The Fortunes Of Two Football Coaches

The Philadelphia Eagles fired coach Doug Pederson notwithstanding the fact that he delivered the only Super Bowl Trophy in the team’s history.  The rupture in the relationship there appears to be multi-dimensional:

  • Last January, Pederson announced that his offensive coordinator would be back for another year; the next day, the Front Office fired the coordinator.  The Eagles went without an offensive coordinator last year dividing those duties between two “senior offensive assistants”.
  • Defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, has either retired or has merely decided to take a year’s leave of absence from coaching.  Pederson wanted to hire Cory Undlin as his replacement; Undlin has 1 year of experience as a defensive coordinator and it yielded extremely poor results.  That hiring was not going to happen.
  • The Eagles record since winning the Super Bowl has been a mediocre 22-25-1.  Moreover, in that time the team saw a dramatic regression in the performance of QB, Carson Wentz.
  • And then there was the “Nate Sudfeld Decision”…

The “explanation” for playing Nate Sudfeld in the 4th quarter of this year’s final game against the WTFs is that he had been with the team for 4 years and deserved a chance to play.  The game was meaningless to the Eagles – – but it was of critical importance to the WTFs and to the NY Giants and to the general integrity of the NFL.  So, the explanation that he “deserved a chance to play” was never going to fly – like an eagle or any other species of bird.

Patrick Mahomes got the day off in the final game of the regular season and that was more than “okay”; it was good common sense shown by Chiefs’ coach, Andy Reid.  That game meant nothing to the Chiefs; they would be the overall #1 seed in the playoffs win or lose.  That game meant nothing to the Chargers; they would miss the playoffs win or lose.  Everyone expected and accepted that the Chiefs would be playing the JV that day.

So, the Eagles now join the other six NFL teams that are seeking new head coaches.  The attractiveness of the Eagles’ job depends almost entirely on whether Carson Wentz is “fixable”.  He has a huge contract that will make him difficult to trade even to a team that is convinced that he is “fixable”.  If he is neither tradeable nor fixable, the Eagles are headed for a bad stretch over the next several  years.  Stay tuned…

Down at the collegiate level, the University of Michigan and Jim Harbaugh reached an agreement on a contract extension there; the extension runs through the end of the 2025 season.  Here is what is unusual about this contract extension:

  • Harbaugh had one year left on his current deal and that called for an $8M salary.
  • The new contract calls for him to earn $4M in 2021 with incentives that could get him back to the $8M level.
  • It will cost Michigan $4M to buy Harbaugh out this year but that figure goes down by $1M a year to the end of the deal.
  • It will cost Harbaugh $2M to buy himself out this year and that figure goes down by $500K a year to the end of the deal.

No matter how you look at it, Jim Harbaugh retained his job but took a massive pay cut in the process.  His “old deal” began in 2014 and was to end at the completion of next season; his “new deal” runs an extra 4 years but at about half the previous rate.  That does not happen frequently in the coaching profession; normally a coach in that situation is fired – – or at best he and the school “mutually agree to go in different directions.”

When Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor, he was the conquering hero returning home to the place where he saw success on the field for the Wolverines.  He was the guy who would lead the team to previous heights – – then beyond them.  More than merely the “Buzz Lightyear of Michigan football” (“To infinity and beyond!”), Jim Harbaugh was “The Football Messiah” in Ann Arbor back in 2014.  Now, he is a coach who kept his job by taking a 50% pay cut…

The incentives in his contract – – if achieved – – would allow Harbaugh to be –  once again –  one of the highest paid coaches in the country.  So, let us look at what it would take to get him into the rarefied air of more than $8M a year:

  • Win the Big 10 title – – almost certainly meaning wins over Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State in the process.
  • Be selected for the CFP
  • Win the National Championship
  • Be named Coach of the Year.

Now, let me look at the recent fortunes of Michigan football in juxtaposition to that list of goals for the program:

  • The Wolverines are 11-10 in their last 21 games.
  • Jim Harbaugh is 0-5 against Ohio State
  • Michigan has lost its last 4 bowl games – – none of them even close to the stature of the CFP bowl games.

Nothing in those contract incentives is impossible.  Having lofty goals is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, my guess is that Harbaugh and the Michigan football program should be humming the tune of an old Frank Sinatra song:

“He’s got high hopes; he’s got high hopes

He’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes…”

Finally, given the status of the Eagles’ fortunes and the Michigan football situation, it seems appropriate to close here with the definition of optimism provided by the journalist and writer, Ambrose Bierce:

Optimism:  The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong.  It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.”

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



Football Friday 1/8/21

After two aberrant weeks where Holidays intervened to disrupt things here in Curmudgeon Central, Football Friday is once again coinciding with Friday on the calendar.  F. Scott Fitzgerald told us never to accept a single defeat as a final defeat.  He was right; simply through perseverance, Football Friday and the common calendar have come back into sync.

Therefore, let me begin with a look back on last week’s Six-Pack.  It was another plain vanilla performance which makes it all but certain that this year’s cumulative record in Six-Pack selections will be less than .500.

  • College: 2-2-0
  • NFL:  2-2-0
  • Combined:  4-4-0
  • Money Line Parlay:  0-1

That brings the cumulative record for Six-Pack selections to:

  • College:  19-24-1
  • NFL:  28-34-2
  • Combined:  47-58-3\
  • Money Line Parlays:  0-2


College Football Commentary:


Texas fired Tom Herman and found a way to cough up $24M to buy out his contract.  Texas football has lots of booster money at its disposal and Texas boosters seem not to be able to live with a successful football program that does not go beyond that level and become a dominant football program.  Herman was the coach at Texas for 4 seasons; his teams registered a combined record of 32-18; he was the “hottest”/”sexiest” coaching hire on the market back in 2017; now winning about 2 of every 3 games is not enough…

Texas alums love to crow – after spending a lot of money and landing a “top-shelf new coach” – that Texas football is back.  Maybe that will be the case this time; I will wait to see how the “new guy” makes that happen…

The “new guy” will be Steve Sarkissian who got the job on two bases:

  1. He is the offensive coordinator for Alabama and the Alabama offense is more than merely “very good”.
  2. He has cleansed many – if not all – of the stains on his previous coaching résumé in the penitence chamber of Nick Saban’s assistant coaches.

Steve Sarkissian may indeed be the second coming of Darrel Royal in Austin; time and results will decide if that is to be the case.  However, let me suggest that you read this assessment of the hire from

What college football has left to present to its fans is a CFP Championship Game.  Alabama and Ohio State will give college football fans a contest that is worthy of viewing and  analysis.  What happened last week in the CFP semi-finals was also an important presentation of college football; fans saw a lot of top-shelf college football players putting maximum effort out there for 60 minutes; nobody was “dogging it”; fans of college football – – as opposed to fans of a single team or a single conference – – got something they could appreciate.

Now, look at the rest of the bowl games for 2020/2021.  There were fewer of them this year because COVID-19 mandated that there would be fewer of them.  And, even with a smaller set of games to fill, how many of them were either important or interesting?

  • Georgia 24 Cincy 21:  This was interesting because Cincy is not a Power 5 team and Georgia is one of the better teams in the best of the Power 5 Conferences.  The Bearcats had been undefeated going into the game; this game was meaningful, and it was competitive.
  • Oklahoma 55 Florida 20:  This game matched two “also-rans” near the top of two Power 5 conferences.
  • Oklahoma St. 37 Miami 34:  This game was between two good-if-not-great teams and it produced a close contest.
  • Liberty 37 Coastal Carolina 34 (OT):  These are two teams that are not in Power 5 conferences who brought a combined record of 20-1 to the kickoff and then delivered an OT game for the fans.

The rest of the bowl games – – and there were dozens more – – were either not competitive or not important.  I bring this up only to suggest that the cries you will hear and read about expanding the CFP from 4 teams to 8 teams are not interesting.  This year, I might entertain an argument that Texas A&M belonged in the CFP as opposed to Notre Dame.  The Aggies won their bowl game over UNC handily.  But that is where it ends.  Yes, I know that in March Madness we finally saw a #16-seed beat a #1-seed.  But did we REALLY enjoy watching all of the blowout games pairing those teams for all those years?

