Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Really, REALLY dumb things

So head coach Mike Mularkey is out as the Tennessee Titan field boss -eh? Seems pretty dumb. Sure, the Tits got squashed at New England a week ago in the playoffs, but there's no shame in that. The Pats were highly favored to win the Super Bowl before the season even started. And let's not forget this is the same Tennessee team that came roaring back to overcome a 21 point deficit at Kansas City just the week before.

To boot, this year and last were the first time the TT's had put back-to-back winning seasons together in a decade. And the KC game was their first playoff win in a whopping 14 years. Mularkey (love that name) had whipped the long sad sack franchise into semi-contenders.

And they get rid of him, while still owing him another year's salary?

WHATZAMATTUH with these people?

According to reports, owner Amy Adams Strunk thinks she sees a "better path to success".

Maybe her and Martha Firestone Ford, heir/owner of the Detroit Lions, should start palling around together. The Lions haven't won a playoff game in a ridiculous 27 years, only one in their whole sordid history, and would probably KILL to win another. Such a head coach would probably have a statue of himself erected outside of Ford Field to commemorate such "greatness". (The Lions have a mighty low threshold of what constitutes a "successful" season.)

If it's true that misery loves company, perhaps it's also true that rich and clueless does as well.

And now a word from our sponsors.

Can that be right? A mattress company proudly states that any buyer of their latest and greatest product won't have to pay any interest for 72 months.

Think about that number. If my little pea brain has the math right -- that's 6 years.

Six years (or more) of payments --- for a MATTRESS???

Good grief, people pay off new car and truck loans in somewhere between 3-5 years.

So here's my question.

How much does that dang mattress cost anyway?

They don't tell you that, but it must be a whole lot.

At that sort of price, besides being the most comfortable thing you ever slept on, that mattress better be able to clean the house, do laundry, grocery shop, and mow the yard.

Dumb.

The talking heads have the utter gall, or perhaps are just that desperate for a story -- any story -- to question who was more at fault for the New Orleans Saints blowing a certain victory on the last play of the game in Minnesota.

Could it have been the fault of Saints head coach Sean Payton? One of his coaches or coordinators?

This goes beyond dumb, to downright stupid.

NFL fans have seen the replay a bazillion times already. Saints' rookie Marcus Williams, out of Utah, lowered his head (apparently closing his eyes as well) and whiffed on a tackle.

[Next time you see the replay, look closer. Not only did Williams miss the ball carrier, he took out one of his own teammates with a helmet shot to the knee. How bad would it have been if he'd blown out the knee of a teammate on the same doofus play?]

All he had to do was "wrap up" the receiver, who was still thirty yards away from the end zone, and off balance. With no Minnesota time-outs left, the game clock would have ran out, and the Saints win. Period.

But no, he went into brain freeze mode and forgot everything he had been taught since probably 7th grade about tackling.

You use your shoulders pads to hit, and your arms and hands to wrap up the receiver, quarterback, running back, whoever the ball carrier may be.

It wasn't up to Payton or his staff to remind Williams of that in the time-out a few moments earlier. I mean, good grief. Should you have to remind a teenager about the potty training thing?

You'd think they'd have it down pat.

But not Williams.

When it mattered most, with the entire season on the line, he blew it for his team, in front of a sold out stadium and tens of millions of people watching it on TVs around the world.

So forget the preposterous notion that this could possibly be the fault of the coaching staff.

There's only one goat, and that's Marcus Williams. Period.

He knows it, or at least should. His teammates know it. Saints fans know it. And everybody that watched the game knows it.

Any other explanation is just plain dumb.

It is what it is.

That being a really, REALLY dumb play.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Vikings/Saints, heroes and goats

In what was probably the most anticipated NFL playoff game so far, the Minnesota Vikings BARELY held off the New Orleans Saints.

Minnesota QB Case Keenum is now a hero, but easily could have been a goat after he threw up an off balance "wounded duck" that got picked off and let the Saints back into the game. Let's not forget the Vikings were hammering the Saints 17-zip at halftime.

Drew Brees could be considered a hero of sorts for not only leading his team in a furious comeback, but finally taking the lead with just a few seconds remaining in the game. The Vikes were in trouble.

