Brady Retires – – Again – – For Good

Yesterday, by the time I emerged from my lair – – known as Curmudgeon Central – – for the purpose of having some dinner, I had received 5 separate emails all containing some variant of this question:

Does Tom Brady mean it this time?

Obviously, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I hope that he does.  His recanting of his retirement last year cost him his family.  Obviously, I do not have the competitive fire that Brady must have to do what he has done; but that is a cost that I would not be able to reconcile.  On the assumption that Brady maintains his retirement status, I think there are two immediate fallouts and one interesting question:

  • Fallout #1:  The Bucs have a QB conundrum on their hands.  With Brady gone, the only QB on the roster who is signed for 2023 is Kyle Trask who has never taken a snap in an NFL game.  At the same time, Brady’s retirement will “cost” the Bucs about $35M in “dead money” against their salary cap so that will hinder their maneuverability in the free agent market.
  • Fallout #2:  Both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy can relax and focus on their injury rehab regimens without looking over their shoulders to see if rumors of Brady “coming home” to finish out his career in NoCal where it all started have any substance.
  • Interesting Question:  FOX has Brady under contract for 10 years after he retires and FOX will televise the Super Bowl a week from Sunday.  I cannot imagine that the FOX execs would stick Brady in the booth with no training/preparation, but might he be part of the larger programming/presentation?

Bob Molinaro posed this question in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot a few weeks ago and maybe we will start to see the outcome:

Sneaky suspicion: What do you want to bet that pass rushers will be granted more latitude once Tom Brady isn’t around anymore to protect?

A: Maybe we’ll find out soon enough…

Another NFL event went down yesterday; Sean Payton was hired to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos.  To make that hire, the Broncos had to trade for Payton since the Saints had him under contract through the 2024 season.  The price that the Saints extracted was a first round pick in 2023 and a second round pick in 2024.  Given the haul of draft picks the Broncos sent to Seattle to acquire Russell Wilson last year, Broncos’ fans have to hope that Payton’s offense and his tutelage can elevate Wilson’s level of play starting next season.  I think this is  an interesting gamble – – sort of like doubling down in blackjack when the dealer shows a face card.

With those two news items leading the way regarding the NFL, an under-the-radar story yesterday was the Houston Texans hiring DeMeco Ryans to be their head coach.  Ryans was the “hot coordinator candidate” for a head coaching job this season and his signing with the Texans is a kind of homecoming for him since he began his playing career as a linebacker for the Texans.  His entire coaching career has been with the Niners starting in 2017 and culminating in his being the defensive coordinator for the last 2 seasons.

The Niners’ brass also seemed to close the door on the possibility of Jimmy G staying with the team next year.  Kyle Shanahan addressed a question about that possibility this way:

“No, I don’t see any scenario of that.”

And that statement leads me to believe that Shanahan and GM John Lynch have a plan in mind for the QB position in SF next year.  If I choose to look at the glass half-empty as is my wont, the Niners now have two very green QBs who are injured and who will miss significant off-season time rehabbing significant injuries.  Trey Lance does not have enough game experience to say he has even had a cup of coffee in the league yet; Brock Purdy was a great underdog story with his winning streak last season but let me say that his résumé is still a bit thin.  The Niners’ defense – even with the departure of defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans – is a top-shelf unit. So …

  • Will the Niners stand-pat at QB or are they quietly in the “QB free agent market”?

In the world of college football coaches, there was an interesting story that surfaced earlier this week.  An audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office of the Athletic Department at LSU discovered that the university accidently over-paid head coach Brian Kelly by $1,001,368 back in May and June of 2022.  The overpayment was discovered in November and confirmed in December and arrangements have been made to recover the overpayments.  There is no allegation of any sort of nefarious dooings here; it appears to have been a “paperwork error”.

Here is my take on that situation:

  • Wouldn’t it be great to be in a situation where your boss overpaid you by $1M and that mistaken overpayment did not jump out as a “WTF moment” as you did whatever financial management you do?

Finally, since I mentioned Brian Kelly’s financial situation here, let me close with this observation by author Dorothy Parker:

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are “check enclosed.”

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

 

 

Why the NFL Is the “King Of TV”

`           Yesterday, I discussed the dominant position of the NFL in the world of television.  Today, I want to hypothesize on why that is the case.  Obviously, Americans like the game of football and like to watch it; to get to the level of dominance on TV that the NFL has gotten to, the viewing public must like what they tune into watch.  That is a sine qua non and needs no further discussion.

Another key element for the size of the audience for NFL games is the betting market for those games.  Sportsbooks in 30 states and on the Internet do a huge business in terms of handle for pro football games, and the fact is that viewers like to watch games where they “have a little something riding on the outcome(s).”

However, those two factors – – love of football and the easy access to a place where a wager might be made – – seems not to carry over to major college football where there are rabid fanbases for at least twenty of the top-shelf college teams.  Thinking about that difference leads me to consider two things that I consider to be major factors as to why NFL football enjoys the perch that it does.

  1. There are only 17 games per team in an NFL regular season; so, every game is important to about 24 teams who have playoff aspirations at the start of every season.  One NFL game carries the same weight as 9.5 MLB games in terms of the standings; one NFL game carries the same weight as almost 5 NBA games.
  2. NFL games are on TV 3 times a week; but in general, there are only 5 games to watch on those days.  Only a third of NFL games are available to fans on “free TV”, so there is a measure of scarcity there.

Let me compare those two situations to other sports as it regards their TV presence:

  • College Football:  The 12-game regular season makes “every game matter” even though every major college schedules about 2 games a year where only the final score matters.  However, the fanbases for college teams do not overlap that much for most of the year and there are too many regional situations where fans of Team A have no interest in another conference game in their own conference.  As an example, in recent years, Alabama fans have not been on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about the results of the Missouri/Vandy game.  Truth be told, 99% of Alabama fans could not care less…  Also, for fans of Alabama – – or Georgia or Ohio State or Michigan or … – – virtually every game on the schedule is available for viewing by the fanbase.  So, the audience for major college football is fragmented and it is saturated at the same time for the really rabid fans of individual teams.
  • MLB:  There are 162 games in the regular season and it is difficult to see how any matchup in early May is going to be “critical” way down the line in September.  Major league baseball games are occurrences; NFL games are events.  There are ways to bet on baseball games, but statistics say that the handle in sportsbooks during baseball season is only about one eighth of what it is during football season.  People do not bet on baseball games nearly as much as they do on football games and that reduces interest in tuning in to see how your team – – and your “action” – – is doing.
  • NBA:   There are too many games in the regular season to hold viewer interest; a November game between two teams that have the same chance of “making a playoff run” as the Washington Generals is simply uninteresting.  Many fans would rather watch a weeknight MAC football game than watch the Detroit Pistons square off against the Houston Rockets.  There is ample interest in wagering on NBA games but there is far too much inventory for TV to handle.  The NFL regular season is 272 games; the NBA regular season is 1230 games.

The NBA and MLB also suffer from over-exposure on TV.  I don’t know if this is the case for every MLB and/or NBA team, but I can see all of my local teams’ games if that is my choice.  That is a lot of time staring at a TV screen.  Think about it; 162 Washington Nats games at 3 hours apiece plus 82 Washington Wizards games at 2 hours apiece equals 650 hours of my life watching a whole lot of games that I knew were irrelevant even before I turned the TV set on.  Meh!

