Sunday, January 15, 2017

NFL playoffs. Dumb things

OK, we know the Green Bay Packers knocked off the Dallas Cowboys. A bit of an upset, but hey, while Da Boys had put up the best record in the NFC the Cheesers had been on a roll -- winning their last 7 in a row entering this game.

Idle thought: Love him or hate him, you have to give it up to Aaron Rodgers. This dude is most definitely the real deal when it comes to premier quarterbacks. A slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer if he never wins another game.

But some dumb things happened in the above game and elsewhere during the playoffs.

With only 3 seconds left on the clock and the Packers lining up for a game-winning field goal attempt, the Cowboys called a time-out. This was presumably to "freeze" Green Bay place kicker Mason Crosby. It was dumb. Crosby's in his tenth year kicking for the Packers and such a long time professional veteran isn't going to be phased by waiting around for a few more seconds. The Packers snapped the ball, and the kick was up and good -- but it didn't count. Well OK, do over time. Had Crosby missed the second one to send the game into overtime, the Cowboys' decision would have looked pretty good. Crosby nailed it anyway -- game officially over.

But here's the thing. What if it had played out a different way? Crosby missed the original attempt but made the second one that actually counted? Head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' "brain trust" would have looked like complete boneheads for calling the time-out in the first place. Good luck explaining THAT to the press.

Speaking of brain trust, the term is used quite loosely when it comes to the Cowboy coaching staff. Jason Garrett himself is in his 7th year at the helm and hasn't won squat in the playoffs (two measly victories), let alone getting anyway near a Super Bowl victory. And consider his coordinators. On the defensive side is one Rod Marinelli. You remember Rod. He was the Detroit Lions' head coach from 2006-2008 and put up a woeful 10-38 record before getting run out of town. Heading up the offense is one Scott Linehan. He had the same position with the same Lions a while back and was summarily fired -- in mid-season, no less because --

A. His schemes weren't imaginative enough, hence not enough scoring, or
B. The team couldn't or wouldn't execute plays properly, or
C. They constantly shot themselves in the foot with too many dumb penalties, which culminated in
D. Taking A, B, and C together, they collectively looked like the Keystone Kops after a long night slamming tequila shots running around.

These are the brains of the Cowboy operation? Wow. Sure, they have talented players, but plugging in a former Ivy Leaguer (Garrett/Princeton) and a couple guys that weren't good enough for the lowly Detroit Lions and expecting miracles is a lot to overcome. Or -- just plain dumb.

In another playoff game, the Steelers got by the Chiefs 18-16 in KC. Most expected this to be a close, hard fought contest, and it was. But another bonehead reared his not so pretty face. That would be #32 of the Chiefs, one Spencer Ware, a third year running back out of LSU. On a passing play, his job was to pick up a blitzing linebacker. Fair enough. Goes with the territory. But the FIRST thing he did was grab the backer's face mask and twist his head before contact was even made. Good grief, it didn't take an eagle-eyed official to spot such a blatant foul. Tweet, 15 yard penalty. Three years in the league and Ware still doesn't know any better than that? Bonehead indeed.

Hats off to the Atlanta Falcons for dispatching the Seattle Seahawks. Yours truly thought it would go the other way because Seattle had recent playoff success under their belts, including a couple trips to the Super Bowl (one win), while Atlanta typically chokes in the playoffs. But credit where credit is due.

Though they would never say it, you just know the Falcons were rooting for the Packers to upend the Cowboys. Because that happened, Atlanta gets to play at home for a berth in the Super Bowl. Had the Cowboys and their, ahem, brain trust prevailed the Falcons would have had to travel to Big D.

So now it will be Aaron Rodgers and Co., seeking their ninth straight win, against the high flying high scoring Matt Ryan and his Falcons.

Should be a dandy and fun to watch.

In the AFC, Pittsburgh has to travel to New England. It's mighty tough to pick against the Pats, especially at home. But if anybody can knock them off , it's likely the Steelers and their smash-mouth style of football. Another good match-up.

Best of all, between all four of these teams, there doesn't appear to be a dumb one in the bunch.

Imagine that.




