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A lot of things happened on January 22 in the past.
Three of those came before I was born.
On January 22, 1973, the following occurred:
- The Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in Roe v Wade. Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion, although much of it was crafted by William Brennan, the leading progressive on the court for over 30 years. Byron White and William Rehnquist dissented. If you’re looking for my opinion on this case, keep waiting. Not here. Not now.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, died of a massive heart attack at his ranch in Johnson City, Texas. LBJ was in poor health throughout his post-presidential life, and it was only a matter of time before his bad habits caught up with him.
- George Foreman battered Joe Frazier in Jamaica, winning by TKO in the second round to claim the World Heavyweight Championship. Referee Arthur Mercante, also in charge of Frazier’s epic 15-round unanimous decision over Muhammad Ali in 1971 in New York City, mercifully stopped the fight after Frazier was knocked down for the sixth time. Howard Cosell shouted “DOWN GOES FRAZIER” after the first knockdown, the most iconic line uttered by the man who always bragged he “Tells It Like It Is”.
January 22 just happened to be one busy day in one of the most hectic months of the last 50 years. To wit:
- January 7–Mark James Robert Essex went full commando in downtown New Orleans, killing seven–including three members of the New Orleans Police Department–and wounding 19 others in a siege at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel. It was discovered later that Essex killed two other NOPD members on New Year’s Eve and also was the probable culprit for the Rault Center fire of November 29, 1972, which killed six.
- January 14–The Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete their 17-0 season. Also that day, Elvis Presley performed in Honolulu to a worldwide audience over over one billion (none in the United States and Canada; the concert was not aired until April in those countries).
- January 27–The Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Two events of January 22 in the 1980s I remember much better.
The first Super Bowl I recall watching from beginning to end was Super Bowl XVIII, January 22, 1984 in Tampa.
The Redskins were the defending champion, having beaten the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Washington went 14-2 in 1983, scoring a then-NFL record behind a dynamic offense led by quarterabck Joe Theismann, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, and running back John (The Diesel) Riggins, who scored a then-NFL record 24 touchdowns. Theismann had one of the NFL’s best receivers in Art Monk, who would be healthy for Super Bowl XVIII after missing the 1982 playoffs with a leg injury. Washington’s defense was overshadowed by its offense, but the Redskins had a stout unit, led by tackle Dave Butz, end Dexter Manley, linebacker Neal Olkewicz, and safety Mark Murphy, as well as a rookie cornerback from Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) named Darrell Green.
The Raiders were in their second season in Los Angeles. They had a superstar running back of their own in Marcus Allen, as well as speedy receiver Cliff Branch and sure-handed tight end Todd Christensen. Jim Plunkett did not have the big numbers Theismann had, but he was a fearless leader who had survived terrible stints in New England and San Francisco. Oakland’s defense was powered by a secondary led by cornerback Lester Hayes and safety Mike Haynes, acquired from the Patriots during the season. Up front, Oakland had a pair of studs at end, Lyle Alzado and Howie Long, while linebacker Ted Hendricks was still going strong in his 15th–and final–NFL season.
Washington defeated the Raiders 37-35 at RFK Stadium in week five, rallying from a 35-20 deficit in the fourth quarter to do so. The Redskins’ only losses were each by one point on Monday Night Football, at home vs. the Cowboys in the opener and at Green Bay two weeks after the game with the Raiders.Washington blew away the Rams 51-7 in the divisional playoffs, but barely beat the 49ers 24-21 in the NFC championship. San Francisco coach Bill Walsh (he will be mentioned later in this post, and with good reason) was incensed over two very marginal penalties called against the 49ers on the drive which led to the Redskins’ game-winning field goal, and he would use those calls as a rallying point for 1984, when San Francisco tore apart the league by going 15-1 in the regular season and winning Super Bowl XIX.
Los Angeles lost twice to division rival Seattle and suffered an inexplicable December loss at home to the Cardinals, but came on strong in the playoffs, routing Pittsburgh 38-10 and Seattle 30-14.
Many of the scribes who considered themselves experts on professional football felt Super Bowl XVIII had the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls ever.
Instead, it was a super rout.
The Raiders scored following Washington’s first possession when Derrick Jensen blocked a Jeff Hayes punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. A touchdown pass from Plunkett to Branch early in the second quarter made it 14-0. The Redskins got a field goal later in the period, but one of the most disastrous plays in the history of championship football was about to occur.
The Redskins had the ball inside their own 20 with 12 seconds to go in the first half. The smart play would be for Theismann to take a knee and for Joe Gibbs and his players to regroup during the long halftime.
Instead, Gibbs sent in a play called Rocket Screen.
During the October game with the Raiders, Theismann and Joe Washington executed it to perfection. Theismann dumped off to Washington in the right flat, and the ex-Oklahoma speedster took it for 67 yards to set up a Redskin touchdown as part of the Redskins’ 17-point rally in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner believed Gibbs might call the play even though very little time remained in the half, and made an important substitution.
Sumner sent in 6-foot-4 reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, a second-year player from Illinois, in for Matt Millen (yes, THAT Matt Millen). Millen was angry that Sumner removed him, but Squirek was a better pass defender than Millen, who was a defensive tackle at Penn State before becoming a linebacker when he was drafted by the Raiders in 1980.
Squirek was asked to play man-to-man coverage against Joe Washington. If Washington caught the screen pass and broke contain, he would have a chance to gain enough yardage to set up Moseley for a field goal attempt to end the first half.
Rocket Screen did lead to a score.
Theismann dropped back and looked left for Joe Washington. Instead, Squirek caught the ball in stride at the 5 and pranced into the north end zone of Tampa Stadium.
Game, set, match, Raiders. It was 21-3 at halftime, and the Redskins’ reign as champion had 30 minutes to run.
Washington scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half, but it was far too little, too late.
Later in the third quarter, Allen gobbled up huge chunks of real estate on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards. He scored two touchdowns during the stanza, the second on a remarkable 74-yard run on the final play of the period.
On the play, 17 Bob Trey O, Allen started out as if he would sweep left end, but reversed his field when confronted by Redskins strong safety Ken Coffey. Allen found a crease up the middle and avoided a diving tackle attempt by Olkewicz near midfield. Green and Anthony Washington gave chase, but were hopelessly behind the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner from USC.
The 74-yard jaunt sewed up MVP honors for Allen and was the icing on the cake of the Raiders’ 38-9 victory.
However, to many who watched, Super Bowl XVIII is not remembered for Allen, Squirek or Theismann, but instead for a commercial which aired during the third quarter.
In honor of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949, Apple Computers aired a commercial where its new product, the Macintosh, would free the human race from the sinister grip of Big Brother and allow for the continued free will of man and the free exchange of ideas.
The commercial, created by famous movie director Ridley Scott, never aired again, but it is remembered by many not only as the greatest Super Bowl ad ever, but the greatest ad ever, period, regardless of air time or air date.
Five years later, the second–and last–Super Bowl played on January 22 produced one of the great championship games in NFL annals.
Super Bowl XXIII, played on January 22, 1989, marked the return of the big game to South Florida after a ten-year absence. This was the first Super Bowl played in the Dolphins’ palatial new facility, known then as Joe Robbie Stadium, in honor of the Miami owner, who built the $115 million stadium without a dime of taxpayer assistance.
The stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium is a much better facility for football today than it was when it opened in 1987.
Robbie built the stadium with baseball in mind as well, thinking the area would receive a Major League Baseball expansion team in the near future, which it did when the Marlins joined the National League in 1993.
When the Marlins received their own stadium in 2012 (that’s another story for another post), the NFL required the Dolphins to make major renovations to the facility in order to host another Super Bowl. Current owner Stephen Ross complied, and the Super Bowl returns to South Florida in February 2020.
Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch of Super Bowl XVI, with the Bengals taking on the 49ers.
Some of the same players who were part of the 49ers’ first championship team in 1981 were still with the squad seven years later, most importantly Joe Montana. However, Montana had gone through a dip in his career following the victory over Miami in Super Bowl XIX after the 1984 season. He had a major back injury in 1986 which required surgery, and although he led the 49ers to an NFL-best 13-2 record in 1987, he struggled in a divisional playoff loss to the Vikings and was pulled from the game in favor of Steve Young, who had been acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay before the 1987 draft.
In 1988, Walsh could not make up his mind between Montana and Young through the first half of the season. San Francisco was wildly inconsistent, one week defeating Minnesota when Young scored the game-winning touchdown on a 49-yard scramble around left end on which Young somehow kept his balance, then losing the next week to the Cardinals by blowing a 23-0 lead and losing 24-23.
With the Niners 6-5 and two games behind the Saints in the NFC West, Walsh made Montana the full-time starter. The move paid off, as San Francisco won its next five games, including a 30-17 victory over New Orleans in week 15, to clinch the division championship.
In the playoffs, the 49ers blasted the Vikings 34-9, then went to Chicago and pummeled the Bears 28-3 despite a minus-18 wind chill factor.
This would be the first Super Bowl appearance for Jerry Rice, who had already established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time great receivers in just his fourth season. The Mississippi Valley State product set the league on fire in 1987 when he caught a record 22 touchdown passes in only 12 games. That record would stand for 20 years, when Randy Moss took advantage of the full 16-game slate to haul in 23 scoring passes from Tom Brady.
San Francisco’s underrated defense still featured Ronnie Lott in the secondary, but had a new star in pass rushing ace Charles Haley, who had the freedom to roam and line up at either end or linebacker. 0
The Bengals were a vastly different bunch from the 1981 team which lost to the 49ers in the Pontiac Silverdome, save for veterans Cris Collinsworth, Eddie Edwards and Reggie Williams.
In 1984, Boomer Esiason took over the quarterback duties from all-time Bengals passing leader Ken Anderson. By 1988, the left-hander from Maryland was the NFL’s leading passer, triggering a no-huddle attack which featured fleet receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee, plus bruising tight end Rodney Holman. Esiason was protected by an offensive line anchored by Anthony Munoz, one of the NFL’s all-time best offensive tackles.