One last observation about this year’s bowl games:

  • The ACC record as a conference was 0-6.  Not impressive…


College Game of Interest:


(Mon Nite) Alabama – 8 versus Ohio State (75):  Nick Saban traditionally has been a “defensive guy”; this year his defense has not been outstanding – – merely 32nd in the country in yards per game allowed and 13th in the country in points per game allowed.  This year, the Alabama offense has the spotlight, and it puts 48 points per game on the scoreboard.  Instead of offensive coaches trying to find ways to “trick” the Alabama defense into a mistake or two in a game, this year’s opposing offensive coaches have to be concerned about keeping pace with the Alabama scoring machine.  From what I have seen, the Buckeyes have the speed on offense to do that AND they have a QB who can direct a big-play offense with poise and talent.  Will Justin Fields be at his peak physically after suffering a chest/rib injury a week ago and being sent back into the game with a “couple of shots” and “no diagnosis”?  Ohio State is +250 on the Money Line; Alabama is minus-270 on the Money Line.  I will try for a “middle” here where I bet on both teams and hope to win both bets.  I like Ohio State + 8 points AND I like Alabama on the Money Line.  If the Crimson Tide wins by 7 or fewer points, I cash both bets.  Put that pairing in the Six-Pack.


NFL Commentary:


Last week, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Hardware: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s MVP; Buffalo’s Sean McDermott is Coach of the Year. No arguments will be entertained.”

Pardon me, Professor Molinaro; I do have two nominees to enter into this discussion and I believe that both merit consideration for these awards.  If Aaron Rodgers and Sean McDermott ultimately wind up with the awards, I shall have no great sense of loss.  I will not say the voting was rigged nor will I be so appalled by the choices that I would contest the voting process itself.  Having said that:

  1. Derrick Henry needs to be considered as the NFL MVP for 2020.  If you use the criterion of “best player for the season”, Henry’s 2000+ yards speak for themselves rather eloquently.  If you use the criterion of “most valuable to his team”, I suggest that the Titans would not be in the playoffs without his presence in the backfield and his 397 “touches” in the 2020 regular season.
  2. Kevin Stefanski needs to be considered as the NFL Coach of the Year.  He took over a Browns’ team that clearly lacked adult supervision and despite his “youth” (he is 38 years old), Stefanski got the Browns to a 11-5 record and a place in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.  The last time the Browns won 11 games in the regular season was in 1994; you may have heard of the coach on the 1994 Browns’ team; it was Bill Belichick.

The NFC playoff teams present us with the possibilities of seeing Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady playing against one another this year as the games unfold.  Even in Curmudgeon Central, there are no complaints about watching any or all those potential games.

Teams fight and claw to make it to the playoffs through the NFL regular season.  Well, we have an expanded playoff set this year and maybe it makes sense to try to understand what these playoffs mean to some of the teams and players who are still playing:

  • The Titans and Browns are in the playoffs this year.  They are the only two teams making the playoffs this year that have never won a Super Bowl game.  The Titans have been to the Super Bowl once; the Browns – in neither of their incarnations – have ever participated.
  • Lamar Jackson has never won a playoff game having made the playoffs in both of his previous 2 seasons in the NFL.  The Ravens bring a five-game winning streak to the kickoff against the Titans.  That is the good news; the bad news is that those five wins came at the expense of the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals. The Titans should provide stiffer competition this week.
  • The Bills have won six games in a row and all six victories were of the double-digit variety.  Josh Allen threw 15 TDs and two picks in those winning games. The victims in those last 6 wins by the Bills were the Rams, Niners, Steelers, Broncos, Patriots and Dolphins.
  • The Browns last playoff win came in January 1995.  Their QB this week, Baker Mayfield, was not born until April 1995.

These playoffs could very well mean a lot for some NFL coaches – in addition to what the game might mean to players and franchises.  Consider:

  • Bruce Arians (Bucs):  He is an “offensive coach” and this year he was presented with Tom Brady, Gronk and Antonio Brown in addition to what he had last year.  I suggest the team had better score points.
  • John Harbaugh (Ravens):  He is in no danger of getting fired, but his reputation will not be enhanced even a little bit with a 3rd consecutive first-round playoff loss.
  • Sean McDermott (Bills):  He has lost his only two playoff games in the first round of the playoffs – – just like John Harbaugh has lost in the last two years.   The huge difference here is that Harbaugh has a Super Bowl ring and McDermott does not.
  • Matt Nagy (Bears):  Making the playoffs is likely a “coaching career reprieve” for him – – unless the Bears are embarrassed by the Saints this weekend…

Speaking of the Bills and their appearance in this year’s NFL playoffs, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“In addition to game tickets, parking and antifreeze, the 6,772 fans allowed in to watch the Bills’ first playoff game will be required to pay $63 for a COVID-19 test on the way in.

“Make it an even $100, rumor has it, and they’ll even throw in a Dr. Fauci bobblehead.”

Last weekend was the grand crescendo for the NFL regular season.  Let me mark the occasion by presenting some thumbnail comments on some – but not all – of last week’s games.

The Falcons did not force the Bucs to punt even once in their 44-27 loss last week.  The Falcons have lots of work to do in the off-season on both offense and defense.

The Cards are another team with work to do in the offseason.  They finished the season at 8-8 losing last week to the Rams quarterbacked by John Wolford in his first ever NFL start.  Since their BYE Week in early November, the Cards went 3-6.  Those three wins were:

  • The “Hail Mary win over the Bills”
  • A win over the NY Giants
  • A win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Not impressive…

The Dolphins’ defense disappeared last week giving up 56 points to the Bills.  Was the Dolphins’ “Top-10 Defense” from Weeks 1-15 a mirage?

What do the Jets need to do in the offseason.  They need upgrades everywhere.  They have lots of picks this year and plenty of cap space – – that is good news for Jets fans.  Now, those picks and free agent signings must be productive…

The Pats very simply need to find a new QB AND they need to upgrade their pass catching cadre significantly.  There is no coaching legerdemain or scheming that will overcome those deficiencies.

The Jags are going to take Trevor Lawrence with the overall #1 pick in the Draft, but he will not be able to help the Jags’ defense which gave up 492 points this year.  The Jags have the Rams’ pick in the first round too and that one had better deliver a defensive stud.

Can Derrick Henry carry the miserable Titans’ defense through the playoffs?  He had 250 yards rushing by himself last week; and yet, the Titans needed a doinked field-goal to provide a 41-28 win over the Texans who went 4-12 for the season.

The Ravens beat the Bengals 38-3 and have won 5 straight games; the Ravens have been dominant in all 5 of those games.  The Ravens ran for 404 yards last week against the Bengals; of course, they won that game handily.  Two things here:

  1. It is tough to beat a team that can dominate the line of scrimmage like that.
  2. Most playoff teams have a better run defense than the Bengals – – except maybe the Titans’ defense which is pretty miserable.

The Niners just need to get their starters healthy in the off-season.  They were playing with one hand tied behind their back for most of the year.  The team has talent; much of it was on the sidelines this year – – or up in the press box socially distanced – – and in street clothes.

The Eagles need to repair coach/player trust – – some of which had to have been lost when Nate Sudfeld was sent in to play the 4th quarter of last week’s game.

With all the focus on the miserableness evinced by the NFC East, the Bears enter the playoffs with some less-than-outstanding credentials.  The Bears went 8-8; they had a six- game losing streak during the season; if I have counted correctly, they have played other playoff teams 7 times and have gone 1-6 in those 7 games.  But at least, they are in the playoffs instead of sitting at home watching on TV.

The Raiders need to shore up their defense.  They are pretty much good-to-go at QB, RB, TE and WR.  The other side of the ball needs a talent infusion – – a large dose of new talent.

The Chargers may be searching for a new coach, but they have their franchise QB under contract.  Justin Herbert is the real deal.

The Lions are out looking for a new coach and the team is rumored to be considering a trade for Matthew Stafford.  I do not know if fans should be thrilled about that or not, but I think Matthew Stafford should be elated.


