The Nets, Pink Slips & Handicapping Things
On my personal sports blog on SportingNews.com, I wrote that there's a difference between "suck" and "bad" when talking sports teams. Take the Browns for instance. They're unmitigated SUCK. I mean, you look at that roster and there's nothing about it which has you thinking a year from now, they'll be a playoff team. Even IF they contracted the other 29 teams and replaced them with CFL teams. Case in point, they lost last weekend to the Detroit Lions in what should've been a winnable game for the Browns. They scored 37 points and still figured out how to give up 38. Also note, the Lions are a "bad" team. They don't suck.
Now to personalize this, the Nets do not SUCK. Yes, they've lost 17 in a row and for all intents and purposes, they'll probably drop 18 on Wednesday night. Yes, Frank got spared of having his name in the books as being head coach when shot #17 hit the bow last night, as it did resoundingly. Are the Nets really as bad as the 0-17 indicates? No. I don't believe they are. I think this is a young team with a ton of young talent, that simply needs to be coached up. CDR's had a great year so far, Harris is an All-Star that was held back in Dallas. Brook Lopez is a good young big that can be an All-Star within a few years time in the East. The problem is, there's no real #1 that can get this team going in the direction it needs to go. Yes, I think that comes in the form of a LeBron or Wade next summer. In a way of looking at it, I'm honestly glad that Frank was fired the way he was just because it hit that point where the car wasn't running the way it should with the driver behind the wheel. They found a way to lose a very winnable game against AAU Sacramento and then to start the year, they dropped one to AAU Minnesota. A game they led for most of the way before collapsing in the final stanza. When that happens, it's time to make a change. Speaking of change as it were, let me cover the 'Unemployment Line" in my own unique way.
- Charlie Weis. Know what? This job is no longer as attractive as it used to be. In name, sure, it's big. It's Notre Dame. But I feel that a LARGE PART of the blame here needs to go to the morons who signed off on a TEN YEAR EXTENSION for someone who did what? Got em' to a BCS bowl game within two seasons? That's the equivalent of giving a 14K diamond to a hooker who gave you the best head of your life. Yeah it's great, but that too shall pass.
Notre Dame has hit the same level as Florida State, only I believe Notre Dame's been there a LOT longer. Yeah, barring an act of clemency to some extent, Weis will be fired. He probably will find his way back into the NFL next season, as an offensive coordinator since I don't think he has 'head coach' capabilities. Who do I see taking over for him? Forget virtually every "big name" you'll hear. Urban Meyer's set in Gainesville and why fuck with a great thing? Bob Stoops? Even though he's got Overrated University back on a national level (to some degree, Mack's gaining ground as far as the Red River deal goes)...I'm not seeing him leaving Norman for the nuclear reactor that is South Bend, Indiana. Fact is, you're dealing with a job where the expectations are too high and the reality is simply non-existent. Reality is this isn't the late 80s/early 90s. You're no longer the perennial power that's good for 9-10 wins and a New Year's Day bowl game. You're 6-8 wins and 'Appetizer Bowl' (as in not quite New Year's ready) material. I'd say Brian Kelly should go, if only so I can see Cincy drop back a few pegs in the Big East.
- Les Miles. If there's one coach who's really undeserving of the crap he's getting, it's him. So what, he's had a few brain farts this year. Is he not two years removed from a national title? Can he not get time to get the ship right again? On the other hand...
- Mark Mangino. Ya know, when you're a hard ass and winning, you're a great coach with an iron hand that people respond to. (Let's call this the Bob Knight Theory) When you're losing and a hard ass, you're crippling psyches and just an all around prick. Let's not mix words, I don't think any of us have had to play any organized sports to know that a lot of not nice things are said, to have men do not so nice things on Saturday to produce wins. Woody Hayes was no choir boy, but he has a few national titles. Bill Parcells has 2 Super Bowl rings and is far from cute and cuddly. Hell, a true testament to his coaching greatness in my mind, was the job he did with the 1998 New York Jets. That was NOT an AFC Championship squad, yet they were just one Keith Byars fumble away from being just that.
Mangino will more than likely lose his job, because he's a hard ass and not winning. But let's not overlook the fact that just two seasons ago or so, he had Kansas in the Orange Bowl. A traditional basketball powerhouse, where football is on par with badminton, played on a national stage. The thing I think that gets overlooked is how difficult these coaches at predominantly basketball schools have it in terms of recruiting and making something out of a LOT of nothing.
- Eric Mangini. Let me put this as succinctly as I can and yes, I will be personal as it gets here.
I said that last year's implosion with the Jets was more Mangini than it was Favre. Favre has been nothing short of lights out this year in Minnesota surrounded by the best cast in his career. The WRs aren't great, but with Favre throwing the rock...it's almost like watching Steve Nash in action. Anybody can score and look great doing it. (Note, Favre and Manning have my vote for MVP this year. Manning's getting it done with Wayne, Clark and folks you couldn't pick out of a lineup. Favre has elevated a middle of the pack team to being a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Remove him from the equation, the Vikes are division champs and would need the type of run the Nuggets had last season to be in the Super Bowl.) Now, you take a coach who like Weis, got way too much for doing way too little way too soon and put him in Cleveland...well...what'd you expect?