#13 of the Saints, one Michael Thomas out of Ohio State, 24 years old and a second year guy in the league -- appears to be a combination of a whiner and dirty player. Every time he failed to catch a pass from Brees, he looked to the refs for a pass interference flag. It was just good physical defense shutting him down. But when the opportunity presented itself, he couldn't wait to deliver a killer blind side hit on an opponent, knocking him out of the game and into the concussion protocol. Consider him a goat.

#43 of the Saints, one Marcus Williams out of Utah, 21 and a rookie, was definitely a goat. With time running out and his team ahead, the safety pulled the ultimate bonehead. Not only did he blow the coverage on a Viking receiver, he totally whiffed on a tackle attempt as the receiver caught the ball. Yep, Williams lowered his head and tried to make a shoulder pad tackle. Evidently, the good Mr. Williams must be a concert piano player or surgeon in the off season. How else to explain why he's afraid to use his hands and arms to make a tackle -- like what is taught beginning in 7th grade or so?

You see it over and over again, not only in the pros, but in college. Defensive players trying to knock a ball carrier to the ground with a big hit, instead of just "wrapping him up". This is purely on the coaching staffs for tolerating such nonsense.

In the case of Williams, the receiver not only made the catch, but trotted for a long run into the end zone afterwards with the winning score as time ran out. If I'm Sean Payton -- head coach of the Saints -- this doesn't sit well with me. We had the game almost in the bag until the bonehead rookie somehow forgot how to make a proper tackle -- and we wound up losing -- bang -- season over. What do I do? That goat is cut. Now, as soon as I can get to him in the locker room after the game.

Though the Vikings had obviously won the game, that presented an interesting scenario, not the least being the thousands or millions of people across the country that had participated in buying "squares" on a football sheet for the game. You know, the 10x10 grid where everybody fills in squares, ponies up whatever they're worth for any game, and cards are randomly drawn later to fill in the numbers.

Zeros, sevens, and fours are typically pretty good numbers. Twos, fives and nines are not.

Yet as time ran out and Minnesota won the game 29-24, whoever was on those numbers was probably celebrating. But wait, even though the field was mobbed by security personnel, reporters, camera people, and both teams, NFL rules dictate the "point after" has to be attempted. Uh-oh. Could that 9-4 combination on the betting sheet go away? Maybe. So after several minutes of a delay finally clearing the field, and getting enough Saints back on it to take a pseudo defensive stance (they had all already gone into the locker room) those sitting on 0-4 were probably feeling pretty good. Just kick the stupid extra point and I win. Yippee.

And after all that, the Vikes came back out and took a knee. It was a class thing to do, considering the game was already over. No sense rubbing unnecessary salt in the wound.

So the 9-4 people got to cash after all.

Funny thing, or maybe not, how those bar pools work out sometimes.

You're a hero one minute, a potential goat the next, and wind up a hero in the end after all.

All by the luck of the draw and the whim of a particular team.







Eating crow

Yours truly boldly predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers would hammer the Jacksonville Jaguars in their rematch this year. Yours truly couldn't have been more wrong. No excuses. I'll own it and eat crow -- as I should.

The Jags continue to impress. Can they beat the Patriots next week in Foxborough? I highly doubt it, but who knows?

The over/under on the Pitt/Jax game was 41 points with the Steelers a 7 point favorite. Doing a little math, that meant the wise guys in Vegas figured the Steelers to win 24-17. Instead, the two supposedly really good defenses got scorched to the tune of 87 total points in a 45-42 Jax win -- on the road. Who saw that coming?

Hard to say which team Brady/Belichick and crew would rather have faced. The Steelers had all but defeated them in an earlier match-up, until they let it slip away in the final moments of the game. But they know each other. As for Jax, the Pats have to completely reload and rethink.

Could get more interesting than many think.

But the Jags in the Super Bowl?

Get outta here.

That can't happen -- can it?

It would be like the Detroit Lions getting to one.