NFL Games:


(Sat 1:00 PM EST)  Indy at Buffalo – 6 (51):  The Colts’ defense was a Top 3 defense for the early part of this season, but it has become middling-at-best over the last month or so.  That is not a good way to approach a game against a Bills’ offense that is rocking and rolling.  I noted above that the Bills have won 6 games in a row by double digits; in those 6 victories, the Bills have averaged 39.8 points per game.  The Colts’ QB, Philip Rivers, is certainly the more experienced QB particularly in the playoffs; but his record in playoff games is not eye-popping.  He has started 11 games in the playoffs and won only 5 of them; in those 11 playoff games, he has thrown 14 TDs and 10 INTs.  The Colts’ rookie RB, Jonathan Taylor, has seemingly overcome his fumbling issues from earlier this season; he has rushed for 1169 yards and 11 TDs as a rookie.  The key here is the ability of the Colts’ defense to keep the Bills from sprinting out to a big lead; I do not think they will do that; I like the Bills to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sat 4:30 PM EST):  Rams at Seattle – 3 (42):  These teams met twice in the regular season; this will be the rubber match; the home team prevailed in both regular season encounters.  Jared Goff’s thumb injury happened in the second game against the Seahawks two weeks ago; the small spread on the game indicates to me that the oddsmakers and the bettors to date believe that Goff will be able to play here.  The Rams’ defense has been successful against the Seahawks this year holding them to only 18 points per game in those two outings.  The Seahawks’ defense was awful at the beginning of the regular season, but that defense has been mighty stingy since mid-November giving up only 16.0 points per game in the final 8 regular season games.  I expect the game to be dominated by the two defenses but that Total Line seems awfully low to me; I’ll take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST)  Tampa Bay – 8.5 at Washington (44.5):  This spread varies from 8 points to 9.5 points from sportsbook to sportsbook; this is the most common line as of this morning.  If there is a merciful God, the announcers for this game will not harp on the Chase Young “calling out” of Tom Brady after the WTFs beat the Eagles last weekend to clinch this playoff spot.  It was not worth the coverage it got last weekend; it became silly reporting early this week; it is now annoying, and I hope it is not a central storyline Saturday night.  [Aside:  Fat chance…]  This is an opportunity for the WTFs’ young defense to present themselves; the Bucs’ offense has plenty of talent; can the young defense hold it down?  The last time the WTFs’ defense gave up more than 20 points in a game was on November 15th.  If you look at the Bucs’ offense, you will notice that it has averaged over 40 points per game in the last 3 games and that Tom Brady has thrown for a total of 1137 yards in those 3 games.  That may lead you to conclude that the WTFs’ defense is simply overmatched.  But wait; those last 3 games for the Bucs have been against the Falcons (twice) and the Lions.  I believe I have tracked this down correctly:

  • I believe this is the first time in his career that Tom Brady has been in a playoff game in the wildcard round where he has been on the road.
  • Tom Brady has started 301 regular season games and 41 playoff games in his career.  There are not a lot of “firsts” that he encounters these days…

The QB situation for the WTFs is “tenuous”.  Alex Smith is competent and fragile; Taylor Heinicke is getting reps in practice with the starting unit.  Is he going to be part of the game or is that a ploy to make the Bucs’ defensive coaches prep for something that is not going to happen?  No matter; the WTFs are not going to win this game if it turns into a shoot-out.  I think the game will stay close; I think the Bucs will win but they will have to work to make that happen; I’ll take the WTFs plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 1:00 PM EST)  Baltimore – 3 at Tennessee (54):  Can the Ravens’ defense stop Derrick Henry?  No.  Can they keep him in check such that the Ravens’ offense has a chance to work on a porous Titans’ defense?  That is the key to the game…  Both teams would prefer to run the ball down the throat of the opponent; both teams should be successful to a point doing that.  The Titans have beaten the Ravens the last two times they met – – including in last season’s playoffs where the Ravens were sent home after a dominant regular season.  I think Lamar Jackson will have a big game here and break his “playoff jinx”. I like the Ravens to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 4:40 PM EST)  Chicago at New Orleans – 10.5 (47.5):  From Week 13 through Week 16, the Bears’ offense seemed to awake from hibernation; in those 4 games, the Bears were north of 30 points every week and averaged 35 points per game.  It was a mirage.  Here are the defenses that were torched by the Bears in that 4-game run:

  1. Lions
  2. Texans
  3. Vikings
  4. Jags

Three of those four teams were bad enough this year that they are out looking for new coaches as I type these words.  Mitchell Trubisky will have difficulty against a good Saints’ defense; he will need all the help he can get from RB, David Montgomery.  By the same token, the Saints’ offense will not waltz up and down the field over the Bears’ defense because the Bears will probably collapse the defense and dare Drew Brees to beat it deep.  I do not think he can do that too often.  I hate picking double digit spreads in NFL games; in the regular season, this game would never show up in a Six-PackBut since these are the playoffs, I’ll make an exception; I’ll take the Bears plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 8:15 PM EST)  Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 6 (47.5):  Can the Browns beat Steelers two weeks in a row?  The Steelers lost by 2 points in Cleveland last week without the services of Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, Cam Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey.  Nevertheless, the Steelers have problems that have been exposed over the past five weeks where they have gone 1-4 to finish off the regular season.

  • The Steelers do not run the ball well.
  • The Steelers do not throw deep well.
  • The Steelers lead the NFL in “dropped passes”.

If the Steelers are to win this game, it will likely be on the backs of their defense – – but that unit has had more than its share of injuries to top-shelf players  Devin Bush and Bud Dupree jump to mind there.  On the other hand, the Browns’ loss of Olivier Vernon will not help their defense.  Browns’ coach Kevin Stefanski will have to miss the game under the COVID-19 protocols; given that I think he belongs in the discussion for Coach of the Year (see above), I believe that will be a significant issue.  I do not expect any offensive fireworks in this game; the Browns will try to pound the ball with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt; the Steelers will dink-and-dunk far more often than they will do anything else.  In the end, I think the Steelers are the better team and they will have their coach on the sidelines; I’ll take the Steelers to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

Just for fun, I want to try one more Money Line Parlay this week.  Give me:

  1. Alabama at minus-270
  2. Bills at minus-300
  3. Ravens at minus-180
  4. WTFs at + 300.

The payout here will be +850 – – if I did the math correctly.

So, let me review the Six-Pack:

  • Ohio State +8
  • Alabama on the Money Line at minus-270
  • Bills – 6 over Colts
  • Rams/Seahawks OVER 42
  • WTFs +8.5 against Bucs
  • Ravens – 3 over Titans
  • Bears +10.5 against Saints
  • Steelers – 6 over Browns
  • Money Line Parlay of Alabama, Bills, Ravens, WTFs

Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation regarding one of this year’s minor bowl games in the Seattle Times last week:

“Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz — while dancing with the Duke’s Mayo Bowl crystal trophy after the Badgers’ 42-28 win over Wake Forest — fumbled it onto the locker-room floor, shattering it into hundreds of pieces.

“No need to tell this to Mertz when the replacement bauble finally arrives: Don’t hold the Mayo.”

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



Football Friday – On Thursday – 12/24/20

Anyone who has been reading these rants for even a short period of time has surely come to the realization that Football Friday is an important calendar entry here in Curmudgeon Central.  Nevertheless, Football Friday is being moved to a different calendar entry this week to make way for Christmas this Friday.  Even though my long-suffering wife and I will be spending Christmas Day using Zoom and WhatsApp to connect with family, those virtual celebrations take precedence over banging out Football Friday on its normal schedule.

Call this “Touchdown Thursday” if you want.  I shall begin as usual with a review of last week’s Six-Pack which had 8 selections crammed into it:

  • College:  2-2-0
  • NFL:  2-2-0
  • Combined:  4-4-0

Those results bring the cumulative results for the 2020 season to this less than laudatory status:

  • College :  17-22-1
  • NFL:  24-30-1
  • Combined:  41-52-2


College Football Commentary


College football is poised to step aside in its pursuit of the spotlight within the US sports world; its regular season is over; its playoffs will not happen for another week or two.  College football will seek to fill some of that time with bowl games that are generally meaningless and uninteresting.  From this afternoon through Saturday evening, there will be eight bowl games; only two of those eight games caught my attention for more than a microsecond:

  1. Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina:  The teams will meet in something called “The Cure Bowl” in Orlando, FL on Saturday at 7:30 PM EST.  This is an interesting game because Liberty is 9-1 on the season and Coastal Carolina is 11-0.  Even though these are second tier teams from second tier conferences, it might be an interesting game.
  2. Marshall vs. Buffalo:  The teams will meet in something called “The Camelia Bowl” in Montgomery, AL on Christmas Day at 2:30 PM EST.  This is an interesting game because Buffalo has a running back named Jarrett Patterson who has averaged 178.7 yards per game and 3.2 TDs per game this season.

The CFP pairings are set.  Frankly, I am a bit surprised that there was only a murmur of controversy regarding the naming of the 4 entrants this year; I would have expected the lackluster showings of both Ohio State and Notre Dame in their final games to have created a more vocal advocacy for other teams such as Texas A&M, but that never materialized.  The CFP semifinals will occupy the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl this year; that leaves the so-called New Year’s Six with the following matchups:

  • Cotton Bowl Dec 30th 8:00 PM EST:  Oklahoma vs. Florida.  These are two good teams with plenty of offensive firepower.  I will not be surprised if the losing team scores 30+ points in the game.
  • Peach Bowl Jan 1st 12:30 PM EST:  Cincy vs. Georgia.  Cincy is undefeated; Georgia has lost twice – – to Alabama and to Florida.  Both teams are strong on defense.
  • Fiesta Bowl Jan 2nd 4:00 PM EST:  Oregon vs. Iowa State.  I am afraid I will miss this game; my calendar calls for me to rearrange my sock drawer at that time.
  • Orange Bowl Jan 2nd 8:00 PM EST:  Texas A&M vs. UNC:  The Tar Heels average 43.0 points per game; The Aggies allow 21.1 points per game.  This should be interesting.