Many years ago – – after the dinosaurs went extinct but before the dawn of the Internet – – there was this thing that MLB did on Saturday afternoons called the “Game of the Week”.  It was an event; I got to see teams from far away from my home viewing area; it was special; I watched those games far more often than not..  That programming is gone and replaced by myriad meaningless games that I have learned to avoid.  MLB has chosen quantity over quality; the NFL does no such thing with scheduling flexibilities that allow for important games to be “flexed” into prime viewing windows; the NFL values quality programming over “whatever programming”.

Basically, the same situation applies to the NBA; quantity trumps quality of their programming into my household.  I very much enjoy watching sports on TV, but I would rather spend two hours comparing health insurance plans than spending two hours watching the Washington Wizards compete in a life-and-death-struggle with the Charlotte Hornets.  In addition, the NBA games have to deal with “load management” games.  Were I to happen to tune in to see the Wizards play the Sixers – – as an example – – , one of the things I would want to see there is the play of Joel Embiid and James Harden.  Now, if one – or both – happen to need a night off to rest up, my interest in watching that game would evaporate about 5 minutes into the first quarter.

And that brings me to my final comparison sport – – college basketball.  I love college basketball; my long-suffering wife has to plan our social life around Conference Tournament Week and March Madness every year.  Notwithstanding the superior skill level demonstrated by NBA teams, I far prefer to watch college basketball to pro basketball.  And having said that, college basketball is so over-exposed on TV that it has become a travesty.

Last weekend, the Washington Post dutifully reported on the various sporting events that would be available to people who had access to various over-the-air channels and cable sports channels in this area.  For Saturday and Sunday there were 31 different college basketball games available and a couple of them were available as replays on channels that did not carry the games live.  Let me do some math for you;

  • 31 games involve 62 teams.
  • These were not 62 of the 68 teams that will compete in March Madness 2023.  In fact, some of the games involved teams where I was only half-aware that the school competed in Division 1 college basketball.
  • College basketball – a sport that I love – is grossly overexposed on TV!

Like MLB, college basketball used to have a regional college game on the weekends along with a national game.  Here in the DC area, we could watch the best ACC game on a weekend and also find a game between – say – UCLA/Notre Dame.  If that is the weekend menu; that is “appointment TV”.   If my TV menu includes Quinnipiac versus Niagara, I would choose to rearrange my sock drawer instead of tuning in.

The NFL has found the “sweet spot”.  It puts lots of games on the air to gather an audience and develop widespread interest.  At the same time, it minimizes the out of area coverage for “meaningless games” and uses scheduling flexibility to assure a good game in most of the big-time viewing slots.  And every regular season game has significant meaning in terms of playoffs and potential championships.  The other major sports in the US have not figured out how to do that – – and unless they do they will never overtake the NFL as a valuable TV property.

Last weekend, the NFL semi-final games drew audiences of around 50 million viewers – – give or take a couple million.  The Super Bowl in two weeks will certainly play to an audience of 95 million viewers or more,  Consider these data:

  • 2022 March Madness Final Game attracted 18.1 million viewers
  • 2022 FIFA World Cup Final Game attracted 16.8 million viewers (in the US)
  • 2022 NBA Final Series averaged 12.4 million viewers
  • 2022 MLB World Series averaged 11.8 million viewers
  • 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Finals averaged 4.9 million viewers (in the US)

The disparity in the audiences is massive.  I believe the key factors are the importance of every week’s games in the NFL tied to the scheduling that makes fans appreciate the league as well as the local team that fans root for.  Other sports need to do a lot of catching up along those lines…

Finally, since today’s rant was about the NFL’s dominance of the TV marketplace, let me close with this observation from former Jets’ coach Herm Edwards that may have some relevance to the Super Bowl game in two weeks:

“One thing you know about playoff competition is this: If you have a hot quarterback and your defense can take the ball away, you don’t need to have a dominant defense anymore.”

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

 

 

The NFL On TV …

I ran across a report recently that led with the following sentence:

“The NFL suffered a slight decrease in television viewership for the 2022 regular season.”

I wondered if this was going to be another “Chicken Little” piece pondering the demise of the NFL’s popularity.  Items of that nature have gotten traction over the past 5-10 years even though they bear little if any relationship to reality.  Fortunately this report was simply stating the facts and let its readers know that with this second sentence:

“But that was due mainly to turning “Thursday Night Football” into a streaming-only property.”

In 2021, Thursday Night Football was telecast on NFL Network and/or FOX and/or Amazon Prime Video; in 2022, it was only streamed on Amazon.  The simple fact of the matter is that the Thursday games in 2021 were available in more households than was the case in 2022 and so the average viewership for an NFL regular season game was down 2% to 16.7 million viewers.  That includes some of the “eyesore games” from last year like Bears/Texans and still the average was 16.7 million fans in front of their TV sets.

In a normal TV year – – meaning one without a Presidential inauguration or the funeral of a beloved world icon – – the Oscars ceremony is a top TV draw.  Last year, the Oscars had an audience of 16.6 million viewers – – ever so slightly below the average NFL regular season game.  That is one perspective on the NFL’s dominance of TV ratings and here is another:

  • NFL regular season games accounted for 47 of the Top 50 telecasts from September 2022 – – the start of the NFL regular season – – through the end of 2022.

And what were the “other three” TV shows that cracked that “Top 50 List”?

  1. Ohio St./Georgia in the CFP Semi-Finals (ranked 26th)
  2. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (ranked 27th)
  3. Michigan/TCU in the CFP Semi-Finals (ranked 30th)

Football is not in the process of wasting away as a source of entertainment in the US.  Yes, it is a violent sport and yes, the players can suffer significant long-term injuries and disabilities related to their playing that violent sport.  And maybe some day in the distant future, there will be a significant decrease in interest in that violent sport.  But that day is not today and it certainly does not look as if that day is imminent.

And by the way, when the NFL began its playoffs, the audiences grew significantly.  Just in the first round of the playoffs the Giants/Vikes game drew 33 million viewers while the smallest audience for one of those wild card games was the Jags/Chargers game with a mere 22 million viewers.  Last weekend, the Eagles/Niners audience was 47.5 million and the Chiefs/Bengals audience was 53.1 million viewers.

Those numbers – combined with an anticipated audience of about 95 million viewers for the Super Bowl in two weeks – is the reason advertisers pay top dollar to put their messages on NFL telecasts; and in turn, that is why the networks pay ridiculous amounts of money to the NFL to be able to put the games on the air.  Amazon Prime Video is “dragging down” the average viewership for the year; nonetheless, Amazon in paying the NFL $1B annually to present 15 games on Thursday nights or approximately $67M per game.

Another “drag” on average viewership for NFL games is the expansion in the number of international games.  It makes plenty of economic sense for the NFL to try to grow the game overseas, but the fact is that games in Europe televised at 9:00 AM on Sunday on the east coast and 6:00 AM on the west coast do not draw big audiences no matter what network has the game(s).  In any event, the NFL has already announced that it will play 5 games in Europe in 2023 and that 5 AFC teams will be the home team in those games.  [Aside:  AFC teams will host 9 regular season games next year so having those teams as the home team in Europe does not cause any NFC team to have only 7 home games on the schedule.  The only outlier in that scheduling structure would be Jax who has a deal to play a game in Wembley Stadium (London) even when the AFC teams have only 8 home games.)

