Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I'm not there)

So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.

If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.

LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.

Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.

It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.

If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.

This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.

Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.

Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.

Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.

First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.

Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.

Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.

Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.

Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.

The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.

Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.

What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.

LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.

LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.

Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.

Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.

The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.

It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.

Stupid is and stupid does, and 1994 sucked

WARNING: I’m going to use some NSFW language. I’m sorry. However, some people deserve my complete scorn.

My brain is completely fried.

To wit: a Buzztime trivia question just listed five countries, and I had to pick the one which did NOT border Libya. The choices: Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Egypt and Uganda. I mindlessly picked Tunisia, thinking it bordered only Algeria.

How stupid am I?

Uganda is MUCH farther south. I didn’t look at all the answers. I got Tunisia confused with Morocco, which is WEST of Algeria. I should have known Tunisia is wedged between Algeria and Libya along the Mediterranean.

Earlier tonight, I forgot Carmelo Anthony was still playing for Houston. I should have known he signed with Portland earlier this year.

*********************************************************************

The front page of Wikipedia lists four events which occurred on a given date.

One of the events listed Monday (January 6) was the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the United States championships in 1994.

The first thing which came to mind: 1994 was mostly a horrible year.

I was forced to attend my high school graduation ceremony that May. I felt like a tool in the red cap and gown I was forced to wear by Brother Martin High. Graduation caps (more accurately mortarboards) and gowns should be one color: BLACK. Worse than the cap and gown was having to see over 200 people I didn’t want to see again.

I begged the administration to let me forgo the graduation ceremony and simply receive my diploma in the mail, or in person at the school. Nope. My parents wouldn’t let me fake illness, either.

I was angry as hell Brother Martin fired Rebecca Hale. If you’ve ready some of my previous posts, you know how much I admire Rebecca.

I learned of Rebecca’s termination three weeks before graduation. I should have stayed home to protest that, or worn something with her initials.

Graduation wasn’t nearly as bad as the asinine “Ring Mass” I was forced to attend at St. Louis Cathedral in August 1993. I am Catholic and I believe in God, but I do not like going to Mass. I hate the sounds of an organ, especially when played by a man. I especially hate the Mass in English. Too much freaking singing. I have never forgiven my parents for this.

Another thing…rings should only be given when you GRADUATE from high school. I never wore my Brother Martin ring in school.

I was upset when I didn’t go to my senior prom two weeks before graduation. Looking back, that was a very good thing. Now I’m overjoyed I didn’t.

As bad as getting out of high school was, worse was to come.

The first was O.J. Simpson murdering Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman in the late hours of June 12, followed by the infamous freeway chase led by Al Cowlings later that week. The son of a bitch was running, and that told me right then and there Orenthal James Simpson was the “real killer”. O.J. had better admit to it on his deathbed.

Two months after O.J. committed double murder, Major League Baseball players went on strike. The third major MLBPA strike since 1972 forced the cancellation of the last seven weeks of the regular season, as well as the entire postseason.

The 1994 MLB season was horrible anyway, with too many home runs and three divisions for the first time, but the strike made it even worse.

While the MLB strike raged on, I started college at LSU. I was living in a crappy dorm room on the east edge of campus near the law school and University High, the Laboratory school where LSU employees send their kids for free and LSU students majoring in education get their first teaching experience. My classes and the athletic department offices were on the complete opposite side of campus, and that was a pain in the butt. I rode a bicycle in order to avoid walking, and I thus became the biggest klutz to ride a bike on a college campus.

LSU’s football season was miserable. The Bayou Bengals suffered through their sixth losing season, leading to coach Curley Hallman’s firing with two games remaining. He was allowed to coach those two games, and wouldn’t you know, the Bayou Bengals beat Tulane and Arkansas to finish 4-7.

Gerry DiNardo was hired two weeks after the season ended. The next day, LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent fired me from my student job in the sports information office. I cried a lot then, but it was the right decision. I was way too immature to hold a high-pressure job, or probably any job. My parents didn’t force me to find a summer job in high school. Good thing they didn’t, because it would have been disastrous.

The 1994 NFL season was crappy. There were the Cowboys, attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls under new coach Barry Switzer; the 49ers, who spent a crapload of money on free agents like Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson and many others in an attempt to dethrone the Cowboys; and 26 other teams who were just there for show.