Other than games mentioned here, I count 11 other college football games that will happen between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  I find precisely none of those games to be interesting let alone compelling.  If you are an alum of any of the 22 schools that will be participating in those 11 games or if you have a blood relative who is attending any of them, tune in to see what happens.  I plan to be busy trying to reach the unreachable star.  (Hat Tip to The Man of La Mancha.)

Two games from last weekend produced strange happenings on the field that bear passing mention even though the season is over.

Penn State beat Illinois 56-21.  The score at the end of the first quarter was 21-21.  Here are the scoring drives for that first quarter:

  1. Penn State 1 play 75 yards
  2. Illinois 4 plays 16 yards
  3. Penn State 100-yard kickoff return  (BTW there is 10:51 still to go in the 1st quarter at this point.)
  4. Illinois  3 plays 75 yards
  5. Illinois 4 plays 63 yards
  6. Penn State  10 plays 75 yards

And then, the Illinois offense went into hibernation for the rest of the game…

Army beat Air Force 10-7 to retain the Commander in Chief trophy for 2020.  The Army passing attack produced this highly unusual stat line:

  • 1 of 2 for 0 yards with 0 TDS and 0 INTs

Meanwhile, the Air Force passing attack was marginal at best:

  • 6 of 14 for 107 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs

With the regular season ended, I can now announce that the winner of the inaugural Brothel Defense Award – the defense that is most easily scored on – is Kansas for giving up 46.0 points per game.  Let’s hear it for the Jayhawks…

There are no college football games that merit placement in this week’s Six-Pack so I shall move on to the next standard section for Football Friday.


NFL Commentary


I am fast coming to the conclusion that Dwayne Haskins is a meathead.  Last season there were hints that he had difficulty remembering how to call various plays in the huddle after he got the signal from the sideline.  When he lost his starting job this year, there were stories that coaches had to teach him how to take notes during film study to make that film study productive.  And now – – after he regained his starting QB job due to injuries to Kyle Allen and Alex Smith – – Dwayne Haskins finds himself front and center in the mind of Roger Goodell.  Here is the deal:

  • After losing to the Seahawks last weekend, Haskins went out to a ”local exotic club”; losing the game must have put him in need of solace so that he might arrive at club HQs next week alert and ready to absorb the game plan being devised by the coaches.  No big deal, right?
  • Did I mention that he was photographed in the “exotic club” without a mask on his face?  That is a violation of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol.
  • Oh, by the way, this is the second time Haskins has been in violation of the NFL’s health and safety protocols.  That means he could suffer a 4-game suspension if The Commish so decides.

[Aside:  Kyle Allen is out for the year; Alex Smith’s availability for this week’s game is uncertain; the other QB on the active roster is Taylor Heinicke.  If the WTFs win out, they are in the playoffs; they need their QB suspended like a moose needs a hat rack.]

Naturally, Dwayne Haskins issued a public apology for this meatheadedness.  Here is what he said; tell me if you think you have heard this sort of thing somewhere before.

“I want to publicly apologize for my actions this past Sunday.  I spoke with Coach Rivera yesterday and took full accountability for putting the team at risk. It was irresponsible and immature of me and I accept responsibility for my action. I also want to apologize for creating a distraction for my team during our playoff push.

“I will learn and grow from this and do what’s best for the team moving forward.”

Amazingly, his previous transgression regarding the COVID-19 protocols did not enable him to learn and grow from that incident not did it get him to realize what constitutes irresponsible and/or immature behavior.  But now, things will be different…

Lest you think I am being too harsh on someone who is only 23 years old, take a moment and follow this link to read what Sally Jenkins has to say on the subject in Wednesday’s Washington Post.

Last week, the Seahawks beat the WTFs 20-15.  Dwayne Haskins played the best game of his career here in a loss.  Here is his stat line:

  • 38 of 55 for 295 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs plus 3 carries for 28 yards.

That is not a great stat line for an  Aaron Rodgers or a Patrick Mahomes; but importantly, Haskins was poised for much of the game and did not stare down his receivers.  It may not be good enough to convince the WTFs’ coaches to put up with Haskins’ immaturity and meatheadedness as noted above, but it was his best showing to date.  As usual, the WTFs dug themselves a hole trailing at the half 13-3 and then trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter 20-3.

The Cards beat the Eagles 33-26.  The Eagles could not have asked for much more than they got from Jalen Hurts in this game.  Here is his stat line:

  • 24 of 44 for 338 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs plus 11 carries for 63 yards and 1 TD.

The Eagles’ problem here was the defense that gave up 526 yards total offense.  Even though the Eagles “won the takeover battle” 3-0, it was not enough.

The Cowboys beat the Niners 41-33.    You should not conclude from the Cowboys’ total of 41 points that they marched up and down the field at will against the Niners.  The Cowboys got 24 points because of short fields set up by recovering 2 fumbles and intercepting 2 passes; then with the score 34-27, the Cowboys returned an onside kick for a TD.  In fact, the Cowboys were outgained 458 yards to 291 yards.

The Bills beat the Broncos 48-19.  The Bills clinched the AFC East title with this win; that is the first time the Bills have won the division since 1995.  The star of the game had to be Josh Allen; the Bills’ QB threw for 359 yards and 2 TDs plus he ran for 33 yards and 2 more TDs.  Stefon Diggs was on the receiving end of 11 passes from Allen gaining 147 yards in the process.  The Broncos made a game of it in the first half trailing only 21-13 at the intermission but the second half got ugly pretty quickly for Broncos’ fans.

The Packers beat the Panthers 24-16.  The Panthers defense showed up ready to play.  They sacked Aaron Rodgers 4 times and held him to 143 yards through the air.  Packers’ RB, Aaron Jones, gained more yards rushing than Aaron Rodgers gained passing; that does not happen often.  The Panthers’ offense was not efficient here; they got to the Red Zone 4 times and only came away with 1 TD.

The Bucs beat the Falcons 31-27.  When I saw that the Falcons led 17-0 at halftime, I made a note on my pad saying:

“The Bucs have them right where they want them.”

Early in the third quarter, the Falcons led 24-7.  And then, as if on cue, the Falcons squandered a three-score lead once again.  In the fourth quarter of the game, the total offense for the Falcons was 35 yards.

The Titans beat the Lions 46-25.  Just to point out the dominance of the Titans in this game, consider only these two stats:

  1. Titans were in the Red Zone 5 times and came away with 5 TDs
  2. Titans converted 9 of 11 third-down situations.

Maybe the folks in Detroit looking for a new coach and GM should consider the possibility that the team could use an influx of talent on the field as much as it needs better leadership on the sidelines and in the front office?

The Ravens beat the Jags 40-14.  The Jags started Gardner Minshew at QB in this game but that did not provide much of a spark; the Jags failed to score a point in the first half of the game.  As an indicator of how much the Ravens had this game under control, they did not punt at any time in the game.

The Colts beat the Texans 27-20.  The Texans had a good chance to tie this game and send it to OT but lost a fumble at the Colts’ 1 yardline with 19 seconds left on the clock.  Deshaun Watson played well here throwing for 373 yards and 2 TDs in a losing effort.

The Bears beat the Vikes 33-27.  Mitchell Trubisky was efficient if not spectacular here.  His stat line was:

  • 15 of 21 for 202 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT plus 8 carries for 34 yards

Dalvin Cook had a good day for the Vikes gaining 132 yards rushing and scoring 1 TD.  The Vikes sputtered when it mattered; they were 4 of 11 on third down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth down conversions.

The Dolphins beat the Pats 22-12.  When I took this game to stay UNDER 41.5 in last week’s Six-Pack, I said that the first team to 20 points would be the winner.  Voila!  For the first time since Tom Brady missed an entire season with a knee injury more than 10 years ago, the Pats are not going to be in the playoffs.  The Dolphins ran for 250 yards in this game and controlled the ball for just over 37 minutes.  The Dolphins converted 7 of 12 third down situations while the Pats were only 2 of 9 in the same circumstances.