Friday, January 13, 2017

Detroit Lions graveyard

The Detroit Lions have been around for a very long time. All the way back to 1931 (actually 1930 when they were known as the Portsmouth Spartans). Over all those years, they've had a total of 26 head coaches, up to and including the current one -- Jim Caldwell.

But all the previous ones have/had something in common. Once their time in Detroit was over for whatever reason, none of them ever went on to become an NFL head coach elsewhere. This was understandable back in the early days when both coaches and players were all but anchored to one team -- nobody else wanted another's retreads -- but not so much in the last few decades where free agency has abounded.

True, for good reason (see win/loss records) the Lions haven't exactly been known as an elite franchise, but it seems odd that not a one -- zero -- former head coaches have landed elsewhere in the same position further on in their careers, given the good old boys coaching carousel we've seen of late. It's as if Detroit is the coaching graveyard. The last stop.

Let's go back 50 years ago, when Super Bowls first started, and examine the head coaching list of the Lions from then until the present, including their years and win/loss records.

Joe Schmidt.  1967-1972.  43 wins, 34 losses, 7 ties. He would be the last head coach (save one -- barely) to put up a career winning record, because then the clown parade began.

Don McCafferty.  1973. 6-7-1
Rick Forzano. 74-76. 15-17
Tommy Hudspeth.  76-77. 11-13
Monte Clark.  78-84. 43-61-1
Darryl Rogers.  85-88, 18-40
Wayne Fontes. 88-96. 66-67, though he gets credit for being the coach when the Lions won their only playoff game to date -- and dang it -- he almost made it to .500.
Bobby Ross. 97-00. 27-30
Gary Moeller. 2000  4-3. Mysteriously, though he had the first winning record for the Lions in almost 30 years, evidently the club couldn't have that -- so he got fired. Go figure.
Then back to their usual ways, only worse.
Marty Mornhinweg.  01-02  5-27
Steve Mariucci.  03-05  15-28
Dick Jauron.  05  1-4
Rod Marinelli.  06-08  10-38
Jim Schwartz.  09-13  29-51

None of the above ever went on to lead an NFL team again. And it hasn't been just the coaches. The Lions appear to sound the death knell for front office personnel as well.

Matt Millen presided over the club as chief honcho for 8 -- count em -- EIGHT disastrous years, before they finally figured out he wasn't and never would be the answer. He went on into the world of broadcasting and analyzing, but with good reason, no other club would touch him.

Not long ago, the tag team of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew, bean counter and general manager respectively, were given the boot. Ever hear about them resurfacing somewhere else in a similar capacity? Me neither.

It should be noted that a few former Lions' head coaches have indeed landed jobs elsewhere in the NFL as coordinators and the like, but were never put back in charge again.

While author of yesteryear Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne had her scarlet letter "A" for adulteress forever attached to her as a stigma of shame, it very much appears that once one has cycled through the not-so-hallowed halls of the Detroit Lions in a managerial position, they are branded with an "L", which is self-explaining and perhaps equally shameful.

In a somewhat surprising turn, the Lions were able to lure one Bob Quinn, former scouting guru of the highly successful New England Patriots into their general manager position to oversee the team and somehow turn it around. Why would he leave an elite organization to come to the land of losing? Many millions of dollars likely had something to do with it. Maybe not so surprising. Win or lose, that's a helluva raise and he's financially set for life. Who WOULDN'T take such an offer?

Quinn's tenure having just begun, the jury remains very much still out on how successful he will be over the long haul. He's fighting a whole lot of history and culture, and not exactly of the positive variety. Quinn's only 39, the same age as Tom Brady. That would seem quite young for a general manager position. If he crashes and burns like all the rest before him, will he too wind up in the graveyard long before he's even 50? It is said the good die young, but it hardly seems fair. Such a nice young man, and now he's stumbled into the NFL's version of the twilight zone or a Stephen King novel -- take your pick.

Since 2014, Jim Caldwell has patrolled the sidelines as the Lions head coach. He's yet to win a playoff game with them either, and finished up last season with the team getting blown out in their final four games. Ouch.

A lot of other NFL teams would start looking elsewhere for a head coach. This sort of stuff wouldn't fly in towns that are used to winning. The fans would demand his head.