The five host teams next year will be:

  • Jags, Bills and Titans – – in London
  • Pats, Chiefs – – in site(s) to be announced but presumed to be in Germany.

The five visiting teams and the dates for the various games have not been announced yet and presumably will not be announced until May of this year which is the traditional time for the official release of the full NFL schedule.

Finally, let me close today with a random entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Link:  Diminutive of ‘hyperlink’ or the coded element placed in an electronic communication that allows navigation to another Internet location.  In 90 percent of emails sent by your annoying friends, this link will get you to a viral video about some guy who does incredibly realistic sidewalk paintings or an inspiring story about a polar bear who made friends with a ferret.

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

 

 

RIP Billy Packer

Billy Packer died last week.  I first became aware of him when I saw him play for Wake Forest back in the 1960s on a team anchored by Len Chappell.  He had a long career in broadcasting college basketball and was part of what I believe was the best announcing team for that sport ever.  Dick Enberg on play-by-play, Al McGuire and Billy Packer on color/analysis was as good as it got.

Rest in peace, Billy Packer…

The February 2023 version of the Super Bowl is set.  You can call it the Andy Reid Career Review or – if you prefer – the Kelce Family Reunion; the Eagles and the Chiefs will do the honors in a couple of weeks.  The two teams got there is completely different fashions yesterday.

  • The outcome of the Eagles/Niners game was all but decided in the first quarter when a sack-fumble on Niners’ QB Brock Purdy rendered the elbow on this throwing arm inoperative.
  • The outcome of the Chiefs/Bengals game went down to the wire and was decided on a field goal with less than 10 seconds left on the clock.

Back in December, I was exchanging Holiday Greetings with a friend; he and I traditionally attend a Super Bowl party hosted by a mutual friend.  He said that he would see me at the Super Bowl party; I said it would be the Eagles and the Chiefs with the score Eagles 45 and Chiefs 38.  He suggested the Eagles might win 41-33 – the same score that the Eagles posted in their win over the Pats five years ago.  My thought was:

  • Been there; done that.

The Niners had to press Josh Johnson into action when Purdy’s elbow was hurt in the first quarter.  Kevin Burkhardt said that this was Johnson’s 13th team in a 10-year NFL career.  [Aside:  Being with 13 teams in 10 years tells me he is not an NFL-caliber QB but that he is a positive element on an NFL roster.]  And by the way, Johnson has toiled in other pro football leagues with teams such as the Sacramento Mountain Lions and the LA Wildcats.  Then, the nail in the icing – – to mix metaphors here – – had Johnson exit the game with a concussion.

Having mentioned Kevin Burkhardt, let me say that I have become a big fan of the tandem of Burkhardt and Greg Olsen calling NFL games.  Last year, I thought Olsen was hyperactive and tended to over-sensationalize lots of good-not-great plays.  But he has mellowed, and I like the two of them as a pairing in the broadcast booth.  From what I have read, Tom Brady’s contact with FOX assures him that he will be the analyst on the network’s #1 broadcast team.  I am on record saying that I am not so sure Brady will be all that great as a TV commentator and I am sure that as Brady goes through whatever “learning curve” he will need, the FOX broadcast tandem will take a step back from where Burkhardt/Olsen is today.

In case you missed it, the Mayor of Cincinnati tweeted that perhaps Patrick Mahomes should take a paternity test to find out if Joe Burrow is his daddy.  Given that Burrow had beaten the Chiefs three straight times, that might have been a useful quip in a sports column or maybe as a Tweet by a comedian.  Coming from an elected official it was edgy to say the least; even playing on a bum ankle, Mahomes demonstrated there is no clear patriarchy when it comes to AFC quarterbacks.

Dan Daly is one of the preeminent NFL historians out there and his data mining skills are unmatched.  The Eagles and Niners were probably still in the locker room changing into street clothes when he offered up this stat:

“The last NFL team that lost a playoff game by 24+ points & threw 18 or fewer passes – – like the 49ers just did – – was the Giants in the 1941 title game vs. the Bears (37-9, 15 attempts).  Only other team in fact.”

In last week’s Football Friday, I suggested that the offensive play-calling by Kellen Moore had a part in the Cowboys’ loss to the Niners.  All I can say now is that someone in the Jones’ family must agree with that assessment because over the weekend it was announced that the Cowboys had fired Kellen Moore and that play-calling responsibilities will rest with head coach Mike McCarthy next season.  I tend to think that coach firings are more for show than for cause – – but this one feels like it was a right decision after the way the Cowboys bowed out of the playoffs this year.  At the same time, let me say, “Good luck, Coach McCarthy.”  If anything like what happened to the Cowboys last week happens again next season, you too could be job hunting next January.

Finally, since I mentioned the Mayor of Cincinnati earlier, let me close with this observation by Eugene McCarthy tying together football and politics:

“Being in politics is like being a football coach; you have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 1/27/23

Today I am going to take a moment to savor this iteration of Football Friday because it is the penultimate one.  Two weeks from today, I will put this feature on the shelf for 6 months; so there is reason for me to want to relax and enjoy every keystroke.  As I do that, I am reminded of this assessment by author Gene Fowler:

“Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

As usual I will begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack selections.  Before I put forth the data here in its typical form, let me give a short overview.

  • I made 2 selections against the spread.
  • I made two selections regarding the Total Line.
  • I picked 2 teams to win as part of a Money Line Parlay.
  • All 6 of those selections were wrong.

In my defense, let me say only that it is equally difficult to pick 6 losers out of 6 selections as it is to pick 6 winners out of 6 selections.  Not a lot of consolation there…

Here are the data:

  • College = 0-0-0                                                          Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 0-4-0                                                                Season Total = 24-27-3
  • Money Line Parlays = 0-1                                         Season Total = 11-23
  • Profit/Loss = minus-$100                                         Season Total = +$408

 

College Football Commentary:

 

Alabama head coach, Nick Saban will need to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinator for next season.  A couple of weeks ago, defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, took the defensive coordinator position at Ole Miss.  That did not seem like a natural move to me at the time; but coaching shuffles in the SEC happen every year and so, I let it pass by.  This week, offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien took the job as the offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots.  Frankly, that does not surprise me at all.

When Bill O’Brien was fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans, his image as an NFL head coach was significantly tarnished.  Not a lot of things went right during his last weeks with the Texans; O’Brien needed to take a year or so to regroup and to put some luster on his credentials.  What better tired and true means of doing that than to go and be a senior assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama.  That ploy has worked miracles in the past.

Now, O’Brien makes a logical move to work with another coaching legend, Bill Belichick.  On the assumption that the Patriots’ offense is not a laughingstock next season and/or there is video evidence of Bill O’Brien acting “improperly” with a barnyard animal, I would say that the tarnish is virtually gone from Bill O’ Brien’s résumé.

Will this upheaval of the Alabama staff cause the Tide to “take a step back” next season?  I think there are two ways to look at that question:

  1. Alabama was 11-2 last season and if the CFP had been expanded last year, Alabama would have been in the Tournament.  It is pretty easy to “take a step back” from that level of performance.
  2. There have to be plenty of very talented coaches who would love to work at Alabama with Nick Saban.  I suspect that he will replace both coordinators with highly competent folks.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Going into last week’s playoff games, more than a few commentators opined that it was difficult for one team to beat an opponent three times in a season.  That “difficulty” is compounded by the fact that such a situation can only happen if the two teams in question are in the same division – – meaning the coaches and players know their opponents better than in a normal playoff situation.  However, it happened last week when the Eagles trounced the Giants, and I think as we look back on that spanking we should also consider this:

  • For one team to beat another team three times in a season, it can only mean that the first team has already beaten the second team twice.

