Football Friday 1/17/20

Perhaps, just as “necessity is the mother of invention” maybe repetition is the father of comfort.  I say that because I’ve been repeating Football Friday since late August; it has been comfortable knowing what I was going to do every Friday morning; I had a core set of information sources for those rants.  And now, I am down to the penultimate Football Friday

  • Sic transit gloria mundi…

[Aside:  Notwithstanding appearances, that phrase does NOT mean that Gloria threw up on the subway last Monday.]

Last week’s Six-Pack was a miserable 2-4-0.  Here are the cumulative results to date:

  • Overall:  45-32-4
  • College:  20-9-1
  • NFL:  25-23-3


College Football Commentary:


Was I ever wrong about the LSU/Clemson game…  In retrospect, I think I recognize my error there.  When I tuned in to see Clemson during the Fall, I usually only watched a portion of the game because – frankly – I am not sufficiently interested in watching one team beat its opponent by 45 points to stay to the bitter end.  The regular season opponents Clemson faced in the ACC were overmatched – – but I gave those opponents more credit for competency that it seems they deserved.

  • I thought Clemson’s defense could hold LSU to the mid-thirties.
  • I thought Clemson could score 45 points or more on just about anybody except Ohio State.  After all, Clemson did that for 6 weeks in a row from October 12 through November 16.

LSU was much the better team last Monday night; there was nothing fluky about that win.

Congratulations to LSU!

Brad Dickson posted this Tweet just prior to the LSU/Clemson game:

“If Clemson loses, I hereby offer to donate $15,000 to the charity of Dabo Swinney’s choice if the first thing he says in the post-game interview is, ‘This is God’s fault.’”

For the record, Messr. Dickson’s bank account remains intact…\


NFL Commentary:


I had lunch with a former colleague yesterday and he asked me to guess the NFL team that had the worst cumulative record over the past 3 seasons.  Guessing it was the Browns seemed too obvious and the Bengals were not horrendous before last season and the Skins were near .500 just a couple years ago.  So, my guess was the NY Jets and I was wrong.  The answer is:

  • The NY Giants had a record of 12-36
  • [By comparison, the Jets had a lofty record of 16-32.]

As I was watching the Niners/Vikes game last weekend, I wondered which team Danny Boy Snyder was rooting for.  If I knew that, I might have insight into the “lesser of two evils” here:

  1. Vikes’ QB was Kirk Cousins – – the QB the Skins had who beat out Danny Boy’s BFF, RG3.  Moreover, the Skins could not get him signed to a long-term deal, so they paid him more than $40M on two franchise tags only to see him walk away in free agency leaving the skins with only a compensatory draft pick.
  2. Niners’ head coach was Kyle Shanahan – – the offensive coordinator for the Skins when his father was the head coach.  Mike Shanahan was engaged in the NFL equivalent of a nuclear exchange with Danny Boy and the recently departed Bruce Allen leading to Shanahan’s departure and the hiring of Jay Gruden as the Skins’ head coach.  [We know how that worked out…]

Sadly, I shall never know the answer here.

On the other hand, I am pretty sure I know who the execs at State Farm Insurance are rooting for this weekend.  All season long they have featured ads with Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes as their celebrity spokesthings.  If the Packers and Chiefs win this weekend, that will be the QB pairing in the Super Bowl.

With the ascent of the Titans to the AFC Championship Game this weekend coming out of the 6th seed for the playoffs, I went looking to see how teams with that seeding had done in previous playoffs.  It is not a common occurrence for a team in that position to advance very far but the Steelers in 2005 and the Packers in 2010 came from the 6th seed slot and won the Super Bowl in addition to their Conference Championship.

If the Titans win this week, they will advance to the Super Bowl having beaten the top 3 seeds in the playoffs and – interestingly:

  • The AFC West champions this week
  • The AFC North champions last week
  • The AFC East champions the week before that
  • The AFC South champions in the final game of the regular season.

I am not rooting against the Titans this week, but I do want to lay down a marker here in the event that they do win this game and make it to the Super Bowl.

  • The fact that they rose from the 6th seed to “shock the world” is NOT any sort of justification to expand the NFL playoffs to 14 or 16 teams.

I recognize that there is money to be made from expanded playoffs; there is also no reason to expand the playoffs.   There is enough wailing to go around when a team with a 9-7 or an 8-8 record makes the playoffs now; if you expand the field, that is going to happen far more frequently.

I said above that I would like to know whom Danny Boy Snyder was rooting for in the Vikes/Niners game.  However, here is something else I really want to know:

  • What did Texans’ coach, Bill O’Brien, say to the team in the locker room at halftime after blowing a 24-0 lead to trail 28-24 at halftime?

I can imagine the situation where he simply went to a clean whiteboard and wrote “WTF!” on it in large letters and then walked away…

I said last week that Dalvin Cook was the key to the Vikes being able to hang with the Niners.  Well, that might have been the case if Cook had been able to run the ball even a little bit; Cook gained a total of 18 yards on 9 carries.  The Niners’ defense dominated the game forcing the Vikes to go 2 for 12 on third down conversions and creating “three-and-out” on 7 possessions.

The Titans took the game to the Ravens and simply beat them down.  The most telling stat is that Ravens tried to convert 4th down 4 times in the game and failed each time.  The first of those failures was in 1st quarter with the Ravens trailing 7-0.  Sometimes the “bold play” is also the “bad play”.  The way Derrick Henry runs the ball reminds me of Jim Brown and Marion Motley for those of you who recall the NFL of the 50s and ‘60s.

The Ravens moved the ball in this game but had little to show for it.  Consider:

  • Ravens total offense was 530 yards yielding only 12 points.
  • Ravens ran a total of 92 offensive plays to the Titans’ 53 plays.

The Chiefs/Titans game would not have been plausible in a Hollywood movie.  There were lots of “low-probability events” in the game; the only thing missing was a safety to finish off the oddness.  I think momentum swung in favor of Chiefs when Texans tried a fake punt in their own territory in the second quarter leading 24-7.  It did not work; the Chiefs scored; momentum swung.   The Texans’ run game was AWOL gaining a total of 55 yards.  That made the game “Shaun Watson against the world”.

[Recall that a previous Houston team (the Oilers) blew a 35-3 second-half lead in a playoff game and then lost in OT to the Bills 41-38.  By comparison, this collapse was relatively minor.]

The Seahawks/Packers game was nowhere near as bizarre as Chiefs/Texans by any means, but it was just as entertaining.  Davante Adams was the difference maker there catching 8 passes for 160 yards and 2 TDs.   I’m sorry to report that “Beast Mode” looked a lot like “Fluffy Kitten Mode”. Twelve carries for twenty-six yards is unimpressive.   [BTW the “Beast Mode” stats since coming out of retirement late in the season are 30 carries for 67 yards.]    Russell Wilson almost brought the Seahawks back from a 21-3 hole at halftime despite the Seahawks’ OL giving up 5 sacks in the game and forcing Wilson to run for his life about a half-dozen other times.

