver must either get Teddy Bridgewater to improve his game significantly AND to stay healthy – – or pray for a miraculous anointing of a journeyman QB plucked from the world ether to become “elite”.  This job is probably good for a 3-year run before a lack of playoff success gets the new guy fired.  Oh, and just for giggles, the ownership of the team is in the process of changing; who knows what the new owner will be like…  Ergo, the key in the deal for the new coach is how much gets paid out to him by the deal when he gets fired…

            Dolphins:  I still have no understanding as to why Brian Flores was fired.  One bit of “inside information” is that Flores’ relationship with QB Tua Tagovaiola had soured.  Pardon me, but what has Tua done in his NFL career that would make an owner take his side in a dispute with a coach that has had a winning record with the franchise – – assuming that such a dispute actually existed.  In these days of “offensive football” where things favor the passing game, Tua has yet to have a season with more than 2653 yards passing – – and he has been injured enough to miss 9 games in 2 seasons.  [Aside:  If  a coaching aspirant is looking at the “successes” of the GM above him, he should focus on the fact that the current GM selected Tua instead of Justin Herbert – – for whatever that is worth.]  The good news here is that the Dolphins’ defense is very good, and they have Jaylen Waddle at WR who appears poised to have a fine NFL career; the bad news is that team ownership/leadership has been sub-par over the past decade or so.  This would not be a good job for a first-time coach because it could stamp him as “a loser”; if the team can convince an experienced coach to take the job, it would be somewhat better…

Giants:  This team is a mess.  Daniel Jones has been in the league for 3 seasons now; he has started 38 games; the Giants’ record in those games is 12-26.  I do not mean to say that Jones is a lost cause – – but he is not someone who can put a mediocre team on his back and scratch out victories.  Oh, and he missed the last 6 games of the 2021 season with a neck injury.  Having said that, Jones is not the weak link in the Giants’ offense; part of his lack of success has to be attributed to a bad offensive line and a wide receiving cadre that elicits “Meh!” when under consideration.  So, the owners let the GM who assembled this roster “retire” with a ceremony on the field for the final game but then fired the coach who had to deal with that hot mess.  Is that a situation a new coach will find “favorable”?  The last three head coaches and the last GM hired by John Mara have been singularly unsuccessful; if this coaching search goes differently, it will be fortunate indeed.  Given the microscopic scrutiny the Giants will get by the NY press corps, this is not a job that looks to be “coach-friendly”…

Jags:  From what I saw in his time at Clemson, Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent at QB; prior to Lawrence’s time at Clemson, the last college QB to make me take notice to the same degree was Andrew Luck at Stanford.  James Robinson is a solid running back who averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year.  The defense is young and inexperienced but has talent.  However, the offensive line and the wide receivers are sub-standard.  Unlike most of these job openings, the QB situation is in good shape; but the rest of the team needs talent upgrades and significant additions to the “coaching-up” processes.  If a competent coaching staff can come together here and develop the players much more successfully than happened last year, it will not be difficult to show improvement.  There should be no exotic expectations for the Jags among its fans – or even its owner –; there will not be a fan revolt if the team does not “make a playoff run” sometime in the next two seasons; with competence and steady improvement, the new coach here has a chance to make a positive impression on fans and in Front Offices around the league.  One downside to this position is that the GM, Trent Baalke, does not enjoy a positive reputation around the league and many Jags’ fans wanted him fired at the end of the season too.  All in all, this is a job worth chasing…

Texans:  The Texans ranked dead last in the NFL in total offense for 2021; that result is directly tied to the Deshaun Watson “situation”; until and unless the Texans get Watson back under center – a status he says is unacceptable to him – or they acquire a competent QB in a trade or through the draft, the Texans are consigned to the bottom of the AFC South.  The real issue here in my mind relates to reports out of Houston about how the disenchantment with management came to be for Watson and then how all the parties to that tension found ways to make a bad situation lots and lots worse.  Let me be polite here and say that more than a few reports about the environment in Houston regarding the owner and the GM and the football operations folks paint them as “flaky” or “not in line with folks in similar positions around the league”.  Aspirants for this position need to consider these two parallel realities:

  1. The roster is gutted and without Watson the offense is going to be at or near the bottom of the league again in 2022.
  2. There are only 32 NFL head coaching jobs on the planet – – and this is one of them.

Vikings:  Mike Zimmer had been in that job for 8 seasons; his firing was not some knee-jerk reaction by ownership.  For me, the telltale stats that say it was time for the team to move on are these:

  • The Vikings’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL in total yards allowed (383.6 yards per game).  Only the Texans and Jets were worse.
  • The Vikings’ defense ranked 29th in the NFL in points allowed per game
  • In 2020, the Vikings’ defense ranked 27th in the NFL in total yards allowed (393.3 yards per game).
  • In 2020, the Vikings’ defense ranked 24th in the NFL in points allowed per game.
  • Mike Zimmer is a “defensive coach”; those results are not even remotely “acceptable”.

The positive side of this job opening is the offense.  Kirk Cousins is a serviceable QB; Dalvin Cook is a top-shelf running back and Justin Jefferson is a monster at WR.  If the new coach and GM – – the team is looking for both – – can find a way to shore up the defense and make it only “middle of the pack” when it comes to those sorts of defensive stats, this could be a very rewarding position…

So, there is my overview for what it is worth.  Since you get it for free, you know exactly what it is worth…

Finally, these hirings in the coaching domain will be finalized by team owners – – incredibly rich people.  So, let me close today with an observation about “The Rich” by George Bernard Shaw:

“What is the matter with the poor is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness.”

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