Did I mention "get outta here"?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

MIch/Mich St. cycles

It's interesting how some things in sports -- and politics -- have a way of drastically changing over the years. What used to be good is now bad -- and vice versa. Remember how "red" used to be a bad word, as in communist sympathizers? Now the conservatives, of all people, are proud of their "red" states. How did that happen?

Back in days of yore in women's college hoops, Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion were the powerhouses. We seldom hear anything about either any more. Pat Summit came along at UTenn to usher in an era of dominance, and was then eclipsed by Geno Auriemma at UConn.

The Dallas Cowboys have been great -- then the pits -- then great again, and are now mediocre at best.

Tons of such examples exist across the spectrum of sports. Less than a decade ago, who ever thought the Golden State Warriors would amount to anything?

But the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State has a few twists of its own.

For decades, the Wolverines owned the Spartans on the football field. It wasn't even a close call most years. But in recent times, the Green has been spanking the Blue. Few would have seen that coming.

On the basketball court, they've both had ups and downs over the years, but generally speaking, Tom Izzo's Spartans have been superior to anything the Wolverines could offer. (Though it should be noted that while MSU brags about their Final Four appearances, and even an NCAA championship back around the turn of the century, this is nothing UM didn't accomplish a few years prior. They won a title too, and made it to the Finals with Fab Five a couple times before falling just short.

Just a couple weeks ago, Michigan State's male basketball team was ranked #1 in the nation. Very impressive. Yet it also appears to have been smoke, mirrors, and hype.

They got absolutely blistered at unranked Ohio State.

Well, OK, after playing their usual patsy non-conference schedule, the Spartans got a serious wake-up call by a fellow conference school. Perhaps an anomaly.

But that doesn't begin to explain how lowly Rutgers took Izzo's supposedly vastly superior boys to the limit before the Spartans barely -- BARELY squeaked out a win at home.

And then, in a quirk of the conference schedule -- the only meeting of the schools this year --  the same unranked Michigan went into East Lansing and took the same Spartans to the woodshed in their own house. A double digit victory, which would have been much worse had the Wolverines done a bit better job of shooting the usual late game foul-a-thon free throws they were continually given.

Last time yours truly looked, MSU had fallen from #1 to #4 or #5. After the lop-sided loss to their cross-state rival -- which they used to own -- and seemingly in disarray, the Spartans will likely tumble far down the rankings.

And well they should.

I continue to get a kick out of a local columnist that claims to play no favorites between Michigan and Michigan State. What he never admits is that he is a Michigan State alumnus. Dude still bleeds green, but tries to hide it. Hey, it's not working. Never did. Just own it -- not so tough. It's not like most of his objective readers, what few are left of them, don't already know this. Can't hide from internet searches. Hello?

Still, not that long ago, who woulda thunk Michigan State would dominate Michigan in football, and the Wolverines would go into Spartanville and spank them on the hardcourt?

There seems to be very few things a sports fan can count on these days, but perhaps there are old standbys to fall back on.

The USA's lady national soccer team will be really good. The men will suck.

The Cleveland Browns will be terrible every year.

The New England Patriots will continue to be excellent.

The Yankees and Red Sox will spent bazillions of dollars trying to buy championships, as will the LA Dodgers, and it feels good when a team like the Houston Astros walks away as World Series champs.

The Sacramento Kings? See the Cleveland Browns above.

As sure as there used to be tea in the harbor, the Boston Celtics will return to glory again, likely some year quite soon.

The dysfunctional Bell family, especially dad, will do yet something else incredibly stupid.

If Tiger Woods so much as shows up at a PGA tournament, his groupies and the media will go wild with speculation as to how he just might -- MIGHT -- return to his former dominance. Right.

And of course, the Detroit Lions and their ever-faithful snake-oil peddling local media will sell the suckers in 2018, for the 50th or 60th year in a row, that THIS will be the year -- the YEAR, dammit -- that they will finally make it to the Super Bowl.

Sigh. P.T Barnum was right. There's one born every minute. Yet there seem to be an awfully lot of them in the Detroit area for whatever reason.

Go figure.






NFL playoffs.