As usual there were some Highlights from last week:

  • Patrick Mahomes passed for 321 yards and 5 TDs.  Just another day at the office…
  • Travis Kelce caught 10 passes for 134 yards and 3 TDs.  Ho- hum …

Of course, there was also a Lowlight from last week:

  • The Ravens’ run game let them down and Lamar Jackson was forced the try to make up for its absence by attempting 59 passes.  That is not how the Ravens won their division and got the #1 seed in this year’s playoffs.


This Week’s Games:


(Sun Afternoon 3:00 PM EST) Tennessee at KC – 7.5 (53):  You can find this game with a 7-point spread at several sportsbooks this morning and with an 8-pooint spread at 2 Internet sportsbooks this morning.  The most common number is 7.5 points.  Meanwhile, the Total Line opened the week at 51.5 points and jumped quickly to this level just about everywhere.  The Titans beat the Chiefs here in KC earlier this year and did it – no surprise here – with Derrick Henry running the ball all day long.  [He had 23 carries for 188 yards and 2 TDs that day.]  If the Titans can do that again here, they can win this game outright; if it turns into a track meet, the Titans will not be able to keep up.  When the Titans beat the Chiefs earlier this year, the Titans’ defense forced the Chiefs to kick 3 field goals from the Red Zone; replicating that performance will not be easy.  I really do not like that half-point hook on the spread here, but it is what it is.  Here are two trends I am about to ignore:

  • Titans are 7-1-1 against the spread in their last 9 games against AFC teams
  • Chiefs are 2-7 against the spread in their last 9 home playoff games.

I’ll put the Chiefs in this week’s abbreviated Six-Pack to win and cover and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Sun Evening 6:40 PM EST) Green Bay at SF – 7.5 (46.5):  The Total Line here opened the week at 44.5 points and has climbed slowly to this level.  When these teams met in the regular season, the Niners dominated the game (score was 37-8) and did so by limiting the Packers’ running game and then harassing Aaron Rodgers every time he tried to pass.  (Rodgers averaged 3.2 yards per attempt in that game.)  I don’t think the Packers’ OL can stand up to the Niners’ pass rush if there is no threat to run the ball in this game.  So, the question comes down to what sort of running strategy can the Packers’ braintrust come up with.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but I’ll take the Niners to win and cover and I’ll take this game to go OVER also to finish off this week’s truncated Six-Pack.

            Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Chiefs – 7.5 over Titans
  • Chiefs/Titans OVER 53
  • Niners – 7.5 over Packers
  • Niners/Packers OVER 46.5

Finally, the four teams remaining in the playoffs have done a lot of winning this season, but they still have challenges ahead of them.  Given that circumstance, it is proper to recall Paul “Bear” Bryant’s observation about winning:

“Winning isn’t everything, but it beats anything that comes in second.”

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



Maybe The 2020 NFL Draft Is Not So Obvious…

Back in December when it was locked into place, I said that the Cincinnati Bengals were “on the clock” with the overall Number 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.  After LSU’s dominant performance in the two CFP tournament games, I have heard and read at least a dozen people who have stated explicitly that the Bengals will take Joe Burrow with that pick.  There is a ton of logic behind that assertion; but here in Curmudgeon Central, it is always fun to try to turn logic on its head.  So, let me try this one on for size:

The Bengals are not a well-run organization with a long history of shrewd decisions to inspire confidence.  I think we might find a way to agree on that premise.  So, why should it be axiomatic that the Bengals would do something “obviously logical”?  Now when I began to think along those lines and wonder how the Bengals might “upset the draft” I came to two realizations:

  1. The teams with the first 3 picks in the 2020 NFL Drafts are all poorly run organizations with a history of screwing up.  Those three organizations are the Bengals, Skins and Lions.
  2. The team drafting in the #4 slot – the Giants – as recently as last year drafted outside the lines of conventional wisdom to say the least.  The Giants’ reputation for ineptitude on a historical scale does not rival those of the Bengals, Skins or Lions – – or the Browns for that matter – – but they have been a tad flaky recently.

So, it just might be way premature to assume that the Bengals will take Joe Burrow first and then that the Skins will take Chase Young second leaving the rest of the Draft Class to the Lions for the player of their choosing as so many of the Draft Pundits have postulated.

The 2020 NFL Draft will happen on 23-25 April in Las Vegas.  Prior to that time, two events will be on the NFL calendar that will – or should – shape the Draft:

  1. February 24 – March 2 will be the NFL Scouting Combine.  Every year a team or two falls in love with a break-out athlete at the Combine and sometimes that can lead to surprise trades to acquire higher draft status for a team so that they can take a pick no one saw coming.
  2. March 18 will signal the start of NFL free agency in this off-season.  Teams can fill some of their needs with signings in free agency that will change the perception of their needs when the Draft rolls around.  Moreover, we do not yet know the list of players who will be free agents on that date.  Contract extensions and franchise tags can take potential free agents “off the market” so any sort of projecting along that axis is pure speculation.

Having said all that, there are three intriguing possibilities when it comes to free agency for NFL players in 2020:

  1. Derrick Henry’s rookie contract is up.  Given his performance in the regular season where he led the league in yards, carries and yards per carry (despite playing in only 15 games) AND his dominating performance in the Titans’ first two playoff games, he should be of interest to just about every team in the league except the Cowboys and Giants.
  2. Teddy Bridgewater’s contract is up.  He signed on with the Saints last year as an insurance policy for the team and the Saints cashed in.  When Drew Brees had to miss 5 games recovering from thumb surgery, Bridgewater took over and led the Saints to wins in all 5 games.  His overall QB Rating in those games was 118.1 while the league average was 91.  Teams needing to upgrade at QB could find this 27-year old practitioner interesting.
  3. AJ Green’s contract is up.  Green missed all of the 2019 season with an ankle injury that reportedly is now at the point where he can resume normal off-season workouts.  Green is 32 years old and is coming off an injury, but when he is healthy, he is still a top-shelf WR.

In another strange football-related note, Chad Johnson – temporarily named Chad Ochocinco – will get an XFL tryout but not as a WR.  Johnson is 42 years old and seemingly has come to recognize that his days as a pass catcher are in the past.  He will try out as a place kicker and he posted an Instagram video that shows him connecting on a 60-yard field goal attempt – with no rush and using a mechanical holder for the ball.

The XFL will benefit from recognizable names.  If you check out XFL rosters, I would be surprised if you would recognize more than 10 players on a random roster.  I just checked the roster of the DC Defenders and there are only 6 players there that I know anything about.  Having someone like Chad Johnson – even as a kicker – would help the XFL.  If Johnson made a team in the XFL and did indeed demonstrate ability as a kicker, he might get an invitation to an NFL training camp in the summer.  There is a chance for symbiosis here…

The sign-stealing scandal in MLB has not gone away.  Speculation now seems to be on the Mets and their new manager, Carlos Beltran.  It seems to be the case that he was one of the participants in the signal stealing as part of the communication link from the “electronic spies” to the batter in the box.  As a player for the Astros, he was granted immunity by the Commish if he cooperated with the investigation; now he is no longer a player with immunity; he is a manager who might be a PR liability for his new employer.