If you looked back at the two Eagles/Giants games and gave much less credence to the game in Week 18 which had little to no significance, you would see that when it mattered, the Eagles beat the Giants 48-22.  That result should indicate that there is a significant disparity between the two squads – – and “disparity” showed itself again last week with a 38-7 Eagles’ win.  The combined score for the three contests was:

  • Eagles 108  Giants 45

There was a point in last week’s Eagles/Giants game that made me wonder about what was behind a coaching decision.  Here is the situation in general:

  • Eagles lead by 21 points early in the 4th quarter.  The Giants will need to score 3 TDs and hold the Eagles scoreless for the final 10-12 minutes just to tie the game.
  • The Giants face a 4th and 6 situation in their own territory – – but not deep in their own territory.
  • The Giants choose to punt the ball – – and I think that was the coaching equivalent of waving the white flag with that game situation in front of the team.

Daniel Jones had a good season in 2022 and his contract is up at the end of this season because the Giants chose not to exercise their fifth-year option.  So, does that “capitulation” by the coaching staff indicate that they do not have confidence in Daniel Jones to convert a 4th and 6 situation?  If so, does that mean they plan to move on from Daniel Jones as their starting QB?

Another thing came to mind as I watched the playoff games last weekend.  This is going to be an interesting time for free agent running backs in a few weeks.  Consider these 4 players:

  1. Saquon Barkley:  Age 26 next season.  Made the Pro Bowl twice in 5 seasons.  Career rushing average is 4.5 yards per carry.  2022 yards from scrimmage = 1650 yards.
  2. Josh Jacobs:  Age 25 next season.  Made the Pro Bowl twice in 4 seasons.  Career rushing average is 4.4 yards per carry.  2022 yards from scrimmage = 2053 yards.
  3. Tony Pollard:  Age 26 next season.  Made the Pro Bowl once in 4 seasons.  Career rushing average is 5.1 yards per carry.  2022 yards from scrimmage = 1378 yards.
  4. Miles Sanders:  Age 26 next season.  Made the Pro Bowl twice in 4 seasons.  Career rushing average is 5.0 yards per carry.  2022 yards from scrimmage = 1347 yards.

One or more of these guys could wind up with a franchise tag meaning they would be “off the market”.  However, if you assume they are all “on the market” and another team is looking to sign a free agent running back, here are four players who present very similar stats.  As I said, it could be an interesting time…

The Panthers decided to hire Frank Reich as their new head coach.  That choice has received some knee-jerk criticism because it means that interim coach Steve wilks who did an excellent job in that position last season was passed over.  Once again, a “white guy” got a head coaching job over a qualified “black guy”.

The “bad optics” here are magnified to some extent by the fact that Reich’s record in Indy – – his only head coaching experience at any level of football – – was a good-but-hardly-great 40-33-1 in four and a half seasons.  On the plus side, Reich has a reputation as a coach who improves the play of his QB and the Panthers need to upgrade their QB performance(s) in whatever way is open to them.

There is also an elephant in the room regarding Steve Wilks as a head coaching candidate.  If I were in the market to hire someone for a job – – any job – – and I had several applicants who presented varying degrees of competence for that job, I would be hesitant to hire the one candidate in the group who was in the process of suing me in court for whatever reason.  Forget items like race or gender or ethnicity or religious affiliation; given viable options, I think I would avoid hiring the guy that was suing me.

There is also a lot of speculation about where Sean Payton might wind up as a head coach.  I am on record saying that I hope it is somewhere – anywhere – in order to get him off TV where I think he is well below the level of “good”.  There are four teams that are still looking for a coach at this moment:

  • Broncos:  Maybe the best choice – – but possibly the worst choice too.  The defense is great and there is a QB in place who has had lots of success in his career.  That QB has also been a divisive element in a locker room.  This is a boom-or-bust situation for the next head coach.
  • Cards:  Here is all I need to know about that job.  They have a QB under contract through the 2028 season with a Cap Hit of $45-50M per year AND when they signed the original deal they stuck a clause in it requiring that QB to spend 5 hours a week at home studying the playbook.  That job would be a hard pass to me…
  • Colts:  As of this morning, the team depth chart shows Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger as the two guys at the position.  So, finding a franchise QB is Task One and at the same time, the new head coach will have to deal with Jim Irsay as the owner.  Yikes!
  • Texans:  I think this is the best position of the lot.  There is nowhere to go but up; the team has a bunch of high draft picks that could form the core of a newly constructed team; and the AFC South is not a juggernaut of a division.

For the various aspirants who seek these head coaching positions, I offer up this observation by Niccolo Machiavelli:

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

With the Cowboys exit from the playoffs last week, lots of folks piled on Dak Prescott for his performance in the game.  Unquestionably, losing 2 INTs was a major factor in the Cowboys’ loss but to be fair one was a tipped ball and the other was an excellent play by the defender.  I am not here to defend Dak Prescott; he has not played up to his $30+M per year contract.  However, I do think that an insufficient amount of “blame” for the Cowboys’ loss has been directed at Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and play caller.

  • Tony Pollard was injured and out of the game in the second quarter last week with an injury that required surgery.
  • If I counted correctly, in the second half, the Cowboys threw the ball 23 times and ran it 8 times – – only 6 of those carries by Ezekiel Elliott.
  • It is not as if the Cowboys’ passing game was lighting up the Niners’ defense.  The Cowboys only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt in the game.

Here is a brief look at last week’s playoff games:

Niners 19  Cowboys 12:  The Cowboys’ defense did its job; the Niners with Brock Purdy had been averaging almost 35 points per game and the Niners only put 19 points up on the board.  This loss belongs to the Cowboys’ offense; it is as simple as that.

Bengals 27  Bills 10:  This was a dominant performance by the Bengals; they scored 2 TDs on two long drives in the first quarter and never looked back.  The Bengals’ defense was stifling in the game pressuring Josh Allen on just about every passing play and holding the Bills to 63 yards rushing for the game.

Eagles 38 – Giants 7:  Here is a look at the stats that will show how lopsided this game really was:

  • Eagles’ Yards Rushing = 268 yards
  • Giants’ Total Offense = 227 yards

Chiefs 27  Jags 20:  This was the most fun game to watch.  Patrick Mahomes played the second half on an obviously injured leg/ankle; Trevor Lawrence served notice to the AFC South division that they will have to game plan for him starting in Week 1 of next season.  Chad Henne – – yes, he is still in the league – – led the Chiefs to a long TD drive while Mahomes was out of the game and Travis Kelce merely caught 14 passes for 98 yards and 2 TDs in the game.

 

This Week’s Games:

 

Let me get the weather forecasts on the table to start:

  • Philly:  Cloudy with temps around 50 degrees and a slight chance of rain.
  • KC:  Sun will be down with temps in the high teens/low 20s with a 2% chance of precipitation.

Basically, the weather forecasts for the weekend are positive.