It was inevitable the Cowboys and 49ers would play for the NFC championship, which they did. When San Francisco prevailed 38-28, it was inevitable the 49ers would beat the living daylights out of the AFC champion. San Francisco did, mauling the Chargers 49-26 in a game which wasn’t that close.

One of the very few good things about 1994 was meeting some people who helped me along the way: Bill Franques, Dan Borne, Michael Bonnette and Kent Lowe. I met Herb in the summer of 1993. I also met Sam King, Scott Rabalais and Dave Moormann from The Advocate, who helped me become a freelancer with the newspaper a few years later. And I got to know LSU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who was much more gregarious and astute than his boss.

************************************************************************

Geez, here I go again. I screwed up a question which asked the first rookie with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season in 2012. It was Mike Trout, but I didn’t think it was. I thought Trout was in MLB earlier than 2012. What the hell man?

I’m going to sign off before I say anything worse and/or make myself look more foolish.

Hiring head scratchers

Two more NFL teams filled their coaching vacancies today. Both moves stunned me.

Carolina hired Matt Rhule away from Baylor, one week after Rhule stated he would be staying in Waco. $70 million over six years was too much to pass up.

Now, Rhule must dertermine whether or not (S)Cam Newton is the right quarterback in Charlotte for 2020 and beyond. Newton missed all but the first two games of 2019 with a foot injury, and he is nowhere near ready to participate in any kind of drills, especially those which involve contact. Newon has been a shell of himself since winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and leading Carolina to a 17-1 record before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

If I were Rhule, I would wipe the slate clean. Time to move on and groom someone new. Maybe the Panthers go with a bridge–Eli Manning might be interested–and draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, which would be wildly popular in the Carolinas, in 2021.

Carolina is nowhere near as wretched as it was in the late 1990s and early 200s, when Rae Carruth was convicted of murder-for-hire and the Panthers went 1-15 in 2001, but nowhere near 2015. The Panthers are clearly no better than third in the NFC South right now. They need to make up their mind on Newton, or else they’ll fall behind the Buccaneers and farther behind the Saints and Falcons.

The track record of college coaches succeeding in the NFL is mixed. Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll won national championships and Super Bowls. Barry Switzer did as well, but there’s an asterisk since the team was molded by Johnson. Chuck Fairbanks was moderately successful in New England after leaving Oklahoma. Dennis Green, formerly at Northwestern and Stanford, coached the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season in 1998 with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history at the time, but Minnesota fell in the NFC championship to Atlanta. Sooners legend Bud Wilkinson bombed out with the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1978 and ’79 after 14 seasons as an analyst and politiicaan.

The Giants, who coveted Rhule, instead looked up Interstate 95 and plucked Patriots receivers and special teams coach Joe Judge.

WHO?

In November 1970, the Saints fired Tom Fears and replaced him with J.D. Roberts (see below), who at the time was the coach of a minor league football team in Richmond. The morning after the hiring was announced, numerous callers to the Saints’ offices asked “Who the hell is J.D. Roberts?”. If this were 1970 or 1980 and not 2020, the Giants’ offices might have callers asking the same question about Joe Judge.

Judge is 38. He has been on Belichick’s staff since 2012. He previously was an analyst or some other low-level staffer under Saban at Alabama for three years, including its 2009 national championship. He played at Mississippi State for Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom during a period when the best the Bulldogs could hope for was not to be as terrible as Vanderbilt.

Supposedly he’s like Belichick and Saban, a douchebag who hates the media and only cares about what a player can do for him right now, not what he did in the past. Eli, you’re better off getting the hell out of New Jersey.

If the Giants wanted a coach on the Patriots staff, why not go after Belichick himself? He was Parcells’ defensive coordinator for eight seasons, including the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl championship seasons. He didn’t get the Giants job after Parcells was forced to step down in May 1991 becuase Belichick was already in Cleveland.

Belichick has accompolished more than anyone could have dreamed with the Patriots when he was hired in 2000, and with the uncertainity surrounding Brady, this would be the best time to bail. Where better to go than the place where he cut his teeth and became the NFL’s preeminnent coordinator? The Giants are in sorry shape, and if he could turn BIg Blue back into a champion, he would cement the legacy he seeks as the greatest NFL coach ever.