I understand the decision of the Commish to grant immunity to players in order to obtain information; I also understand the reluctance to punish players when any punishment – no matter how trivial – will be opposed by the Players Association.  Nonetheless, that creates a situation where:

  • The players were participants in the signal stealing and the beneficiaries of the stolen signs.  They are held harmless.
  • Managers and GMs are held accountable.
  • Owners face a maximum fine of $5M in this matter.  The simple fact is that $5M is something most of these folks can take from their petty cash drawer.

Not particularly satisfying…

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Disgruntled:  Way too kind a word for a freaking nut job who shows up to work with an Uzi.”

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



Bouncing Around Today…

The Boston Red Sox and their manager, Alex Cora, “mutually agreed to part ways” overnight.  Cora was implicated in the Astros’ sign-stealing enterprise and it is reported that MLB investigators will reveal that the Red Sox engaged in similar activities once Cora showed up in that dugout.  From the team perspective, this is a PR attempt to get out ahead of what seems to be a heap of scorn that is about to land on the franchise.  Maybe it softens the blow to a degree; if so, this was a smart move.

If indeed Cora is cited as one of the instigators of the scheme in Houston and then a part of a similar enterprise in Boston, I would have to say this his managerial career has pulled into the station.  I will be surprised if the Commish bans him from baseball for life – à la Pete Rose; therefore, Cora might be eligible for another managerial gig.  Nevertheless, I don’t see any owner taking on that PR nightmare willingly.

With the microscope on this most recent MLB “scandal”, it can be difficult to maintain perspective.  Let me ask a question:

  • If you create a scale of 1 to 10 where “1” is “embarrassing but not such a big deal” and “10” is “an existential threat”, where would you put all these MLB “scandals”?  (Some of these are real situations from the past and others are potential “scandals”.)

Here are my ratings …

  • Doctoring the field to gain an advantage [Rating = 1]
  • Players using a corked bat [Rating = 3]
  • Spitballers [Rating = 3]
  • Players using steroids/PEDs [Rating = 4]
  • High-tech sign-stealing – as in Houston and Boston [Rating = 7]
  • Eavesdropping on visitors’ clubhouse to gain strategic advantage [Rating = 8]
  • Taking bribes to throw a game or a series – as in 1919.  [Rating = 9]

The other breaking news this morning is the announcement by Luke Kuechly that he will retire from the NFL a few months shy of his 29th birthday.   Kuechly has been in the NFL for 8 seasons; it is not as if he is “one-and-done”.  However, he is still one of the best – if not the best – middle linebacker in the league; his retirement is cannot be explained by some sort of recognition that he can no longer play to the standard of his former excellence.  Luke Kuechly has made a rational decision here.

If I have read correctly his contract history, Kuechly has made somewhere between $61M and $70M over his career.  [Aside: The reason for the spread here is that I cannot decipher which incentives in his contracts he achieved or did not achieve.]  Even after paying his taxes, he should still have sufficient funds to do whatever he wants to do with the rest of his life.  Those last 11 words are the key:

  • What might keep him from doing what he wants to do with the rest of his life is a permanent injury or enough brain trauma that would make the latter years of the rest of his life less than optimal.

Luke Kuechly adds to a list of very good players who have chosen to leave the NFL long before their skills diminished to the point that their teams did not want them back such as:

  • Chris Borland
  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Andrew Luck
  • Patrick Willis

Bonne chance, Luke Kuechly…

Last weekend, the Clemson basketball team beat UNC 79-76 in OT in a game played in Chapel Hill.  That may not seem like a big deal at first but consider that the last time Clemson won a basketball game in Chapel Hill against UNC, it was 1926.  The loss dropped the Tar Heels’ season record to 8-8 and a comment from Roy Williams after that loss prompted this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Roy Williams labeled his 8-8 basketball team as ‘the least gifted team I’ve ever coached’ in his latest tenure at North Carolina.

“The Society of Those Feeling Sorry for Roy convenes at noon Wednesday in the back seat of a Kia.”

Indeed, there is little reason to shed tears for poor Roy Williams here.  He can take solace in the 3 national championships that his teams have won (one championship at Kansas and the other two at UNC).  Frankly, if this is indeed a team with lesser talent than normal at UNC, the burden would seem to be on Roy Williams and his assistants to coach a lot more and a lot better than they did with previously “more gifted teams”.

With regard to college basketball this year, there is not a dominant team – – or even a pair of dominant teams.  Rather, there are at least a half-dozen very good teams who seem to go through cycles of excellent play and then somnambulant play.  I think I have counted correctly here; there are five teams that have been ranked #1 in the country and who have been subsequently beaten by teams ranked below them:

  • Duke
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisville
  • Michigan State

Perhaps this demonstrates the competitive balance in college basketball this year – – or perhaps is shows the minimal value of rankings early in the season…

Finally, here is another basketball observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Rockets’ James Harden joined an exclusive NBA club by totaling 100 points in back-to-back games.

“Leaving him just one game shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain, who once scored 100 in one consecutive game.”

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



Baseball In January …

Pitchers and catchers will start to report to Spring Training in about a month, but baseball finds itself in the news today in a way it would prefer not to be in the news.  Of course, I am referring to the outcome of the MLB investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign stealing endeavors back in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series.  You can go to any one of several hundred websites that cover sports and find the details of what the Astros did and what the evidence is.  I will leave that as background reading for all who are interested.

I want to think about some of the consequences here.  MLB suspended Astros’ GM, Jeff Lunhow, and Astros’ manager, AJ Hinch for 1 year.  The owner of the Astros subsequently fired both men.  (A former Astros’ Assistant GM, Brandon Taubman is also suspended from baseball through the end of the 2020 season for behavior unrelated to this sign-stealing investigation.)  Question 1:

  • Even assuming that both men knew that the sign-stealing was going on and did nothing to curtail it, it strains the imagination to believe that either of them did the sign stealing or were part of the communication link that got the information from the “sign-stealer” to the batter in the box.  So, after the exhaustive investigation that MLB is trumpeting, who are the actual sign-stealers and who are the communicators and what is the sanction to be levied against them?

The Astros will also lose their first round and second round picks in the Baseball Draft in both 2020 and 2021.  That penalty has some teeth given that one of the foundation pieces of the Astros’ success model has been to identify top talent in the draft and to develop it into a team core where several young star players are still on “rookie contracts”.  Question 2:

  • If MLB wants to use this as a hammer to make teams think about doing this in the future, why not set the precedent that draft picks are going to be the coin by which team payments are made.  Since these incidents happened in 2017, why not take the Astros’ top two picks in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Drafts and make them free agents – – in addition to taking away the top 2 picks for the next two years?

Why is a bludgeon necessary?  Well, it appears that there is a simultaneous investigation ongoing into the behavior(s) of the Red Sox in 2018 – coincidentally the year the Red Sox were also World Series champs.  And, there are vague reports out there that as many as 8 MLB teams (27% of MLB by the way) may have been involved in actions like what the Astros did and what the Red Sox are alleged to have done.  Question 3:

  • Since the beneficiary of the stolen sign(s) was a player on the field, it is not possible that every player on the Astros was unaware of what was going on.  So, where is player liability for whatever was their level of culpability?  I am unconvinced by arguments that players are protected by their union and therefore cannot be punished here.