The Jets beat the Rams 23-20.  The Jets are off the schneid; they have a win on their record; they also now do not possess the overall #1 pick in next year’s draft; that pick now belongs to the Jags based on tiebreakers.  The Rams were 17-point favorites in the game and the Jets were +675 on the Money Line; so how did this happen?  Sam Darnold was efficient and effective at QB; the Jets’ defense limited the Rams to 303 yards and held the Rams to 2 of 11 on third down conversions; the Jets’ special teams blocked a punt.  I suspect a whole lot of survival pools shrank significantly when the final whistle sounded here…

The Chiefs beat the Saints 32-29.  The Chiefs looked awfully good against a very good Saints’ defense here; the only issue for the Chiefs is that two of their RBs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and LeVeon Bell, suffered injuries in the second half of the game.  The Saints had Drew Brees back from the injured list and he looked rusty for most of the first half of the game.

The Browns beat the Giants 20-6.  After trailing at the end of the first quarter 3-0, the Browns dominated the game.  The next time the Giants scored was with 4 minutes left in the game to make the score 20-6.  The Browns held the ball for 34 minutes in the game and converted 9 of 13 third-down situations.  The Browns’ receiving corps of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones may not be household names, but they are very good.  And maybe just as importantly, they are not divas who demand attention at all times.

The Bengals beat the Steelers 27-17.  The Bengals were energized for this game; they outhustled the Steelers from start to finish.  This is the third loss in a row for the Steelers; they are in the playoffs but have not yet secured the AFC North title.  Ben Roethlisberger is going to the Hall of Fame one of these days but his performance in this game was abjectly awful.  Twice he threw into triple coverage which had to mean that he missed an open receiver somewhere unless the Bengals had 13 men on the field; the reason neither of those passes were intercepted is that he was so far off target that no one could get to the ball.  The Steelers’ defense played well; the Bengals only gained 230 yards in the game, but the Steelers’ offense was almost non-existent.

Just to summarize, here is the playoff picture going into this week’s games:

  • In the NFC, Packers have clinched the NFC North.  The Seahawks and Saints have clinched a spot in the playoffs.  That’s it; the five other slots are up for grabs.
  • In the AFC, the Bills and the Chiefs have clinched their divisions and the Steelers have clinched a spot in the playoffs.  That’s it, the five other slots are up for grabs.


NFL Games:


By making these picks a day earlier than usual, some of the lines for Sunday’s games could move significantly relative to where they are now.  C’est la guerre…


(Fri 4:30 PM EST) Minnesota at New Orleans – 7.5  (51):  Drew Brees started out last week’s game miserably but played much more like himself in the second half of the game.  The Vikings do not have much of a pass rush, so Brees ought to be able to pick the Vikes’ secondary apart.  I do not like that hook on top of a full TD in the spread so I will pass on this as a selection for the Six-Pack.

(Sat 1:00 PM EST) Tampa Bay – 10 at Detroit (54):  The line opened at 8 points and suddenly expanded to 10 points at those sportsbooks where the game was not taken down entirely.  Here is the deal:

  • The Lions had a positive COVID-19 test.  Not good but not a disaster either…
  • Problem is that interim head coach, Darrell Bevell and the entire defensive coaching staff are marked as “close contacts” with the infected person.
  • It is not as if the Lions’ coaching staff is made up of top-level strategists and tacticians, but it probably behooves the team to have someone there to do some decision making.  Right now, it is not clear who will be there to do  that.

(Sat 4:30 PM EST)  SF at Arizona – 5 (48.5):  The analysis for this game is simple and direct.  The Niners are eliminated from the NFC playoffs; the Cards are in the playoff picture but need this game to stay afloat.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST):  Miami – 3 at Las Vegas (48):  In last week’s so-called “look-ahead line” the Raiders were favored by 1.5 points but the injury to Derek Carr made the Dolphins the favorite when this week’s betting began, and they have remained the favorite all week long.  Dolphins rookie QB, Tua Tagovailoa may not be lighting up the NFL stat sheets, but he has started 7 games and is 6-1 against the spread.  That would make him a strong contender for Rookie of the Year by folks who have been backing him and the Dolphins this season.  The Raiders have lost four of their last five games and it is the Raiders’ defense that is on the spot.  In those last 5 games, the Raiders have allowed 36 points per game; a change in defensive coordinator did not result in significant change on the field.  I like the Dolphins to win and cover in this important game in their playoff run; put it in the Six-Pack.

Denver at Chargers – 3 (49):  The Total Line opened the week at 51 points and dropped rather quickly to this level.  Often, late season games involving the Broncos have a dropping Total Line when the game is outdoors in the elements of Denver in December.  Such is not the case here.  The Chargers offense is hitting on all cylinders; Denver has been in-and-out for most of the season.  The Chargers have won their last two games; the Broncos have lost 5 of their last 7 games including last week’s shellacking at the hands of the Bills.  I like the Chargers to stay hot and to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.  I also like this game to go OVER; put that in the Six-Pack too.

Cleveland – 9.5 at Jets (47.5):  The Browns can all but lock up a playoff spot with a win here; the Jets will hit the field as winners of their last game; that will be a new sensation for these guys.  Did the Jets wake up last week?  Were the Rams over-confident?

Cincy at Houston – 9 (46):  After the way the Texans played last week, I am shocked to see that they are 9-point favorites over anyone let alone a team that played as well as the Bengals did last week.  Yes, the Bengals must go on the road on a short week; yes, this is a home game for the Texans after three straight games on the road;  yes, the Bengals were jacked up for a division game last week and are not likely to play at the same intensity level this week.  But 9 points…?  That line is fat; I’ll take the Bengals on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Indy – 2 at Pittsburgh (44.5):  If the Steelers’ offense does not come back to life here, the Steelers are going to lose their 4th game in a row.  The Steelers have not scored more than 17 points in any of their last 4 games; the Colts have a good defense, one that is better than the Bengals’ defense that held the Steelers down last week.  Three questions relative to the Steelers are in the air here:

  1. Can RB, James Connor make it back from injury for this game?
  2. Would that be enough impetus if he can play?
  3. Is Ben Roethlisberger’s career over – – or has it just looked that way for the past 3 games?

Chicago – 7.5 at Jax (47.5):  You can find this line at 9 points at one sportsbook this morning; almost all the others have it at 7.5 points.  Take a deep breath here while I remind you that the Chicago Bears have scored 30 or more points in each of their last 3 games.  The Jets gifted the Jags with the overall #1 pick in the draft last week by beating the Rams; will the Jags return the favor here?  The Bears are still alive in the playoff chase; if they blow their chances against the 1-13 Jags, there will be a major outbreak of dolore di stomaco in the Windy City…

Carolina at Washington – 2.5 (43.5):  The fact that this line is where it is tells me that the bettors are convinced that the NFL is not going to suspend Dwayne Haskins for this game (see above).  I suspect they are correct; even Roger Goodell who likes to polish his “tough-guy image” periodically may be reluctant to put that sort of barrier in front of the WTFs who lead the NFC East for now.

Giants at Baltimore – 11 (44):  Both teams are still playoff contenders – – but a loss for either team could be fatal.  Did the Ravens figure out what had been bothering them last week?  If so, they will win this game in a walk.  If not…

Atlanta  at KC – 11  (54):  The spread opened the week at 13 points; this morning you can find it as low as 10 points at one sportsbook.  Here is a fun Fact about the Falcons in 2020:

  • The team is eliminated from the playoffs with a 4-10 record.  Nonetheless, the point differential for the Falcons is +2 for the season.
  • Other 4-10 teams (plus the Eagles at 4-9-1) have point differentials from minus-33 points to minus-71 points.

The Chiefs are 13-1 and could secure the playoff BYE Week in the AFC with a win here.

Rams at Seattle – 1 (47.5):  The spread for this game opened at 3 points; this morning you can find it anywhere from 2 points to “pick ‘em”.  Maybe you can explain the Rams; loss to the Jets last week as it being a “look-ahead game”.  If so, the Rams need to come out smoking in this one because a loss to the Seahawks will guarantee that the Rams will not win the AFC West.  A win for the Rams will put them atop the AFC West based on the head-to-head tiebreaker for the season.

Philly – 2 at Dallas (49.5):  The game opened the week with the Cowboys as 2-point favorites and then it flipped.  I have no explanation for that change.  I also have no explanation for why anyone would want to bet on either of these teams this weekend.

(Sun Nite) Tennessee at Green Bay – 3 (56):  The spread for this game opened at 5 points and has been eroding to this level during the week.  Darrick Henry should have a big day against the Packers’ defense; Aaron Rodgers should have a big day against the Titans’ defense.