But JC has posted a 25-18 record over his three seasons. True, .581 is a respectable, but not great winning percentage. Yet in Detroit, a coach with a -- gasp!! -- winning record, even if it's .501, is viewed as somewhat of a messiah. The bar has indeed sunk that low. OF COURSE they gave him a contract extension. This guy's the greatest thing since wireless remotes, DVRs, and smart phones in the eyes of the Motor City. It wouldn't be surprising to learn they already has plans in the works to have a statue of him made out of solid gold. Hmm. I wonder how long THAT would last in Detroit before it came up missing?

Nonetheless, Caldwell has done what so few others have done with the Lions before him. Win more than lose. Maybe a city-wide holiday named after him?

Still, his time isn't done yet. At 25-18, just a couple bad years, or one horrendous one, could put him right back in the career loser's column with all those listed above.

One thing is a good bet. When he's done in Detroit, however many more years it takes, chances are he'll never get another head coaching job either.

Because that's just the way it's always been.

The unforgiving graveyard awaits them all.








Thursday, January 12, 2017

California dreamin' -- or folly

So the San Diego Chargers are going to move to LA, where they will become.... huh... that would seem to be a good question. They'll still have the same ownership, front office, and core of players. Which is to say they'll still be El Stinko as an NFL team.

Meanwhile, they had to pony up $600,000,000 as a "relocation fee" to the league. That's a serious chunk of change. Are the Chargers even worth that much on the open market?

Once they get into LA-LA land, they'll join the recently re-relocated LA Rams. Another bad team. So Los Angeles went from no NFL teams to two, and still don't have a prayer of winning anything. It is likely the citizens let out another collective yawn. Things aren't going well in sports in the city of glitz and glamor.

Besides super-star Mike Trout, the baseball Angels have little to offer and are a bottom feeder. The NBA's Lakers have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse. The Clippers are pretty good, but you just know they'll make an early exit from the playoffs because that's what they always do. The same can be said of the LA Dodgers.

Good grief, it is said there are more leftover fans from Oakland Raider "nation" still in LA than will cheer for either of the two new football teams combined. Definitely not a good sign.

Elsewhere in California the pickings are slim as well. Of course, there are the Golden State Warriors, but beyond that.....

The San Fran 49ers have gone from the heady Harbaugh years to just shy of horrendous or, put another way, almost as bad as the Cleveland Browns. Don't get me wrong. San Fran is one of my favorite cities to visit. Lots of great things to see and do. But there's a reason they have a whole platoon of Dirty Harryish homicide inspectors. Like Chicago, one should take great care regarding which neighborhoods they venture into.

The above-mentioned Oakland Raiders were coming, coming, coming. Oops, their quarterback went out with a broken leg. Down they go again.

Further north, Stanford is known for its academic prowess. Yet their football team never seems to crack the Top Ten, and their hoops squads are typically second tier. Want brains? Gonna cost ya five star jocks out of high school. Alabama would seem to be just the opposite.

The latest big sports splash is DeMarcus Cousins reportedly getting ready to sign a whopping $200 million multi-year contract with the Sacramento Kings. That's good news and bad news. The good is, Cousin will get a few box car loads of cash. The bad news is, he'll never have a prayer of winning anything while with the woeful Kings. They stunk before, and have now likely crippled themselves with the salary cap as far as signing any other talent. Not that any other high profile player would want to go there in the first place.

What else is California noted for? Well, when it's not on fire, one of those pesky earthquakes might shake, rattle, and roll. Recently, they've had blizzards in the northern mountainous areas, up to 10 feet of snow, and torrential rains further south. With winds up to 100 MPH. Cue mudslides, or the latest portmanteau, "floodslides". They can't seem to win for losing. It's always something.

When's the last time USC or UCLA did anything of note in the sports world? The Bruins have never been known as a football school, and their hoops haven't been dominant since the John Wooden days of yesteryear. The erstwhile prophylactics of USC gave us the scandal of the Pete Carroll years before he bailed to the Seattle Seahawks. Remember Reggie Bush finally admitting he was "on the take" years after the fact? The school itself suffered harsh sanctions but the two main culprits went on to make millions elsewhere. That hardly seemed fair. And didn't USC give us a guy named OJ a while back? How did that work out?

Adding to California's hall of shame are those goofy behemoth-butt K girls and their extended clan, whose only talent appears to be being famous for -- being famous. Don't they hang out there too?