This entire matter boils down to one’s fundamental view of why this was done in the first place.  A “hard-liner” here would say that this behavior tears at the fabric of the game itself and that “hard-liner” would eventually wrap himself into a pretzel claiming that whenever the playing field for a sporting event is not level, the event is meaningless and should not enjoy public attention.  A ”situational-ethicist” here would way that sign-stealing – or attempts at sign-stealing – are part of the game since the day that sending signals among players on the field was first done.  The “situational-ethicist” would mumble a lot of “tut-tuts” and suggest that the advantage gained by the Astros was a result of their superiority at sign-stealing – – which is part of the game.

The hard-liner will want to see some folks banned for life from MLB; the situational-ethicist would consider ignoring all of this and codifying in the MLB rulebook what sort of sign-stealing is allowed and what sort is ‘over the line”.  (Of course, “over the line” would pin down the situational-ethicist into declaring what is right and what is wrong which is something they will never do.)  Pick whatever side you want; I have purposely spread out these positions to create room for a spectrum here.  For me, I am closer to the position of the “hard-liner” here…

  • [Aside:  Here is an idea for a nuclear option.  There is precedent in sports for a league forcing an owner to dispose of his franchise.  The NBA did this with the Clippers a few years back; MLB did this with the Phillies in the 1940s; the NFL at least nudged the former owner of the Panthers to sell his team about 2 years ago.  So, how about MLB making it a rule that any team caught doing this sort of stuff in the future will require the owner to dispose of his franchise?]

On more positive notes, five very good baseball players have signed 1-year contracts recently thereby avoiding arbitration hearings.

  1. Mookie Betts signed a 1-year contract worth $27M with the Red Sox.  Betts will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season.
  2. Cody Bellinger signed a 1-year contract worth $11.5M with the Dodgers.  Bellinger will be subject to arbitration through 2023.
  3. Kris Bryant signed a 1-year contract worth $16.8M with the Cubs.  Bryant will be subject to arbitration again next year.
  4. Aaron Judge signed a 1-year contract worth $8.5M with the Yankees.  Judge will be subject to arbitration through 2022.
  5. Francisco Lindor signed a 1-year contract worth $17.5M with the Indians.  Lindor will be subject to arbitration again next year.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this interesting look back at 2019 in the Seattle Times:

“This is the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese calendar, though one could argue that Russian doping and the can-banging Astros make it seem like the Year of the Cheetah.”

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



Kevin Stefanski To the Browns…

The Cleveland Browns reportedly are about to hire Kevin Stefanski – previously the offensive coordinator for the Vikes – to be their next head coach.  According to reports, the Browns interviewed 8 candidates for the job and Stefanski came out on top.  On the assumption that he is indeed ready to be a head coach, it would appear that Stefanski has a good gig waiting for him.  There is plenty of physical talent on that roster.  His challenge will be to convince the players to get their heads right and get their minds focused on football.

  • Baker Mayfield needs to say, “No,” to at least one endorsement/commercial.
  • Odell Beckham, Jr. needs to stop telling opponents to “come and get” him.
  • Myles Garrett needs to get off his suspension.

On the other hand, I heard one report on sports radio that I have not seen in any printed report, so let me say that IF THE FOLLOWING IS CORRECT, Kevin Stefanski may be looking at a short tenure in Cleveland.

  • Most observers agree that owner Jimmy Haslam is meddlesome and that his heavy involvement with the “football side of things” has not been a big plus for the team.
  • Supposedly, Stefanski agreed in the interview processes that he would meet weekly with Haslam and analytics guru Paul DePodesta to talks about game plans and the analytics that support that game plan.

That surely sounds to me as if Jimmy Haslam is going to double down on his meddling and cross over into micromanagement territory.

Regarding another recent head coach hiring in the NFL, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel had this to say:

“Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he hired Mike McCarthy as his new coach because ‘I heard bells’ while interviewing McCarthy. Um, Jerry, you might want to check the battery in your office smoke detector.”

We are only a month away from the launch of XFL 2.0.  The XFL will have some different rules from NFL games; you can go over all of them here.  The XFL rules pertaining to kickoffs and overtimes are sufficiently complicated that I won’t even try to describe them or analyze them here.  Suffice it to say that kickoffs and overtimes in the XFL will bear no resemblance to those same events in NFL or college football games.

Several of the rule differences seem like positive ones to me.  For example, after a touchdown, the scoring team has the option to run a single play from the 2 yardline or the 5 yardline or the 10 yardline.  If that play gets into the end zone, the try would be worth 1 point or 2 points or 3 points respectively.  I like that innovation; those single plays will be more interesting than a place kick.

The XFL will have a 25 second play clock that will start as soon as the officials have placed the ball to determine the line of scrimmage.  The objective is to speed up the game and provide more action.  Sounds good to me.  Moreover, until the final 2 minutes of each half, the clock will not stop between plays for things like going out of bounds or an incomplete pass.  The officials will spot the ball for the next play and the clock will count down…  This sounds interesting and is worth a try.

Another interesting rule difference involves punts.  Any punt that goes out of bounds inside the receiving team’s 35 yardline comes out to the 35 yardline.  Same goes for punts that go into the end zone or out of the end zone.  That could result in fewer punts and more teams attempting to get a first down on 4th and short.

There will be no “coaches’ challenges” regarding replays.  There will be a Replay Official “in a booth above the field” and that official will have the authority to review plays where there are objective criteria for infractions – – such as too many men on the field or a timing error on the game clock.  Pass interference calls will not be reviewed.

Here is a rule innovation that does not seem to answer any real need.  Offensive teams may throw 2 forward passes on a play so long as the ball never crosses the line of scrimmage.  Currently, any forward pass no matter where it is caught means that no other forward pass is permitted.  I don’t think this rule will hurt anything, but I cannot figure out why anyone thought it was necessary to improve the product.

I am skeptical about the wisdom of an innovation the XFL plans to try out.  Multiple players will have receivers in the helmets so that various coaches can talk to the players.  Those communications will be available to the “broadcast partners” and may be put on the air.  Just as players who are “mic’ed up” in current games provide meaningless interruptions, this one has the potential to be really useless.

I do not like the XFL adoption of the college rule for a completed pass where only one foot need be inbounds.  Look, there are already enough rules to favor the offense; I don’t need yet one more…

Here is the new rule I like the best:

  • Halftime will be 10 minutes long.
  • That means no halftime extravaganzas in the stadium and a truncated “studio halftime show”.  How great is that?

Finally, given this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times, I suspect that he may appreciate some of the XFL rules to shorten game times:

“According to a study conducted by four universities in Ireland, the average doctor visit there lasts 14.1 minutes.

“Or roughly the same as an NFL video replay-review.”