(Mon Nite)  Buffalo – 7 at New England (46):  The Pats have looked miserable on offense for a while now.  The Pats scored more than 20 points only once in the last 5 games; their defense is good but not that good.  Defenses are loading up to stop the run and daring either Cam Newton or Jarret Stidham to do damage with the cadre of pass catchers on the Pats’ roster.  It is just not working.  The last time the Bills were a road favorite over the Patriots was back in 1999.  I think the Bills will dominate here; I like them to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack – – with only 5 entries this week:

  1. Dolphins – 3 over Raiders
  2. Chargers – 3 over Broncos
  3. Chargers/Broncos OVER 48.5
  4. Bengals +9 vs. Texans
  5. Bills – 7 over Pats

Lest anyone feel cheated by the lack of a sixth selection above let me throw in a Money Line Parlay just for fun:

  • Bears at minus-360 plus Bucs at minus-440 plus Browns at minus-440 plus Bills at minus-320
  • This is a Money Line Parlay from Sesame Street; it is brought to you by the letter “B”.
  • By my calculation, if it hits, the parlay will pay out at +149.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“Ex-Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville — the newly elected U.S. senator from Alabama — hinted he’ll join a potential challenge to the electoral-vote count when Congress reconvenes in January.

“Ever see a red challenge flag thrown across the senate floor before?”

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



Hockey In 2021…

According to reports, the NHL and the NHLPA have a tentative agreement to start the next hockey season on January 13th and for the teams to play a regular season of 56 games.  The challenge(s) facing the NHL in these times of coronavirus pandemic are more complex than they are for other US sports.  The NHL has 7 teams based in Canada; as of this morning, there are travel restrictions in place for people to quarantine after crossing the border between the US and Canada.  Those travel restrictions make perfect sense in terms of public health; those travel restrictions make normal scheduling procedures for the NHL impossible.

From what I have read, there is one part of the tentative agreement – – it still needs to be ratified formally by all the owners and by the players themselves – – that must have a purpose behind it; but that purpose escapes me.

  • Teams that missed the playoffs last year will open their training camps on December 31st and teams that made the playoffs last year will open their training camps on January 3rd.

Here are some of the nuts and bolts contained in this tentative agreement that control how the upcoming season will take place:

  • There will be no exhibition games.  After a couple weeks in training camp the season will start on January 13th.
  • The teams have been realigned for 2020 and the plan is to return to the old alignment once the pandemic is in the past.
  • There is an all-Canadian division for those 7 teams based in Canada from Montreal in the east to Vancouver in the west.
  • The 24 teams based in the US have been geographically clustered to reduce travel times and allow for some schedule compression.
  • Teams will only play regular season games against the other teams in their division.
  • The regular season will end on May 8th; the Stanley Cup Finals will end on or before July 15th.
  • The top 4 teams in each division will comprise the field for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There are plenty of details and wrinkles contained in this tentative agreement that are important but do not register that importance to me simply because hockey is not in my wheelhouse.  One way that I keep up with “hockey stuff” is to follow Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note which you can find here or on the website listed under “Columnists I Read”.

Recently, the NY Post reported that Vontaze Burfict was arrested in Las Vegas “on a misdemeanor battery charge”.  As I scanned that report, two things ran through my mind:

  1. If I had to make a list of the 10 NFL players most likely to be involved in a “battery incident”, Vontaze Burfict would be an early entry on that list.
  2. I am surprised it was only a misdemeanor battery incident.

TMZ Sports reported on what allegedly happened; according to that report, Burfict and some others were looking for a place called “Secret Pizza” in Las Vegas and the schtick for “Secret Pizza” is that it is intentionally difficult to find.  If you are interested, you can find the TMZ Sports report here.

For those of  you old enough to have read the Uncle Remus Tales before they were deemed to be ever so politically incorrect, you may remember the story where Br’er Rabbit was caught and captured by Br’er Fox.  The fox was going to eat the rabbit, but the rabbit said that would be just fine so long as the fox did not throw the rabbit into the briar patch.  After a series of exchanges where the fox made it appear to be worse and worse for the rabbit, Br’er Rabbit kept saying whatever the fox wanted to do was OK – – just so he did not throw the rabbit into the briar patch.

Naturally, the fox falls for the line; throws the rabbit into the briar patch and the rabbit escapes unharmed.  I mention that because the NY Knicks and owner James Dolan remind me of that story this morning.  The Knicks are banning the media from Madison Square Garden and preventing them from covering the Knicks’ exhibition games played there; the reason given is the pandemic.  Let’s just say that there are a few folks who are not buying that story; some folks think that this is the team’s way of trying to make life more difficult for media folks who are not always nice to the team or its owner.

I think more than a few of those media folks see this as having been thrown into the briar patch.  Covering Knicks’ games has probably not been fun for the last 5 years or so; covering exhibition basketball games is more of a chore than normal because everyone knows from the beginning that the games themselves are irrelevant.  And so, the team will forbid the scribes from being in the building to do something they would naturally prefer not to have to do.

  • Memo to NY Knicks:  Thank you for throwing me in that briar patch.

Finally, since I began this morning writing about the NHL, let me close with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Hockey:  Attempted murder on ice.”

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



One Positive Today And One Negative Today

Let me set the stage for a moment here.  I have a relative – – the son of a niece – – who is a senior in high school.  He is an excellent student with a superior GPA while taking multiple AP courses; he could go on and do just about anything he wants to do as a career.  Right now, what he wants to do is to be a sports journalist.   [Aside:  When I was his age, my goal was to be a radio play-by-play announcer for major league baseball; life does not always turn out the way we might prefer…]  Whenever I think there is a topic that might interest him in one of these rants, I send him an email link to the rant and often he responds with a comment or criticism.

Yesterday’s rant about the President of Notre Dame and his campus actions relative to the “field-storming event” seemed to me to be something this young man might find interesting and so I sent the link to him.  Last evening, I got a response from him that I want to share here.  Remember, this is written by a senior in high school:

“ … the field storming was a clear and obvious violation of campus protocol for COVID-19 spread prevention. At first, I was inclined to take the ‘hypocrite’ route with Notre Dame’s president after all the (justified) press he got for his negligence during the Justice ACB ceremony. However, I must say I’m dissuaded from that stance by what you raise: The Reverend did not allow his own embarrassing misstep to prevent taking action that is ultimately in the student body’s (and community’s) best interest. One might say he had no choice, but in fact he did. There’s been inaction (with dire effects) in plenty (plenty being too many) institutions nationally. Rev could have thrown his hands up to basically cover his behind from the ACB event, essentially throwing a ‘We’re all even now’ back to the student body. But ND had virus issues early this academic year, and my thought is the president doesn’t want any part of that again, which is a highly responsible objective.”

When I was a high school senior, I was fortunate to be able to put two sentences back-to-back that had the following characteristics:

  1. They were both grammatically and syntactically correct – – and – –
  2. The two sentences related one to the other in at least a semi-logical fashion.

Kudos to this young aspiring sports journalist…

A lot – and perhaps too much – attention has been paid to the NY Jets failure to win a single game to date this year.  Many folks have opined that the team is “Tanking for Trevor” to set up next year’s NFL Draft; plenty of other folks have called for Adam Gase’s head on a plate; ownership – in the person of Christopher Johnson – has been assailed as so dumb that it took him 3 years to learn how to grunt. I believe there is an aspect of the Jets’ situation that has not received nearly the attention it deserves purely based on the standard it may set.

  • Gregg Williams is the Jets’ defensive coordinator, and the team may in fact finish the season with an 0-16 record.
  • Gregg Williams was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2017 when the Browns finished with an 0-16 record.

Imagine for a moment that the Jets finish 0-16 making Williams the defensive coordinator for two of the three most embarrassing seasons in NFL history.  The only other person on the planet who would be in position to tie his ignominious record would be Joe Barry who was the defensive coordinator of the Lions back on 2008 when they proved to the world that an NFL team could indeed lose all 16 of its games in a single season.

By no means am I trying to imply that Gregg Williams bears even the majority of the responsibility for the frustration felt by Jets’ fans this year.  The roster is a mess; the team culture cannot be all that great when the best players on the roster from last year all forced their way out of town; the drafting has been “spotty at best”.  Gregg Williams does not have a ton of talent to deal with.

At the same time, the 2020 NY Jets are within shouting distance of a record that no team wants to have:

  • In 1981, the Baltimore Colts finished that 16-game season with a point differential of minus-274 points.  [For the record, the expansion Bucs in 1976 finished a 14-game season at minus-286 points but I choose to look at the record for comparable season length here.]
  • In 2020, the NY Jets point differential after 9 games is minus-147 points.  Doing a linear extrapolation, they would finish the year at minus-261 points.