Giants general manager David Gettelman–who drafted Newton in Carolina and somehow kept his job while Pat Shurmur didn’t–is going to offer the offensive coordinator job to Jason Garrett, whose tenure as Cowboys coach was terminated Sunday when Jerry and Steven Jones refused to renew his contract. Not a bad idea to bring in a former NFL quarterback (who played collegiately just down the road from the Meadowlands at Princeton) with head coaching experience. Garrett coached quarterbacks when Saban was with the Dolphins in 2005 and ’06.

I’m beginning to wonder if John Mecom was secretly calling the shots in the Giants’ coaching search.

Mecom, who owned the Saints from their inception in 1967 until selling to Tom Benson in early 1985, made some of the worst coaching hires in NFL history, or at least in the Super Bowl era, which began the year before the pros came to the Big Easy.

Tom Fears, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Rams in the early 1950s, was the Saints’ first coach. He was an assistant to Lombardi in Green Bay before going to Atlanta for the Falcons’ first season in 1966. Fears proved playing the game and coaching it are worlds apart. Fears preferred veterans, which left the Saints as the NFL’s second oldest team (behind George Allen’s Rams) by time the 1970 season kicked off. Save for Doug Atkins, the Hall of Fame defensive end from George Halas’ glory days, and Billy Kilmer, who was buried behind John Brodie in San Francisco, none of the Saints’ old farts did anything.

Like Jerry Jones, Mecom called the shots in the early days, and the Saints made the dreadful mistake of trading the #1 pick in the 1967 draft for Gary Cuozzo, Unitas’ backup in Baltimore. Mecom became enraptured by Cuozzo’s performance in a 1965 game in relief of an injured Unitas. The Colts used the Saints’ #1 pick to draft Bubba Smith, who became an instant All-Pro. He would have followed Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti into the Hall of Fame if not for injuries.

Fears was fired midway though the seaosn and replaced by J.D. Roberts, an ex-Marine who was an All-American under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, winning the 1953 Outland Trophy as college football’s outstanding lineman. Roberts’ training camp practices were pure hell: three hours twice a day, both in full gear. He even ordered full-contact practices during game weeks, a practice which was falling out of favor.

In his first game leading the Saints, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal, a record which stood until 2013, to defeat the playoff-bound Lions.

Roberts was Archie Manning’s first NFL coach. As a rookie, Manning engineered big wins over the Rams and Cowboys, the latter of whom returned to New Orleans three months later and defeated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. After defeating the Cowboys, the Saints went 4-16-2 through the end of 1972.

Roberts was fired four games into the 1973 exhibition season and replaced by John North, who was hired in the offseason after a long stint as an assistant in Detroit. North’s first regular season game saw New Orleans get destroyed by Atlanta 62-7 in Tulane Stadium. The Saints had back-to-back 5-9 seasons in ’73 and ’74, up until then their best records. However, after a 1-5 start in ’75, North was gone.

Hank Stram, who won Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs, was hired in 1976. Manning missed the entire ’76 season with an elbow injury, and the Saints went 4-10, although one of the victories was over the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Stram ordered backup quaterback Bobby Scott to throw a pass on the game’s final play, and it went for a touchdown to Tinker Owens. After the game, Stram ordered his players to carry him to the center of the field, but Chiefs coach Paul Wiggin refused to shake his hand.

Manning returned in ’77, but he was still limited. The Saints bottomed out on December 11 of that season with a 33-14 loss to the Buccaneers in the Superdome. It was Tampa Bay’s first NFL victory after 26 consecutive losses. Stram was fired, although Mecom waited until two weeks after Super Bowl XII was held in the city, presumably to avoid media questions.

Dick Nolan, who led the 49ers to three consecutive division championships at the beginning of the 1970s, replaced Stram. Nolan led the Saints to 7-9 in ’78, with two of those losses coming to the Falcons on last-second touchdown passes by Steve Bartkowski. In the 1979 draft, the Saints blundered greatly by drafting Texas punter/kicker Russell Erxleben 11th overall. Erxleben proved his worthlessness in the ’79 season opener. When a punt snap went over his head in overtime, Erxleben went back inside his 10-yard line to retrieve the ball. He threw a chest pass which was intercepted by James Mayberry at the 6. Mayberry sauntered into the end zone to give Atlanta a 40-34 victory.