However, at this point I feel the need to present two definitions from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Weather:  A natural phenomenon created by God to give boring people something to talk about.

And …

Weatherman:  A job created by television to give boring people something to talk about on camera.”

 

(Sun 3:00 PM EST)  Niners at Eagles – 2.5 (46.5):  The spread opened the week as a “pick ‘em game” but has been hovering at this level for most of the week.  I think the outcome of the game will hinge on the ability of the Eagles’ defense to contain the Niners’ running game.  For the regular season, the Eagles gave up 122  yards per game rushing (16th in the league); the Niners can and will run the football.  This should be a great game; I like the Eagles to win and cover here; put that in this week’s very abbreviated Six-Pack. 

(Sun 6:30 PM EST)  Bengals at Chiefs – 1.5 (47.5):  The lines for this game are all over the place.  You can find the spread anywhere from “pick ’em” to “Chiefs minus-2”.  The Total Line varies from 49 points to 47 points.  The numbers here seem to be the most prevalent ones even though I have not found a sportsbook that has both of those numbers posted at the same time.  I like the way the Bengals are playing now particularly on defense.  It is not a good idea to pick against the Chiefs at home, but I think the Bengals can get that job done; I’ll take the Bengals plus the points.  Also, give me the OVER in this game; put both selections in the Six-Pack.

Let me review this week’s half of a Six-Pack[Aside: If my selecting is no better than last week, you may consider that the half of a Six-Pack was presented by a half-wit.]

  • Eagles minus-2.5
  • Bengals + 1.5
  • Bengals/Chiefs OVER 47.5

            Finally, apropos of nothing, here is an observation by Dwight Perry retired from the Seattle Times:

“Seattle has been declared the No. 1 city for singles, according to a study released by the personal-finance website WalletHub.com.

“Heck, Ichiro could have told you that two decades ago.”

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

 

 

A Little Conflict Today …?

We know that Bank of America had been retained by Danny Boy Snyder to see if there was a buyer for the Washington Commanders willing to pay a price that Danny Coy could not turn down.  Supposedly there were a handful of consortia who made bids for the franchise by some sort of “deadline” back in December but none of the “bidders” included Jeff Bezos.  Earlier this week, the NY Post reported that Jeff Bezos was going to offer a bid and that Bezos was going to sell the Washington Post[Aside:  Reports also say that the highest bid for the Commanders so far is $6.3B which is about 40% more than the Broncos sold for just last year.]

Let me focus on the economics here first.  There is no apparent reason why Jeff Bezos would need to “sell the Washington Post” to be able to put in a bid for the Commanders.  According to Forbes, Bezos is worth $124B; so, even if he were to stride into the arena with a blow-away bid of $7.5B, he has the means to close that deal without:

  1. Selling the newspaper – – and/or – –
  2. Taking on minority investors/partners.

The NFL requires a franchise purchaser to “write a check” for 30% of the purchase price.  Even at the blow-away bid level of $7.5B, that would mean Bezos would have to come up with $2.25B for the “down payment”.  That is a whole lot of money but it represents less than 2% of Bezos’ estimated net worth according to Forbes.  From a detached economic point of view, there is no need to sell the Washington Post in order to be able to purchase the Commanders.

Possibly, the relationship between a sale of the newspaper and a bid for the franchise might be as some sort of psychological salve for Danny Boy.  After all, it was Bezos’ newspaper that did the investigative reporting that put the Commanders in a terrible spotlight as a toxic workplace.  When the initial revelations were supposedly resolved and Danny Boy paid a $10M fine and had to absent himself from the team for a while, the newspaper kept digging and came up with lots more muck and mire.  Some folks have even attributed the newspaper reporting as the reason Bank of America is out there looking for a buyer for the franchise.

If in fact that causality does exist, then one might concoct a melodrama wherein Bezos sells the paper so that he arrives at the bidding cleansed of the stain that created the bidding in the first place.  I do not read minds; I have no insight into any motivation(s) related to any such linkage.  So, if you try to convince me that the sale of the Washington Post is directly linked to a bid for the Commanders’ franchise, I will tend to believe the melodramatic linkage before I believe that the sale of the paper is driven by the economics of affording the team.

If you want to read the NY Post report on this issue, you can find it here.

            Moving on …  Yesterday, I said that with the removal of the LA Angels from the market, there was only one MLB franchise up for sale – – also in Washington DC.  However, the lack of any other teams looking for buyers does not mean that all is sweetness and light in the ownership suites of the other 29 MLB teams.  Last year, one of the sons of Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, sued his mother and his brother alleging mismanagement of the team’s finances.  That lawsuit was percolating quietly in the background – but always had the potential for newsworthiness due to the family nature of the squabble – until yesterday.  That is when the plaintiff, Louis Angelos accused his brother, John and his mother Georgia Angelos of “draining nearly $65M from a bank account that originally belonged to Peter Angelos” and that they used some of the funds to buy more shares in the team from an unidentified seller.

This saga has only just begun.  (Hat Tip to Karen Carpenter!)  This suit is still at the stage where the two sides are filing dueling motions and the plaintiff is still amending his lawsuit and the lawyers on both sides are in rhetorical overdrive.  If you want to catch up on the status of this familial fissure, you can find an excellent report here; the source is the Baltimore Banner which is a new journalistic enterprise in Baltimore that operates on a non-profit basis and began its life as a response to the Baltimore Sun being sold to a hedge fund last year.  The Banner does not have a long history, but it does an excellent job of covering events in Baltimore.  I have no way to know if the Banner can/will survive, but it should be considered a reliable journalistic source of information at this point of its existence.

Switching gears …  NFL Hall of Fame inductee, Ed Reed and Bethune-Cookman University reached an agreement about a month ago for Reed to be the head football coach at that HBCU – – sort of following the “Jackson St. model” of hiring a Hall of Fame football player to lead the football program.  That linkage lasted less than a month; Reed will not coach the Wildcats after all.

Evidently, as the school and Reed’s lawyers were working out the details of his contract, Reed criticized the school for having an unkempt campus and that he needed to pick up trash outside his office and around the football facilities.  That complaint evidently resonated with students at the school who then protested against their living conditions on campus which caused other maintenance issues to come to the surface.  The Board of Trustees for the university then refused to ratify Reed’s contract with the school and that has caused agita among the students and the football team.

Finally, since I began today with a report concerning Jeff Bezos, let me close with an observation by him:

“The common question that gets asked in business is, why?  That’s a good question, but an equally valid one is, why not?”

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

 

 

Baseball Today …

The voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is in.  One player, Scott Rolen, received the requisite 75% of the votes to be one-half of the “Class of ‘23” to be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this summer.  About a month ago, the Veterans’ Committee voted Fred McGriff into the Hall of Fame so this summer’s ceremonies will be in honor of two former players.  Congratulations to both Scott Rolen and Fred McGriff.

Rolen’s vote total was just high enough for admission; the rules require 75% of the votes cast to be for a player and this year the cutoff line was 292 votes.  Rolen received 297 votes in his sixth year on the ballot and now he is “in the Hall”.