There is an amazing trifecta to follow here:

  1. The Jets may join a rather exclusive club as the third team never to win a game in a 16-game season.
  2. Gregg Williams may be the defensive coordinator on two of the three teams never to win a game in a 16-game season.
  3. The Colts’ record of minus-274 point differential for a 16-game season is within the reach of the 2020 NY Jets.

Finally, since I mentioned a young and aspiring sports journalist above, it is important to note that the profession of journalism sprang from the invention of the printing press and moveable type.  So, let me close with a pertinent definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Gutenberg, Johannes:  Fifteenth-century printer who originated the mass production of moveable type.  If someone could have gone back in time to let Gutenberg know that his invention would lead to such things as The Bridges of Madison County, Dianetics and a magazine called Family Circle, perhaps he would never have gone through with it.”

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



Please Vote …

In normal times – – and 2020 cannot be considered “normal times” on so many levels – – I implore folks quadrennially on Election Day to get out and vote.  It is a right conferred on people by their citizenship; it is a responsibility to one’s citizenship to exercise that right.

This year, Election Day may well be inconvenient for voting given the potential for higher turnout, stringent checks on the identity and the status of someone showing up to vote and the always possible threat of inclement weather in early November.  My long-suffering wife and I decided that we would take advantage of our retirement status and go out to vote today – – a Wednesday – – in the middle of the day.  When we arrived at our polling place and the two of us joined the line, we doubled the number of people in line waiting to vote.  It was as simple and as convenient a process as could be expected.

So, this year, let me urge everyone to get out and vote before Election Day or on Election Day or by mail  or by sending up a white puff of smoke from your chimney.  I do not endorse candidates; my political opinions are not important to you.  I do not want to know for whom you decide to vote; that is none of my business.

Please, just vote !



RIP Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford died last weekend.  He was a mainstay of the Yankees’ pitching staff in the 1950s and 1960s which were dynastic years for the team.  Ford holds the highest winning percentage for pitchers with more than 200 wins in MLB history at .690.  Ford was known as “The Chairman of the Board” because of his calm and straightforward demeanor.  According to lore, he had been struggling with arm injuries for about 2 years (there was no Tommy John surgery or rotator cuff surgery in those days) and after 1 inning in a road game he walked to the dugout and then into the locker room and headed home.  He left a note on the locker of manager Ralph Houk that said, “I’ve had it; I’ll call you when I get home.”

Rest in peace, Whitey Ford.

Sticking with baseball for a moment, Bob Molinaro had this item in a column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Repairs needed: With everything else going on in America ― and the impact it’s having on sports ― MLB playoff games shouldn’t be high on anybody’s list of complaints. But, man, do these games drag ― averaging about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Pitching changes are relentless. Strikeouts come in comic abundance. Let’s face it, baseball is broken.

The key observation in that commentary is that the games drag – – and they do.  I am not referring to any sort of “drag” that comes from tight and low-scoring games; I enjoy games where a lead change is always imminent.  But the number of walks and strikeouts means that there are long stretches of time when the ball is never in play.  Some batter/pitcher matchups can be made into a TV mini-series as the pitcher fidgets around in the same zip code with the mound and the batter adjusts his gloves as often and as fastidiously as a super-model getting ready to stride down the runway.  That is not enjoyable viewing.

Another of the major tennis tournaments concluded over the weekend when Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the 13th time.  That means Nadal has now won 20 of tennis’ major tournaments and he did that by beating Novak Djokovic in the finals.  Djokovic is the #1 ranked player in the world, and he had not “lost” a match so far this year.  His only “loss” came in the US Open when he accidently hit a linesperson with a ball to her throat; and for that, he was disqualified.  Last weekend, Nadal beat him in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for their convincing victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.  The NBA’s “Orlando Bubble” experiment worked even better than could have been wished for; players, coaches, staff and officials experienced no COVID-19 outbreaks.  For anyone who chooses to nit-pick here, just remember that it worked.  Now the Lakers and the rest of the NBA – along with the NBPA – must wrestle with some thorny issues for the future such as:

  • How will they handle the hit to revenue in 2020 because revenue in 2020 is what determines the salary cap in 2021?  When the NBA got a humongous new TV deal, the owners suggested phasing in the new cap numbers over several years and the players would have none of that.  Now, revenues went down sharply…
  • The schedule for next season is not going to be an easy thing to assemble.  When will the season start?  How many regular season games?  How to avoid having the playoffs draw so poorly against playoff baseball and the NFL?
  • Those decisions all involve money that flows to the owners and the players and the two sides now have about 6 weeks to figure it all out.

Dwight Perry commented on an interesting event that came out of the NBA’s “Orlando Bubble” experiment in the Seattle Times:

“Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook thanked the housekeeping staff at Orlando’s Grand Floridian hotel with a huge assist — an $8,000 tip — as he departed the NBA bubble.

“’They took great care of us,’ Westbrook told Bleacher Report. ‘Took the time and energy to do their job at a high level. That was the right thing. I like to do the right thing.’”

The “Bubble” was about 3 months long; indeed, the staff at the hotel performed their services over an extended time and obviously performed them to the great satisfaction of Russell Westbrook.  Even considering the fact that Russell Westbrook makes a ton of money playing NBA basketball, that was a generous and thoughtful gesture on his part.  If you want to read the backstory for this happening, you can find it here.

Anyone who has been reading these rants for a while knows that I like to have fun with the names of athletes that I run across.  Here are some college football players with names that made me smile:

  • Robert Corner III is a defensive back for UTEP – – Of course that is his position
  • Phat Watts is a WR for Tulane – – Not a good name for a WR
  • Bumper Pool is a LB for Arkansas – – He bumps into lots of people at that position
  • Chase Oliver is a LB for Fla. St. – – I love names that are complete sentences
  • KJ Vault is a S for Tulane – – I wonder if he is majoring in banking

And there are always those players whose names give copy editors nightmares – – such as:

  • Eugentavious Blue – – WR  Miss Valley State
  • Kwatrivous Johnson – – OL  Mississippi State
  • Izuchukwu King Ani – – DE  Mississippi State
  • Simeon Nwokenkwo – – LB  Grambling

Finally, Tom Brady lost track of downs at the end of last week’s loss to the Bears.  Greg Cote had this comment – and confession – related to that incident in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“What were the odds of Tom Brady forgetting it was fourth down? Only time Greg Cote gets mixed up on small numbers is when he shoots a six on a golf hole and ‘mistakenly’ writes five on his scorecard.”

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



Strange Stuff Today …

There is a report in the Orlando Sentinel that the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) voted to start the high school football season and the girls’ volleyball season on time this Fall.  The leaders of the FHSAA ignored the recommendation(s) of its own Sports Medicine Advisory Committee as it took that action.  The chairwoman of that advisory committee is a physician with the Mayo Clinic in Jax; here is her statement:

“It is our stance that return to competition for the high-risk sports of football and volleyball is not medically safe.”

It may be difficult, but please put aside any political leanings you might have regarding COVID-19 and state mandates regarding personal behaviors.  In addition, please remember that I am rooting for a return of football this Fall; I want that to happen.  Having said that, this action by the FHSAA makes no sense.

  • Right now, in the State of Florida, the community spread of COVID-19 is as bad as it is anywhere in the US.
  • Certain counties in southern Florida report that they can count the number of vacant ICU beds on two hands with fingers left over.

The question here is simple:

  • Why does the FHSAA bother to have a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee?

In another corner of the football universe, there have been recent comments from LSU coach, Ed Orgeron, that fall somewhere between “wishful thinking” and “magical thinking”.  Here is a smattering of what he supposedly said:

“We need football.  Football is the lifeblood of our country.”  [Coach, I love football; it ain’t the lifeblood of our country.]

“Whether we start Sept. 5 or a little after that; in-conference, out of conference, that doesn’t bother me. I do know this; I believe we’re going to play.”   [Coach, I really hope you are right.  I hope just as fervently that your concerns for the health of the players on your team and your opponents’ teams is as strong as your obvious love for football.]

For the last 5 years, the Buffalo Bills have played their home games in New Era Field; the naming rights belonged to the New Era Cap company in Buffalo.  The company now wants out of that deal – not for reasons similar in any way to the reasons that FedEx threatened to take its name off the Washington stadium – and so there is a “naming rights opportunity” out there for the taking.  The Tushy Bidet company – – its goal is to Tushify every bathroom in the US – – has said it would be interested in putting its name on the stadium and that it would try to bring a college football bowl game there and call it the Toilet Bowl.