Last but not least, merry California evidently remains the home of the few dozen so-called "celebrities" that swore to leave the country if a certain underdog presidential candidate pulled off the improbable upset. We know what happened. So the question now becomes -- why are they still here? Liars and hypocrites, the lot of them. Boo, hiss. Off with their heads.



















Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NFL playoff picks

AFC

Houston @ New England.

Is there anybody in the universe that doubts the outcome of this game? This is more like a mercy killing.
Pats, by a bunch.

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

This should be a rock-em sock-em affair. But KC's at home and had an extra week to rest and prepare for the Steelers. They knew Big Ben and Co. would make short work of Miami.
Gotta roll with the Chiefs, in a close one.

NFC

Green Bay @ Dallas

An interesting match-up. The Cowboys had the best NFC record and are at home, but Aaron Rodgers and the Cheesers have reeled off seven wins a row, including taking apart a pretty good NY Giants team last week.
Semi-upset special. If Jordy Nelson is healthy enough to play well, I like the Packers. If not, gotta go with Da Boys.

Seattle @ Atlanta

An even more interesting match-up. Very quietly, the Falcons steamrolled the NFC South, including winning their last four in a row. But nobody else is any good in that division. Then again, which Seahawks team will show up? The one that looks Super Bowl worthy again? Or the one that got beat at home by the lowly Arizona Cardinals a while back?
Hey, it's the playoffs and Atlanta always chokes.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Of Mach and Matthew

Of course, the title of this post is not to be confused with "Of Mice and Men", which I think was a book written by John Steinbeck back during the Great Depression. Not sure, because yours truly never read it. However, I HAVE read all of John Grisham's books and been over a 40 year subscriber to MAD magazine. So that should count for something.

By and large, all but a handful of things I have ranted on are topics which come to me by observing the world of sports. See or hear something on TV, in a venue, or maybe even a sports bar by one of the other patrons, and it gives me an idea I run with.

To be sure, yours truly would be the first to admit (lord knows I've been told enough by others) that the quality contained within these posts is hardly Pulitzer worthy. Rather, more the ravings of a semi-literate lunatic. But I really do try and, hey, the boss man (editor) already knew I was an idiot when he approached me about signing on for such an endeavor in the first place. And I got a free lunch out of the deal. Who could turn that down? Over 1800 articles later, here we are, still alive, kicking, and blathering on, though the content probably hasn't improved much. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Mach and Matthew. Right.

Every once in a while, a topic will be suggested by another for me to expound on. Most will be declined for various reasons. It's already been covered 100 different ways, could get me in trouble with the aforementioned boss man, or perhaps I just draw a -- surprise -- blank. Surprisingly, or maybe not, are the times when somebody gives me an idea for a post, and they probably don't even realize it. This would be one of those times.

There's this person out there somewhere named Mach. I don't know him -- or her. Or where they live. It could be anybody from anywhere. I have no means of finding this out and don't want to. Evidently, Mach reads my articles at least occasionally, and sometimes even hits me up with a comment here and there. For both I am grateful, though I sometimes question the very sanity of said Mach. After all, logic would seem to dictate that anybody that would continue to read this tripe can't be wrapped too tight.

But after my previous article, which was not exactly kind to the Detroit Lions, Mach weighed in again. It appears he/she is a Lions fan. Did I mention something about the elevator and the top floor?

One of Mach's comments suggested that quarterback Matthew Stafford, a hero in Detroit, might be better served if he took his talents elsewhere when he becomes a free agent after next season. And that struck a chord with yours truly. Let's look at that possibility a little closer.

Stafford will have put in roughly a decade's worth of service to the Lions after next year. To date, his win/loss record is 51-61, for a percentage of a paltry .455. True, Stafford has put up some amazing personal passing statistics along the way, most notably with the help of the recently retired Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, but he's never won a single playoff game. Chances are, he won't next year either. The Lions, as a team, and given their, shall we say, "challenged" philosophies and coaching staff, don't appear headed for greatness any year soon. The very notion of them being anywhere near Super Bowl worthy is somewhere between sad and flat out laughable.

So put yourself in Matthew Stafford's shoes when he becomes a free agent, unless he's foolish enough to sign on for even more years of frustration with the Lions in the next year.