Two names on this year’s ballot and their vote totals are interesting to me:

  1. Carlos Beltran received 181 votes.  Beltran was a central figure in the “Astros’ trash can scandal” several years ago.  I would not say that he should have been a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, but absent that scandal, I suspect his vote total would have been higher.
  2. Alex Rodriguez received 139 votes – – less than half the votes needed to make it to the Hall.  A-Rod has the significant “PED hurdle” to overcome if he is ever to be in the Hall of Fame.  A-Rod’s stats say he should have been in on his first ballot; but then again, that was also the case for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens…

So, of course, that news got me thinking about active players who might realistically aspire to induction into the Hall of Fame once their playing days are over.  Obviously, coming up with such a list requires projection and assumptions about injuries that affect on-field performance and about off-field activities that might put a stain on a player’s reputation.  Nevertheless, here are the players that came to mind this morning.  I am sure I have left worthy candidates off the list.

First there are five mortal locks to make it to the Hall of Fame:

  1. Miguel Cabrera
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Max Scherzer
  4. Mike Trout – – even if the Angels never make the playoffs.
  5. Justin Verlander

Here are nine players with an excellent chance:

  1. Jose Altuve – – keep an eye on how Beltran’s vote totals are trending.
  2. Nolan Arenado
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Freddie Freeman
  5. Paul Goldschmidt
  6. Bryce Harper
  7. Aaron Judge 
  8. Manny Machado
  9. Joey Votto

And here are some very young players who have shown brief flashes in their careers which – if sustained – could get them into the Hall of fame 20 years from now:

  • Ronald Acuna, Jr.
  • Kris Bryant
  • Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
  • Francisco Lindor
  • Adley Rutschman
  • Corey Seager
  • Juan Soto
  • Fernando Tatis, Jr.

And there is one player – – a unicorn – – who ought to be in the Hall of Fame because of his unique performance.  I refer to Shohei Ohtani.  Unless the idea of a hybrid starting pitcher/designated hitter becomes commonplace, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame for no other reason.

In one other baseball-related issue, the Angels are no longer up for sale.  About 6 months ago, Angels’ owner Arte Moreno hired a financial company to seek out potential buyers for the team.  Yesterday, Moreno thanked his financial advisors and various groups he met with about a potential sale of the team and took the team off the market.  Here is part of the statement that made that announcement:

“However, as discussions advanced and began to crystallize, we realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players, and our employees.”

You can decide for yourself if you think it was the “emotional linkage to the team” or if you think the price was not right that led to the Angels coming off the market.  So, now there is only one MLB team up for sale – – the Washington Nationals.

Finally, since today dealt with baseball, let me close with this observation by Corporal Max Klinger from the TV show M*A*S*H:

“A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League scores.”

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

 

 

Feeling Feisty This Morning …

There was a report last week at CBSSports.com that the Carolina Panthers may have been in violation of an NFL rule as the team conducted its hiring search for a new head coach.  Since the Panthers had not announced a new coach, I wondered how they could be violating whatever rule was referenced here.  According to the report, the NFL has a rule that every person on a search committee for hiring a new head coach must have completed “the mandatory inclusive hiring training” prior to serving on the search committee.  Evidently, owner David Tepper’s wife did not complete the training, but she participated in some of the search committee activities.  My first reaction was to yawn…

Here is a statement from Jonathon Beane – – the NFL’s Senior Vice-President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer:

“The inclusive hiring training is a key element of our efforts to foster an equitable hiring process.  Any suggestion that this mandatory requirement was not met by applicable clubs will be addressed and corrected immediately.”

That led to my second reaction which is:

  • Here is more evidence that the NFL favors form over substance about how senior coaching vacancies are filled in the NFL.

Let me look at this logically for a moment.  David Tepper’s wife, Nicole, is the Chief Administrative Officer of Tepper Sports and Entertainment which you may surmise has close ties to the Carolina Panthers.  And by the way, her title is no more or less awesome than Jonathon Beane’s title with the NFL.  And the fact of the matter here is that the NFL officially deems her to be unworthy of helping the Panthers select a coach because she did not take a training course constructed by the NFL.  She is guilty of being prejudiced until she is cleansed of that taint by taking a course constructed by the NFL.

Really?  The league that has been criticized from here to Saturn for its exclusive hiring results creates a mandatory training program that will infuse openness and inclusivity into everyone on every search committee just like that?

If everyone on the planet must take this mandatory training regimen in order to be cleansed, how did the NFL certify the cleanliness of the people who run the damned training regimen?  Who cleansed the cleansers?

I am not here to defend the hiring practices of NFL owners as a group.  At the same time, can we please report on events that lead up to hiring decisions in a bit more objective fashion.  Here is a bit of reality:

  • The NFL has an optics problem with the mix of its head coaches and senior coordinators.  Reporters and columnists have ridden that horse to fill space for about 20 years now.
  • The NFL is also the defendant in a lawsuit charging the league with racial discrimination.
  • Those environmental factors are the reason the NFL has a person designated as its Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.  I would wager a tidy sum there was no such position in existence at the time the NFL and the AFL merged.
  • So, if/when someone perhaps needs to complete the training having been part of the first elements of a coaching search, there is no need to get on a high horse and announce that the situation will be “addressed and corrected immediately.”

I cannot find any reference to the training that is required in terms of the length of the course(s).  However, since the training is mandatory for owners themselves, my guess is that the training is not full-time for six months.  It sounds to me like a one-week feelgood session where everyone holds hands and sings Kumbaya at the end of it all.  And if I am even close to correct, such an event has little chance to change the heart and character of the participant any more than a 5-day anger management class can change the heart and character of someone prone to become a mass shooter.

Enough of that, let me move onto another report that annoys me this morning.  There are several sources of annoyance, but I will select Kevin Blackistone’s column in today’s Washington Post as my example.  The headline for the article in the print edition is:

“Dungy shows the regressive and intolerant worst in sports.”

In case you missed it, Tony Dungy was a featured speaker at the March for Life on the National Mall last week.  He also responded to a Tweet with a reply that many folks find ridiculous and insensitive.  And now, Tony Dungy is labeled as a “bad guy”.  When he was a successful Black head coach in the NFL, he was a pioneer and an example of how and why there needed to be something like a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in the NFL.  When he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, he was praised to the heavens.

But then he said something many folks in the media disagree with and – horror of horrors – he accepted an invitation to speak to a group that many folks in the media consider to be troglodytes.  How dare he do that?

Kevin Blackistone and others are now telling Tony Dungy what Dungy’s position ought to be regarding issues related to abortion, same-sex marriage and gender identification.  Sorry, but I cannot get on that train.

I have my own position(s) on those three issues, and it is totally improper for me to tell Kevin Blackistone and/or Tony Dungy that their positions are abhorrent and/or vile.  Their positions are just that – – their positions.  Disagreement is fine; personal attack is out of line; and in this case, denigrating Tony Dungy for his position that has not changed over time is a tad hypocritical given the adulation he received in the past.

Finally, let me close today with a line that Don Rickles often used in the middle of his act:

“Is there anyone here I haven’t offended?  I’ll get to you later.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 1/20/23

Baseball fans can rejoice; the sequence of Football Fridays has just about run its course; only two more will come to pass after today.  So let me open this week’s endeavor with these words from Lady Randolph Churchill – – Sir Winston’s mother:

“Life is not always what one wants it to be, but make the best of it as it is the only way of being happy.”

