Monday, December 31, 2012

What's Next For These Fired NFL Coaches?

Black Monday is in full swing and ... as I type this ... SEVEN head coaches have reportedly been fired with a few spots still in flux.  While I won't begin to attempt to speculate about who is in line to fill these spots, I will try to figure out what the futures hold for the fired coaches.

LOVIE SMITH:  Chicago fired Smith after nine seasons and a 80-63 record.  Smith led the Bears to the Super Bowl where they lost to Peyton Manning's Colts (remember, Rex Grossman was his QB on that team).  He went to three playoffs and two NFC Championship games.  Aside from his 5-11 mark in his first season, his worst record was 7-9 (twice). 

While not coming completely out of nowhere, this is the one firing that has fans and players upset.  To me, if the Vikings had lost to the Packers on Sunday and the Bears would've qualified for the postseason, Smith wouldn't have been fired. 

I think he lands on his feet.  He could take a season off, but with all of the openings around the league, I can see him finding a job pretty soon.  While he got the Bears to the playoffs just once in the last six seasons, he has fielded good teams ... even though those teams faltered late in the season.  Someone like Arizona could be a landing spot.

NORV TURNER:  I think Turner's time as a head coach is over.  He's had three shots (Redskins, Raiders, Chargers) and not much to show for it.  In 15 years as a head coach, he's been to the playoffs just four times ... the three of them were his first three seasons with a Chargers team that was 14-2 the season before he took over.  He drove a team that was on the brink of a title into an also ran.

Turner will show up elsewhere in the league.  He's a darn good offensive coordinator and will find a job somewhere doing that.  Head coach?  No more.

KEN WHISENHUNT:  Whisenhunt was a Big Ben miracle pass to Santonio Holmes from winning a Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals.  Yes ... the Cardinals.  Aside from that, he hasn't accomplished too much.  His team fell off when Kurt Warner hung it up.  Since then, the Cards offense has been a carnival of clowns helming the QB slot and a lack of being able to have any offensive consistency.  You can argue that ... like Andy Reid in Philly ... Whisenhunt attaching his horse to one quarterback (Kevin Kolb) cost him his job.

Whisenhunt could become a retread coach.  He did lead the Cardinals to two of the three winning seasons the organization has had in the last 28 years. 

What could hurt him is that laughable lack of offense the Cardinals had.  Being an offensive coordinator prior to getting the Arizona gig, more was expected from him and it could be argued that it was Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald (and Anquan Boldin) that deserves more or the credit for the team's success.

CHAN GAILEY:  I'm not going to sugar coat this, but I couldn't believe Gailey got the Bills job in the first place.  Like Turner, I think his opportunity to be at head coach ... at least in the NFL ... is gone.

Gailey didn't really fail in Dallas as much as he wasn't in the class of head coaches that Jerry Jones was used to.  In his three seasons with Buffalo, the Bills finished last in the AFC East each time.  The Bills have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons.

Gailey could emerge at a second or third tier college football program or somewhere coaching offense.  I seriously doubt anyone would take on the 60 year old in a head coaching capacity. 

ROMEO CRENNEL:  Last year, Crennel won the last two games for the Chiefs after taking over the team with three games left.  This year, Crennel's Chiefs won just two games all season long. 

I feel bad for Crennel.  He took over the team in an emergency interim basis last season and those two wins catapulted him to the full-time job.  He also will have that image of Jovan Belcher committing suicide in front on him at the Chiefs facility.  He is one of the good guys in sports and a class act in any field.

Kansas City isn't bare.  They'll have the top overall pick in the draft for having the league's worst record and, oddly, had five guys elected to the Pro Bowl (three of which were from Crennel's defense).  Crennel's career may be more or less as a defensive coordinator at best.  He'll be somewhere soon.

ANDY REID:  Reid should find somewhere else to be a head coach.  He had a great run in Philadelphia (five NFC Championship games, one Super Bowl appearance) that just ran out of gas.  He was just there too long and got stale.

Reid will get a good job, but he'll want one with a bit more power than the rest of the guys on this list.  That would keep him away from some owners or GMs, but someone will give in. 

PAT SHURMER:  I think he blew his one shot.  Back to being a quarterbacks or tight ends coach.

The Redskins' Unsung Heroes

I've been a Redskins for most of my 37 years on Earth.  I started rooting for them as a 7 year old and haven't stopped.  Needless to say that I was a bit giddy watching my Redskins win the NFC East for the first time since 1999 ... when I was a young newlywed all of 24 years old.