When the opportunity arises, he'll be 30 years old. Still in his "prime" with likely the best grasp of the game he's ever going to have. At the peak of his bell curve, as it were. Where might he want to go, given choices and, most importantly, where would be a good fit? Money shouldn't be a problem. Stafford's already made upwards of $100 million and will continue to make big bucks no matter where he might land. He's pretty well set for life already in the finances department. Of course, this all assumes a disastrous injury doesn't befall him in the next year, but the possibility always looms in the NFL. As they say, each and every play can be a player's last. It happens frighteningly often.

A couple seemingly ideal possibilities can probably be ruled out. Stafford grew up in Dallas, but pulling a Lebron James and going home appears off the table with young Dak Prescott lighting it up for the Cowboys. Though he went to college at Georgia, about an hour's drive from Atlanta, the Falcons don't seem a likely destination as well. Their current QB, Matt Ryan, is about three years older than Stafford, but will still be quite serviceable if and when Stafford hits the market. Plus he knows their playbook inside and out. Talent wise between Stafford and Ryan is too close to call for the Falcons to bench Ryan (and his big contract) in favor of the Georgia peach.

Yet other possibilities are intriguing. Consider the Denver Broncos, reigning Super Bowl champions, no less. Since Peyton Manning retired, they're in desperate need of a talented veteran presence that Stafford could bring them. Elsewhere, the core of the team remains solid -- just no decent quarterback.

Could we dare mention -- gasp -- the New England Patriots? Tom Brady might want to play for another 5 or 10 years, but that's not going to happen. When his fall comes, and it will be soon (he'll be 40 in August), it's likely to be precipitous. Somebody will have to take his place. Sure, they've groomed Jimmy Garoppolo for the job, and he's done a fine job when given the rare chance to play. Yet one has to think a guy like Bill Bellichick would take a hard look if somebody like Stafford was out there for the taking. And what quarterback wouldn't want to play for such an elite organization? They can make the playoffs on autopilot. Could Stafford lead them back to another Super Bowl or three? Entirely possible. It would be a win-win, no pun intended.

Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh is now 35. How much longer does he have? Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization would no doubt love to plug in a guy like Stafford if Big Ben calls it a career.

The above three, Denver, New England, and Pittsburgh are proud franchises with a history and expectation of winning. This sets them at a polar opposite from what Stafford has endured in Detroit. Depending on how things play out after next season, any would be a good fit for Stafford.

Of course, on the flip side, there would be any number of not-so good destinations. Teams like the Bears, Chargers, and certainly the woeful Browns might want to throw big bucks at Stafford, but he'd be crazy to go there. Even if Drew Brees hangs it up in New Orleans, the rest of the team has deteriorated badly since they won the Super Bowl several years back. Why would Stafford be interested in any of them if he has no shot at the ultimate prize? And when he's at the peak of his career with lifetime dough already in the bank, one would think his main objective would be playing in and winning a Super Bowl. Isn't that what it's supposed to be all about?

You can bet that behind the scenes the Detroit Lions will be trying to lock up Stafford for more years during the 2017-2018 campaign. And who knows? After so many seasons toiling away for the dysfunctional from top to bottom Lions, maybe he doesn't think so straight anymore and could be coaxed into it. A decade in that town, playing for that team, is just about enough to land anybody in the proverbial cuckoo's nest.

It should also be noted that, by most all accounts, Matthew Stafford is a good guy, an upright dude. Always has been. Man works hard and keeps his nose clean.

So for his sake, here's hoping he takes a good long hard look around when free agency becomes a possibility, and turns it into a reality. He deserves it.

Besides, even with him, the Lions haven't come anywhere close to playing in the Super Bowl, let alone winning it. Stafford hanging around for a few more years wasting his considerable talent isn't likely to change that. Put another way, the Lions are going to lose anyway. It's just their nature. Always has been as well.

So, with apologies to Bogey, here's looking at you kid, or at least Mach, whoever and wherever you are. Thanks for the idea and I hope I didn't botch it too badly. I'm still not going to read Steinbeck's tome, but I've only got halfway through the latest edition of MAD. Time to go put in some more quality throne time and get a few yuks. The Lions, mercifully, are done this year, so no more humor to be found there, though I must admit it's been a rich source over the years.


