The Bengals’ running game was led by the versatile James Brooks and a tough fullback from UNLV named Elbert Woods, who became famous as Ickey Woods. The Ickey Shuffle, Woods’ dance after touchdowns, became a national fad as the Bengals began the season 6-0 and went on to a 12-4 record, a far cry from the 4-11 mark of 1987.
Cincinnati defeated Seattle and Buffalo to win its second AFC championship and send coach Sam Wyche, a former Bengals quarterback, into a matchup against his mentor. Wyche was an assistant to Walsh in 1981. Walsh was also a longtime Bengals assistant under Paul Brown before becoming the coach at Stanford in 1977.
The expected offensive explosion didn’t happen in the first half. Each team could muster only a field goal, and each team saw a player suffer a horrific injury.
First to go was 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace, who suffered a broken ankle. A few plays later, Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie also broke an ankle, but his injury was even more gruesome than Wallace’s.
The first touchdown did not come until late in the third quarter, and it was on a kickoff return by the Bengals’ Stanford Jennings. The 49ers went to the final period down 13-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Montana hit Roger Craig for 40 yards to the Bengal 14. Monata’s next pass was almost disastrous for San Francisco, for it hit Cincinnati defender Lewis Billups in the hands.
Had Billups hung on, it might have been curtains for the 49ers.
Instead, Montana made the Bengals pay dearly. He found Rice in the left flat, and #80 did the rest, battling his way past the Bengals secondary to the pylon for the touchdown which tied the game at 13.
With 3:20 to go, Jim Breech nailed a 40-yard field goal which put Cincinnati up 16-13. The 49ers could only return the ensuing kickoff to their own 15, but were further backed up by an illegal block in the back.
With 3:10 remaining, San Francisco was at its own 8-yard line. It would take at least 60 yards to get into field goal range, but that was no sure thing, as Mike Cofer shanked a 19-yard attempt in the second quarter.
Before the first play of the drive, Montana added some levity to the situation when he pointed to the big television screen in the west end of the stadium and said “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”.
Montana led the 49ers on a drive for the ages, as 10 plays moved the ball 82 yards to the Cincinnati 10 with 39 seconds to play. Now the Bengals had to stiffen and hope they could force the 49ers to try a field goal.
With everyone expecting Montana to look for Rice, who finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards, both Super Bowl records, Joe Cool instead found the other wideout, John Taylor, in the middle of the end zone.
Montana’s dart nestled snugly in Taylor’s hands as the clock showed 34 seconds to play.
San Francisco was Super Bowl champion for the third time, 20-16. Walsh announced his retirement in the locker room immediately after the game. Rice, of course, was named MVP.
It’s almost January 23, so that’s it for now.
I’m writing this at a semi-ungodly hour because I figured it was better to get it out there while it’s fresh in my mind. I don’t do that enough with this blog.
Much has been made about the Vikings’ quest to become the first time to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Minnesota is the first team to reach the conference championship game in the same season it is hosting the Super Bowl.
Seven teams previously reached the playoffs in the same season it hosted a Super Bowl, but none got past the conference semifinals. Those were the 1970 Dolphins (lost to Raiders in AFC divisional), 1978 Dolphins (lost in AFC wild card to Oilers), 1994 Dolphins (lost to Chargers in AFC divisional, blowing 21-6 lead), 1998 Dolphins (lost to Broncos in AFC divisional), 2000 Buccaneers (lost to Eagles in NFC wild card), 2014 Cardinals (lost to Panthers in NFC wild card) and 2016 Texans (lost to Patriots in AFC divisional).
If you’re keeping score, the Saints have NEVER made the playoffs in a year they have hosted the Super Bowl. In fact, only once have they even posted a winning record in a Super Bowl hosting year, going 9-7 in 1989, and it took a three-game winning streak in December over the Bills, Eagles and Colts with John Fourcade as the starting quarterback to do so. The Saints’ records in seasons hosting the Super Bowl: 5-9 (1969), 4-8-2 (1971), 5-9 (1974), 3-11 (1977), 1-15 (1980, the year of the “Aints” and the bag heads), 1985 (5-11), 1989 (9-7), 1996 (3-13), 2001 (7-9) and 2012 (7-9).
Even though no NFL team has yet to play a Super Bowl on home turf, two teams played in college stadiums in their metropolitan areas: the 1979 Rams in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium.
Today is a perfect day to talk about this, since Super Bowls XIV and XIX were played on January 20 of their respective years. That will never happen again, unless the NFL moves up the start of its season to mid-August. Not happening.
Pasadena is 15 miles (24 kilometers) northeast of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Coincidentally, 1979 was the last year the Rams played in the Coliseum until 2016. The Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium in Orange County in 1980 under an agreement signed in 1978 by then-owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who died under mysterious circumstances in April 1979. The team passed to his widow, Georgia, who soon remarried for the seventh time and became Georgia Frontiere. Georgia was a vicious old hag who swiped the Rams for her birthplace, St. Louis, where they played from 1995 through 2015 before returning to where they belonged.
The 1979 Rams were a hot mess. Yes, they won their seventh consecutive NFC West division championship, but benefitted from a down year by the Falcons, who were a playoff team in 1978, and a Saints team which had a potent offense led by Archie Manning and Chuck Munice, but a porous defense which allowed the Seahawks to score 38 points two weeks after the Rams held Seattle to an NFL record low minus-7 yards total offense. That porous Saints defense also allowed the Raiders to score 28 points in the fourth quarter of a Monday Night Football game in New Orleans to turn a 35-14 lead into a 42-35 loss.
Los Angeles somehow went on the road and beat the Cowboys in what turned out to be Roger Staubach’s final football game, and then the Buccaneers to reach Super Bowl XIV.
Awaiting Ray Malavasi’s club were the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were aiming for their fourth Super Bowl championship in six seasons. The Steelers were aging, but still were the dominant force in the NFL in 1979, thanks to their explosive offense, which featured Terry Bradshaw throwing deep to John Stallworth and Lynn Swann more than ever. Pittsburgh still had Franco Harris in the backfield, but Chuck Noll took advantage of the 1978 rules changes which opened up the passing game (allowing blockers to use open arms and extended hands, and limiting the amount of contact against a receiver) better than any coach in the NFL.
Pittsburgh ousted Miami in the divisional playoffs, then outlasted AFC Central rival Houston to reach the Super Bowl. It would be the first time the Steelers would play a Super Bowl on the west coast, having won Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in Tulane Stadium’s last NFL game, then X and XIII in Miami. The latter game was the last Super Bowl at the Orange Bowl, and the last in Miami until the 1988 season, by which time Joe Robbie Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) had opened.
Nobody gave the Rams a prayer. Los Angeles was led by inexperienced quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who was ineffective after taking over for the injured Pat Haden. The Rams did have a stout defense, led by future Hall of Fame end Jack Youngblood, who was playing with a broken bone in his leg suffered during the win over Dallas, but the ineffective offense didn’t figure to be much of a challenge for the Steel Curtain, even though perennial All-Pro linebacker Jack Ham was out with an ankle injury.
Instead of the expected rout, the Rams gave the Steelers all they could handle and then some. Los Angeles led 13-10 at halftime, and after yielding a 47-yard Bradshaw to Swann touchdown pass early in the third quarter, the Rams struck back on a halfback option pass from Lawrence McCutcheon to Ron Smith to go back in front 19-17.
The Steelers finally remembered they were the three-time Super Bowl champions in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh took the lead for good on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Stallworth on a play where the Rams’ secondary became confused and cornerback Rod Perry had no safety help deep down the middle (sound familiar, Saints fans?), and extinguished the Rams’ last flicker of hope when Lambert intercepted Ferragamo in Steeler territory with under six minutes left. The Steelers added an insurance touchdown to make the final 31-19, but many agreed it was one of the best Super Bowls played up to that point.
Five years later, the 49ers played just 30 miles (48 kilometers) from their home at Candlestick Park to take on the Dolphins in what was expected to be the greatest quarterback battle in NFL history.
Miami, making its fifth trip to the Super Bowl under Don Shula, was powered by the rocket arm of Dan Marino, who rewrote the NFL record book in his second year in the league.
Marino, who somehow fell all the way to 27th in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft before Shula swiped him, threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in 1984, both NFL records at the time. It was a good thing Marino had a record-breaking year, because (a) Miami’s running attack was next to non-existent, and (b) the “Killer Bees” defense had lost its sting. The Dolphin defense was reeling following the departure of its architect, Bill Arnsparger, who took the head coaching job at LSU at the end of the 1983 season. Add in injuries to All-Pro linebacker A.J. Duhe and nose tackle Bob Baumhower, and Miami was a in a whole heap of trouble against Montana and the man who made the West Coast Offense as common as the off-tackle play in the NFL, San Francisco coach Bill Walsh.
Montana led the 49ers to a 15-1 regular season in 1984, with only a three-point loss to the Steelers marring their ledger. Jerry Rice had not yet arrived–he would the next season–but San Francisco still had plenty of weapons, with steady Dwight Clark, imposing tight end Russ Francis and versatile running back Roger Craig all catching loads of footballs from Montana. San Francisco also had a far more stable running game, thanks to Craig and Wendell Tyler.
The 49ers also had a very good, if underrated, defense, even though linebacker Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds was in his final NFL campaign, and future Hall of Fame end Fred Dean held out until late November. San Francisco’s strength was its secondary, where all four players made the Pro Bowl: cornerbacks Eric Wright and Dwight Hicks, and safeties Carlton Williamson and Ronnie Lott, another future Hall of Famer wearing the red and gold for Walsh and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
The expected showdown turned into a rout.
Miami led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, but 21 unanswered points by the 49ers in the second quarter turned the Super Bowl into a super blowout, something which would become quite common in the near future.
Other than Montana’s performance, Super Bowl XIX was most notable for President Reagan performing the coin toss via satellite from the White House (the former Governor of California had to stay in Washington because of presidential inauguration ceremonies; since January 20, 1985 was a Sunday, Reagan took the oath of office privately at the White House and publicly the next day in the rotunda of the Capitol).
San Francisco won 38-16 and would go on to win two more titles in 1988 and ’89 to become the team of the decade. Miami has yet to return to the Super Bowl. Marino played 17 seasons in the NFL and set numerous records, many of which have been broken, but only reached the AFC championship game twice more, losing to the Patriots in 1985 and the Bills in 1992, both times at home. Shula retired after the 1995 season with an NFL record 347 victories.
