Here’s a look ahead at the Tuesday agenda for the MobTown Sports Beat. It’ll be a late start today as “Monday Night Live with Brendan Ayanbadejo” will air from 10 until 11 am, but we’ll be getting it in after that.
Jason Butt from CBS Sports and the Baltimore Guide will join us at 11:30 to talk Ravens.
Luke Jones will provide the Ravens intelligence with a Ravens report at 12:30.
A thankfully uneventful foray in Cleveland in the books the Ravens look ahead to a toothless Colts team. We’re always open to Ravens rap.
A Nickel and a Nail
Five topical conversation starters and a nail for someone who deserves it. Share your thoughts:
#1 – Unlikely MVP Candidates
As the season winds down and as we set the countdown to declare Aaron Rodgers MVP of the league, who else might deserve to be in the conversation albeit under unlikely circumstances?
Peyton Manning who proved his value even more in his absence than with the impressive body of work that preceded it. Tim Tebow who has delivered the Broncos from 1-4 to the top of the AFC West despite no organizational support and the trade of the team’s best receiver on the day Tebow got the job. Matt Moore who has rescued the Dolphins from the throes of winlessness and played them right out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Maurice Jones-Drew who has put together a terrific campaign despite being on a team with no other offensive weapons. Matt Forte and Frank Gore who literally carried their teams to unexpected success (Forte’s value may become more apparent in coming weeks too via his absence). Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster and Darren McFadden are all probably worth a mention too.
#2 – The Miami Heat of Baseball
Given the season the Eagles are enduring, carrying the title “Miami Heat of” anything is probably an unwelcome harbinger of struggles ahead. As the newly anointed Miami Marlins go about making their splash into big market baseball though, most recently by heaping money on Jose Reyes and now looking to pique the interests of Albert Pujols, this rapid reconstruct looks much more like the Heat than even Philly’s football version.
Forget for a second that Reyes’ career season and the timing thereof couldn’t have been better for him personally as it came just ahead of free agency, and color me cynical if I see a 28-year old Dominican and immediately assume there’s at least a chance he might be a tad north of his listed age. The fact that Reyes and current “face of the Marlins” Hanley Ramirez both play shortstop and like LeBron James and DeWayne Wade’s skill sets the move seems justifiable yet glaringly redundant. Adding the best player in the game in Pujols would cement the Heat persona for this team…perhaps by design.
If so, it’s probably worth noting that while the Marlins were looking to the Heat for their blueprint for success they should have been careful to notice the white slipcovers that cover the empty American Airlines Arena seats in a feeble attempt to disguise the problem these Marlins know all too well…even a team full of superstars is a tough draw in a city full of lavish beaches, tropical locales and loads of other entertainment options. If the Heat’s Big 3 can’t draw in Miami during the winter months what’s to keep folks interested in the Marlins on beautiful summer nights…Pujols or not?
#3 – Tough Luck Contenders
They’re still in the thick of their respective conference playoff pictures, but that’s about all that’s gone right for the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears this season.
The Texans lost Mario Williams for the season early, Arian Foster for most of the season’s first quarter, Andre Johnson for a handful of games along the way yet were still firmly positioned atop the AFC South when the bottom fell out on Matt Schaub…and then Matt Leinart immediately thereafter. A game TJ Yates showed well in his trial by fire win against the tough Falcons on Sunday but lost Johnson again along the way. They still have a 2 game lead over the Titans who are the only team in the division able to catch them mathematically, and would be well positioned in the wild card even if they faltered away the division. With dates @CIN, vs. CAR, @IND & vs. TEN left the Texans look like a lock for the playoffs no matter who they have to rely on to get them there, the question is what they’ll be able to do once they finally reach that long awaited summit.
The Bears on the other had started slow as quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz struggled to get on the same page and with an apparent lack of talent on the offensive line. They were able to right their ship and ride Matt Forte into wildcard contention in the only division in football seemingly salted away (by the Packers) in week 6. Hoping for the best from Caleb Hanie at quarterback, the Bears were dealt the worst possible blow on Sunday (as were all of my fantasy teams) with the loss of Matt Forte possibly for the season. With dates remaining @DEN, vs. SEA, @ GB and @ MIN and clinging loosely to the 1st NFC wildcard spot at present the Bears road to the playoffs is much more in doubt.