I’m happy and will surely try to make the best of this late-season Football Friday and the way we always begin these things is to review last week’s Six-Pack selections:

  • College = 0-0-0                                                          Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 2-1-0                                                                Season Total = 24-23-3
  • Money Line Parlays = 2-0                                         Season Total = 11-22
  • Parlay Profit/Loss = +$375                                       Season Total = +$508

 

College Football Commentary:

 

Things are relatively dark in the world of college football at this time of the year but there is a story brewing in Ann Arbor that could bear watching.  Michigan Offensive Coordinator, Matt Weiss, has been suspended once it came to light that police are investigating a report of alleged “computer access crimes” involving Michigan athletic department computers.   I have no idea what the scope of that investigation might be, nor do I know precisely what “computer access crimes” might encompass, but I do know that Matt Weiss had a very successful season in terms of producing a Wolverine offense that scored a lot of points.

Just stay tuned into this one…

 

NFL Commentary:

 

The Vikes/Giants game showed me that the Vikes were luckier than competent in amassing their 13-4 record in 2022.  (The team’s point differential for 17 games was minus-3 points while they won 9 more games than they lost!)  The Vikes went 11-0 in one-score games meaning they were 2-4 in games with a significant point differential.  That “Purple pass defense” out there on display last weekend was embarrassingly bad after ranking 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed in the regular season.  There is a coterie of NFL fans who live to hate on Kirk Cousins; he was not great in the game last weekend, but he was not to blame for that defensive showing either.

Trevor Lawrence was at his worst in the first half against the Chargers and at his best in the second half.  When he learns to stifle “Bad-Trevor” such that “Good-Trevor” does not have to bail the team out, he is going to be awfully good.  Trevor Lawrence was worth the overall #1 pick in the draft.

Thinking about the Chargers as we look ahead to the 2023 season and beyond, Dean Spanos is one of the NFL owners who does not like to pay someone not to work.  Having said that, I really think the Chargers can and should move on from Brandon Staley and move forward from there.  Sean Payton working with/tutoring Justin Herbert could be a marriage made in Heaven.  Then again, here is what Mae West had to say about marriage:

“Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.”

Granted the data here represent a small sample size; it only has been 3 years that the NFL has had 7 teams per conference in the playoffs.  However, in that time, the #7 seeded team has never beaten the #2 seeded team in either conference.  At least the Dolphins made a game of it this year…  The other “seven-versus-two game” was a blowout by the Niners.

Skylar Thompson was 18 of 45 for 220 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (44.7 QB rating) in the Dolphins’ Sunday’s loss to the Bills, so the quarterback play wasn’t good. Tua led the league in passer rating this year, but who knows if he would have been his early-season-self prior to the second – – or maybe the third – – concussion he sustained that eventually ended his season.

But it is not just the seventh-seeded teams that make for playoff problems.  The team with 7th best record in the NFC bracket – not the #7 seed but a division winner – also got spanked on Super Wild Card Weekend with Bucs losing 31-14.   [Aside:  Let the record show that the game was not nearly that close.]   The Bucs’ regular season stats explain their 8-9 record.

  • The Bucs ranked 25th in points scored 30th in average yards per pass completion, 26th in touchdowns scored, 22nd in “red zone production”, and 20th in turnover margin.

Yes, the Bucs won their division and yes, maintaining the rivalries within divisions is a good idea for the league, but the Bucs were no more worthy of a playoff slot this year than the Washington Generals are worth a moment’s consideration in this year’s “Bracketology”.

The Bucs threw the ball 66 times against the Cowboys.  Yes, they fell behind and needed to play catch-up football – – but they were throwing it all over the place in the first half when the score was 0-0.  I made this note to myself around halftime of the Bucs/Cowboys game on Monday night:

“Maybe Byron Leftwich is not certified the innovative genius of an offensive coordinator that he has been made out to be?”

And what do you know?  By Thursday of this week Byron Leftwich was “relieved of command” for the Bucs’ offense which will be undergoing a major restructuring in this offseason.  It was not just the game last weekend, the Bucs’ offense was not very productive this year as noted above; so, changing out the OC would seem to make a ton of sense.  However, I do recall loads of folks identifying Byron Leftwich as some sort of offensive genius who deserved to be a head coach somewhere – – if only those white franchise owners would give him a shot don’t you know – – and those heaps of praise were not that long ago…  Here is the Bottom Line in the real world:

  • Byron Leftwich’s offense was efficient and effective when it had a solid offensive line in front of Tom Brady who had the likes of Gronk and Antonio Brown inter alia to throw the ball to.
  • In 2022, Byron Leftwich’s offense only had Tom Brady from that listing above…

The Bucs are not heaping all the blame on Leftwich.  The team – – and head coach Todd Bowles – – have recognized that the team “underperformed” in 2022 and the team has begun a housecleaning of the coaching staff.

  • Four offensive assistant coaches have been fired.
  • One offensive assistant coach has decided to retire.
  • One special teams’ assistant has been fired.
  • One defensive assistant has been fired.
  • One defensive assistant has decided to retire.

Look coaches and assistant coaches come and go; without top-shelf players, they never achieve greatness.  So, this is the time on the NFL calendar when there is an ongoing search for scapegoats to explain various aspects of under-achievement around the league.  Scapegoating is not unique to the NFL as indicated by this comment from former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:

“Until someone is prepared to lay out the systemic problem, we will simply go through cycles of finding corruption, finding a scapegoat, eliminating the scapegoat, and relaxing until we find the next scandal.”

Let me return for a moment to the Vikes/Giants game last weekend.  Daniel Jones has not exactly been a fan-favorite among Giants’ fans for the last couple of years, but everyone needs to acknowledge how well he played against the Vikes last weekend.  Jones finished the game with this stat line:

  • 24 of 35 for 301 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs
  • PLUS, he rushed for 78 yards.

Daniel Jones is the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, rush for 75 yards, and throw for two touchdowns in a playoff game.  Not bad for a guy whose fifth-year contract option was not picked up by the Giants’ braintrust…

I know; if you are a Daniel Jones hater you will quickly point out to me something I already know.  Jones was most impressive Sunday, but he was also facing a Vikings’ defense that finished the regular season 31st in total yards allowed and 31st against the pass.  Forget the nit-picking; here is a 2023 offseason reality for the NY Giants:

  • Daniel Jones deserves a contract offer from the Giants that will avoid him being tempted to test free agency thereby forcing the Giants to use a franchise tag on Jones which will pay him $40+M for one year – next year – guaranteed.

Here are a few statistical notes from last weekend’s wild card playoff games:

  • The Bills outgained the Dolphins 423 yards to 231 yards – – and the game went down to the wire with a 3-point differential.  Bills’ turnovers kept the game close; if the Bills do not remedy that sort of behavior, they will be out of the playoffs this weekend.
  • Justin Jefferson caught 7 passes for 47 yards in the game against the Giants – – but none of those receptions came in the 4th quarter when the Vikes needed to overcome a Giants’ lead.
  • The Chargers’ rushing game was AWOL last weekend.  They tried to run the ball 23 times and gained a total of 67 yards.  That is just under 3 yards per carry and for a playoff team, that “don’t feed the bulldog” …
  • The Ravens’ defense did what needed to be done; they held the Bengals to 234 yards on offense and 17 points on the scoreboard.  There is no way to pin that 98-yard scoop-and-score on the Ravens’ defensive unit and the Ravens’ offense outgained the Bengals by 130 yards.  But the stat that demonstrates why the Ravens lost – – in addition to that 98-yard scoop-and-score – – is that the Ravens had the ball in the Red Zone 4 times and got only 1 TD out of those opportunities.
  • The Seahawks led the Niners 17-16 at the half – – but if anyone thought they were the better team on the field that day, that someone was residing in a delusional space.  When the smoke cleared, the Niners had outgained the Seahawks by 173 yards and won the turnover battle 2-0.