My wife got me a Griffin III jersey for Christmas.  She also got my 5 month old son and almost-three year old daughter jerseys too.  I have been proud to wear my Skins gear around for the last two months (I always wore it before, but would hear some taunts every now and then). 

Of course, RG3 gets all the run.  The die-hards knew ... and the casual fans found out last night ... that Alfred Morris deserves a lot more credit than he gets.  The patchwork defense that lost Brian Orakpo, Adam Character and a slew of safeties early this season has become much more formidable of late.  Despite all the drops, the receivers were a big improvement over the past several seasons.

But the two things I've noticed are two things that only die-hard Redskins will find joy in.  A healthy offensive line and a kicker who can actually make kicks.

Maybe only the Redskins fans value the offensive line like they do.  Thirty years after The Hogs ruled the trenches, their impact is still all over the franchise.  They are beloved.  And despite the faces and the names changing, The Hogs are a moniker that may be owned by one era of linemen but are slapped on any Skins' really good line.

The 2012 line may have not been elite ... or maybe not even that great.  However, they did block for the league's top rushing attack, where two rookies led the team in yardage.  More remarkable, this line stayed healthy for virtually all of the season.  Unreal!  The die-hards know that over the past several years, this line has been anchored by a bunch of aging veterans who would enter each season with a laundry list of ailments and a hot-shot youngster at left tackle that seems to stay in trouble.

This year?  Trent Williams, Chris Chester, Will Montgomery, Kory Lichtensteiger and Tyler Polumbus has played virtually every snap together.  No real jumbling of the line.  No playing out of position.  No lack of continuity.  They've stayed on the field together and their zone blocking scheme has helped Morris break out to the 3rd highest rushing total for a rookie in NFL history ... and the top rushing season in Washington Redskins history.  With the names that preceeded Morris, that is quite a feat. 

As you saw last night in Dallas, that line and rushing attack can be lethal.

The other guy that's helped is Kai Forbath.  Forbath, who hadn't made a regular season squad since coming out of UCLA in 2011.  Forbath made his first 17 field goals in his career ... an NFL record.  That was a far cry from the Billy Cundiff era at the beginning of the season ... or the littany of bad kickers the Redskins have employed over the past decade.  We love our Mark Moseley!  Our Chip Lohmiller!  Our Ali Haji-Sheikh!  For me, it is rare that I feel confident when our kicker walks up to nail a field goal (even though he did knock one off the upright last night). 

Unsung heroes, yes.  No one will roll with a Forbath jersey or a Lichtensteiger jersey.  There will be tons and tons of Griffin III jerseys like the one I just got with some of Morris, Orakpo, Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss or even London Fletcher sprinkled in (not to mention the Sean Taylor ones), but all those folks know how important those Redskins linemen have meant to this NFC East championship team.

Did The Vikings Schedule Help Adrian Peterson Nearly Catch Dickerson?

Here are the total defense rankings for the teams that Adrian Peterson and the Vikings played this season. 

Week 1:  Jacksonville.  31st
Week 2:  Indianapolis.  26th
Week 3:  San Francisco.  2nd
Week 4:  Detroit.  13th
Week 5:  Tennessee.  25th
Week 6:  Washington.  28th
Week 7:  Arizona.  12th
Week 8:  Tampa Bay.  29th
Week 9:  Seattle.  4th
Week 10:  Detroit.  14th
Week 11:  Bye
Week 12:  Chicago.  5th
Week 13:  Green Bay.  10th
Week 14:  Chicago.  5th
Week 15:  St. Louis.  15th
Week 16:  Houston.  9th
Week 17:  Green Bay.  10th

As you can see, it is a mixed bag.  There are some really bad defenses (Jags, Buccaneers, Redskins, Colts, Titans) early in the season ... and some really good ones later on (Seahawks, Bears twice, Texans). 

Funny, but look at the rushing rankings for these teams.

No. 1 - Tampa Bay
No. 5 - Washington
No. 6 - San Francisco
No. 7 - Houston
No. 9 - Chicago
No. 11 - Seattle
No. 14 - Green Bay
No. 16 - St Louis
No. 18 - Detroit
No. 23 - Tennessee
No. 28 - Arizona
No. 30 - Indianapolis
No. 31 - Jacksonville

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Who Will NBC Flex In For Week 17?

Okay, NBC will have its flex game for Week 17's Sunday Night Football.  It can be any game of the week, but it will be the one with the most on the line.  With the AFC's playoff teams set (though their seeding isn't), it should most likely be an NFC game.  Three games stick out the most, with one as ... to me ... the obvious winner.