The Raiders can probably fairly count themselves in this group too, losing Jason Campbell and spending mightily to replace him with Carson Palmer only to lose Darren McFadden immediately and indefinitely upon Palmer’s arrival. They’re in a dogfight for the AFC West / 2nd AFC wildcard with dates remaining @GB, vs. DET, @ KC and vs. SD.
#4 – BC-Mess continued
I vented on this topic here yesterday and won’t rehash that argument again. I will however add a couple of things.
First is that the BCS title rematch is a result (in my opinion) of media arrogance above all else. As 5 of the 7 computer rankings had Oklahoma State ahead of Alabama for the BCS’ second spot but the human side of the ledger tipped the balance to Alabama. As the media ordained Alabama the best team in the country through most of the season, their willingness to shake that notion was evident as the talk of a rematch began before the first game was even played. Much like the writers who bought into the Eagles dream team persona in the lead up to the NFL season and as a result were calling the midseason games of a sub .500 and floundering team the “beginning of the Eagles playoffs”…really?!?!?!?
Would the media be so quick to put LSU back in a rematch if the shoe were on the other foot and Alabama had beaten them at home? I doubt it. And while the human element seems just and justifiable as part of the formula, who amongst the voters have actually watched all of the BCS’ top 25 in multiple games this season…and how many watch 3 or 4 marquee games per week and take the word of the media and the assembled highlights of SportsCenter and other highlight shows to form their opinions about the others? How does that make sense? And how does anyone who tried to “work the vote” by putting Oklahoma State 4th or 5th on their ballot ever hope to keep a ballot for the following season?
Second, since we’re all in agreement that LSU is the unquestioned #1, and since the real debate begins at #2 and #3; why not let Alabama face Oklahoma Sate in a bowl, crown LSU the champ and showcase them against Boise State, Oregon, Clemson, Wisconsin or some other conference champ with no real shot at beating the Tigers?
Crown LSU the champ and settle the debate surrounding #2. We’ll see who’s smarter, the voters or the computers, once and for all. As it stands now, if LSU loses to Alabama in the BSC title game, theirs’ (LSU’s) will still be the better overall body of work with a better out of conference schedule, a win in Alabama’s building and an extra win in the SEC title game, yet the Tide will be the BCS crowned and titular champion.
#5 – Lions Melting Down
Who will be to blame if the Lions miss the playoffs? After an encouraging start, the Lions can’t get out of their own way and seem to be more caught up on winning the battle or the fight than the football game. Is any of this attributable to head coach Jim Schwartz’ ugly episode around the handshake after losing to the 49ers? Is their reputation too far gone to rescue this season to any real success?
And the Nail Goes to … Jason Garrett
Not just for icing his own kicker on Sunday, but that’s surely a part of it. The offensive genius that Garrett was touted to be once upon a time has yet to emerge and Garrett is surely feeling the heat after Sunday’s debacle on top of the debacle of a season that has preceded it as well.
I was a big Garrett critic when the Ravens were wooing him but backed off of my criticisms after he seemed to turn the Cowboys around after taking over mid-season last year. He lost me again (maybe just as a bitter Felix Jones owner) when he helped the Cowboys blow an apparently safe late lead and called snap after futile snap from the shotgun inside of the 10-yard line amongst other things in rolling over for the Jets.
Below is what I wrote here about the Ravens pursuit of Garrett prior to the 2008 season. Thanks for making me look smart Jason Garrett…that isn’t always easy.
With the benefit of hindsight it’s unbelievable that the Ravens were more interested in Garrett than he was in them…laughable even. Thanks Garrett (and Jerry Jones) for saving us from ourselves on that one too.
Jason Garrett’s Professional Mentors:
As a Player:
Princeton University – played under Ron Rogerson and Steve Tosches
Columbia University – played under Jim Garrett (Jim Garrett resigned after 0-10 season and allegations of verbal and physical abuse)
San Antonio Riders – played under Mike Riley
Ottawa Rough Riders – played under Dave Ritchie
Dallas Cowboys – played under Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey
New York Giants – played under Jim Fassel
Tampa Bay Bucs – played under Jon Gruden
As a Coach:
Miami Dolphins – QB coach – under Nick Saban
Dallas Cowboys – Offensive Coordinator – under Wade Phillips
Hiring a guy with Jason Garrett’s limited experience would be considered a gamble in most cases, yet somehow Garrett has managed to create a bidding war for his services. What Garrett lacks in pedigree he must make up for in potential. He comes from a football family, but his dad coached in the Ivy League and guided Columbia to an 0-10 season in 1995. Garrett jumped from Princeton to Columbia to play for his dad, and then back to Princeton after his dad was fired.