 

NFL Games This Weekend:

 

Before I get to the four games this weekend, let me observe that three of the four teams in the NFC East are still playing at this point of the season.  So, let me be the one to label this weekend’s slate of games as:

  • The NFC East Invitational.

Lest anyone wonder about the situation of the fourth team in the NFC East – – the Washington Commanders – – they may not be playing this weekend, but they are the only team in their division that is potentially up for sale in this offseason.  Commanders’ fans all over the DC area are making pilgrimages to their local churches praying that a sale to a new owner – – any new owner not named Sam Bankman-Fried – – goes to closure in the next 8 weeks. 

(Sat 4:30PM EST) Jags at Chiefs – 9 (52):  The Chiefs beat the Jags in the regular season 27-17 but I think this game will be much higher scoring than that.  Trevor Lawrence is improving game by game and the Jags’ pass defense will once again struggle to pressure Patrick Mahomes.  I see lot of points here, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15PM EST) Giants at Eagles – 8 (48):  The line for this game is unusual for a game in the playoffs.  One sportsbook has the game at 9 points and has had it there all week long;  For most books the line opened the week at 7.5 points, and it has crept up to 8 points at most books.  However, you can still find this at 7.5 points at one Internet sportsbook along with the spread at 8.5 points at two other Internet sportsbooks.  Those sorts of disparities exist for some regular season games, but it is unusual for a playoff game.  More than a few Eagles’ fans have posted notes saying that the Eagles can just mail this one in because the Eagles won both regular season encounters ”comfortably”.  I disagree; the Giants are peaking now, and the Eagles have not looked nearly like their early-season dominant form for the last several weeks.  I like the Giants plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 3:00PM EST) Bengals at Bills – 5.5 (49):  Neither team showed its best form in winning last weekend; both teams need to correct that sort of nonsense if they aspire to move on and play the winner of the Jags/Chiefs game.  The weather forecast for Buffalo on Sunday afternoon is for rain changing to snow with temperatures in the low 30s at kickoff.  Josh Allen must cure himself of his turnover proclivities here; Joe Burrow needs to pray that his makeshift OL can keep his body and soul together for the three-and-a-half hours of this game.  I am tempted by the OVER here – – but not two and a half days in advance of that sort of weather forecast.

(Sun 6:30PM EST) Cowboys at Niners – 4 (46):  For me, this is the Game of the Week.  This will either be the “Brock Purdy Coming Out Party” against the best defense he has had to face yet, or it will be the “Brock Purdy Clock Strikes Midnight Game”.  Or, perhaps this will be the game that indicates that the Bucs’ defense against the Cowboys last week was nothing more than mediocre and then against the best defense in the NFL – – statistically – – that offensive explosion last week was a mirage.  I like the Cowboys plus the points, and I like the game to go OVER; put both of those picks in the Six-Pack.

So let me review the Six-Pack for this week:

  • Jags/Chiefs OVER 52
  • Giants +8 against Eagles
  • Cowboys +4 against Niners
  • Cowboys/Niners OVER 46

And just for fun, here is a Money Line Parlay for the weekend:

  • Giants @ +300
  • Cowboys @ +175                  To win $1000.

Finally, consider these words from humorist Arnold Glasow and ask yourself how many “good leaders” there are among the folks who own NFL teams:

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”

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

 

 

Clearing The Clipboard …

Today shall be a day of cleaning up odds and ends that wound up on my clipboard over the past several weeks.  There is no thread that I can find to weave through these random bits to give it any sort of organization or cohesion; so, prepare for a bumpy ride.

I got a text yesterday from #2 son with a bit of humor:

“If baseball wants to be more exciting, they should have celebrities throw out the LAST pitch.

“Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Danny DeVito!”

The possibilities here seem endless.  This could resurrect the career of folks like Urkel…

It is always heartwarming to read about a guy who makes a bet at long odds and wins a ton of money when the bet comes in.  Reality says, however, that there must be guys who lose enough bets to cover that payout; were that not the case, the sportsbook would go bust.  Here is a report that will give you an idea of a bettor’s loss on a large wager.

  • Last weekend when the Chargers led the Jags 27-0, a bettor on DraftKings reportedly bet $1.4M on the Chargers to win the game.  It was a straight Money Line bet and the odds at the time were minus-12,500. 
  • I’ll do the math for you.  The bettor risked $1.4M to win $11,250.  And he lost…
  • Yikes!

During the NFL telecasts last weekend, let me be kind and say there were ample references to the fact that both Brock Purdy and Skylar Thompson were 7th round draft picks last Spring and that the Niners/Dolphins got themselves a real bargain with those selections.  I do not dispute the “bargain” aspect of those picks and I do think that it is an aspect of the NFL experience that should be front and center for the fans watching the game(s).

Having said that, I wonder why the broadcasters do not point out other bargain picks.  I had to go to the Internet to confirm the following, but I thought during the games last weekend that both George Kittle and Stefon Diggs were fifth round picks – – in different seasons to be sure.  Kittle and Diggs are among the very best at their position as offensive weapons but there is rarely ever ebullient oratory about what bargains they were in their draft years.

And by the way, bargain QBs have a long history in the NFL and that long history demonstrates that football scouting is not a science even though teams try to reduce players to measurements which are then fed to algorithms which spit out results.  Long before computers and things like the NFL Combine and mock drafts, teams assembled their “Draft Boards” without nearly such “scientific precision”.  I am not talking here about Tom Brady lasting until the late 6th round in the Draft; I want to look back more than 6 decades for teams that found QB gems in late rounds:

  • John Unitas is certainly one of the ten best QBs in NFL history.  He was picked in the 9th round of the 1955 NFL Draft.  Interestingly, he was cut by the Steelers at the end of training camp in 1955 and wound up signing with the Colts in 1956 as a free agent.
  • Bart Starr had a ton of success as the QB of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.  Starr led the Packers to 3 NFL Championships – prior to the creation of the Super Bowl – and then led the Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls.  He was drafted in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL Draft – – the year after John Unitas was drafted late and cut by the Steelers.

The more things change …

A judge in Florida ruled that the deal between the overseers of Miami-Dade Arena (where the NBA’s Miami Heat play their home games) and the collapsed crypto exchange, FTX, was null and void.  In round numbers, FTX was going to pay $7M per year for 19 years to have its name adorned on the building.  Without getting into details, FTX will need to scrape together every dollar it can to settle its bankruptcy claims and the people in Miami surely do not want to be reminded of this deal-gone-south over the next decade and a half.  Call this one a win/win situation.  It will be interesting to see what entity wants to be the one to replace FTX as the naming sponsor of the building.

Too bad Jeffrey Epstein is no longer active in the biosphere.  He could afford the expense and such a deal would maintain the notoriety of that building’s name.  Oh well …

Finally, I am pleased to have cleared these items of flotsam and jetsam from my clipboard today so let me close with this observation by my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“Every man is thoroughly happy twice in his life: just after he has met his first love, and just after he has left his last one.”

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