Following a series of meaningless college football bowl games, those precious few that did mean something, NFL turmoil, NFL playoff pictures coming into focus, and some other stuff, we are back, at least this one time. Let’s go!
1. NIU gets beat down by FSU in the Orange Bowl
Okay: Northern Illinois was outmatched, there’s no arguing that. However, sports writers and fans are ignoring the main reason why NIU was there in the first place: it was the BCS rules and by-laws that got them there. All NIU (and any other non-AQ conference team) has to do is have a BCS ranking above an AQ conference winner, and if that ranking if 16 or better, they get an automatic bid. So, don’t blame NIU for having a great regular season and legitimately earning their sport; blame the faltering Big East for failing to muster one decent team.
Apparently, an Orange Bowl exec didn’t like NIU’s presence, but given that all the major bowls signed their rights away to the BCS through next season, they couldn’t do anything about it; ESPN had no say in the matter either, and they got stuck with a horrific game. Considering the nearly classless chants that FSU fans began raining on NIU, the game was ugly in more ways than one.
2. Black Monday: winner and losers
For starters, any GM who got canned is a loser, and any head coach who isn’t Andy Reid is also a loser. Andy Reid, on the other hand, is in high demand. Freshly severed from the ingrates who are the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans, Reid is a hot commodity amongst other teams who have vacancies.
To start, though, Reid needs a solid quarterback. He had that in Donovan McNabb, who the aforementioned ingrates only realize now was a great quarterback for their franchise. Chicago has that; the Cardinals have a high draft pick, so if he wants to chance it with a rookie, no one would begrudge him that either. Reid will need a great defensive coordinator, and he’ll have a great pick of them; Monte Kiffin, fresh out of USC, would be a decent choice, as are several others.
Andy Reid deserved better than what he got from Philadelphia. He had a winning record over several seasons, and was one good player from making a serious run; he let that player go to the Washington Redskins to satisfy the Eagles’ fans. He had an owner who had oversized expectations in the toughest division in the NFL. Hopefully, he gets better.
3. The Clippers go streaking; the Lakers stink it up
If I told you that one NBA team in Los Angeles went on a 17 game winning streak, and the other was walloping in mediocrity, you’d expect to hear that. Then if I told you it was the Clippers and Lakers, in that order, normally your jaw would hit the floor.
The Clippers recent loss to the Denver Nuggets ended a historic winning streak for the franchise, and in spite of what analysts were saying about them “being exposed,” I put it in a more friendly context: it wasn’t their night. This is the NBA; you don’t win them all, and if you win more than 60 out of 82, you have an awesome squad. If you go on streaks like that, you are bound to eventually lose, and sometimes it boils down to just having a bad night; one guy doesn’t shoot well, and the other guys have subpar nights, and that’s that. It doesn’t change the fact that you still won a lot, and in the Clippers case, went undefeated in December of 2012.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are not doing so well. Revel in it, Laker haters.
4. Ray Lewis announces his retirement
In contrast to Brett Favre, Ray Lewis informed his team, then the rest of us, that he would be retiring in a classy way, during the season. His decision to retire may have to do with his recent injury, or maybe just the fact that after so many seasons, you want to focus on something else in your life. Few players are that dominant at their position, and it speaks volumes to his character that he let the Ravens begin planning their next era now, rather than make them wait it out.
Ray Lewis, who is in my book a first ballot Hall of Famer, wants to focus more on his children, who are on the brink of going to college. He will be a brilliant analyst and/or coach in the NFL or college if he wants to go there. I’d love to see the Ravens keep him on in a consulting or coaching capacity, which I think would allow him to keep his football life going strong. Of course though, he has more than earned the right to be the one thing the NFL hasn’t let him be: a full time, loving and supporting, father, watching his kids play in the stands.
Enjoy your retirement Ray, when the season is over. I want the Niners to win it all, but seeing you hoist the Lombardi trophy and riding out of the NFL on a white horse would also be worthwhile.
What ARE the Dallas Cowboys to do?
After missing out on the playoffs again, the Dallas Cowboys are soul searching going into the off-season… again. “America’s Team” lost to Washington in a winner-take-all game for the NFC East. Cowboys owner/CEO/President of Operations/General Manager Jerry Jones talked about making a thorough evaluation of the team, its general direction, and potential changes, adding in an interview that he hoped things were quite “uncomfortable” for a little while.
Jones stuck by head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his current deal (am I the only one who sees a franchise tag coming?), but the fact that he makes those statements only exacerbates the current situation: he shouldn’t be making them. It’s why Jimmy Johnson left Dallas, a move which in the long run has cost Dallas more than most people realize; it’s why he’s gone through so many head coaches in his tenure; it’s why, from 1996 onward, he has been one of the worst owners for his team, with the other three, Al Davis, who passed away in 2011, Daniel Synder, who conceded the post of GM in order to bring in Mike Shanahan, and Mike Brown, who still runs the middling Bengals with an iron fist.
If Jerry Jones truly cares about the Cowboys, he needs to rethink his ownership philosophy. He needs to relinquish the power of general manager, and bring in someone to handle it; someone who knows football and can handle the team appropriately. I would also recommend, for the sake of public appearance, relinquishing title and authority of President of Operations to his eldest son, and heir apparent, Stephen as well. Do what the previous owners of the Cowboys did: have an executive team, consisting of the head coach, President of Operations and/or GM, and director of personnel, who handle the active decision making; that way, there is a multi-person discussion, different opinions, and ultimately a decision that has substantial input.
Of course, Jones won’t do this, at least not now. If the Cowboys have a losing record next year, then he may rethink all this again, but for now, he thinks he knows how to resurrect the ‘Boys. I don’t think he has it; a part of me wonders if he ever had it to begin with. Time will tell.