Strangely enough, Shula is one of three coaches to lose four Super Bowls, having been in charge of the Colts when Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee in Super Bowl III. The other four-time losers didn’t win one, Marv Levy of the Bills and Bud Grant of the Vikings.
Mentioning Grant is a great segue to the current Vikings, who have thrived under Mike Zimmer despite the quarterback conundrum facing this team the past two seasons.
In August 2016, Teddy Bridgewater, the first-round draft choice out of Louisville in 2014, suffered a horrific knee injuries, tearing all three ligaments (anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and lateral collateral) during a non-contact practice drill. The injury was so serious his career was in jeopardy. He missed all of 2016 and did not play in 2017 until near the end of the year.
Before the 2016 season, the Vikings traded a first-round draft choice to the Eagles for Sam Bradford, the oft-injured former #1 draft choice of the Rams and Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.
This season, Bradford was injured early, but the Vikings got a career year from Case Keenum, a journeyman who had been mediocre at best in previous stops with the Texans and Rams. Minnesota has the league’s #1 defense, not surprising given Zimmer was an outstanding defensive coordinator in Dallas and Cincinnati before going to the Vikings.
I am not a Vikings fan, but it would be nice to see them in the Super Bowl at home (as the designated visiting team), especially if the opponent were the Patriots. The crowd noise of U.S. Bank Stadium would be the ultimate neutralizer to Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, if “all time” is limited to the 21st century.
By 9:30 Central time tomorrow night, we’ll know who’s going to be playing in Minneapolis February 4. Then crank up the hype machine!
I said I would post every day in 2018, and here I go three days without anything. What a hypocrite I am.
I am still in shock about the Saints. How can that happen? All Marcus Williams had to do was let Stefon Diggs catch the pass, wrap him up, then wait for help. As long as Diggs did not get out of bounds, the clock would have expired before the Vikings could have snapped the ball for a field goal. This is not college or high school, where the clock stops to move the chains.
Bill Franques told me this was the most unbelievable loss he’s seen in all of his years of following the Saints, which is all but the team’s first two seasons. I thought about it, and he may be right.
Face it–in the first 16 seasons of the Saints’ existence (1967-1982), there really weren’t that many games which were important enough to be that heartbreaking. Losing to the Buccaneers after they lost 26 straight in 1977 was utterly embarrassing, but in the grand scheme of the NFL, who cares? Tampa Bay was going to win sooner or later, and one team would have to be the first victim. It just happened the Bucs took so long to win a game.
The only games from 1967-1982 which I could see qualifying as heartbreaking were three to Atlanta in 1978 and ’79, and losing to Oakland on Monday Night Football in 1979 after holding a 35-14 lead in the third quarter.
The 1983 season had two such games, both of which kept the Saints out of the playoffs at a time they had yet to even have a winning season. The first was against the Jets the Monday before Thanksgiving, when New Orleans squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost on a 76-yard punt return by Kirk Springs with four minutes to go. The second was the season finale vs. the Rams, where Los Angeles did not score an offensive touchdown, but used two pick-sixes and a punt return TD to win 26-24, with Mike Lansford nailing the game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
Losing at Chicago in the 2006 NFC championship? The Saints weren’t expected to be there after going 3-13 during the Katrina season. It was a fine accomplishment.
I’ll put the loss at U.S. Bank Stadium up there with the egg the Saints laid in their first playoff game–also vs. the Vikings–in 1987, and the loss at Seattle to the 7-9 Seahawks in 2010 following the Super Bowl XLIV victory.
I finished watching Last Chance U over the weekend. I am re-watching episodes now, and it continues to reinforce my view that (a) East Mississippi’s coach, Buddy Stephens, is a complete douchebag, and (b) most of the players couldn’t give a crap about going to class.
In the episode I just watched again, Stephens physically assaults the alternate official along the EMCC sideline. The official punches back, which is a no-no, but Stephens instigated it.
No coach, no matter how angry he or she is with the officiating, has the right to physically assault the men and women making the calls. Why the hell do you think it is so hard to find officials these days?
Also in the episode, EMCC’s radio announcers were blasting the officials for throwing two EMCC players out of the game vs. Itawamba for throwing punches. It’s OKAY to throw a punch? This isn’t boxing.
The three FBS coaches in Mississippi–Matt Luke (Ole Miss), Joe Moorehead (Mississippi State) and Todd Monken (Southern Miss)–need to ban EMCC players on their rosters until Stephens cleans up his act and the kids show effort in going to class and making their grades. A message needs to be sent that winning at all costs is not acceptable. If other schools from outside Mississippi want to take these players in, fine. But the coaches in Mississippi need to show some backbone.
It’s getting late, and I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Time to sign off.
For those who have been buried under a rock today, Alabama is the champion of major college football AGAIN.
The Crimson Tide won its fifth title in nine seasons last night, rallying from a 13-point deficit to defeat Southeastern Conference rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime.
Nick Saban has coached at Alabama 11 seasons, which happens to be the exact same length as his combined tenures at Toledo (one season), Michigan State (five) and LSU (five). He has won 127 games at Alabama and 218 overall as a head coach. Saban has now coached six national championship teams, tying him with Bear Bryant for most by any coach. The first was at LSU in 2003.
The 66-year old Saban has an excellent chance to winning more games in 25 seasons as a head coach than Tom Osborne did at Nebraska from 1973-97. Saban needs 33 to surpass “Dr. Tom”, and barring something calamitous, Saban will make it with room to spare. Saban will get to 300 barring something unforeseen, and I would bet on him passing Bryant’s mark of 323, which was the major college record until broken by the disgraced Joe Paterno and later Bobby Bowden.
I am well aware Osborne is revered in the Heartland, but I cannot accept he belongs on college football coaching’s Mount Rushmore ahead of the man in charge in Tuscaloosa.
Sorry, Husker nation, but Saban runs circles around Osborne in most every way you cut it.
Alabama rarely gets to play weaklings in the SEC like Nebraska did in the Big Eight, and Saban will usually challenge the Tide with a very difficult non-conference game at a neutral site, whereas Osborne loaded up on lesser teams, especially later in his career. Nebraska could pencil in Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State as sure-fire victories nearly every year before the first day of practice. Osborne never lost to KU or K-State, and very rarely bowed to the Cyclones. Missouri was terrible during most of Osborne’s last 14 years in Lincoln. Colorado had a very dark period in the late ’70s and early ’80s before Bill McCartney arrived. Oklahoma State sank to the bottom after it was hit hard by NCAA probation after the departure of Barry Sanders in 1989. Even Oklahoma fell off its perch following Barry Switzer’s resignation.
The SEC is not 14 powerhouses, but the Crimson Tide has to play three of the stronger programs in the conference every year: Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. And the Tide will have to play a hard game to win the SEC championship, save for 2011 and ’17, when they won the national title without playing in the SEC championship game.
Saban has learned to do more with less. Coaches cannot work with student-athletes more than 20 hours a week during the season, a restriction which wasn’t in place until Osborne’s last years in Lincoln. Osborne was notorious for three-hour, full pads practices during the season and during bowl preparation, and I have to believe that was a big reason the Cornhuskers often bombed in bowl games. Saban knows when to back off and save his players’ bodies. His practices are fast-paced, but much shorter, and there is nowhere near the hitting Osborne had.
Saban has to deal with strict scholarship limits. When Osborne succeeded Bob Devaney, the NCAA was in its second year of scholarship limits, but it was 105. It was reduced to 95 in the 1980s and 85 in the ’90s. Saban has always had to deal with the 85 limit, except his one year at Toledo in 1990.
Osborne could get any player he wanted in Nebraska, even though Nebraska’s population is so small he had to go out of state. Not only that, but there are no major programs in North and South Dakota, and the two Kansas schools were usually so pitiful that the top players there wanted to escape, either to Lincoln or Norman.
Saban on the other hand has to deal with Auburn within the Yellowhammer State. Whenever he goes recruiting in the south, he’s battling Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami and others for the big names.
Osborne rarely had turnover on his coaching staff. Saban, meanwhile, has constant turnover, mostly because his assistant coaches are in high demand. Last night, he beat Kirby Smart, who was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator for nine seasons before returning to Georgia, his alma mater. Jeremy Pruitt, Smart’s successor at Alabama, will be coaching Tennessee next season. Jimbo Fisher, Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU, moved from Florida State to Texas A&M. Will Muschamp, who coached with Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, is at South Carolina after four seasons at Florida. Jim McElwain, the offensive coordinator on Saban’s first two national championship teams at Alabama, coached the Gators for nearly three seasons before being canned last October.
Osborne never wanted to change his offense or defense, until he finally realized the old 5-2 defense he ran was no match for the speed of Florida State and Miami in bowl games. It wasn’t until the Huskers went to the 4-3 that Osborne won a national championship.
Saban, meanwhile, adapts nicely to his personnel. He ran the 4-3 at Michigan State and LSU, but is running mostly a 3-4 at Alabama, although the Tide presents multiple looks which give offensive coordinators nightmares. Offensively, Saban would prefer to play smashmouth, but if he has a gifted quarterback, he won’t be afraid to open it up, like he did with Rohan Davey at LSU and A.J. McCarron at Alabama.
Osborne is one of two college football coaches who is revered like the Almighty Himself in this part of the United States.
Time to compare Saban to the other one.
Bill Snyder, who has coached at Kansas State since 1989, save for a three-year retirement between 2006-08, is already in the Hall of Fame, since there is a rule an active coach can be inducted once he turns 75. Saban will most certainly be inducted five years after he retires or turns 75, whichever comes first.
Nobody will deny Snyder has performed near-miracles at K-State, given how putrid the Wildcats were prior to his arrival. K-State was the only major college program to lose 500 games when Snyder arrived. Since then, Wake Forest has assumed the mantle of the lowest winning percentage among Power Five schools (surprising given how bad Kansas has often been), but the worry is
However, I cannot, will not, must not rate Snyder ahead of Saban. No way.
Saban and Snyder are diametrically opposed as far as scheduling philosophies.