Here is the rankings for which game it could be:

16-JAGUARS AT TITANS:  Two teams that I've probably watched a total of 10 minutes all year long play. 

15-RAIDERS AT CHARGERS:  No reason at all for anyone to watch this mess.

14-BUCCANEERS AT FALCONS:  Tampa's out and Atlanta has home field advantage locked up.  Expect the Falcons to sit their stars. 

13-BROWNS AT STEELERS:  Big rivalry with nothing on the line. 

12-JETS AT BILLS:  I rank this game this high because we've spent all year with this horrible Jets team so overhyped.  May as well ride it to the end.

11-PANTHERS AT SAINTS:  Of all the games that have no playoff implications whatsoever, this is the best of the bunch.  Should be an exciting game featuring two teams who are pretty darn hot right now.  If, for some reason, there really is nothing to play for anywhere else, might as well put this one on.

10-CHIEFS AT BRONCOS:  Well, home field advantage could be on the line for Denver depending on if Houston loses.  A bye could be on the line.  The Chiefs getting the No. 1 pick.  Nope, no one wants to see this.

9-DOLPHINS AT PATRIOTS:  New England could get the top overall seed in the AFC if Denver and Houston lose.  If either of them lose, the Pats could battle for a bye. However, that's a lot to happen for this game to mean anything important enough to watch. 

8-TEXANS AT COLTS:  Both are heading to the postseason.  We know the Colts are a wildcard team, it would just come down to who'd they play.  If Denver and/or New England win earlier, then Houston would be playing for home field. 

7-CARDINALS AT 49ERS:  Depending on whatever happens in Green Bay earlier in the day, San Francisco could be playing for a first round bye.  Aside from that, move on.

6-EAGLES AT GIANTS:  New York has imploded, but still has a shot at a playoff berth.  Still, a lot has to happen around the league for the Giants to get in.  This game could be moot.

5-RAVENS AT BENGALS:  Like the Texans-Colts, these two are already in the playoffs.  All they are fighting for is seeding, which makes this game a dumper.

4-BEARS AT LIONS:  Detroit has disappointed, but they are still good and Megatron will be going for the first 2,000 yard receiving season ever.  The Bears are right in the thick of the playoff race but could be eliminated before this game starts.  A win and ... gulp ... a Packers win over the Vikings means Chicago would make it in.

3-RAMS AT SEAHAWKS:  Seattle could be playing for a NFC West title.  Depending on what goes on earlier in the day with Chicago, Washington, Dallas or the Giants, Seattle could be playing just to get into the playoffs.  Not a bad matchup, but only sexy if no other option.

2-PACKERS AT VIKINGS:  Green Bay could be fighting for a first round bye.  Minnesota could be fighting to get in, depending on what happens elsewhere (a Vikes win in this game and they're in).  You'd also have the chance Adrian Peterson breaks Eric Dickerson's rushing record.  Heated rivals with a lot on the line.

1-COWBOYS AT REDSKINS:  The winner wins the NFC East.  The loser will most likely miss the playoffs (the Redskins could have a shot with a loss).  Huge rivalry.  The two most valuable franchises in the NFL.  Two controversial owners.  RG3 vs Romo.  A rematch of a lively Thanksgiving game.  Two huge markets.  Need any more reasons?

Tebow to Jags? Do It And Let's Get This Over With!!!

Rumor is that the Jets don't want Tim Tebow anymore and the Jaguars will be his next destination.

Thank god.

I hope this happens.  I don't care if it is good for Tebow.  I don't care if it is good for the Jaguars.  It IS good for anyone tired of Tebow Mania.  Well, at least Tebow Mania that seems undeserved.  It will help settle the people who think Tebow can't play and is waaaaaaay overhyped from the people who back Tebow and think he just needs a chance to play for a team that is all-in for him. 

Then we can get something.  If Tebow stinks it up, all those people who called that can feel great and we can shut up about him.  If he does good things in Jacksonville, then those Tebow supporters will be vindicated.  Either way, we get that question answered. 

Oh, and don't give me that whole "Jags suck so he can't be truly judged."  The Redskins sucked.  The Colts sucked.  New quarterbacks have gotten them into the postseason chase.  The Vikings weren't thought of as a playoff team ... but here they are. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Can Mountain West Conference Become The "Big Sixth" Member?

Like we all figured, the Mountain West Conference is trying to lure Boise State back.  Boise, remember, joined the MWC last season before jumping to the Big East conference for next season.  Of course, that was when there was a BCS automatic bid process as well as a somewhat attractive Big East.