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summarized this tidbit and hit all the low notes:

“The Buffalo Bills’ stadium needs a new name sponsor, and a bidet company called Tushy is bidding. Decorum prevents us from noting that Tushy Stadium sounds like a pretty crappy name.”

I have one last item today and it is something I have mentioned before.  The reporters who cover golf should be ashamed of themselves; they are not reporting on the sport and their writing is not nearly close enough to “deathless prose” to mitigate their poor and subjective reporting.  Far too many golf reporters spend far too much time in an obsequious posture at the feet of Tiger Woods.  That unprofessional nonsense was in full display over the weekend and yesterday.

In last week’s tournament Tiger Woods finished 15 strokes behind the tournament winner.  He finished in a 4-way tie with 3 other golfers whose names happen to be:

  • Scott Harrington
  • Marc Leishman
  • Ryan Moore

I list their names here because the reporting on the tournament ignored them even though their performance was as relevant to the tournament outcome as was Woods’.  That is the polite way of saying that all four of them finished – – in racetrack parlance – – up the track.

However, Tiger Woods got a ton of coverage that was irrelevant to the outcome.  Here is a headline from on Monday morning:

  • Improvement comes Sunday as Woods closes 2020 Memorial Tournament on high note

For someone like me who did not watch the tournament live on TV the day before, the implication here is that Woods rallied in the final round but that he started the day so far off the lead that he could not win the tournament.  So, I clicked on the headline and found this to be Paragraph #1:

“Tiger Woods ended his 2020 Memorial Tournament with a 76, which sounds terrible until you compare it to what the rest of the field is doing. Woods’ 76 was exactly the field average at the time he finished on a Muirfield Village course that was playing 4 over in major championship-like conditions.”

And you think that political campaign managers spin the news?

  1. The course did not play 4-over at the end of the day because the players who were playing well over the weekend finished after Woods was in the clubhouse.
  2. Woods also shot a 76 on Friday – – when the course was playing “normally”.  Forty golfers who made the cut shot under par on Friday – if I counted correctly.
  3. Thirty-nine golfers finished ahead of Woods – and the other three golfers who finished at +6 for the tournament.  That ended the tournament on a “high note”?

That kind of “reporting” is shameful; it is not journalism; it is close to idolatry; it is time for it to stop.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this golf-related item in the Seattle Times recently.  I suspect the golf writers of the day did not report fully on these events either:

“David Feherty says his finest moment in golf came at St. Andrews, where ‘I captained the Irish side that won the 3-man world championship back in 1990 in a blind hangover. I threw up twice on the course.’

“Which certainly gives the golf term ‘up and down’ a whole new meaning.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports



Pat Forde Realigns College Football

A couple of days ago, a reader asked in a comment to the daily rant if I had any comment on Pat Forde’s radical suggestion to restructure college football.  I did not at the time for the simple reason that I had not seen it, but now I have and so I will comment.

Forde’s article appears on  In the broadest overview, he proposes limiting “Division 1 College Football” to 120 teams that are regionally organized into 12 conferences of 10 teams each.  Every one of the current football conferences is shattered in his proposed realignment and he proposes that 11 of the current teams in what we call “FBS Football” are relegated/demoted to “FCS Football”.  Aligning the new conferences regionally/geographically intends to reduce travel times and costs as well as developing new potential rivalry situations.

Forde proposes a 10-game season where every team plays the other 9 teams in its new conference plus one other game out of conference.  Note, there is no room here for Powerhouse State to schedule a glorified scrimmage against The National Rehabilitation School for Multiple Amputees.  I am beginning to like this idea…

None of the conferences will have a championship game; each conference champion will be determined within the regular season schedule using tiebreakers presumably.  Those 10 conference champions along with 2 other wild card teams would be seeded  into a 12-team playoff grid to determine an on-field College Football Champion.

There is one paragraph in the article that I particularly like:

“There still will be bowl games for the teams that don’t make the CFP. Just fewer of them, which nobody should mind.”

Indeed, I would not mind at all…

The Forde Plan – – it must have a name if anyone is going to take it even moderately seriously – – would provide consistency to college football scheduling and that is definitely a plus.  The hurdles to adopting such a plan are numerous and they are high hurdles indeed.  Here are what I think are the two biggest ones among those he mentions:

  1. This radical an idea would need to be undertaken with the imprimatur of a centralized “command structure” for college football.  That does not exist.  Please do not delude yourself into thinking that Mark Emmert and the jamokes at NCAA HQs can or do fill that role.
  2. This works only if all the 10 new conferences share the revenues from media rights and the expanded college football playoff system.  That means the current “Power 5” conferences will have to share money with schools from the “Other Guys”.  That idea will go over like an anvil in a cesspool.

Please read the article in its entirety as linked here.  There are plenty of benefits and problems associated with the idea and Forde lays them out without too much obvious bias.  Even though I doubt the idea will ever be taken seriously by any of the current conferences, there are some very appealing aspects to it.

            One very interesting aspect to Forde’s Plan is that I proposed something along the same lines back in January 2017.  My college football universe was 128 teams broken up into the “Big Boys Category” and the “Little Boys Category”.  Each “Category” would have 4 conferences of 16 teams and each conference would have 2 divisions.  The regular season would be 11 games – – 7 against the division foes and 4 against half of the teams in the other division in the conference.  (That “half” would rotate every year.)

My wrinkle was to have the “Little Boys Category” have a playoff system too and for the top 4 teams in the “Little Boys Category” to be promoted while the bottom 4 teams in the “Big Boys Category” would be relegated.  There are differences between the Forde Plan and my vision for reinventing college football, but we agree on more things than we disagree on.  In any event, here is the key point of commonality between the Forde Plan and “My Plan”:

  • Neither one is gonna happen.

Just for fun, here is the link to my rant from January 2017 if you would like to see how similar the foundations for the two proposals are.  I guess it shows that great minds run in similar channels.  Then again, so does sewer water…

While on the subject of college football, Boomer Esiason said something recently that I hope is completely wrong.  Esiason hosts a morning radio show in NYC; it is on WFAN in the time slot that used to be occupied by Imus in the Morning a long time ago.  According to a report in the NY Post, Esiason suggested that teams reporting large numbers of players who tested positive for COVID-19 had the players get it on purpose.  Here is what he supposedly said:

“I gotta be really careful here, because I don’t want to say that this is an accusation.  I don’t want to … I just was thinking the other day about what is going on with the SEC teams down south. And Clemson included, who’s obviously an ACC team. A lot of their players are coming down with COVID-19, oddly enough. So are they trying to herd immunity their teams?”

I have no insight into any college football programs nor do I have any idea if Esiason has access or sources that led him to say that.  However, I will say that if any college football coach is intentionally infecting members of his team to develop localized herd immunity, that is hugely irresponsible behavior.  About the only thing related to COVID-19 that might be worse would be to find a way to infect most of the players on your upcoming opponent without the other guys knowing about it.

Another problem with Esiason’s comment – without some sort of sourcing – is that it fuels just the sort of speculation on which sports talk radio feasts.  In 2020, people love to hear about and ponder “conspiracy theories” and Esiason took his comment above one more step down that sort of path:

“So these guys can get sick now as opposed to getting sick during the college football season if, in fact, there is one.  And I’m telling you right now I wouldn’t put it past any of those guys down there. I think it’s going on. I honestly … the numbers coming out of like Alabama, LSU and Clemson, all these teams? It’s too much of a coincidence. I don’t think it’s that crazy either.”

That is classic conspiracy theory thinking.  Coincidence becomes evidence and the lack of hard evidence becomes an element of proof for the conspiracy…  I hope he is dead wrong, and I hope that coaches like Nick Saban, Les Miles and Dabo Swinney call him out for that.

Finally, let me stay with today’s theme of college football with a little COVID-19 tossed into the mix with this Tweet from Brad Dickson, formerly with the Omaha World-Herald:

“Good guy Scott Frost has a new PSA where he tells ppl to keep up with routine medical visits during the pandemic. He doesn’t get paid for this. But, after listening to his deadly dull monotone during this brief speech I now know why Nebraska usually plays bad in the third quarter.”

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



Heads Up

Earlier this month, I was off the air for a week because my long-suffering wife and I were at our weekend house in Central PA.  The modem on our satellite Internet “contraption” died and we were without Internet access.  This weekend, we are going back there with two nominally effective solutions to that problem.  We only need one of them to work…

Paying tribute to Murphy’s Law, however, I may find myself in an “Internet-starved situation”.  Once again, I might be in an “unplanned time off the air”.

Just a heads up.

Stay safe and stay well, everyone…