Saban would rather the Tide play all Power Five non-conference opponents, but realizes he does not call the shots in scheduling, and thus has to take on teams from outside the Power Five in order for Alabama to keep its athletic department in the black. Saban is not afraid to take on the big games away from Tuscaloosa, such as facing Florida State in 2017 at Atlanta, or USC in 2016 at Arlington.
Snyder, on the other hand, loves cupcakes so much he could get sponsorship deals from Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. His scheduling formula is a source of constant ridicule outside of Kansas, as it should be. He attempted to buy his way out of a home game with Auburn after the Wildcats played at Jordan-Hare under Ron Prince, but Jay Jacobs made the buyout financially prohibitive. Snyder tried the same with Miami and couldn’t get out of it. Yes, K-State is starting to schedule SEC schools, but it’s Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri. I’m not saying it has to be Alabama and Georgia, but LSU and Texas A&M would be a major upgrade.
Saban recruits mostly high school players, young men he can mold and shape over four or five years. Snyder wants the “mature” player, and that’s why K-State almost always signs more junior college players than any other Power Five program. It may be a quick fix, but Saban’s methods have been far more effective.
Outside of recruiting, Snyder’s are so unorthodox that they would never work in Tuscaloosa. Saban is not known as a media-friendly coach in the mold of Mack Brown, Pete Carroll or Steve Spurrier, but Snyder is far worse with the press than Saban. Snyder was the first college football coach to completely shut the media out of practice, tightly limit access to players (there is only a very small window each week to contact players at K-State), and not allow the media to talk to assistant coaches at all. Saban has done that, too, but Snyder was the first and took it to an extreme in a time when there was more open access.
Saban and Snyder are very similar in that they put in very long hours at the office. That’s one regard where Spurrier had it right: work smart, not long.
K-State is dreading the day Snyder retires or dies. It knows it will be an also-ran in the Big 12 once that happens.
Would Snyder have won big at Iowa had he been Hayden Fry’s successor instead of leaving for Manhattan? I doubt it. You can’t argue with the results at K-State, but Snyder’s program is not for everyone.
Saban, meanwhile, won big at two SEC schools, and if he had stayed longer at Michigan State and not been hamstrung with severe penalties early in his tenure at East Lansing, the Spartans would have been elite under his watch. Toledo went 9-2 in Saban’s only season there, so that’s another notch in his belt.
Osborne and Snyder did it at one place. It’s impressive yes, but for Saban to do it wherever he’s been makes him one of the greats.
Today, CBS Sports’ website listed the most “soul-crushing” playoff loss for each NFL franchise.
The list is beyond stupid, and incredibly short-sighted.
All of the losses listed occurred in my lifetime, which means the person or people who put it together can’t remember anything beyond 10 minutes ago, the same way people claim Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback (or NFL player) who ever lived and Bill Belichcik is the greatest NFL coach (if not all of professional sports) who ever lived.
Here is the link to the list:
Here are my BIG problems with the list, starting with five teams:
The selection: 2010 NFC championship game vs. Green Bay
How the heck can a playoff game involving JAY CUTLER be a soul-crushing loss? The fact the Bears got to within one win of Super Bowl XLV with Cutler is a miracle in and of itself, just as reaching Super Bowl XLI with Rex (Wrecks) Grossman is just as miraculous.
My choice: 1942 NFL championship. The Bears came in as two-time defending champions. Their opponents, the Washington REDSKINS, lost to Chicago in the previous two NFL championship games by the combined margin of 110-9. The Bears won 73-0 at Washington in 1940 and 37-9 at Wrigley Field one year later.
Instead of a three-peat, the REDSKINS pulled off a 14-6 stunner at Griffith Stadium, Washington’s last championship until John Riggins, Joe Theismann and the Hogs helped Joe Gibbs win the first of his three Super Bowls in 1982.
Losing the 1934 NFL championship game after going undefeated in the regular season hurt. So did losing 47-7 to the Giants in 1956. As for post-George Halas playoff losses, the divisional round flameout in 1986 vs. the Redskins at home one year after rolling through the NFL and squashing the Patriots in Super Bowl XX is a much better choice than 2010.
The selection: 2014 NFC divisional playoff at Green Bay, the game where Dez Bryant apparently caught the game-winning touchdown pass, only to be overruled by replay.
Apparently, the Cowboys’ 29 seasons under Tom Landry never existed, and the Cowboys did not lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s.
In fact, the Cowboys did lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s, and the combined margin of those defeats was ELEVEN points. ELEVEN. To lose games by 3, 4 and 4 points has to be soul-crushing, right? RIGHT?
The Cowboys forced SEVEN turnovers vs. the Colts in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys’ defense was so good that day that linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, the ONLY player to ever earn the honor while playing for the LOSING team. Howley intercepted two passes, one of those in the end zone when the Colts were driving for the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Dallas led 13-6 at halftime after knocking the great Johnny Unitas out of the game with injured ribs, but the Cowboys could not handle success. They fumbled at the Baltimore goal line early in the third quarter, and in the fourth, Craig Morton (Roger Staubach was strictly a spectator) was intercepted twice, once by Rick Volk to set up the tying touchdown, and the second by Mike Curtis which led to Jim O’Brien’s game-winning 32-yard field goal with five seconds left. Soul-crushing? For the time being, it was, but the Cowboys bounced back by demolishing the Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI.
Super Bowl X was a tough loss for the Cowboys, but I don’t consider it to be soul-crushing. Dallas was a substantial underdog to the defending champion Steelers, and Dallas led most of the game until Pittsburgh dominated the fourth quarter, scoring what turned out to be the winning points on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann on a play where Dallas defensive tackle Larry Cole gave Bradshaw a concussion. The Cowboys didn’t quit, though, cutting the margin to 21-17 on a touchdown pass from Staubach to Percy Howard (the only catch of his NFL career) and then driving into Steeler territory in the final seconds before Staubach was intercepted by Glen Edwards.
Super Bowl XIII? Soul-crushing to the extreme. Jackie Smith’s dropped pass. The phantom pass interference call against Benny Barnes when Swann was too clumsy to get out of his way. Umpire Art Demmas throwing a block on Charlie Waters which allowed Franco Harris to score a touchdown. Randy White fumbling a botched kickoff and leading to the score which made it 35-17. Dallas scoring twice in the final eight minutes before finally running out of time.
Yet HOW the HELL is the 2014 divisional game vs. Green Bay more soul-crushing that Super Bowls V and XIII, or the 1994 NFC championship game which ended Dallas’ bid for a three-peat?
The selection: 2012 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Ravens, after giving up a 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones to tie the game, then losing in double overtime.
Have the Broncos not lost FIVE Super Bowls? Yes, they have. Three of them–XII vs. Dallas, XXI vs. the Giants and XXIV vs. San Francisco–had Denver as huge underdogs. I’ll give the Broncos a pass.
The other two? Not so much.
In Super Bowl XXII, the Broncos were favored over the Redskins, albeit by a field goal or less in most sports books. The teams were thought to be evenly matched, except at quarterback, where Denver had John Elway, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1987, while the Redskins had finally settled on Buccaneers and USFL alum Doug Williams in the playoffs after Gibbs vacillated between Williams and Jay Schroeder throughout the 12 games played by union players. (One game was canceled due to a players’ strike, and three others were played using replacement players, although several union players crossed picket lines. Nobody on the Redskins did.)
Although Washington still had several players who were on the Super Bowl XVII winning (and XVIII losing–more on that later) squad, the Redskins’ quarterback quandary led many to believe the third time would be the charm for the Broncos, who were one year removed from a 39-20 pasting by the Giants in the big game.
It started so well for the Broncos, who led 10-0 by the middle of the first quarter. Through the first 21 Super Bowls, no team had overcome a deficit of more than seven points to win.
Then the second quarter arrived, and the Redskins morphed into the greatest offensive juggernaut the NFL has ever seen.
Williams threw FOUR touchdown passes in the period, and Timmy Smith ran for a 58-yard touchdown on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 204 yards rushing. By the end of the onslaught, it was 35-10, and Marion Barry announced the plans for the Redskins’ victory parade later that week during halftime.
Final: 42-10. Denver was crushed even worse in XXIV (55-10), and Elway was branded a loser despite his impressive resume. In the final two years of his career, Elway redeemed himself with victories over the Packers and Falcons in XXXII and XXXIII.
Following the win over Atlanta, Denver didn’t get back to the Super Bowl until it faced Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a temperate climate, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
It was expected to be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, with the Seahawks’ league-leading defense, “The Legion of Boom”, facing Peyton Manning, who came to the Broncos in 2012 following 13 seasons with the Colts. Manning led the Broncos to the highest scoring season in NFL history, threw 55 touchdown passes, and won his fifth NFL MVP award.
On the first play from scrimmage, the expected great game turned into a great stinker, at least as for the Broncos.
That play saw Denver center Manny Ramirez (not the famous baseball player) snap the ball wide of Manning. The pigskin rolled into the end zone, where Knoshon Moreno had to bat it over the end line for a safety to avoid yielding a touchdown.
Manning later threw a pick-six to Malcolm Smith, and Denver looked as outclassed as Elway’s teams were by the Giants, Redskins and 49ers.
Seattle won 43-8. Manning and Denver won Super Bowl 50 two years later, but Broncos fans still cringe when mentioning the Seahawks and that game.
Now tell me how a playoff game in an early round is more soul-crushing than losing two Super Bowls in which the Broncos were favored, or at worst an even-money bet?
The selection: 2014 NFC wild card game at Dallas, which the Lions lost 24-20. In the game, a defensive pass interfernce penalty was not called against the Cowboys with Detroit leading 20-17. Had the Lions gained the automatic first down, they very well may have run the clock out.
Okay, the Lions have been mostly wretched for the last 60 years. Not much playoff history to go on. But I can cite some games which far outweigh the above:
- 1970 NFC divisional playoff at Dallas–in the lowest scoring playoff game in professional football history, the Cowboys prevailed 5-0 at the Cotton Bowl. Detroit, which came in riding a five-game winning streak, reached the Dallas 29 in the final minute, but Greg Landry’s last pass was intercepted by Mel Renfro at the 11.