Now?  That is all gone.

The new playoff system leaves the Big East out of the "BCS" crowd.  Boise State would have just as good a shot at the postseason if they stayed in the MWC.  Even if that didn't matter, the Big East is a shell of the conference it even was when Boise signed on (San Diego State is also supposed to leave for the Big East as well, but no word if they are interested in coming back). 

To me, it makes sense for Boise State and SD State to come back.  The Mountain West will be the same as it was this year, aside from the additions of San Jose State and Utah State.  That bumps the membership to 12 teams and gives them an ability to have a conference championship game (in Vegas, perhaps?).  The conference could be divided like this:

EAST:  Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State, Wyoming
WEST:  Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV
Pretty simple dividing line there and have that MWC title game in Las Vegas.  Maybe the league would be interested in getting to 14 teams if they can find a way to woo BYU back into the fold (New Mexico State or Texas State could be out there as the 14th team).  BYU and New Mexico State/Texas State go to the East and Boise State moves to the West division. 

Aside from that, the Mountain West should no only be able to stay the 2nd best conference in the west (duh) but to become that strong 6th conference behind the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC.  I mean, Boise State is the biggest BCS buster we have had, Hawaii has been to a BCS bowl and the other schools have decent programs from time to time.  You have teams in Vegas, SoCal, the Bay Area and along the Rockies.  Getting BYU would be huge.  The MWC also has rival markets with the Pac-12 with Utah, Colorado, Southern and Northern California.

Of course all this is with the assumption that Boise State would come back to the MWC.  That isn't a done deal.  While the Big East isn't at all as sexy as it once was ... and it wasn't that sexy ... they still have the same positioning for a BCS bowl berth.  Bouncing back to the MWC could get messy for Boise State by having to pay to get out of the conference before even playing a game (ask TCU).  But unlike TCU, Boise won't be leaving for a big TV payday that can cover for the fee.  The MWC has one of the worst TV contracts out there and coming back to the conference may not be worth it for Boise.  This would also, basically, show Boise State as nomads as they've not been able to commit to anyone it seems.  They joined the WAC in 2001, left for the Mountain West in 2011 and then announced they were heading for the Big East in 2013.  Quitting on that deal would look kinda bad.

They could stay in the Big East and wait out for maybe the Pac-12 to expand again or maybe a new conference (two have been rumored) that could form.  It isn't that far out of the realm of possibilities.  Even then, the MWC would be alright but not as good as they could be with that star program in Boise State. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Will Big East Schools Really Leave For Atlantic 10???

I knew this would eventually happen, though I thought it could've happened earlier.  The non-football schools in the Big East are fed up with this mess and are looking to split from the Big East.

I thought when the Big East turned into a 16-team mammoth league that the non-football schools already in the league (St. John's, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova) as well as the two non-football schools they acquired from Conference USA (DePaul and Marquette) an possibly Notre Dame would break off from the Big East and form their own league. 

I was originally wrong.  While I thought that the hoops schools would become testy after watching the football side of things (which formed nearly 15 years after the conference actually began) run the league and the futures of those programs.  However, the Big East's cache grew due to the collection of dominant basketball prowess.  While it became a bit more tedious to have to travel to South Florida or DePaul, that was the price to pay to have this big-time conference.

Well, the same reasoning the conference blew up is the same reasoning the conference is now ... well ... blowing up.  West Virginia (Big East Final Four team) left for the Big 12.  Louisville (Big East Final Four team) is leaving for the ACC.  So is Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.  Even also-ran Rutgers is bolting for the Big Ten.  Even Cincinnati and UConn (Big East championship squad) threw themselves after the ACC and pouted when they were rejected. 

That is devastating for the pigskin side of things.  While losing Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame and West Virginia are tough for any conference to take, the basketball league still has nice programs.  A league with UConn, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Nova, Marquette and St. John's isn't that bad of a league ... with DePaul and Seton Hall decent programs.  But football ruled the roost and the Big East sold its soul.  Adding Houston, SMU, Central Florida and Tulane for all sports (as well as San Diego State, Boise State and East Carolina for football) told the non-football schools a lot. 


A once eastern-only conference will feature Texas schools.  It was one thing to go to the midwest to face Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Marquette or DePaul ... but it is another to travel to Tulane.

Tulane.  Why?  Tulane is one of the worst programs in college basketball and may have broke the camel's back.  I know you need their football membership, but you just pissed off all of the Big East Hoop-dom.  You may have held off the mutiny a few days just by now giving East Carolina full membership.