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



Football Friday 1/10/20

It’s playoff time; it’s Friday.  Can it be anything other than Football Friday?  No, it cannot…

Last week’s Six-Pack – diminished as it was having only three entries – was as bland as possible.  Last week’s record was 1-1-1.  Back when Gene Mauch managed the Phillies, someone asked him how he felt after the team rallied in the second game of a double header to get a split in those two games.  Mauch offered this metaphor:

  • “Splitting a double header is like kissing your sister through a screen door.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about last week’s Six-Pack.  Here are how those predictions have turned out for the season:

  • Overall:  43-28-4
  • College:  20-7-1
  • NFL:  23-21-3


College Football Commentary:


I know that these things run in cycles; but for the past 15 years or so the SEC has been the best college football conference top-to-bottom.  The best teams in the conference have always been part of the discussion when the topic is “best team in the country”; the teams there who were “in the money but not on top” have been very good; the mediocre teams have had ways to surprise the football world a couple of times a year.  Of course, there were always bottom feeders that could beat up on the worst teams from other conferences but who were non-competitive in the SEC.  Overall, the only time SEC football was uninteresting – or even boring – was when teams there scheduled out of conference doormat opponents – and all of them have done that.

Over the last month, SEC football has gotten even more interesting than it was.  First, Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin as its head coach.  Lane Kiffin attracts attention and controversy like a picnic blanket attracts ants.  This week Mississippi State – less than 100 miles as the crow flies from Ole Miss – hired Mike Leach as its head coach.  To say that Mike Leach is “different” from your average football coach would be like saying mustard is “different” from your typical milk shake flavors.

Lane Kiffin’s teams have been good offensively – save for that brief interlude with the Oakland Raiders.  That seems to have been the general heading for Ole Miss teams in recent years; Kiffin would seem to be an attempt by the Rebels to hit the gas pedal even harder.

Mike Leach clearly embraces the idea of winning by outscoring the opponent.  He was at Texas Tech before Klif Kingsbury was there and the Red Raiders were often north of 40 points – win or lose.  Consider these stats from his team at Washington State last season:

  • Six times the Cougars scored more than 40 points in a single game.  Their record in those games was 5-1.  The loss came against UCLA by a score of 67-63.

[Aside:  For the sake of symmetry, the Cougars won a game where they gave up 53 points; that was against Oregon State and the score was 54-53.]

  • Cumulative scores for the Cougars’ schedule last year were Wash State 470 and Opponents 377.  The typical Washington State game saw 65.2 points on the scoreboard by both teams; that is more than a point a minute.

I have no idea if Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense will translate to SEC competition, but it should be fun to watch.  Moreover, it will be interesting to see how some of Mike Leach’s idiosyncrasies play out.  He seems to be obsessed with pirates and has some views about aliens that – politely put – are not akin to mainstream science.

The SEC just got even more interesting…


College Game This Week:


(Mon Nite) Clemson vs LSU – 6 (69):  Back in August, plenty of college football fans and pundits had Clemson as a participant in this Championship Game.  If anyone outside Baton Rouge thought that LSU would be here, I must have missed that pronouncement.  Both teams arrive here undefeated.  LSU has had only two games where the margin of victory was less than 10 points; Clemson’s schedule duplicates those outcomes.  LSU QB, Joe Burrow deservedly won the Heisman Trophy with a spectacular performance over the entire 2019-20 season; Clemson QB, Trevor Lawrence might be the first “generational talent at a QB” since Andrew Luck.  If you are a college football fan, you will make time to watch this game – or record it and watch it later.  I’ll put two selections on this game in this week’s Six-Pack:

  • I like Clemson plus the 6 points
  • I like the game to go OVER 69 points


NFL Commentary:


People have spent a lot of time over the last month or so complaining about the NFC East as the worst division in the NFL and why it was unfair for that division champion to host a playoff game.  That sort of whining is well beyond annoying because it is irrelevant; the NFL is thriving with the playoff system that is in place; they are not going to change it based on a year or two of unbalanced performance.  Recall that it was not all that long ago when the NFC South was the weakest division and the Panthers won that division with a record of 7-8-1.  Notwithstanding the impotence of all that wailing about the NFC East, the fact is that this year’s performance by that division was pathetic.  Consider:

  • Each NFC East team played 10 games outside the division.  In those 40 games the NFC East record was 12-28.  That is a winning percentage of .300.

            Lots of folks are heaping praise on the Seahawks because they win their close games.  Ten of their wins this year have been by one score – – if you count one game with an 8-point margin of victory as a one-score game.  Only one loss was by a single score.  There is good reason to praise the Seahawks for that performance.

However, the obverse should be considered too.  The LA Chargers record in one-score games this year was 2-9.  Just as the Seahawks should be praised for winning ten close games this year, the Chargers should be criticized for their record in close games.

Last week was an unusual week in NFL football.  Jameis Winston did not throw a single INT …

The Dolphins fired their offensive coordinator, Chad O’Shea.  [Confession: I could not pick him out of a line-up with the WNBA All-Star Team.]  His replacement will be Chan Gailey who has been retired from NFL coaching activities since 2016.  When I read this announcement, my immediate reactions were:

  • So what?
  • Why?

I have not come up with a response to the first question above but perhaps this is why the Dolphins made their move:

  • The Dolphins’ team was constructed to lose games and to get well with the top pick in the Draft along with other first round picks garnered in trading away what few quality players the Dolphins began the season with.
  • The Dolphins won 5 games; they overachieved.
  • That performance cost the Dolphins the top pick and “control” of this year’s Draft.

Maybe Chad O’Shea was fired for thwarting the strategic objectives of the team…

There were some Highlights from last weekend’s games:

  • Derrick Henry ran over, under, around and through the Pats’ defense for 204 yards from scrimmage.  The Titans won the game despite only gaining 72 yards passing.
  • Deshaun Watson led the Texans to a win despite being sacked 7 times in the game.
  • Kirk Cousins played like a $28M per year QB.

There were also a few Lowlights from last weekend’s games:

  • The Patriots’ lack of top-shelf talent at WR and TE was prominently on display over the weekend.
  • Drew Brees’ first fumble of 2019 – he dropped the ball; it was not knocked from his grasp – was a kill shot for the Saints.  The Saints had the ball at the Vikes’ 20 yardline late in the 4th quarter leading 20-17.   Also, Brees only averaged 6.8 yards per catch (5.4 yards per attempt) against the Vikes.  Those are Blake Bortles numbers…


NFL Games This Week:


One overall observation here…  Usually in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, most of the games have tight spreads; having one game of the four with a full TD spread is not out of the ordinary.  This year, three of the four games have wide spreads; two of them are 10 points or more.

(Sat 4:30 PM EST) Minnesota at SF – 7 (44):  I think this is the key to the game:

  • The Vikes’ OL is not all that good at protecting Kirk Cousins – – unless Dalvin Cook is running well thereby keeping the defensive front honest.
  • The Niners’ DL is going to pressure Cousins severely all day if Dalvin Cook is not running well to keep them honest.
  • See the essence of the issue emerging here?

Teams have been able to run on the Niners’ defense this year.  That unit ranks 23rd in the league against the run in yards per carry allowed.  That is why I think Dalvin Cook is the key to this game.  If the Vikes can bring the same defensive energy/precision that they had last week against the Saints, they might just steal the game on the final drive.  I think it should be a close game.  I’ll put the Vikes plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST) Tennessee at Baltimore – 10.5 (47):  The spread on this game started the week at 9.5 points; this morning it is at either 10 or 10.5 points just about everywhere with one Internet sportsbook offering an 11-point spread.  The trend is clearly “up”.  The Ravens come to the field with 12 consecutive wins on the books.  They have only lost two games this season and those came in back-to-back weeks in September:

  • 9/22/19: The Ravens lost to the Chiefs in KC; understandable…
  • 9/29/19: The Ravens then lost to the Browns at home; say what?