- 1983 NFC divisional playoff at San Francisco–the Lions had a chance to reach the NFC championship game, but usually reliable kicker Eddie Murray missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute, allowing the 49ers to escape 24-23.
- 1991 NFC championship at Washington–the Lions enjoyed a spectacular regular season, thanks to the prolific running of Barry Sanders, but the Redskins rolled 41-10 on their way to crushing the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
- 1993 NFC wild card vs. Green Bay–the Lions lost 28-24 on a last-minute touchdown pass from Brett Favre (WHO?) to Sterling Sharpe. Detroit has not hosted a playoff game since.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The selection: 2003 NFC divisional playoff at Philadelphia, when the Eagles converted a 4th-and-26 en route to the tying touchdown. Favre threw an interception in overtime, and the Eagles converted it into the game winning field goal.
Right city, wrong year in this case.
Try the 1960 NFL championship game.
In Vince Lombardi’s second season as Packers coach, Green Bay had gone from 1-10-1 in 1958 to 8-4 and the NFL Western Division championship, earning it the right to play the Eagles at Franklin Field for the league title. There was no Super Bowl in this era, so it was all or nothing on the day after Christmas.
The Eagles, led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and “Concrete Charlie” Chuck Bednarik, the NFL’s last two-way player (center and middle linebacker), trailed 6-0 early in the second quarter before gaining the lead on a touchdown pass from Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald. A field goal later in the period sent Philly to the locker room ahead by four.
The score stayed that way until early in the final stanza, when Bart Starr hit Max McGee (already establishing himself as a big-time performer in big-time games) from 7 yards out to make it 13-10 Packers. The Eagles regained the lead with 5:21 to go on a 5-yard run by Ted Dean, leaving Green Bay plenty of time to win.
The Packers reached the Eagle 22 in the final seconds with no timeouts. Starr found Jimmy Taylor on a flare pass, but he was tripped up by rookie Bobby Jackson then pounded to the ground by Bednarik at the 10 as the final seconds bled away. The gun sounded, and Bednarik growled to Taylor, “You can get up now. This game is over!”.
Philadelphia hasn’t won a title since, losing in Super Bowls XV and XXXIX. The Packers would fare much better, winning five NFL championships and Super Bowls I and II under Lombardi. Green Bay added titles in XXXI and XLV later.
Part two includes: someone forgot the Colts once played in Baltimore and a certain guarantee; the longest NFL game ever; and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.
The worst nightmare of many college football fans has come true.
Not to mention a nightmare for the Nielsen folks.
Next Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game is an all-Southeastern Conference matchup between Alabama and Georgia.
The howls were long and loud after Alabama received the #4 spot in the CFP semifinals, ahead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, even though the Crimson Tide not only did not win the SEC championship, they did not even play for the championship.
Auburn defeated Alabama 26-14 in the regular season finale to give the Tigers the SEC West division championship and the spot opposite East division champion Georgia in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs avenged a 40-17 loss to the Tigers with a 28-7 victory in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, moving Georgia up to No.3 in the final CFP rankings.
Yesterday, Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes in the Rose Bowl, then Alabama suffocated defending national champion Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl to set up the second all-SEC championship game in seven seasons.
The last time this happened, Alabama happened to be in the same position it was this time.
In 2011, the Crimson Tide’s only loss in the regular season came to LSU, 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa. That allowed the Bayou Bengals to win the West division, and they went on to stomp Georgia 42-10 in the SEC title game.
Even though the Tide didn’t even win their division, they still made the championship game of what was then the Bowl Championship Series by the slimmest of margins over Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ lone loss was a 44-41 overtime setback at Iowa State two weeks after Alabama lost to LSU.
While I cannot stand Nick Saban and Alabama, I can see much more justification for the Tide getting into this year’s CFP than I could in 2011 when Alabama was selected to play for the BCS championship.
First, there was precedent for Alabama this season.
Last year, Ohio State lost to Penn State, its only loss of the regular season, keeping the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten championship game, since the Nittany Lions won the East division on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Penn State won the Big Ten championship over Wisconsin, but had to settle for #5 in the final CFP poll and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State, meanwhile, finished #3–ahead of Pac-12 champion Washington–and got to play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers mauled the Buckeyes 31-0, then bested Alabama 35-31 in the title game.
Second, even with the loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma State had just as strong a case as Alabama to go to the title game.
The Cowboys defeated three other teams which ended up winning 10 games–Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State played a nine-game conference schedule, while Alabama played only eight. The Tide’s non-conference schedule for the most part was laughable–Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern. Yes, Alabama played Penn State in State College, but that was not a great Nittany Lions team, and the weight of the Jerry Sandusky scandal was about to come down and smash Penn State for the foreseeable future.
In 2011, LSU got screwed. Its reward for going 13-0 against what was determined to be the nation’s toughest schedule by the NCAA? A rematch with a team it beat on that team’s home field. Alabama won 21-0.
This time, Georgia and Alabama did not play in the regular season, which is not right. Alabama should be in the East division with Auburn, while Missouri and Vanderbilt should be in the West, but that’s another argument for another day.
Today, thousands upon thousands of people have taken to every social media platform available to decry the situation. Most of the comments read:
“The CFP committee is biased towards the SEC”
“ESPN wanted this matchup because it owns the SEC Network”
“Alabama always gets what it wants”
“Everyone kisses Nick Saban’s ass”
“Alabama doesn’t deserve to go ahead of Ohio State, which won the Big Ten”
“Central Florida (UCF) is the national champion because it is undefeated”
The last one makes me laugh. UCF played a pathetic schedule. It plays in a pathetic conference, the American Athletic Conference. Why should it get special consideration? If UCF wants that respect, it needs to play all of its non-conference games on the road against Power 5 conference schools. Then they can talk smack.
The television ratings for the Alabama-LSU game in January 2012 were the lowest for a championship game since the BCS’ first championship game in January 1999. I’m guessing 98% of television sets in Alabama and Georgia will be tuned in to the game this Monday, but the numbers will decrease rapidly the father away you get from Alabama and Georgia. Do you think someone in San Francisco is going to rush home from work to watch the game, which kicks off at 5:15 Pacific? Highly unlikely.
Many hotels in Atlanta are probably unhappy the Bulldogs are playing for the title. It’s only 72 miles from Georgia’s campus in Athens to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hotels in Atlanta are expensive to begin with, and I’m sure the rates are through the roof leading up to the game. Alabama fans probably won’t stay long in Atlanta, either, considering it’s a little over three hours from Tuscaloosa to downtown Atlanta.
Ticket brokers? That’s another story. A report today said someone paid over $104,000 for ten tickets to the game. That’s two new Impalas plus plenty left over.
It is what it is. At least we will not hear about it anymore by this time next week.
In my most recent blog post, I listed five people whom I have not heard of in any way, shape or form in many, many, many years, five people whose absence from my life really hurts.
Now, I’ll list some people whom I hope never, ever appear on that list. If they are on the list at any time, the quality of my life will be extremely diminished.
Lisa (Toebben) Daniels
How we met: Lisa began working at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa in March 2014. Worked there through June 2015.
Lisa was impressed with my knowledge about trivia, especially sports and history. I always tried to sit in her section when she was working, except the times when I would sit in Liz’s section. I tried to even it out between them.
Lisa quickly found out I really liked Liz, and there were times Lisa had to calm me down when I was upset about Liz. I liked Lisa too, but she told me about her boyfriend (now her husband), Jeffrey Daniels. Turns out they had been dating since 2010, long before Buffalo Wild Wings opened in Zona Rosa, and long before I knew any of our paths would cross.
In August 2014, she issued the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook to me. I tried to get out of it at first, but then gave in and did it. Two young ladies from closer to where I live, Mindy Gower (Phillipsburg) and Addison Kingsbury (Smith Center) also challenged me. Liz poured the bucket.
Unfortunately, Lisa had to put up with a lot of the bad things in my life. She saw me melt down far too often, and I know it angered her. She did all she could to keep that anger from bubbling over, but there were times I pushed her too far.
Lisa and another Buffalo Wild Wings worker, Shannon Swanson, beseeched me to get help. I stalled and stalled until both Lisa and Shannon told me to either get help or they would stop being friends.
I wish I had listened to Lisa and Shannon sooner. I first started seeing Crista near the end of 2014, and I’ve been going to her ever since.
Lisa and Jeff welcomed a son, Liam Gearhart Daniels, into the world on December 30, 2015. They were living in Jeff’s native Chicago at the time, but later moved back to Kansas City, where they still live. They were wed this past October 7 in the St. Louis suburb of Arnold.
I don’t see enough of Lisa, but I understand. She’s doing wonderful things. I’m glad we’ve been able to stay friends even though I gave her too many reasons not to.
Dr. Stacey (Day) Jones
How we met: Dr. Jones has been my opthamologist since moving to Kansas.
In October 2005, once my new health insurance policy through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas kicked in, I figured I would attempt to find new doctors. One of the worst things that happend with Katrina was losing the great doctors I had in Louisiana.
My opthamologist in Louisiana, Dr. Martin Schoenberger, had a medical degree from the University of Virigina and studied at Johns Hopkins, a university in Baltimore recognized as one of the world’s most pretigious medical schools. He performed numerous pioneering eye surgeries and proudly displayed those articles from medical journals. He was also a regular participant in the Crescent City Classic, the 10-kilometer race in New Orleans every spring.
Losing Dr. Schoenberger was a blow for me, but Dr. Jones has been absolutely wonderful. She is a very compassionate lady who cares so much about her patients. She has to get on me at times to keep my blood sugar under control, but I know she does it because she doesn’t want to be treating me for cataracts and/or glaucoma later in life.
Her partner in Hays, Dr. Kendall Krug, has drawn rave reviews from his patients, too. I’m in good hands. Hopefully that won’t change.
Dr. Shanon Custer
How we met: Dr. Custer has been my primary care physician since moving to Kansas.
I had no clue what to do for a new doctor once I moved. I was VERY LUCKY my m other’s physician, Dr. Joe Johnson, took care of me when I fell very ill with pneumonia and a collapsed lung near Thanksgiving 2004. If my mother had not insisted on taking me to see Dr. Johnson, I never would have made it to Kansas, much less be sitting here more than 12 years later.