So far, it's been pretty much business as usual, with the lone exception of Tennessee coming back from an 18 point deficit to knock off the Chiefs -- in Kansas City, no less. I'm guessing head coach Andy Reid wasn't exactly having a good time when he had to face the local press after that debacle/choke job.

No big surprise the New Orleans Saint knocked off the Carolina Panthers. One team has Drew Brees and the other Cam Newton leading them. One comes across as a humble hard working guy off the field, while the other seems to be on a mission to prove he can dress like an uptown pimp. 'Nuff said.

Jacksonville dispatching Buffalo was a mercy killing. How the heck did the Bills get into the playoffs?

Atlanta dusting the new LA Rams was hardly an eye-opener, though the Falcons were slight underdogs. Experience prevailed, but make no mistake. Under new head coach Sean McVay, the Rams are young and getting much better rapidly. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple years.

In turn, the same Falcons falling to the Eagles in Philly was foreseeable. True, doubt and questions abounded as to whether Nick Foles could rise to the occasion after starting QB Carson Wentz went down with a blown ACL. But it was never just about that. The Eagles are solid across the board in all the other phases of the game -- particularly defensively. It was just up to Foles not to make too many mistakes. He didn't, actually playing a terrific game. So Atlanta bows out again.

The Titans going into Foxborough to face the Patriots was the gimme of the month. The Pats being 13-14 point favorites? Pshaw. As was stated in this forum earlier, Belichick/Brady/Gronk and Co. were going to smoke them by at least three touchdowns.

Yeah, I know. Jacksonville humiliated the Steelers -- in Pittsburgh -- back in October. But this is playoff time. Look for Big Ben, LaVeon, Antonio, and that bunch to pay them back -- in a big way. Whatever the point spread is -- take Pittsburgh and gladly give them. This will be a romp.

The most interesting game is New Orleans going into Minnesota. Ya never know what the same Drew Brees and Co. are capable of, so it's tough to underestimate them. And though he's filled in admirably since the two QBs in front of him went down with injuries, can Case Keenum keep it together when the pressure ratchets up? Hard to say, but the Vikes have some serious defense going on too. Beating them at home is a tall order, and I don't think the Saints are up to it.

We'll see.

The game everybody wants to see, of course, is the rematch of the Patriots/Steelers. A few weeks ago in Pittsburgh, the Steelers had the Pats right where they wanted them -- until they didn't -- and let them escape with an improbable victory.

And assuming they take care of biz with Jax -- please -- the terrible towelers will have to go to Foxborough for the AFC championship game.

Thing is, if anybody's capable of knocking off the Pats in their own back yard -- it's those guys.

And I wouldn't bet a whole lot of money against exactly that happening.













Friday, January 12, 2018

Bill Polian and the Rooney Rule. WRONG!!!

First of all, yours truly would be the last person to question the NFL credentials of Bill Polian.

He was the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills back in the day when they went to four straight Super Bowls. Okay, they lost them all, but just getting there four years in a row is quite impressive.

Then he was the General Manager of the then expansion Carolina Panthers.

Then better than a decade as the Vice-Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts.

Let's just say the man knows his way around NFL front offices and, hence, knows pro football.

But he was dead wrong in a recent statement.

Polian maintained that because the number of minority head coaches in the NFL has never been higher is proof that the Rooney Rule is working.

[The Rooney Rule was established back in 2003 to force teams to interview minority candidates when searching for a new head coach.]

In the sense that there have been more minority hires, Polian is correct.

Yet that ignores another glaring statistic.

Just because a person gets a job through an arbitrary mandate doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be any good at it.

And the list is long of the minority head coaches in the NFL that have been terrible.

Let's start out with the success stories. They are few indeed.

Tony Dungy was pretty good at Indy, as is Mike Tomlin currently in Pittsburgh. Those guys knew/know what they were doing.

Now the not-so-good stories.

Jim Caldwell was recently fired in Detroit, probably because he couldn't win a single playoff game over his four years there.

Vance Joseph in Denver has led the Broncos into the toilet.

Todd Bowles of the NY Jets continues to stink it up.