Like Marinelli, this will and SHOULD be Mangini's swan song as an NFL head coach. If he holds his job past this season, it speaks to what I've felt about most Cleveland teams all along. They'd rather put up the front that they're trying just to appease the sheep/fanbase, rather than do what it takes to actually WIN. Brady Quinn's a good QB. He will be better once he has five to six men in front of him that can block, a running back that can move the chains and receivers that can make plays for him. He'll be great once he has a D that he can rely on to keep the opposing offense from making life harder on him (note, the Detroit game was a microcosm of the Browns' existence and in an ironic way, is exactly how they lost their only playoff game despite a great outing from their QB).
- Jack Del Rio. Even though it hasn't come up "officially", please believe it'll start bubbling as the calendar month hits December. Jacksonville was that franchise for the longest time, that you just waited on to make "that turn" only it hasn't happened yet. They've seen Tennessee pass them by and Houston's evolving at a steady clip. Indy lost Marvin Harrison, keep losing folks to injuries and don't seem to miss a step. What's the story with the Jags?
- Jeff Fisher. Had he stuck with Kerry, yeah, he'd probably be most deserving of a pink slip. But much as Willie Beamon probably extended Tony D'Amato's career in Any Given Sunday...new and improved Vince Young has extended Fisher's stay in Tennessee.
- Mike Fox. Ever had something where you knew it was something more than it was and then just about everything that could go wrong, did all at once? Steve Smith is no longer "Steve Smith" and for some odd reason, Del-homey has degressed into Del-picky.
The National Championship/Heisman Race...
One's more or less an afterthought if the obvious happens, that being the National Title race.
Heisman's...kinda up in the air to a point but kinda not. Here's how...
- Tebow wins if Florida mauls Alabama and Ingram's either shutdown or the score's so lopsided, it doesn't matter. Ditto for Ingram.
- McCoy...well, short of us getting a field goal duel in Georgia...Colt better throw early and throw often. Anyone catch Favre's stat line yesterday against Chicago? Add about 7 to the yards total and that's what it takes for Colt to be Colt Heisman.
-- Gerhart...hey, great year kid. You probably jacked Harbaugh's stock up high enough to be mentioned for the Notre Dame job (which if offered, he might just take since I don't see Pete having another 3 loss season next year in conference), but that's about it. You made Stanford football a relevant thing on a national level, something it hasn't been since Bill Walsh coached em' in the 90s. But you're just there to be there.
- C.J. Spiller...no chance in hell probably understates it. Short of absolutely raping GT's D with about 300 on the ground and 100 receiving, you're just getting a suit and some interview time with Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso next Saturday night.
The National Title picture looks to play out conversely one of four possible ways...
If Texas wins...
- Texas vs. SEC Champion for the BCS National Title
If you're a fan of the Frogs, Bearcats or Broncos...you're a Husker fan for the next 6 days and even that might not be enough. The Bearcats have to beat Pitt and hope to do so in such convincing fashion, TCU's moved to the Fiesta Bowl with Boise State or something along those lines. If Texas loses, it gets VERY interesting.
- Do you write off Boise State for a possible title shot because the WAC is as it sounds? Wack? Lest we forget, they punched out Oregon to start this year on the Blue Turf.
- Can we overlook TCU?
- What about Cincy? Has the Big East really dropped off so much without a Miami, Boston College or Virginia Tech that the BCS just doesn't give a shit to see them anywhere other than the Orange Bowl?
If you put me up against it...I think going on "body of work" alone...
Oy. Know what? What am I saying? There's a greater chance of stepping out of your house and getting hit by lightning than there is of Nebraska beating Texas. Short of the calendar year going back about 10-12 years when Nebraska had the talent to warrant this sort of discussion...let's call a spade a spade. Nebraska's not beating Texas, the Black Shirts D for Nebraska will be carved up like a Christmas ham by Colt and the rest of his Texas brethren. I'll come back later this week with my National Title game picks, which subsequently means I'll give you the winner of Florida/Bama since I'm calling the Big XII game a formality of the 60 minute variety. As for tonight...
- There are those who are claiming that "the Pats are no more". Again, shows what "they" know. It was Jim Fassel who publically stated there was no such thing as a "moral victory". I do believe it is possible to pull positives out of a defeat and simply put, the Pats owned the Colts for about three quarters and change. The Pats may not have won a road game all year, but let's face facts. They aren't exactly facing a pack of storm troopers in their own right with these Saints.
Yes, Brees and Payton have been an offensive juggernaut this season. Yes, their D has been just good enough to ensure the offense keeps these huge leads they've been staked to. But how many times this year have they been threatened with the type of firepower that New England's bringing to the Superdome? Let me put it this way...
If the Saints lose tonight, Minnesota's probably getting homefield throughout the NFC. Even if they don't lose, I still can see Favre walking the Vikes into New Orleans and walking out NFC Champions. The Saints are not quite on the level that the Pats are, which is to say, elite. I'm giving the nod in this game to the Pats, if for no other reason, too many folks are riding NO and as impressive as their record has been this season...they haven't overly impressed me while compiling it.