After defeating the Falcons 37-6 in the rematch in Atlanta, the Saints were 7-6 heading into Decmeber with a Monday Night game vs. the Raiders at home. New Orleans led 35-14 midway through the third, but Snake Stabler, down to his final three games in Oakland, led the Silver and Black to 28 consecutive points and a 42-35 victory. It may have been an omen for Tom Flores, a rookie coach in ’79, for almost 14 months later, the Raiders returend to the Superdome and defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

The Saints ended 8-8 in ’79 after defating the eventual NFC champion Rams in what was thought to be their final game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1980, the Saints house of cards collapsed. That was the infmous year of the “Aint’s”, with fans wearing bags over their heads to games both home and away. Following a 27-7 loss on Monday Night Football to the Rams in the Superdome (one night before Roberto Duran said “No Mas” to Sugar Ray Leonard) which dropped the Aint’s to 0-12, Nolan was canned.

Interim coach Dick Stanfel, a Hall of fFame guard during his playing days, was in charge when the Saints blew a 35-7 third quarter lead to the 49ers and lost 38-35 in overtime in the game which began the legend of Joe Montana’s comeback magic.

The next week, the Aint’s won their only game of 1980, defeating the Jets 21-20 at Shea Stadium on a day where winds gusted in excess of 40 MPH (64 km/h).

Bum Phillips, a close friend of Mecom, was hired three weeks after he was fired by the Oilers. Phillips almost got the Saints to the playoffs, but came up just short. In the 1982 strike season, New Orleans was tied with Detroit and the Giants for the last NFC spot at 4-5, but the Lions held the tiebreaker edge and got in. In 1983, the Saints could go to the playoffs by defeating the Rams in their season finale, but lost 26-24 despite not yielding an offensive touchdown. Los Angeles scored its points on two interception returns, a punt return, a safety when Jack Youngblood sacked Stabler in the end zone, and last but not least, a 42-yard Mike Lansford field goal on the game’s final play.

My brother and I attended our first NFL game on 4 November 1984, when the Packers defeated the Saints 23-13. Three weeks later, Mecom announced he was selling the Saints. In March 1985, Tom Benson ponied up the $70 million and became the owner of an NFL franchise to go along with his numerous automobile dealerships in Louisiana and Texas.

Bum stayed around in 1985, but resigned after 12 games. Son Wade coached New Orleans in its final four games of ’85.

Benson hired Jim Finks to run the whole footballl opertaion in January 1986. Finks hired Jim Mora as coach, and the Saints have not been plagued by bad coaching since, save for the three-year disaster with Mike Ditka.

Back to the Giants.

The good news is Parcells was largely unknown when he was promoted from defensive coordintator to head coach in 1983 to replace Ray Perkins.

The bad news is Belichick assistants have largely failed in the NFL. Josh McDaniels was booted after 29 games in Denver. Matt Patricia is an epic fail in Detroit. Even Saban was a pedestrian 15-17 in Miami.

Sorry about the dissertation, but I got on another roll.

Hiring head scratchers

Two more NFL teams filled their coaching vacancies today. Both moves stunned me.

Carolina hired Matt Rhule away from Baylor, one week after Rhule stated he would be staying in Waco. $70 million over six years was too much to pass up.

Now, Rhule must dertermine whether or not (S)Cam Newton is the right quarterback in Charlotte for 2020 and beyond. Newton missed all but the first two games of 2019 with a foot injury, and he is nowhere near ready to participate in any kind of drills, especially those which involve contact. Newon has been a shell of himself since winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and leading Carolina to a 17-1 record before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

If I were Rhule, I would wipe the slate clean. Time to move on and groom someone new. Maybe the Panthers go with a bridge–Eli Manning might be interested–and draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, which would be wildly popular in the Carolinas, in 2021.

Carolina is nowhere near as wretched as it was in the late 1990s and early 200s, when Rae Carruth was convicted of murder-for-hire and the Panthers went 1-15 in 2001, but nowhere near 2015. The Panthers are clearly no better than third in the NFC South right now. They need to make up their mind on Newton, or else they’ll fall behind the Buccaneers and farther behind the Saints and Falcons.