Ravens’ RB, Mark Ingram, did not practice Wednesday due to a “calf injury”.  Is that a precaution or is this a serious injury that might limit Ingram’s participation on Saturday?

Derrick Henry is the key to this game for a slightly different reason than Dalvin Cook is the key to the Vikes/Niners game  The Titans need to get the lead and then control the tempo – – and the offensive options left to the Ravens as they play from behind.  If this game starts out as a shoot-out, the Titans will not keep up.

Last week, I put the Titans in the Six-Pack as a Money Line pick and the Titans won outright.  I don’t think the Titans can win this one, but their defense is solid, and they should be able to run the ball.  I think the line is fat, so I’ll put the Titans plus the points in this week’s six-Pack.

(Sun 3:00 PM EST) Houston at KC – 10 (51):  Historically, Andy Reid’s teams do very well after a BYE Week; his teams are 17-3 straight up in their last 20 games after a BYE Week.  The Chiefs’ defense has come to life late in the season.  Back in Week 6, the Texans beat the Chiefs 31-24; I do not see that happening again  That is a big spread but I think that if there is a possible blowout game on the card for this weekend, this is it.  I’ll put the Chiefs in this week’s Six-Pack to win and cover.

(Sun 6:40 PM EST) Seattle at Green Bay – 4.5 (47):  If the game is in January and the venue is Green Bay, one must always consider the “weather factor”.  The forecast is for light snow on Saturday followed by cold temps on Sunday.  At game time, the temperature should be around 20 degrees with a light wind.  Compared to what is possible in Green Bay in January, that is “ideal weather”.

I think the key to this game is the Packers’ pass rush.  I do not think that the Seahawks’ OL will provide Russell Wilson with lots of leisure time to throw the ball; it has not done so all year long.  The question will be if the Packer’s rushers can keep Wilson from making plays out of the pocket.  Given that these guys practice against Aaron Rodgers all year long, you would think they would have seen that sort of thing before.

I really don’t have a good selection for this game – but since I have put 5 selections in the Six-Pack above, it behooves me to fill in that blank.  Purely a hunch, I’ll put the Seahawks plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack putting my confidence in Russell Wilson who deservedly got a few votes as the league MVP this season.

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

  • Clemson +6 against LSU
  • Clemson/LSU to go OVER 69 points
  • Vikes +7 against Niners
  • Titans +10.5 against Ravens
  • Chiefs – 10 over Texans
  • Seahawks +4.5 against Packers.

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



A Genuinely Bad Idea …

As you know, I am not a big proponent of using gobs of tax dollars to build gaudy stadiums for sports franchise owners.  When Stan Kroenke opts to spend his own money to put up his new stadium and real estate development project in LA, I think that is a fine thing to have happen.  And, he should be allowed to reap whatever rewards/profits accrue to him as a result of his choice of investments.  I am not opposed in any way to the idea that rich people can get even richer as a result of their own investments of time, and money.

Normally, when a government entity involves itself – or is lured into involvement with – a stadium building discussion, things get very murky very quickly.  Let me say that I am not generally confident that government involvement in matters such as this is positive for communities and I am very leery of the efficacy of many regulatory environments.

I mention this because of an article at sent to me by a former colleague late last week.  According to this report, there is the possibility of a change in the Federal regulations under the Community Reinvestment Act that would allow banks to put money into “a qualified opportunity fund” that would be used to “finance improvements to an athletic stadium”  so long as that stadium is in a low/middle income area as delineated by the census.

There is room for debate about the rectitude of the Community Reinvestment Act and about its impact on cities and areas of cites in the country.  I don’t think there is a lot of room to develop alternative interpretations of the purpose behind the Community Reinvestment Act; the intent of this law is to require banks to use a portion their funds to finance projects that will improve low/middle income neighborhoods.

According to the article at, there are plenty of professional athletic venues that are in designated “opportunity zones”; and if the new regulations were to be adopted here are some ways that banks could discharge their responsibilities to use money in low/middle income neighborhoods:

  • Finance the upgrading of a sound system at a stadium
  • Finance a new “Jumbotron” in a stadium.
  • You get the idea…

This is not a step in a positive direction – – unless you are of the opinion that the Community Reinvestment Act itself is something that should be stricken from the books.  The idea that banks can comply with this law and “improve poor neighborhoods” with investments such as the ones listed above – and also reap the tax benefits that accrue to the banks from making such investments – is a corruption of the intent of that legislation.

President Reagan once said:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

While I do not believe that is universally correct, I think it is an applicable statement to the proposed changes here.  If you want to read the article in its entirety, here is a link:

Switching gears … I mentioned recently that Mississippi Valley State is the only winless Division 1 men’s basketball team in the country at 0-13.  I don’t know why I went to see the details of that record, but a quick glance told me that this team has been hugely over-matched in multiple games this year.  Consider these data:

  • Cumulative score:  Opponents 1251 Miss Valley St.  558
  • Average margin of defeat:  53.3 points per game
  • Smallest margin of defeat:  10 points
  • Largest margin of defeat:  94 points    Yowza!

The Delta Devils have 17 regular season games remaining; all of them are Southwestern Athletic Conference games – – and then maybe a conference tournament in early March?  It certainly looks as if there will be some bleak times on campus in Itta Bena, MS over the next couple of months…

Tua Tagovailoa ended all the mystery and speculation and declared himself for the NFL Draft this year.  I think he made the right decision.  Lots of folks painted this decision considering Tagovailoa’s injury history at Alabama – – two ankle injuries and a broken hip.  I know that injuries are an important factor in NFL football, and I know that he comes to the league “pre-injured”; nonetheless, I prefer not to focus on that, and I wish him a long and productive NFL career.

I think Tagovailoa should be remembered for more than his leading a second half comeback for Alabama to win a national title game.  I think he is responsible for dragging Alabama’s offensive philosophy into the mainstream of college football.  Prior to his stewardship of the offense, Alabama was as close as one got to the famous Woody Hayes/Darrell Royal offensive philosophy:

  • Three yards and a cloud of dust.

Bonne chance, Tua Tagovailoa…

Finally, Bob Molinaro pondered this issue recently in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Local ties: Now that school officials have named Bethel High’s gym after Allen Iverson, a clever reader wonders if they will allow the gym to be used for ‘practice.’”

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



Filling NFL Coaching Vacancies…

The NFL coaching vacancies are disappearing like passenger pigeons.  Only the Cleveland Browns have an opening left and the last thing I want to do is to speculate on who will get stuck with that job.  Rather, I would like to spend some time today commenting on the 3 most recent hiring decisions made by the Cowboys, Panthers and Giants and then point out the possibility that a streak more than 50 years in the making might – I said MIGHT – be broken when the Browns do make their hiring decision.

Let me start with the Cowboys’ decision to hire Mike McCarthy.  Obviously, we will need to exercise patience to see if this works out for all parties; however, I think this was an excellent decision by Jerry Jones.  From his perspective – and that is the only perspective that really matters in this situation – Jerry Jones believes that he and his son have assembled a roster than can make the playoffs next year and then win at least a game or two once they are there.  I tend to agree with him on the offensive side of the ball; I do think the Cowboys can use some more heft on the defense if they are going to be taken seriously in next year’s playoffs.  Nevertheless, the Jones Boys should not have considered putting that team in the hands of someone who had little or no experience/credentials at the NFL level.