I wish I could have taken Dr. Johnson and Dr. Schoenberger with me (and my dentist, C.J. Steeg) to Kansas, but I couldn’t. The only thing I looked for when I hunted for a new doctor in Kansas was (a).an internal medicine specialist and (b) preferralbly, a female.
Thank God for Dr. Custer.
My first appointment with her was about three months after my last with Dr. Johnson. She has taken very good care of me, even if I don’t want to follow her admonitions to exercise and eat better.
Dr. Custer has been very understanding with my Asperger’s and emotional trouble. She, in fact, referred me to High Plains Mental Health, which started me on the road to seeing Crista.
We are the same age. Dr. Custer was born four months before me, so as long as we’re both in Hays and Russell, respectively, I will keep going to see her. I wouldn’t trust my health to anyone else.
How we met: Liz was working at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa when I started to come regularly in the spring of 2013. She started talking to me when she mentioned how much she liked the music I was selecting to play on the store’s jukebox. The song she really liked was Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”.
When I lived in Baton Rouge, I frequented Ivar’s Sports Bar near the LSU campus. I got to meet quite a few of the lovely waitresses, as well ast he managers, Pat Quigley and the late Larry Stolzfus. However, I didn’t get to know them nearly as well as I have gotten to know Liz.
Four and a half years later, I can’t imagine life without Liz.
Liz accepted me for who I was. I explained to her I suffer from Aspeger’s Syndrome. It might have scared some other people away, but it seemed to draw Liz closer.
She moved to Colorado Springs in August 2015. I miss her very, very much. I saw her earlier this year for a couple of days, and it brought back a flood of very good memories.
Liz has told me more than once that we would be friends until we were old and gray and using walkers to get around. I certainly hope that comes to pass.
How we met: In January 2015, Dawn and her then-husband, Robb, came into Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa to play trivia on a Monday night. Their visits became more and more frequent, and we got to know one another better.
Dawn and Robb lived in south Florida before coming to Kansas City. At first, I was suspicious of them, as I am with most new people. There were some ugly incidents playing trivia, especially on Opening Day 2015, when the Royals were beating the pants off the White Sox and I was pissed off when they were beating me. I swore never to come back. Tori was bartending that day and her parents happened to be there. Tori’s father, Shane, was extremely angry with me. If he would have punched me, I would have deserved it.
Thankfully, I’ve patched things up with Shane and Terri, Tori, and Robb and Dawn.
Dawn is a certified event planner. She is a very kind, very beautiful and very intelligent lady. I think the world of her.
One of the best nights I’ve had came on my 41st birthday, when I drove her home. We were able to have a very intimate, very deep conversation, one which I will always treasure. I hope to have more of those.
Dawn, I love you. Very much!
How we met: See above with Dawn.
Robb, who is almost halfway between the ages of Dawn and I, grew up in Kansas City.
In years past, I would probably not have considered being a friend of Robb. Robb and Dawn both sit on the left of the political spectrum, in stark contrast to most of the people who live in northwest Kansas. Russell is Republican to the core, thanks to longtime U.S. Senator Bob Dole having grown up in the town. In fact, Dole and my grandfather were elementary school classmates; Elmer Steinle is only five months older than Bob.
Robb and Dawn knew I was conservative, but I listened to their point of view. Slowly over time, I began to respect what they had to say and just not dismiss everything they talked about as hogwash. I found myself open to more positions across the spectrum and not just accepting the gospel of the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and other conservative talking heads.
In the days after the 2016 presidential election, I did my best to console Robb and Dawn. They were hard for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, and really hated Trump. I got sick of Trump, too. I won’t reveal who I voted for, sorry.
I cheered them up with a case of Abita beer from Louisiana. They were very appreciative.
I feel kind of guilty that I went to Kentucky and wasn’t in Kansas City as much as I could have been when Robb was first having trouble with Dawn. He said it was fine, but I kind of wish I could have helped him.
Also, I’ve bitched to him way, way, way too much. That shouldn’t be. That’s what I pay Crista for (see below).
We talk about music all the time. Good music. Not the music some people like to play at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Robb is my best male friend. I won’t say best friend, but I don’t have close relationships with many other males, save for Bill Franques (see below) and a few others. I don’t want to screw it up.
How we met: Crista has been my therapist for the last three years. She keeps her life pretty private, and she needs to given her position. I don’t blame her. I do know her husband, Lance, is the director of the Hays Kids Wrestling Club, because she brags about watching wrestling quite a bit. They have a four-year old daughter.
When I returned to High Plains Mental Health, I told the staff I wanted to see a female therapist. Crista drew the short straw.
Best luck I’ve ever had.
Crista has gone above and beyond to improve my quality of life. She has been very patient with me, even though I have made her mad more than once. I fear there will come a day when she will no longer want to be my therapist. I have told Peggy more than a few times how much I fear it.
(This section is short because (a) I want to protect Crista’s privacy and (b) it’s not something that needs to be on the blog. The good readers have their own problems and don’t want to read too much about mine)
How we met: Bill has been the public relations director for the LSU baseball program since August 1988. I met Bill when I first came to LSU in 1994. I helped him a lot with baseball, first in 1998 and 1999 as a student, then in 2001, ’02 and ’03 when I was freelancing for The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper.
When I first met Bill, he wasn’t seeing anyone. He was a little difficult, in my opinion, to get a read on. However, we got along fairly well, except the thousands of times I screwed up in my first year at LSU.
When I came back to LSU in 1997 after a year and a half in exile back in New Orleans, I started working more closely with the baseball team. I was his right hand man in 1998 and ’99, two years which I really enjoyed, but two years which had to be hell for him. I really regret causing him such pain and headaches.
He apparently held no grudges, or else he would not have invited me to his November 1999 wedding to Yvette Lemoine in Bunkie, a small Louisiana town about 100 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. I made the drive even though I was feeling quite sick that day. Probably would not have done it for anyone else (fortunately, I was feeling physically fine on Lisa’s big day earlier this year).
From 2001-03, when I helped Bill again, it was more of the same. I was a pain in the ass. Bill got angry at me more than.a few times. Every time was completely justified. I screwed up, not him.
When I moved to Kansas, I screwed things up back in Louisiana by claiming I was much better off than I had been in Louisiana, and called Michael Bonnette’s attempts to say Louisiana was still a place worth living in LSU’s media guides a bunch of bull. Michael cut me off for quite a while wen that happened, as he should have. That was totally uncalled for on my part.
I recall attempting to contact Bill in the press box at the old Alex Box Stadium in March 2006 before a game. When he answered the phone and I identified myself, he was very cold. I got the message and hung up before another word was said.
In June 2009, I was really mad about LSU winning its sixth baseball national championship. I said some really nasty things about some of Bill’s colleagues at LSU. I didn’t say much bad about Bill, but he was pretty angry about it. He should have been, and frankly, if he wanted to never speak to me again, he would have had every right to cut me off.
In November 2009, he called me on the carpet in an e-mail. It took me a few minutes to realize how wrong I was. I apologized to him, posted a public apology, then deleted the post forever. We slowly repaired our relationship, and by 2013, everything was well between us.
So well that we’ve reunited twice at Missouri (2013, 2016) and once at Kentucky (this year). Hopefully I’ll get down to Baton Rouge in 2018.
How we met: Caitlyn is Peggy and Clark Cox’s youngest child.
I first saw Caitlyn coming to watch her sisters Chelsea and Courtney play for Norton Community High School. She began her high school career in the fall of 2013 and graduated earlier this year. She recently completed her first season of playing volleyball for Johnson County Community College in Overland Park.
Of the four Cox children, I am closest to Caitlyn. She is the only blonde of the Cox kids (the others have dark hair like their parents), and she is the most outgoing by far. She is not afraid to express herself on social media, unlike Chelsea, who is much more selective, and Courtney and Conor, who are much less visible, almost off the grid, but good for them.
Caitlyn knew about me for many years having seen me at her sibling’s events, but we didn’t start talking to one another until her sophomore year. I’m so glad we have grown so close over the last three years, although there have been many times I have said and done things I should not have. Caitlyn is purely innocent in all this and never deserves my anger. Never. I have to do better with it.
Norton’s seniors usually put together a picture collage before their final home game. Caitlyn included a picture of me that we took together at Hays High in 2015 in her collages for both volleyball and basketball. I was humbled.
I’ve only seen her once recently, and fortunately, I got to treat her to lunch at Outback in Overland Park. I know she is very busy and is doing wonderfully at JCCC. Every parent should be as lucky to have a daughter like Caitlyn.
I know we might drift apart, but I hope it’s not to the point as with the people in my earlier post. Peggy told me just don’t mess up and it won’t happen.
How we met: When I was covering Peggy’s eldest child, Chelsea, compete for Norton High during the 2005-06 school year. I covered many of her matches during her two stints as the Bluejays’ volleyball coach (2007-10, 2015-16), and discussed my life endlessly with her as I was watching her children, and other Norton teams, perform.
As far as my life in Kansas goes, Peggy knows more about it than anyone else. More than my parents. More than Liz, Lisa, Robb Dawn and anyone in Kansas City. I tell Peggy as much as I can, probably too much. I probably overwhelm her, but I am beyond lucky that she is there to listen to me.
Clark is a native of the area and went to school at Norton. He does a lot of farming in Long Island, a microscopic community northeast of Norton on the Kansas-Nebraska state line. Peggy said she lived in quite a few places growing up, and told me about Sterling during her high school years. She and Clark met at Kansas State (not Fort Hays as I first posted) and married in 1985.
Peggy gets me for some reason. She really does. I never want her to refer to me as a “best friend”, because (a) I don’t want to single out one person over anyone else and (b) she has known quite a few people much, much longer than I.
I love Peggy very much. She would leave a gigantic hole in my heart if we were ever to part ways. I would eventually get over it, but it would very difficult. Outside of my family, she means more to me than anyone.
These people are always in my thoughts and prayers. I love them more than life itself and would give anything I could to help them. They deserve at least that. And probably much more.
Sorry for going Howard Hughes yet again. I’ve got to stop that. It’s a terrible habit.