The track record of college coaches succeeding in the NFL is mixed. Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll won national championships and Super Bowls. Barry Switzer did as well, but there’s an asterisk since the team was molded by Johnson. Chuck Fairbanks was moderately successful in New England after leaving Oklahoma. Dennis Green, formerly at Northwestern and Stanford, coached the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season in 1998 with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history at the time, but Minnesota fell in the NFC championship to Atlanta. Sooners legend Bud Wilkinson bombed out with the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1978 and ’79 after 14 seasons as an analyst and politiicaan.

The Giants, who coveted Rhule, instead looked up Interstate 95 and plucked Patriots receivers and special teams coach Joe Judge.

WHO?

In November 1970, the Saints fired Tom Fears and replaced him with J.D. Roberts (see below), who at the time was the coach of a minor league football team in Richmond. The morning after the hiring was announced, numerous callers to the Saints’ offices asked “Who the hell is J.D. Roberts?”. If this were 1970 or 1980 and not 2020, the Giants’ offices might have callers asking the same question about Joe Judge.

Judge is 38. He has been on Belichick’s staff since 2012. He previously was an analyst or some other low-level staffer under Saban at Alabama for three years, including its 2009 national championship. He played at Mississippi State for Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom during a period when the best the Bulldogs could hope for was not to be as terrible as Vanderbilt.

Supposedly he’s like Belichick and Saban, a douchebag who hates the media and only cares about what a player can do for him right now, not what he did in the past. Eli, you’re better off getting the hell out of New Jersey.

If the Giants wanted a coach on the Patriots staff, why not go after Belichick himself? He was Parcells’ defensive coordinator for eight seasons, including the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl championship seasons. He didn’t get the Giants job after Parcells was forced to step down in May 1991 becuase Belichick was already in Cleveland.

Belichick has accompolished more than anyone could have dreamed with the Patriots when he was hired in 2000, and with the uncertainity surrounding Brady, this would be the best time to bail. Where better to go than the place where he cut his teeth and became the NFL’s preeminnent coordinator? The Giants are in sorry shape, and if he could turn BIg Blue back into a champion, he would cement the legacy he seeks as the greatest NFL coach ever.

Giants general manager David Gettelman–who drafted Newton in Carolina and somehow kept his job while Pat Shurmur didn’t–is going to offer the offensive coordinator job to Jason Garrett, whose tenure as Cowboys coach was terminated Sunday when Jerry and Steven Jones refused to renew his contract. Not a bad idea to bring in a former NFL quarterback (who played collegiately just down the road from the Meadowlands at Princeton) with head coaching experience. Garrett coached quarterbacks when Saban was with the Dolphins in 2005 and ’06.

I’m beginning to wonder if John Mecom was secretly calling the shots in the Giants’ coaching search.

Mecom, who owned the Saints from their inception in 1967 until selling to Tom Benson in early 1985, made some of the worst coaching hires in NFL history, or at least in the Super Bowl era, which began the year before the pros came to the Big Easy.

Tom Fears, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Rams in the early 1950s, was the Saints’ first coach. He was an assistant to Lombardi in Green Bay before going to Atlanta for the Falcons’ first season in 1966. Fears proved playing the game and coaching it are worlds apart. Fears preferred veterans, which left the Saints as the NFL’s second oldest team (behind George Allen’s Rams) by time the 1970 season kicked off. Save for Doug Atkins, the Hall of Fame defensive end from George Halas’ glory days, and Billy Kilmer, who was buried behind John Brodie in San Francisco, none of the Saints’ old farts did anything.

Like Jerry Jones, Mecom called the shots in the early days, and the Saints made the dreadful mistake of trading the #1 pick in the 1967 draft for Gary Cuozzo, Unitas’ backup in Baltimore. Mecom became enraptured by Cuozzo’s performance in a 1965 game in relief of an injured Unitas. The Colts used the Saints’ #1 pick to draft Bubba Smith, who became an instant All-Pro. He would have followed Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti into the Hall of Fame if not for injuries.

Fears was fired midway though the seaosn and replaced by J.D. Roberts, an ex-Marine who was an All-American under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, winning the 1953 Outland Trophy as college football’s outstanding lineman. Roberts’ training camp practices were pure hell: three hours twice a day, both in full gear. He even ordered full-contact practices during game weeks, a practice which was falling out of favor.