I think the Jones Boys had McCarthy on their short list for a while and I think they used the “meetings with Jason Garrett” over 3 or 4 days as a smokescreen for them to have preliminary discussions with McCarthy’s representatives.  I never bought into the narrative that Jerry Jones could not bring himself to fire Jason Garrett; Jerry Jones can be ruthless when he needs to be; there had to be a purpose to all that procrastinating.  While everyone was focused on his supposed angst over Jason Garrett’s “situation”, I believe that Jerry and Stephen Jones were making sure that McCarthy did not sign on with anyone else who interviewed him without giving the Cowboys a chance to meet/beat whatever the deal on the table was.

Given the circumstances and ownership’s perception of the roster quality, I think this hiring gets an “A” on the report card.  Now let’s see how it plays out…

Matt Rhule broke the bank with his deal with the Panthers.  Reports say he will get 7 years and $60M – – with incentives that could push the value of the deal as high as $70M.  When owner, Dave Tepper, fired Ron Rivera earlier this year, Tepper said that he wanted to put his stamp on the team.  Well, all I can say is that his stamp cost a whole lot of money. But that is not the issue here because Forbes pegs Tepper’s net worth at $12B.

[Aside:  As I understand NFL coaching contracts, the base amount – $60M in this case – is guaranteed at signing.  If the coach is terminated prior to the term, the coach gets paid as if he were still on the payroll for the entirety of the term.  However, there are offset clauses there; if the fired coach goes and gets another coaching job, then whatever he makes in that new job is subtracted from whatever the team that fired him owes him.  I assume Matt Rhule got that sort of a deal.]

Matt Rhule has no head coaching experience in the NFL.  The entirety of his NFL experience is a single season with the NY Giants as an assistant offensive line coach in 2012.  However, here are some of his accomplishments/credentials:

  • He was a linebacker at Penn State in the ‘90s.  Yesterday, his teammate there, LaVar Arrington, said on FS1 that Rhule was the “smartest football player” he ever met.
  • Rhule took over the head coaching job at Temple in 2013.  Temple was thrown out of the Big East because interest in its football program was so low that no one went to the games.  Temple football was less than an afterthought.  In 2015 and 2016, Rhule’s teams at Temple won 10 games and went to bowl games.
  • Rhule left Temple to take over the charred remains of the Baylor football program in 2017.  In the aftermath of the Art Briles disaster, the program almost got the “death penalty” and in fact was on life support.  In the first year, Rhule’s team at Baylor went 1-11; two years later in 2019, Baylor was 11-2.

Back when Tepper fired Ron Rivera and announced that it was time for him to put his stamp on the team, I pointed out that he might have set himself on a vector heading that was parallel to the one traveled by Danny Boy Snyder.  Matt Rhule may or may not be a “reach” for an NFL head coaching job in 2020; time will tell us about that.  Nonetheless, the length of this contract and its base value is startling.  Dave Tepper may not have endeared himself to his fellow owners by setting the price for head coaches where he did.  Because of Rhule’s success in rebuilding two moribund college programs quickly, I’ll give this hiring decision a tentative “B”.

The Giants decided to hire Joe Judge as their new coach.  Let’s get some cheap one-liners out of the way:

  • Here come da judge…
  • Is Joe Judge married to Judge Judy?
  • When cutdown day comes next summer, can we say that he was the Judge, Jury and Executioner?
  • BaDaBing!   BaDaBoom!!!

Judge was the Pats’ special teams’ coordinator and WR coach this year.  The Pats’ special teams were excellent; the Pats’ WRs were awful.  Here is why I like the hiring decision:

  • Joe Judge played football at Mississippi State and was a Dean’s List graduate there.  One report I read said that he is pursuing a Doctor of Education degree.  Those two things indicate to me that Joe Judge exists under the right end of the bell curve.
  • Judge spent three years as an assistant at Alabama under Nick Saban.  He has spent the last five years as an assistant with the Pats under Bill Belichick.
  • Since I think he is “smarter than the average bear” [Hat tip to Yogi Bear here…] I have to think he learned a lot about running a football program from those two “supervisors” in the last 8 seasons.

I admit that this hiring decision has the potential to flame out spectacularly in the event that the NY tabloids decide to make him a whipping boy and/or if he becomes collateral damage if the tabloids decide to put GM, Dave Gettleman, in the crosshairs.  There are too many moving parts here to give this one even a preliminary grade so let just call it “Incomplete”.

I promised above that a longstanding streak could be broken by the Cleveland Browns very soon.  What puts the Browns in position to do this is their request to interview Jim Schwartz – Eagles’ defensive coordinator – for their head coaching position.  Jim Schwartz was the head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2009 to 2013.  The last head coach of the Detroit Lions to leave that position and then go on to be the head coach for another team for even one game in the NFL was George Wilson who left the Lions in 1964.

  • Since 1964, the Lions have had 17 head coaches.
  • All of them faded into oblivion once the Lions were done with them.
  • Jim Schwartz could break that streak.

Finally, since the hiring of a new coach for a football team is generally a time of unbridled optimism, let me provide some views of optimism itself by some noted observers of the human condition:

“Optimist, n.  A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.”  Ambrose Bierce

And …

“Optimism, n.  The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.”  Ambrose Bierce

And …

“Optimism: the noble temptation to see too much in everything.”  G. K. Chesterton

And …

“An optimist is a man who has never had much experience.”  Don Marquis

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



I’m Confused …

I have never had the responsibility of running an NFL franchise.  In addition, my economic situation provides 100% certainty that I will never own an NFL franchise.  Notwithstanding those two facts, there have been two recent announcements of personnel decisions in the NFL world that have me scratching my head.

The Rams fired defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.  I understand that the Rams had a serious fall from grace in 2019 – – as happens frequently to teams that lost the Super Bowl a year before such a fall.  I also understand that someone – – or some ones – – involved with the team must “take the fall” for the fall from grace.  However, it was not the Rams’ defense that was responsible for the 2019 record of 9-7.  If you insist on pinpointing the Rams’ deficiencies last season, consider these two areas of shortcoming:

  1. Jared Goff did not perform to the same level of proficiency in the passing game in 2019 as compared to 2018.  His stats were not bad, but they were not as good as in the prior season.
  2. The Rams running game was underutilized for at least the first half of the season – – possibly to effect “load management” on RB, Todd Gurley.

The problem with examining and looking for remedies in those areas is simple.  Those relate to the offense and that is where wunderkind head coach, Sean McVey, holds forth.

The other discordant announcement was buried at the bottom of a list of “NFL Notes” in today’s Washington Post.  Here is that item:

“Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who got his first offensive coordinator position in the NFL with Cleveland under Eric Mangini, interviewed for the Browns’ head coaching job.”