Tomorrow is the latest renewal of one of major college football’s least important rivalries.
That’s right, it’s Kansas State vs. Kansas, live from Lawrence.
This is the 30th anniversary of the Toilet Bowl, when 0-8 K-State and 1-7 KU played to a 17-17 tie in Manhattan. The game was part of an 0-29-1 stretch for the Wildcats which dated back to their 1986 win vs. the Jayhawks, which resulted in rioting in Manhattan’s Aggieville entertainment/alcoholism district for the second time in three years.
As long as the Wildcats play a halfway decent game, they should win by at least 25 points. The Jayhawks haven’t scored in three weeks, and last week, they gained 21 yards against TCU, and all of those came when the Horned Frogs were deep into their third and fourth string. The 21 yards is an all-time low by a Big 12 team since the conference formed in 1996. For a conference known for high-powered offense, that’s beyond pitiful. KU should just have asked Shawnee Mission East, the best high school team in Kansas, to take its place in Fort Worth. I’m sure the Lancers would have done better than 21 yards.
Then again, K-State hasn’t won in a long time, either. The Wildcats have lost their last three and are 3-4. If they lose to KU, then (a) they aren’t going to a bowl game and (b) 78-year old Bill Snyder should retire. Not at the end of the season, but before the bus leaves to return to Manhattan. Problem is, Snyder has NO LIFE outside football and he probably would go insane without the game. Why else did he come back in 2009 after sitting out for three years?
I can see Snyder going the way of Jim Pittman, the TCU coach who dropped dead one Saturday afternoon in 1971 on the sideline in Waco after suffering a massive heart attack. Pittman led Tulane to the 1970 Liberty Bowl and a No. 17 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, although he never beat LSU, no sin considering the Bayou Bengals were a powerhouse under Charles McClendon. Of course, Pittman was handicapped by the myopic decision Tulane made to leave the Southeastern Conference prior to Pittman’s first season with the Green Wave.
FYI–TCU defeated Baylor 34-27 despite the shocking death of their coach.
College football media loves to harp on Nick Saban for being a robot who does nothing but football. But I can’t see Saban coaching into his late 70s. He has stated consistently he wants to spend quality time with Terry, his children and grandchildren without the pressure of football. Snyder has never said that. In fact, Bill wants his eldest child, Sean, to be his successor, something a lot of people in Manhattan don’t like, because Sean has never been a coordinator, let alone a head coach.
Snyder has owned the Jayhawks since coming to K-State in 1989. After losing to KU in 1989 and 1990, Snyder is 21-2 vs. the team from Lawrence, and has won all eight meetings since returning to the sideline in 2009. The Jayhawks have won only four times since 1991: 1992, when KU went 7-5 and won the Aloha Bowl under Glen Mason; 2004, when Snyder’s former assistant, Mark Mangino, led the Jayhawks to a 31-28 overtime decision in Lawrence; and 2007 and 2008, when K-State was being led into the abyss by Ron Prince, who may be the worst coach to patrol the Wildcat sideline, at least since 1967, when Vince Gibson was hired.
Gibson, Ellis Rainsberger, Jim Dickey and Stan Parrish, the four coaches prior to Snyder at K-State, would have done far better than 17-20 in three seasons had they had Prince’s talent. Conversely, Prince would have lost every game by at least 20 points had he had the talent level Dickey and Parrish were forced to work with.
The only good thing I can say about Prince is at least he tried to upgrade K-State’s usually pathetic non-conference schedule, playing a home-and-home with Louisville and going to Auburn. Snyder tried to buy his way out of the return trip by Auburn to Manhattan when he was re-hired, but Auburn jacked up the buyout so high K-State couldn’t afford it. Remember, Snyder is the same man who bought his way out of a game with TULANE when he was hired in 1989. The Wildcats played at Vanderbilt this year, will host the Commodores in the near future, and also play Mississippi State home-and-home. It’s an improvement.
Kansas’ program is about as bad as K-State was when Snyder was hired. Snyder has bitched about that comparison, saying he took over much worse in Manhattan. He claimed KU had periods of success, while the Wildcats had none, prior to his arrival. Yes, the Jayhawks won the Big Eight in 1968 with John Riggins and Bobby Douglass, but after that, KU did next to nothing until the fluke of 2007, when fat fuck Mangino got a break with a horrible schedule.
Right now, Kansas is easily the worst team in a power five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). It’s not close, although Illinois is trying its best to get there, and Oregon State seems hellbent on reclaiming that status, a status it took from K-State when Snyder started winning and somehow relinquished in the Dennis Erickson/Mike Riley years.
David Beaty is a good man, but he is in over his head trying to lead the Jayhawks. He’s like Sisyphus. No matter how hard he tries to roll the boulder up the (Campanille) Hill, it inevitably is going to come back at him faster. Give Beaty credit for taking a job probably very few others wanted, but he’s going to end up like Charlie Weis, Turner Gill, Terry Allen and Bob Valesente–all of whom were fired with miserable records.
Mike Gottfried was on his way to a similar fate, but he got a lifeline when he was hired by Pitt in 1986.
Don Fambrough had TWO bites of the apple, and while he had a modicum of success with David Jaynes in 1973, he flamed out and was fired in ’74. He came back in ’79, but had one decent year (1981) before relapsing in ’82, when he was fired again, this time for good.
Bud Moore had one big moment with Nolan Cromwell when KU ended Oklahoma’s 37-game unbeaten streak (28-game winning streak; there was a tie vs. USC early in 1973) in 1975 (at Norman, no less), but no way he was going to consistently get the better of the Sooners, Nebraska or even Missouri and Oklahoma State. By 1978, the Jayhawks were 1-10, and Moore was done, too.
Pepper Rodgers, the coach of the Riggins-Douglass team of ’68, saw KU go 1-9 without Douglass in ’69, then bailed for UCLA two years later.
Glen Mason led the Jayhawks to 10-2 in ’95 (with losses of 41-7 to K-State and 41-3 to Nebraska). He originally took the Georgia job after the ’95 season, but changed his mind, stayed one more year in Lawrence, then finally left for Minnesota.
Mark Mangino? Well fat fuck fucked himself good.
I don’t care who wins. I am not a fan of Snyder’s, given his penchant for scheduling cupcakes and loading up on JUCO players seeking a quick fix. I have hated KU since they employed Mangino, whose manners are one step below feral pigs.
Since there can be no tie, I hope KU wins a sloppy game. I don’t want to see K-State anywhere near a bowl. Of course, a KU wins means both goalposts at Memorial Stadium are coming down. That would be FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS at least one goalpost has gone down.
That’s right, even though KU went 0-12 in 2015, the goalpost at the south end of the stadium still was torn down that year. It occurred a few hours after the Royals won Game 5 of the World Series in New York, giving Kansas City its first championship since 1985. The same did not occur at Mizzou, simply because there are more Cardinal fans than Royal fans on that campus (Columbia is halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis).
Then again, K-State fans have torn down the goalposts in Lawrence before, so the goalposts may not be safe even if the Jayhawks lose.
If you don’t live in Kansas and watch tomorrow, shame on you. There’s a hell of a lot better things you can be doing with a Saturday afternoon. I live in Kansas and I know I won’t be watching. Then again, I just might, just for the masochistic value.
LSU is off this week, preparing for its so-called rivalry game with Alabama. To me, it’s not a rivalry. I’ll explain why in an upcoming post.
The Arizona Cardinals are 2-2 so far this National Football League season, right?
To this Arizona Cardinals rooter, someone who has been rooting for the Cardinals since they were in St. Louis, the Cardinals’ record in my book is 0 wins, 2 losses, 2 ties.
Both Cardinal victories this season were in overtime, vs. the Colts in week two and the 49ers yesterday, which speaks to just how bad Arizona’s offense is.
Carson Palmer, retire. Bruce Arians, retire. Larry Fitzgerald, DON’T retire, or the Cardinals’ offense will relapse into the pitifulness it knew when luminaries such as Tom Tupa, Stan Gelbaugh, Chris Chandler, Dave Krieg, Jake Plummer, Josh McCown, Shaun King, Matt Leinart, Max Hall, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley were playing quarterback for the Cards.
The Cardinals are going nowhere. That they needed overtime to beat two bad teams shows they are a hot mess.
I am completely opposed to overtime in regular season games. I understand the need for it in the playoffs, where one team must advance to the next round, or to determine the champion in the Super Bowl.
In regular season games? Not necessary.
If the NFL is so hellbent on player safety, then why not eliminate overtime?
Yes, the NFL reduced the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 this season, but it still stinks–although it’s much better than the asinine college and high school format, which I’ve railed against in a previous post.
The Bears are also winless in my book. Their lone victory came in overtime vs. the Steelers in week three. 0 wins, 3 losses, 1 tie. The Jets beat the Jaguars in OT yesterday, but they own a regulation win over the Dolphins.
If the NFL INSISTS on playing overtime, it should devalue an overtime victory. Go to a system like association football—3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime win, 1 for a tie or overtime loss, and 0 for a regulation loss. Easy as pie.
Under this system, the NFL standings look like this (I’ll update after tonight’s Redskins-Chiefs game):
NFC WEST–Rams 9, Seattle 6, Arizona 4, San Francisco 1
NFC SOUTH–Atlanta 9, Carolina 9, Tampa Bay 6, New Orleans 6
NFC NORTH–Detroit 9, Green Bay 9, Minnesota 6, Chicago 2
NFC EAST–Philadelphia 9, Washington REDSKINS 6, Dallas 6, Giants 1
AFC WEST–Kansas City 9, Denver 9, Oakland 6, Chargers 0
AFC SOUTH–Jacksonville 7, Houston 6, Tennessee 6, Indianapolis 1
AFC NORTH–Pittsburgh 10, Baltimore 6, Cincinnati 3, Cleveland 0
AFC EAST–Buffalo 9, New England 6, Jets 5, Miami 3
Easy, right? I know nothing will change. At least I’m thinking.
Two of the three Southeastern Conference football teams nicknamed Tigers are finding out the cheap hire is often the wrong hire.
Missouri is a dumpster fire. Barry Odom is in over his head. He might have been a fine coordinator under Gary Pinkel, but as the man in charge, he is trying to navigate the Missouri River in a canoe.