Not only to those non-football schools want to leave, they want their brand back.  They want the Big East name, history and that cache back.  They want what they had before the league office sold their soul for football and watched as outsiders poached your league.  They want this, but won't get it.  Why?  They need the votes to make it happen, and Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida and Temple (who now is a member) won't let it.   They want to keep all this together until ... ya know ... Cincinnati and UConn finally get that offer from the ACC.  Nice.

Breaking away would be difficult.  They'd have to find some more members (Xavier?  Butler?) to join them to create a new league.  A new, non-historical league.  They'd lose their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as well as some of the cash they would normally receive.  Plus, start ups are kinda expensive. 

The other option could be the Atlantic 10.  The A-10 said they'd welcome those seven schools with open arms.  They are currently a 16-team league that will lose Charlotte (Conference USA) and Temple (who completely leaves for, ironically, the Big East) to bring membership down to 14.  Yeah, that means this would be a 21-team league but it should be exactly what the Big East members want.

GEOGRAPHY:  St. Louis would be the furthest member west.  That's not a big deal since that's closer than Tulane or the Texas schools and not much worse than traveling to DePaul or Marquette.  The furthest south would be Richmond which isn't anything for those Big East schools to make.  Everyone else sits right in those non-football Big East school's footprint and helps DePaul and Marquette bridge the gap.

LIKE MINDEDNESS:  No football here.  The basketball-only league would serve the interests of all the schools.  Not to mention, those non-football Big East schools would love having fellow Catholic schools among their friends.  Of the 14 members of the A-10, only UMass, Rhode Island and VCU are public universities. 

The A-10 says they could do this pretty easily.  They could either split into two divisions or just have a 20-game conference season where everyone plays once.  I like either way, though I'm partial to no divisions in basketball.  But, the A-10 could accomodate those Big East schools by essentially giving them their own division and a quasi-conference.


Give the Big East their own division.  Then they sorta get what they want and fashion their own league.  They'd have to take on three more schools at least to even it up, and figuring out who that would be wouldn't be that big a deal.  So how would that look?

I:  Butler, DePaul, Georgtown, La Salle, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St John's, VCU, Villanova

II:  Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, St Bonaventure, St Joseph's, St Louis, UMass, Xavier

I placed Butler and VCU with the Big East side of things since they are the newest members of the A-10.  I put La Salle with them to give one of the Philly schools to join Villanova.  While the Big East side looks much more formidable, that may be what would be best for everyone.  It doesn't hurt the current A-10 since they all get a lift from just having those Big East schools linked with them.  It doesn't hurt the Big East schools since they are used to having a high difficulty of schedule.  Maybe Butler and VCU should switch back to the other division and schools like St Bonnie's and Fordham get moved over, but that shouldn't be that tough a discussion.


Maybe an East/West format would be best?

EAST:  Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, La Salle, Providence, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, St John's, St Joseph's, UMass, Villanova

WEST:  Butler, Dayton, DePaul, Duquesne, Marquette, Richmond, St Bonaventure, St Louis, VCU, Xavier.

This is decent.  The talent level is broken up a bit (Butler, Xavier, VCU and Marquette on one side; G'town, Nova and St. John's on the other).  The one thing that could bother western schools is that they'd be alienated from the New York area.  I liked the first scenario because is sort of spread out the geography of things.  Of course, you could go rogue and split everything evenly ... but why not just go to the orginal format.

Of course, I love no divisions if they don't want it.  With this league, it would be great home-and-away since so many schools are located near each other.

NEW YORK CITY (St John's, Fordham):  Play one at their place each year and one at home.  That gives everyone a shot at playing in the New York area each season.  I know Fordham isn't St John's, but you still can sent NYC kids back to play in front of the family each year.

PHILADELPHIA (Villanova, St Joseph's, LaSalle):  These three join up where you'd play two in Philly one year and one the next.  Not a bad gig.

OHIO (Dayton, Xavier):  Each school would get a shot to play in the Cincinnati-Dayton area every year.

RHODE ISLAND  (Rhode Island, Providence):  One Lil' Rhody trip.

RICHMOND (Richmond, VCU):  You get a Virginia trip each year.

DC AREA (Georgetown, George Washington):  Everyone gets a trip to the highly fertile DMV area.

CHICAGOLAND (DePaul, Marquette):  Not really the same market, per se, but you make the one trip in that area each year.  Same goes too ...

MIDWEST (Butler, St Louis)

WESTERN NEW YORK/PENNSYLVANIA (St Bonaventure, Duquesne):  Yeah.

Seton Hall and UMass don't really have a partner so you could just split the pair.