Let me be clear; if Brian Daboll walked into Curmudgeon Central and bit me on the ankle, I would have to ask him who he is and wonder why he was biting me on the ankle.  However, neither of the two résumé items cited above would make me interested in him as a “hot prospect”.  The Browns under Eric Mangini went 10-22 over two seasons in 2009/2010; the Bills’ offense over the last two seasons has been better than pathetic – – but not a lot better than pathetic.

Between his time with the Browns and his current job with the Bills, Daboll spent 3 years with the Pats and one year at Alabama with Nick Saban.  I have to say that those “credentials” are interesting but less than compelling in terms of what I might look for in a new head coach for the Browns.  But remember, I don’t have any experience in doing such a hiring search…

Or …  maybe … this is an indicator that serious coaching aspirants are not taking calls from the Browns regarding this opening.  Is it possible that the Browns have quietly moved on to “Plan B” already?

Moving on…  I have sampled FS1’s morning sports show, First Things First a few times since Cris Carter and FOX decided to go in different directions.  While it is true that I had tired of Carter to some extent, his departure from the program was not an “addition by subtraction”; I did not particularly like the program when he was there and I don’t like it very much now that he is not there.  I just cannot maintain interest and focus on Nick Wright; I do not watch very often; and still I find his commentary to be repetitious and that is hardly an inducement to watch more frequently.

I do not watch early morning sports on TV more than once a week.  Probably, that is because I do not like any of the ESPN offerings at that time of the day much better than I like First Things First.  I continue to try to enjoy watching Get Up! – and I admit that it is better that it was when it launched – but it too is repetitious.  The reason that I prefer to watch Get Up! is Jalen Rose.  The more involved in the program that he is, the better it is.

Basically, my morning routine is simple:

  • Say good morning to my long-suffering wife.
  • Make coffee
  • Tune in The Weather Channel long enough to see the local forecast and the radar picture.
  • Turn the TV off and pour coffee.
  • Chat with my long-suffering wife and read the morning paper.

The Weather Channel gives me information I can use.  FS1 and ESPN are not likely to meet that standard with regard to enticing me to tune into their morning offerings, so the only thing left for them is to be entertaining.  Here is the status as of January 2020:

  • Neither First Things First nor Get Up! come close to meeting that “entertaining standard”.

The college basketball season is about to get much more interesting as conference play begins in the 32 conferences that make up Division 1 NCAA basketball.  As of this morning there are only two undefeated teams left in the country:

  • Auburn  13-0  Southeastern Conference
  • San Diego State  15-0  Mountain West Conference

And, of course, here in Curmudgeon Central it is de rigueur to mention the only winless team in the country as of this morning:

  • Mississippi Valley State  0-13  Southwestern Athletic Conference

[Aside:  Twelve of those thirteen losses were road games for the Delta Devils.  The NCAA loves to refer to its “student-athletes”.  Surely those 12 road games enhanced significantly the “student” portion of college life for those “student-athletes”.]

Finally, here is a Tweet from Brad Dickson:

“Tom Brady may’ve played his last game ever. Husker fans refer to Brady as ‘The second best quarterback ever, behind Luke McCaffery.’”

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



Christopher Columbus

I feel like Christopher Columbus this morning; twice last evening, I went looking for one thing and found something completely different.  That leads me to present the following data regarding three NFL head coaches who are in the running for Hall of Fame induction this year:

  • Tom Flores:  Record is 97-87-0  Winning percentage = .527
  • Dan Reeves:  Record is 190-165-2  Winning percentage = .535
  • Dick Vermeil:  Record is 120-109-0  Winning percentage = .524

For the record, I would not be even mildly offended by the induction any of those candidates above.  However, please compare those stats with the “Mystery Coach of the Day” here:

  • Mystery Coach:  Record is 85-67-0  Winning percentage = .559

No, I am not going to make you read to the bottom to find out who the Mystery Coach is.  He is Jason Garrett.  And if anyone has suggested recently that Jason Garrett is on his way to becoming a finalist for Hall of Fame induction, I must have missed that suggestion.

I found this because when Jerry Jones finally pulled the trigger and let Jason Garrett go from his coaching duties with the Cowboys, I went looking for Garrett’s overall coaching stats.  When I saw that winning percentage, I immediately thought it was in the range of more than a couple of coaches already in the Hall of Fame – – and so I went to look at the finalists for this year’s voting for a comparison.  I looked for one thing and found something else…  And it happened a second time too.

After watching the Saints/Vikes game on TV, I wondered if Drew Brees was injured or showing his age or just had a bad day.  Everyone has bad days and that may be the explanation, but I went looking for his 2019 stats knowing that he had missed 5 games with a thumb injury.  Brees started 11 games; he had the highest completion percentage in the NFL at 74.3% and his yards per attempt were above his career average.  He threw 27 TDs and only 4 INTs.  Those stats do not suggest that he was “showing his age”.  However, I noticed something else while checking Brees’ stats for 2019:

  • Six of the top 10 QBs ranked by Yards Passing in 2019 did not make the playoffs.
  • None of the top 5 QBs ranked by Yards Passing in 2019 made the playoffs.  [Those five were Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan.]
  • Brees – because he only played 11 games – ranked 26th in the NFL in Yards Passing.

I guess that Drew Brees just had a sub-par day yesterday …

And speaking of the Saints/Vikes game, one might also conclude that the football gods really enjoy torturing the Saints and their fans in playoff situations.  There is an adage on Wall Street that says:

  • If something out of the ordinary happens once, it is an occurrence; if it happens twice, it is a coincidence; when it happens a third time, it is a trend.

The Saints and the playoffs have just become a trend.

  • First, they lost to the Vikes in the playoffs due to the Minnesota Miracle two years ago
  • Then, they lost to the Rams on the infamous Roby-Coleman uncalled defensive pass interference last year.
  • Yesterday, they lost on an uncalled offensive pass interference on the winning TD catch.

I completely understand why that offensive pass interference was not called; that “no call” is totally consistent with the way that NFL games have been officiated for the last 10 years (at least) and it is totally consistent with the officials’ reluctance to use replay to change most of the pass interference calls that they are called upon to review.  Nothing in that last sentence, however, changes the fact that there was offensive pass interference on the play, and it was not flagged.  I can imagine the Saints’ Front Office looking around to see if they can find someone who specializes in exorcisms for organizations…

There was one other aspect of that play review that bothered me because it stretches credibility.  The league said that it had reviewed the play from every angle and that it had great camera angles on the play from the game coverage.  I believe the second part of that because the folks at FOX showed me a couple of angles on replay that were highly germane to the call.  Surely, the folks in NY doing the reviews had those camera shots and others at their disposal.

The first part of that statement, however, makes me stop and wonder.  The folks in NY who review such calls in OT, made their decision in about a minute or less.  Normally, replay reviews take at least 2 minutes and – seemingly – some take as much as 5 minutes to adjudicate.  I would think that a replay review for a call that is so decisive regarding a playoff game would take more time than passed here – – unless of course the folks in NY had no intention of overturning the call on the field from the get-go.

Finally, here is an observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that proves you need to be careful what you wish for:

“Hear about the New York fan who found a magic lamp last summer and got his greatest wish for the Knicks granted?  Well sort of …

“Guess he should’ve told the genie something besides, ‘We want to be neck-and-neck with the Warriors next season.’”

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