The Tigers looked absolutely pitiful yesterday in a 35-3 loss at home to Purdue. Yes, the Boilermakers have been in the Big Ten since the conference was formed, but when was the last time Purdue was mentioned consistently among college football’s elite? Hmmm….I want to say it was when Jack Mollenkopf was coaching, and last I checked, he retired after the 1969 season, seven years before I was born.
The Boilermakers won the Rose Bowl after the 1966 season, when Bob Griese was a senior. Since then, Purdue has made it to Pasadena ONCE (which is still one more time than Minnesota and the same number of times as Indiana and Northwestern in the last 51 seasons), and that was with Drew Brees.
Purdue plummeted like a rock once Brees departed. The school from West Lafayette has been in the lower division of the Big Ten every year since 2000, and the Boilermakers were absolutely dreadful under Darrell Hazell, who was 9-33 in three and a half seasons before he was fired at the mid-point of the 2016 campaign.
Jeff Brohm, a former standout quarterback at Louisville under Howard Schnellenberger and then a very successful head coach at Western Kentucky, has got Purdue going in the right direction. The Boilermakers gave Louisville a major scare in the season opener, and have now destroyed Ohio (more on the Bobcats later) and Missouri. Purdue isn’t going to be a factor in the Big Ten race this year, but it should be a consistent bowl team under Brohm.
Missouri is going in the opposite direction as Purdue. The Tigers have been a hot mess since racial tension on campus two years ago, which led to Pinkel’s resignation. Odom’s defenses have been nothing short of awful. Rockhurst High in Kansas City has a better defense than Mizzou.
Odom has got to be on the hot seat. If athletic director Jim Sterk is not seriously vetting candidates, then shame on him. The longer Odom lingers at his alma mater, the better the chance Mizzou relapses into pitifulness, which was the state of the program for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
I fear the Tigers will slip to the point where they were under Woody Widenhofer (1985-88) and Bob Stull (1989-93), which was fighting like hell to stay out of the Big Eight cellar. Mizzou teams of that era routinely were destroyed by Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma, were dominated by Oklahoma State (prior to 1989, when the Cowboys were severely sanctioned by the NCAA), and had trouble with Iowa State and Kansas. Kansas State was the one punching bag the Tigers routinely beat, but that all changed under Bill Snyder, who turned the tide completely in favor of the Wildcats in the series by 1991. \
After consistently going to bowl games under Dan Devine (1958-70), and then making semi-regular appearnaces under Al Onofrio (1971-76) and Warren Powers (1977-84), Mizzou went 13 seasons (1984-96) with no bowl games. NONE. Larry Smith, the former Tulane, Arizona and USC coach, took the Tigers to minor bowl games, but Mizzou was back at rock bottom in 1999 and 2000.
It took Pinkel a couple of years to turn Mizzou around, but once he did, the Tigers became bowl fixture. In 2007, the Tigers ascended to number one after beating Kansas in the regular season finale, but they fell to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.
Mizzou is not going to a bowl game this year unless something turns around right now. I can’t see the Tigers winning an SEC game, not with Kentucky and Vanderbilt much improved, and with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all well above Mizzou. Not happening.
Now on to my alma mater.
There was a team wearing LSU’s uniforms last night in Starkville. The names on the players’ jerseys were the ones which were listed on the roster released by the school.
Yes, the Bayou Bengals were there in body. In spirit? No way.
I expected LSU to have a very difficult time with Mississippi State. I went in feeling the Bulldogs had a great chance to win. The Bayou Bengals went in having won eight consecutive games in Starkville, and I figured the Bulldogs were overdue.
State had a huge advantage at quarterback, where Nick Fitzgerald was an All-SEC selection last year. LSU’s Danny Etling is competent and nothing more. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen is an acclaimed offensive mind, having helped Florida win the 2006 and 2008 national cahmpionshp and molding Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy winner. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been as popular as his boss, Ed Orgeron, since his hiring earlier this year, but I was skeptical. Still am skeptical.
The game which unfolded bore out every point I listed above.
Not only did State win, it embarrassed LSU. Bulldogs 37, Bayou Bengals 7.
How bad was it? State’s largest margin of victory EVER over LSU.
The Bayou Bengals and Bulldogs have been playing each other since 1896, and continuously since 1944. Counting last night’s game, LSU has played Mississippi State–once known as Mississippi A&M–111 times, more than any other opponent.
Last night was State’s 35th win in the series, compared to 73 for LSU, with three ties.
The Bayou Bengals had two touchdowns called back by penalty, although they got one of those back two plays later. In the second half, two defensive players, Donnie Alexander and Neal Farrell, were ejecting for hits to the head of Fitzgerald.
LSU was penalized nine times for 112 yards. It is on pace to commit 120 penalties for over 1,000 yards.
If Orgeron is as committed to discipline, he will suspend Alexander and Farrell for the entire game vs. Syracuse this week, not just for the first half as mandated under NCAA rules.
Regardless of what happens, Orgeron was a very disappointing hire for a team which has one of the largest budgets of any university.
LSU does not want for cash. It doesn’t have as many deep-pocketed donors as some schools, but it is the flagship university, the only one in a Power Five confernece, and there are big fans from every corner of the state. LSU consistently is deep in the black and pays its coaches handsomely.
Orgeron’s hire falls squarely on the shoulders of athletic director Joe Alleva, whom I believe should never have been hired in the first place.
The way Alleva severely mishandled the Duke lacrosse case when he was the Blue Devils’ athletic director should have precluded him from getting any other job as an athletic director, much less at a power school like LSU. I don’t know what LSU saw in him, unless Mike Kryzewzski convinced the administration Alleva was the second coming and was the only person worth hiring.
Alleva hired LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell-Fargas, who I do not like. If Alleva were smart, he would have gone to Waco and had a blank contract for Kim Mulkey, who has been at Baylor for nearly two decades now. Alleva would have asked Mulkey to fill in a dollar amount. LSU could certainly afford it.
LSU women’s basketball was a dominant program in the middle of the last decade, reaching the Final Four five consecutive years (2004-08), although it did not win a single game.
Now, the Bayou Bengals are at best a middling program in the SEC. They have been passed and lapped by Mississippi State and South Carolina, have fallen well behind Kentucky, and are still way behind Tennessee, even though the Lady Volunteers are not the superpower they were under the late, great Pat Summitt. LSU also lags behind the SEC newcomers, Texas A&M and Missouri.
Had Mulkey been hired, I’m certain at least one national championship banner would be hanging from the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center right now.
As for Pistol Pete’s old program, it is as low as the Marianna Trench right now.
Alleva is on his third men’s basketball coach, Will Wade, who came from VCU, where he succeeded Shaka Smart after he left for Texas. The 35-year old has brought youthful energy to the Bayou Bengals, but will that energy translate into victories? It won’t in 2017-18, but if it doesn’t in 2018-19 and beyond, then it will be another bust, right up there with Wade’s predecessors, Johnny Jones (2012-17) and Trent Johnson (2008-11).
LSU has won ONE NCAA tournament game with Alleva as athletic director. In 2015-16, the Bayou Bengals had Ben Simmons, regarded as the greatest basketball player to step on campus since Shaquille O’Neal. Simmons could not get LSU to the NCAA tournament, then skipped school and became the #1 overall pick of the 76ers in the 2016 NBA draft. Last year, LSU tied Missouri for dead last in the SEC. This year, LSU will likely occupy the cellar by itself, since Missouri has brought in a stellar recruiting class under Cuonzo Martin, who took over for Kim Anderson, who like Odom and Orgeron, was grossly in over his head.
Alleva cannot take credit for baseball coach Paul Maineri, because he was hired by Skip Bertman, Alleva’s predecessor who built LSU baseball into college baseball’s Death Star, winning five championships from 1991-2000 and 870 games in 18 seasons (1984-2001). Maineri led LSU to the 2009 national championship and the College World Series championship series earlier this year.
Orgeron was hired as LSU’s defensive line coach in 2015, and was elevated to interim head coach after four games in 2016 when Les Miles, hired by Bertman to replace Nick Saban in early 2005, was fired. Ironically, Orgeron’s first game in charge at LSU a 42-7 victory over Missouri in Baton Rouge.
Oregeron is not currently in dire straits like Odom (or Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Bret Bielema at Arkansas or Butch Jones at Tennessee), but if Orgeron goes 7-5 this season, the grumbling will be heard long and hard in the bayou.
Yes, Orgeron is Louisiana through and through, growing up in Larose, playing for a state championship team at South Lafourche High in 1977 and then playing in college briefly for LSU and more extensively at Northwestern State in Natchitoches. Orgeron was the most popular hire LSU has made in recent memory, much more so than Nick Saban was when he came from Michigan State and Miles when he came from Oklahoma State.
Alleva was ready to hire Tom Herman when Texas moved quickly to fire Charlie Strong. The Longhorns are the one program which can pay a higher wage than LSU, and paid it to swipe Herman from Houston. With Herman out of the picture, Alleva simply waved the white flag and took the “interim” off of Orgeron’s title.
Nobody doubts Orgeron is a great defensive line coach and recruiter. He coached Warren Sapp at Miami. He coached some great players at USC, including two-time All-American Shaun Cody. And he was recruiting very well at
As a head coach, Orgeron just doesn’t cut it. He was brutally bad at Ole Miss, going 10-25 over three seasons, including a pathetic 3-21 mark in the SEC. The Rebels bottomed out under Orgeron after winning 10 games in 2003 under David Cutcliffe. Ole Miss bounced back under Hugh Freeze, but that was because Freeze broke more than a few NCAA rules to build his teams.
Alleva should have hired Brohm or someone proven as a head coach. If Orgeron didn’t like it, he was free to find another job. I’m sure Pete Carroll would have offered Orgeron a position with the Seahawks had Orgeron not been able to find a college job.
There is no excuse for Alleva’s laziness. NONE. LSU should never have hired Alleva in the first place, but the Bayou Bengals have got to get someone new in the athletic director’s chair, or LSU may rot from within.
The Saints are down 20-3 to the Patriots at the end of the first quarter. It’s not a good weekend to be a football fan in Louisiana.