In his first game leading the Saints, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal, a record which stood until 2013, to defeat the playoff-bound Lions.

Roberts was Archie Manning’s first NFL coach. As a rookie, Manning engineered big wins over the Rams and Cowboys, the latter of whom returned to New Orleans three months later and defeated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. After defeating the Cowboys, the Saints went 4-16-2 through the end of 1972.

Roberts was fired four games into the 1973 exhibition season and replaced by John North, who was hired in the offseason after a long stint as an assistant in Detroit. North’s first regular season game saw New Orleans get destroyed by Atlanta 62-7 in Tulane Stadium. The Saints had back-to-back 5-9 seasons in ’73 and ’74, up until then their best records. However, after a 1-5 start in ’75, North was gone.

Hank Stram, who won Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs, was hired in 1976. Manning missed the entire ’76 season with an elbow injury, and the Saints went 4-10, although one of the victories was over the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Stram ordered backup quaterback Bobby Scott to throw a pass on the game’s final play, and it went for a touchdown to Tinker Owens. After the game, Stram ordered his players to carry him to the center of the field, but Chiefs coach Paul Wiggin refused to shake his hand.

Manning returned in ’77, but he was still limited. The Saints bottomed out on December 11 of that season with a 33-14 loss to the Buccaneers in the Superdome. It was Tampa Bay’s first NFL victory after 26 consecutive losses. Stram was fired, although Mecom waited until two weeks after Super Bowl XII was held in the city, presumably to avoid media questions.

Dick Nolan, who led the 49ers to three consecutive division championships at the beginning of the 1970s, replaced Stram. Nolan led the Saints to 7-9 in ’78, with two of those losses coming to the Falcons on last-second touchdown passes by Steve Bartkowski. In the 1979 draft, the Saints blundered greatly by drafting Texas punter/kicker Russell Erxleben 11th overall. Erxleben proved his worthlessness in the ’79 season opener. When a punt snap went over his head in overtime, Erxleben went back inside his 10-yard line to retrieve the ball. He threw a chest pass which was intercepted by James Mayberry at the 6. Mayberry sauntered into the end zone to give Atlanta a 40-34 victory.

After defeating the Falcons 37-6 in the rematch in Atlanta, the Saints were 7-6 heading into Decmeber with a Monday Night game vs. the Raiders at home. New Orleans led 35-14 midway through the third, but Snake Stabler, down to his final three games in Oakland, led the Silver and Black to 28 consecutive points and a 42-35 victory. It may have been an omen for Tom Flores, a rookie coach in ’79, for almost 14 months later, the Raiders returend to the Superdome and defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

The Saints ended 8-8 in ’79 after defating the eventual NFC champion Rams in what was thought to be their final game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1980, the Saints house of cards collapsed. That was the infmous year of the “Aint’s”, with fans wearing bags over their heads to games both home and away. Following a 27-7 loss on Monday Night Football to the Rams in the Superdome (one night before Roberto Duran said “No Mas” to Sugar Ray Leonard) which dropped the Aint’s to 0-12, Nolan was canned.

Interim coach Dick Stanfel, a Hall of fFame guard during his playing days, was in charge when the Saints blew a 35-7 third quarter lead to the 49ers and lost 38-35 in overtime in the game which began the legend of Joe Montana’s comeback magic.

The next week, the Aint’s won their only game of 1980, defeating the Jets 21-20 at Shea Stadium on a day where winds gusted in excess of 40 MPH (64 km/h).

Bum Phillips, a close friend of Mecom, was hired three weeks after he was fired by the Oilers. Phillips almost got the Saints to the playoffs, but came up just short. In the 1982 strike season, New Orleans was tied with Detroit and the Giants for the last NFC spot at 4-5, but the Lions held the tiebreaker edge and got in. In 1983, the Saints could go to the playoffs by defeating the Rams in their season finale, but lost 26-24 despite not yielding an offensive touchdown. Los Angeles scored its points on two interception returns, a punt return, a safety when Jack Youngblood sacked Stabler in the end zone, and last but not least, a 42-yard Mike Lansford field goal on the game’s final play.

My brother and I attended our first NFL game on 4 November 1984, when the Packers defeated the Saints 23-13. Three weeks later, Mecom announced he was selling the Saints. In March 1985, Tom Benson ponied up the $70 million and became the owner of an NFL franchise to go along with his numerous automobile dealerships in Louisiana and Texas.

