Bruce Arians Steps Down

The  retirement of Bruce Arians earlier this week was a surprise particularly considering Tom Brady’s “unretirement”.  Arians is indeed a “football lifer”; early in his coaching career, he was an assistant to Bear Bryant at Alabama.  Not counting a stint as an interim coach in Indy when Chuck Pagano had to step aside for medical reasons, Arians was a head coach for 8 years first with the Cards and then with the Bucs.  In those 8 seasons his teams went 80-48-1 in the regular season and 6-3 in playoff games.

Some QBs get a reputation as a “gunslinger”.  Arians was the coaching equivalent of a “gunslinger”.  No matter the game situation, if his QB saw a key matchup at the line of scrimmage, the QB had a green light to go for the big play.  Arians’ teams were fun to watch.

Arians will stay with the Bucs as a “Senior Football consultant” – – whatever that means.  According to reports, he convinced Bucs’ ownership to turn the team over to his defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles.  I will be surprised if Bowles demonstrates the same offensive boldness that Arians showed, but I think the Bucs made a good choice.  [Aside:  Arians and Bowles have a long-term association; Bowles was a cornerback at Temple in the 1980s when Arians was the head coach there.]

Even though Bowles’ record as the head coach of the Jets is a bad one (his teams went 24-40-0 in 4 seasons there), I think he did a good job.  He took over a Jets squad that had gone 4-12 under Rex Ryan the year before he took over, and the Jets finished 10-6 in his first season.  The Jets’ problem was not the coach; it was the roster.  Importantly, even when the Jets posted bad records in Bowles’ subsequent seasons, the team played hard for him.  To my simplistic sense, that showed Bowles had the leadership/motivational chops to be a head coach in the NFL.

Having said all that, I would have to turn in my credentials as a curmudgeon if I did not see one potentially ominous outcome here:

  • Memo to TV Network Execs:  Please take pity on your audience and resist any and all temptations to hire Bruce Arians as a color commentator.  He did that for one season, and he was as bad on the microphone as he was good on the sidelines.

Moving on …  Obviously, I am anticipating three entertaining college basketball games for the weekend.  I have mentioned here before that I spent more time in the Palestra in Philly as an undergrad than I did in the library and that I have not missed an NCAA Tournament Final Game telecast since LaSalle beat Bradley in 1954.  I love to watch good college basketball games as much as any other sporting endeavor.

Often, I am criticized by NBA fans who say that I should prefer NBA basketball because the skill level there is far superior to the skill level in the college game.  I do not think that the linkage between skill level and fan enjoyment is as strong as my critics would assume.  I stipulate that the worst NBA team would beat this year’s national champions nine times out of ten and the margins of victory would be double digits.  Here are two things about NBA basketball that I find far less interesting than college basketball:

  1. In the college game, every player hustles and plays hard all the time.  Such is not the case in NBA games.
  2. Too many NBA games have devolved into a 3-point shooting contest.  Such contests are not entertaining when staged as such during All-Star Week and they are not entertaining as a basketball game.

The prosecution here would like to offer as Exhibit A the results of a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 19, 2022.  The Timberwolves won the game 138-119 so it wasn’t exactly a nail-biter going into the final moments of the contest.  But that is not the worst part.  Consider:

  • The Bucks attempted 52 3-point shots in the game
  • The Timberwolves attempted 47 3-point shots in the game.

Those numbers do not lie; the two teams combined to launch 99 3-point shots in a 48-minute game.  That works out to be one long range jump shot every 29 seconds.  Had I spent $75 for a ticket to that game, I would not have left the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis thinking I had been well and properly entertained for the evening.  If anyone is interested, here is a link to the box score for that game.  This is not an April Fool’s prank.

Granted, I went and found a game with an outrageous number of 3-point shot attempts for this rant.  However, it is not uncommon to find games with 80+ such attempts and if you do the math there, you might have to concede that watching an NBA game in 2022 consists of watching a whole lot of long-range jump shots.

The NBA has far superior athletes – – but those athletes exhibit their skills in a less than exciting fashion.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

Finally, Dwight Perry had a cogent observation in the Seattle Times recently:

“Definition of a moral dilemma: You’re an anti-masker AND a major-league catcher.”

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