Saturday, January 7, 2017

Detroit Lions. Poof--again

It's sadly comical how they fall for it every year. "They" would be Detroit Lions fans and their ever gullible media that continues to get them drunk on the same kool-aid season, after season, after season. Decades now.

It would be a bit like expecting Old Yeller to not die at the end of the movie, or replays showing Hillary winning the last presidential election. No matter how much one watches it and hopes for a different outcome, the result is always going to be the same. BTW, isn't such behavior the classical definition of "insanity"?

Yet the line most often used, that never seems to fail, is "these are not the same old Lions". And the suckers buy it. Again. But are they indeed the same old Lions? Let's examine it a little further.

They're still owned by a Ford, but not the late William Clay. No, his 91 year old widow Martha is now in charge, along with some help from their daughters. It is entirely possible, perhaps probable, that they know about as much about the intricacies of pro football as your average plumber knows about brain surgery. The only son, Bill Jr., is too busy running the Ford car company to dabble much in the football operations anymore. Lest we forget, when he tried that, Junior thought Matt Millen would be a savior for the Lions and talked his dad into hiring him to run the show -- for eight -- count em -- EIGHT long and dismal years. Yes sir, a chip off the old Edsel, that Billie.

These days, in their infinite wisdom, the Fords have a new president of the Lions. One Rod Wood, an estate planner by trade. That would lead to the obvious question -- how, pray tell, can a guy with that background possibly know the first thing about overseeing an NFL franchise?

Combine such clueless front offices with many clown coaches over the years, and there you go. A recipe for the many disasters that have befallen the woeful Lions over the decades.

But now they had yet another chance to redeem themselves in a playoff game at Seattle. Things didn't look good going in. The Lions have historically not played well on the road, and particularly so at outdoor venues. Seattle would offer both.

After a down, then up regular season, the Lions finished with a whimper losing their last three games. It should be noted that while the Lions had an overall easy schedule, they did have to play four games against teams that would wind up making the playoffs. They lost every one of them. Two to the Packers, and one apiece to the NY Giants and Dallas Cowboys. If nothing else, the Seahawks obviously were another playoff team. Understandably, the bookies had the Lions as 8 point underdogs, a huge margin in the NFL. Point spreads are rarely that high.

To boot, the Lions had won a grand total of one playoff game since Super Bowls began a half century ago. A 1-9 total record. Further, they are one of only four teams to have never made an appearance in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The other three are Jacksonville, Houston, and the (new) Cleveland Browns, notably all expansion teams who didn't even exist when the early Super Bowls were being contested.

The Lions haven't been exactly kind to themselves on another front either. The draft. No one would doubt the Cowboys had a wildly successful draft last spring. First round pick Ezekiel Elliott is leading the league in rushing, and even later round pick Dak Prescott has proven himself to be a wunderkind taking over for injured quarterback Tony Romo. Not long ago, the Lions first choice was an offensive tackle -- one Reilly Reiff -- who couldn't start. Needless to say, the difference is glaring.

After a brilliant, if somewhat shortened career, former Lion Calvin "Megatron" Johnson decided to walk away and retire after last season. CJ had shed blood, sweat, and no doubt tears attempting to help the Lions for ten years, not to mention putting up eye-popping individual receiving stats, but never once got to experience the taste of winning a single playoff game.

The same could be said for Barry Sanders almost two decades ago. Though he's now rightfully enshrined in the NFL's Hall of Fame, he finally wearied of their losing ways and took an early hike as well. This, while having several potential outstanding seasons still in front of him. At that, BS is #3 on the all-time NFL career rushing list, but barring injury and had he played out the string, Sanders likely would have put the mark so far out of sight it would never be remotely approached again. Sanders, a proud but humble man, just couldn't take the losing culture any more. Some things in life are just more important.

To be sure, the Lions brought in one Bob Quinn, a former scouting guru for the New England Patriots. As much as the Lions have lost -- the Patriots have won, at least in recent times. A fantastic move -- right?  Not so fast. As the general manager, one of the typical duties is the hiring and firing of head coaches. It made sense that he would want his "own man" at the helm on the field. But this was not to be. The above-mentioned Martha had taken a personal liking to current coach Jim Caldwell. The same guy who's track record shows he had been a good coordinator under other successful head coaches elsewhere around the league, but was over his head when he assumed field command himself. The upshot? What the owner wants -- the owner gets. So Caldwell it was, with Quinn basically hamstrung right off the bat. Put another way, what good did it do to bring in a fresh new mind from an elite organization if he didn't have free rein to do his job in full? This was a typical Lions wrong-thinking gambit.