Garrett lasted for a long time in the NFL, presumably on brains more than physical gifts, and played for the Cowboys dynasty in the 90’s and on the Giants Superbowl team in 2000. Although he has played on successful teams, he certainly didn’t come up under a who’s who of coaches. He played for Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey in Dallas, Jim Fassel in New York and Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. He played 4 years of Ivy League ball, and a few years between the WLAF and CFL. Although Garrett was on successful teams and was said to have mentored Kerry Collins in New York, he wasn’t coming up under Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi by any means.
Garrett’s coaching credentials are even more suspect. Two years with the Dolphins as QB coach, during which he oversaw 5 different starters at the position. And then one year with the Cowboys in which he did a good job, with an offense that was good before his arrival. Garrett was presumably brought in to fix whatever caused Dallas to meltdown in the last 4 games of 2006 and to fizzle in the playoffs. His offense was in the top 5 in both scoring and yardage, but again melted down in the last 4 games of the season and fizzled in the playoffs. Garrett’s second half play calling against the Giants in the playoffs has to be among the worst called halves in the history of the game.
What may be more troubling than the limited amount of time that Garrett has had as an NFL coach, are the coaches under whom he has learned. Before spending this season in the shadow of the legendary Wade Phillips, who is so highly regarded that he may be fired in favor of Garrett before this all plays out, Garrett spent his previous two seasons learning his craft from the icon Nick Saban.
Garrett may or may not have learned much about the game of football from Saban, but based on the way that he is handling negotiations so far, he must have learned something from Saban. Saban, who left LSU fresh off of a national championship, for a big payday with the Dolphins, and then turned tail and ran back to the college ranks as soon as someone else came along with money. That kind of puts a different perspective on Garrett’s negotiations so far, doesn’t it?
John Harbaugh may be quickly emerging as a favorite now. Interestingly enough, based on the way that the coaching trees are assembled, Harbaugh would probably not be on Bill Walsh’s tree, even though it was Ray Rhodes who gave him his first NFL coaching job. It looks like coaches whose fathers were coaches too, were assumed to have learned their philosophies at home. Count Rex Ryan among the coaches who don’t come from the same 3 trees.
I probably like Harbaugh the best of all of the serious candidates, mostly because he isn’t a retread, and he isn’t a coordinator riding the momentum of a big season, and a talented team. If John Harbaugh is being interviewed, they must really like him, because he doesn’t have a top 5 offense or defense to boast of. In fact, he doesn’t have an offense or defense at all, he’s a position coach. So he must bring something else very impressive to the table if he is getting serious consideration.
Looking at the current head coaches in the NFL, of those who have actually won Superbowls, only Mike Holmgren did it with the first team he coached. Bill Bellichick, Mike Shannahan and Tony Dungy were all fired by their first employers, and Jon Gruden left Oakland before winning it all in Tampa. All of those coaches seemed to learn from previous failures, and excel when given another opportunity. Hiring a retread seems to be a bad PR move, but is usually a safer way to go.
I have suspected all along that Bisciotti’s ego has been driving this whole process. He is out to put his stamp on this team and this organization. Art Modell didn’t look like a good owner to me when he first came to town. He was seemingly broke, and didn’t have another lucrative business outside of football as most owners do. Then along came Bisciotti with the money, and proved me, and lots of other doubters wrong. Hopefully he’ll do it again. I’m not ready to write him off as an owner just yet; hopefully this will be just a bump in the road. For now though, things aren’t looking so good.
Maybe Bisciotti’s quest to put a stamp on his legacy goes beyond finding a hall of fame coach. From the list of candidates, he looks like he’ll be trying to start a hall of fame coaching tree. If Garrett is indeed to be that seed, let’s hope that this apple fell far from the trees under which he’s grown up
The Big 3 Questions
Call it the Miami Heat of radio segments and tweet talk, 3 random questions. Hit me with your answers on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 410-481-1570. Whatever you do, get back @ me.
#1 – Are you taking the #Packers or the field to win the #SuperBowl as of now? #NFL
I’ll still reluctantly take the field.
#2 – Do the #Ravens have an issue at kicker?
I hope not…
#3 – Which #NFL QBs would you trade Joe Flacco for today?
Rodgers, Brees and that’s it for me. Disagree (I’ll bet you do) call me on it.