Herman Edwards is a great motivation speaker, but didn't exactly shine while a head coach in the NFL. In an attempt to finally be shed of him, the NY Jets once traded him to Kansas City for a measly fourth round draft pick. He would stink it up again in KC and be fired -- as he should have been. Old Herm's famous line is, "You play to win the game". Pity, he didn't win nearly enough of them during his tenures as a head coach.

The foibles of such people like Dennis Green, Romeo Crennel, and Lovey Smith are legendary -- and not in a good way.

Hue Jackson in Cleveland has gone a preposterous 1-31 during his two seasons at the helm, but incredibly keeps his job.

Marvin Lewis has been at it for 15 years in Cincinnati, but the Bengals have never been considered a serious contender. What did they do? Just extended his contract for more millions of dollars. It's so outrageous as to be comical.

So yes, Mr. Polian, while this author gives you kudos for your experiences in the NFL, and credits you with being quite knowledgeable regarding same -- you are horribly wrong when you claim the Rooney Rule is "working".

Results matter, and the NFL, like any other sports enterprise, is a very results oriented business. If you can't produce a winner, typically you're gone. That's just the way it is -- and should be.

Just recently, the Oakland Raiders have come under fire because they allegedly didn't obey the letter of the Rooney Rule law. Owner Mark Davis made no bones about wanting Jon Gruden, a worthy candidate (and former Raider head coach/Super Bowl winner in Tampa Bay) to re-take over his team.

It should be noted that the Raiders already have a black General Manager in the person of Reggie McKenzie (whom Gruden will report to). And RM stated on the record during the introduction of Gruden as the new head coach that he had indeed interviewed two "minority" candidates during the process. Even named them.

But evidently, that's not good enough for pseudo do-gooders, (not to mention the hordes of politically correcters out there), such as Polian, continuing to dictate how and who a manager/boss/owner is and is not allowed to prefer for a job he'll be paying for. Millions at that.

Yours truly has always been staunchly in favor of equal treatment. Be it gender, race, religion, politics, age, whatever, if someone if qualified for the job -- by all means give it to them.

But being forced to pass over such candidates because of some silly arbitrary rule -- which BTW -- is discriminatory in and of itself....

Is just wrong.











Thursday, January 11, 2018

Michigan State basketball. WAY overrated

The Spartans may well be ranked in the top 5 teams in the country, but a look at their schedule suggests that they are either 1) overrated, or 2) cowardly.

Yes, I know. The hype has always been that Tom Izzo teams are "tough".

Yet consider that same schedule.

After opening the season against North Florida -- ever hear of it? -- they went up against Duke, and....

Promptly got trashed at a neutral site. And the Blue Devils were without the service of their best player, who left the game early with an injury.

Then a regular Hall of Shame that MSU had scheduled.

Stony Brook.

DePaul.

UConn -- not the women -- who likely would have defeated them -- but the pitiful men.

Rutgers.

Southern Utah.

Oakland.

Houston Baptist.

Long Beach State.

Cleveland State.

Savannah State.

What? No Campfire Girls, Urkels Anonymous, or a squad of paraplegic Syrian refugees to beat up on?

Thank God for small favors, but don't put such a thing past Izzo's Spartans.

Then they went to Ohio State, at least a Big Ten --or fourteen, but's who's counting? -- team.

And were promptly hammered.

A couple days later, back in the so-called safe confines of their own arena, MSU was taken to overtime by Rutgers, before barely squeaking out a win.  RUTGERS! In their own building!

Does that sound like a top team to you?

Not me. I see them getting beat several more times before the regular season is over.

Sure, they'll qualify for the NCAA tourney in a couple months. With a watered down field of 66 teams getting invites, MSU will no doubt get one of them, on reputation alone.

But it remains shameful the teams they schedule before they start conference play. And after getting blasted by the unranked Buckeyes and holding on for dear life against lowly Rutgers, it is truly difficult to imagine these guys are ALL THAT.

Do I really think Geno Auriemma and his Lady Huskies of UConn could have knocked off the boys from East Lansing?

Maybe not. But they would have given them a heck of a better game than the likes of Stony Brook, Houston Baptist, Oakland, Southern Utah, or North Florida.

It's just shameful the levels they stoop to to pad their record.