On to the game in Seattle. They could win, quoth the Lions faithful, as they chugged another fifth of kool-aid. Their latest hero, one Matthew Stafford, could lead the team to victory. Indeed, like Calvin Johnson, Stafford has put up some gaudy passing statistics, and led several improbable come back from behind drives to win games earlier this season.

Alas, Stafford and the Detroit offense wouldn't score a single touchdown against the Seahawks, settling for two measly field goals in a 26-6 beatdown. Make that a 1-10 playoff record and add another year since their last and only playoff victory (now 26 and counting) while the Super Bowl -- as if -- drought continues as well.

During the game the Lions pulled some of their usual bone-headed stunts. Lots of stupid penalties, including a few "what the hell are you thinking out there?" personal fouls.

Though the game was all, but not quite out of reach in the fourth quarter, the duh Lions struck again. With all three of their time-outs still remaining, the Lions called one with 4:25 still left on the clock. But wait a minute. A Seattle player had been shaken up and was down. The clock would have stopped anyway. So the Lions had blown a time out for no reason whatsoever. Less than a minute elapsed on the game clock before they had found a way to use up their remaining two as well. At this point, a phrase mentioned above bears repeating. What the hell are you thinking out there? Hello Caldwell? Anybody home?

And here's the best part when it comes to shooting themselves in the foot again. Before this game was even played, coming on the heels of three straight not-so-close losses to end the regular season on a decided whimper, incredibly the Lions added a year to Jim Caldwell's contract. He'll be back next year. Hey Bob Quinn. Was this your call? That's hard to believe unless his short time in Detroit has caused his brain to malfunction. (Hmm. That's possible.) Or did Martha and her happy estate planning Rod order it from on high, thereby making it as difficult as possible to succeed in his GM position? This too, would be typical SOP for the Lions. Strive for success while putting as many obstacles in front of themselves as they can.

Yet despite their usual foibles and the predictable outcome of the game against the Seahawks, perhaps something good came out of all this.

You know those football sheets where you pick squares and hope the last two numbers of the final score tally with the numbers you were given at random? Zero is always good. So are four and seven. Eight, nine and five, not so much.

But it never -- ever -- comes up 6 and 6. This game did, the oddness of which is somehow fitting of a Lions game. So just when somebody thought they had a sure loser on the sheet, BAM, they're now a very surprised winner.

Yours truly chuckled when he saw a Detroit area scribe say (before the game) that these are not the same Super Bowl winning Seahawks from a few years ago. Perhaps not. But then they argued that these are not the "same old Lions" either.

Well now. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the stark reality of it all. The puddy-tats are very much the

Same

Old

Lions.

How could anybody that possessed the capacity of even semi-objective thinking have possibly have deemed them otherwise?

Sadly, it's a sure bet the suckers will be back yet again next year hoping for a different outcome. But no, Old Yeller and Hillary aren't going to be resurrected either.

You'd think they'd get that by now. I mean, how many times does one have to get hit in the head with a hammer before they figure out that whatever they're doing isn't a good idea?

Some things just aren't meant to be, and all the faith and blind hope in the world isn't going to change it.

It's the Detroit Lions.

Poof. Down they go again.

Sound familiar?









Thursday, January 5, 2017

UConn lady express rolls on

One just about runs out of superlatives when attempting to describe the UConn ladies basketball team, and head coach Geno Auriemma.

Are they the greatest dynasty ever in the entire world of sports?
Probably.

Geno's won 11 national titles there, to eclipse John Wooden's former UCLA mark of 10.

The last four years in a row they've captured the crown and are highly favored to five-peat this year.

Currently, they're riding an 89 game winning streak. A few years ago, UConn and Geno ran off another 90 in a row for the all-time record, again outdoing Wooden's former mark of 88.

Auriemma's .870 career winning percentage is the highest of any coach, in any sport -- ever.
To put that in perspective, consider the Golden State Warriors from last season. They also set an all-time record by posting a 73-9 regular season mark. True, that equates to a winning % of .890, slightly higher. But they only did it for one year. Auriemma's career spans thirty.

It's quite likely the above mentioned winning streak record will not only be broken, but shattered this year. Barring unforeseen events, such as a rash of injuries, UConn appears poised to keep rolling for some time. Up next, they face #22 ranked South Florida. A good team, but likely not nearly good enough to knock off Geno's bambinos, especially when the latter will be playing at home.

Then they get a streak of nine games playing against unranked teams. That collective outcome is fairly predictable. Blowouts. If they get that far, then they'll face South Carolina, currently ranked #5. That should be a test, but again, UConn will have home court advantage. It's entirely possible, even likely that the Huskies will roll to another undefeated regular season.

And who's going to beat them in the NCAA playoffs?

Further, it's not like they've played a schedule made up entirely of patsies. The closest they've come to suffering defeat was in the opening game of this season. A close 78-76 win on the road at then #12 Florida State. It was almost to be expected. After all, this was the first game in four years that Geno and UConn were without the services of Breanna Stewart, who graduated last year and was the #1 pick in the WNBA. In her four years, they were national champs every time, and Stewart hadn't tasted a single defeat in well over 2 years before she left. The first couple games figured to be ones of adjustment without her.

After FSU, next up was a match on the road at then #2 Baylor. UConn prevailed 72-61, a comfortable win.

Then they started rolling and the competition didn't seem to matter. Again, they weren't all patsies. Games included #14 Texas, and then #2 Notre Dame. They were handily dispatched, with the ever-proud Fighting Irish getting taken down at home. A bad day in leprechaunland.

As could be expected, those games against unranked teams were indeed blowouts. But hey, they can only play whoever they're scheduled to play. And UConn, being a rather small school compared to many of the huger institutions across the land, plays in the American Athletic Conference. Therefore, their conference schedule could be looked at as weak. However, it's not like they duck anybody on the non-conference part of their schedule. By most accounts, Auriemma's more than willing to take on all comers, but a lot of the larger schools are no doubt wary of putting UConn on their schedule, for fear of the awful beating their team might take, be it at home or on the road. Any high-profile match-up would likely be televised, perhaps nationally, and other coaches/administrators at other proud universities could be understandably gun shy of the embarrassment they might be made to suffer. So it is what it is, certainly through no fault of Geno and UConn.

Auriemma's closing in on 900 career wins (898). The all-time record holder was the legendary and recently deceased Pat Summitt with 1078. Not far behind her is Coach K at Duke, with 1056 (including his first 5 years at Army). Just one more year with the Blue Devils and he'll take over the #1 spot. When he will retire and what his career grand total will be is anybody's guess.

At first glance, Auriemma being so far behind Krzzewski (158 wins), and with Duke a perennial powerhouse, one might think Geno will never catch him.

But there's a major catch. Coach K will turn 70 next month. Auriemma is a full decade younger at 60. With college hoop teams typically playing about 30 regular season games a year, plus the tournament, and further factoring in UConn getting 5 star recruits every year from the prep ranks to reload, it's no stretch to assume Auriemma will chalk up at least 25 wins a year, likely several more.

If he decides to hang out until he's coach K's age, another ten years, that's certainly upwards of another 250 wins, maybe over 300, in the career category. Even 5 more years and he'll be breathing down the neck of coach Pat's mark.

Of course, one never knows what Auriemma has in mind for his future. Maybe he'll hang around until he puts the mark so far out of sight that it will never be approached again. Or in a few short years, he could decide to retire at a fairly young age and go on to enjoy other things in life, such as travel. Even if he stepped down after this year, not likely, he certainly has no financial worries. Besides the big bucks he's made at UConn, there would be no shortage of other offers. Tons of endorsement offers would roll in if he wanted to take them. He could get behind a microphone for one of the networks as an analyst. Lots of things that pay quite handsomely.

But for now, and the foreseeable future, coach Geno Auriemma and his Lady Huskies are something to behold indeed, and have been for quite some time.

So with all due respect to all the others out there over the years, and there are many great ones, are both this coach and his teams the best of all time at what they do?

It's truly difficult to argue against it.