Bum stayed around in 1985, but resigned after 12 games. Son Wade coached New Orleans in its final four games of ’85.

Benson hired Jim Finks to run the whole footballl opertaion in January 1986. Finks hired Jim Mora as coach, and the Saints have not been plagued by bad coaching since, save for the three-year disaster with Mike Ditka.

Back to the Giants.

The good news is Parcells was largely unknown when he was promoted from defensive coordintator to head coach in 1983 to replace Ray Perkins.

The bad news is Belichick assistants have largely failed in the NFL. Josh McDaniels was booted after 29 games in Denver. Matt Patricia is an epic fail in Detroit. Even Saban was a pedestrian 15-17 in Miami.

Sorry about the dissertation, but I got on another roll.

Hiring head scratchers

Two more NFL teams filled their coaching vacancies today. Both moves stunned me.

Carolina hired Matt Rhule away from Baylor, one week after Rhule stated he would be staying in Waco. $70 million over six years was too much to pass up.

Now, Rhule must dertermine whether or not (S)Cam Newton is the right quarterback in Charlotte for 2020 and beyond. Newton missed all but the first two games of 2019 with a foot injury, and he is nowhere near ready to participate in any kind of drills, especially those which involve contact. Newon has been a shell of himself since winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and leading Carolina to a 17-1 record before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

If I were Rhule, I would wipe the slate clean. Time to move on and groom someone new. Maybe the Panthers go with a bridge–Eli Manning might be interested–and draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, which would be wildly popular in the Carolinas, in 2021.

Carolina is nowhere near as wretched as it was in the late 1990s and early 200s, when Rae Carruth was convicted of murder-for-hire and the Panthers went 1-15 in 2001, but nowhere near 2015. The Panthers are clearly no better than third in the NFC South right now. They need to make up their mind on Newton, or else they’ll fall behind the Buccaneers and farther behind the Saints and Falcons.

The track record of college coaches succeeding in the NFL is mixed. Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll won national championships and Super Bowls. Barry Switzer did as well, but there’s an asterisk since the team was molded by Johnson. Chuck Fairbanks was moderately successful in New England after leaving Oklahoma. Dennis Green, formerly at Northwestern and Stanford, coached the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season in 1998 with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history at the time, but Minnesota fell in the NFC championship to Atlanta. Sooners legend Bud Wilkinson bombed out with the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1978 and ’79 after 14 seasons as an analyst and politiicaan.

The Giants, who coveted Rhule, instead looked up Interstate 95 and plucked Patriots receivers and special teams coach Joe Judge.

WHO?

In November 1970, the Saints fired Tom Fears and replaced him with J.D. Roberts (see below), who at the time was the coach of a minor league football team in Richmond. The morning after the hiring was announced, numerous callers to the Saints’ offices asked “Who the hell is J.D. Roberts?”. If this were 1970 or 1980 and not 2020, the Giants’ offices might have callers asking the same question about Joe Judge.

Judge is 38. He has been on Belichick’s staff since 2012. He previously was an analyst or some other low-level staffer under Saban at Alabama for three years, including its 2009 national championship. He played at Mississippi State for Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom during a period when the best the Bulldogs could hope for was not to be as terrible as Vanderbilt.

Supposedly he’s like Belichick and Saban, a douchebag who hates the media and only cares about what a player can do for him right now, not what he did in the past. Eli, you’re better off getting the hell out of New Jersey.

If the Giants wanted a coach on the Patriots staff, why not go after Belichick himself? He was Parcells’ defensive coordinator for eight seasons, including the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl championship seasons. He didn’t get the Giants job after Parcells was forced to step down in May 1991 becuase Belichick was already in Cleveland.

Belichick has accompolished more than anyone could have dreamed with the Patriots when he was hired in 2000, and with the uncertainity surrounding Brady, this would be the best time to bail. Where better to go than the place where he cut his teeth and became the NFL’s preeminnent coordinator? The Giants are in sorry shape, and if he could turn BIg Blue back into a champion, he would cement the legacy he seeks as the greatest NFL coach ever.

Giants general manager David Gettelman–who drafted Newton in Carolina and somehow kept his job while Pat Shurmur didn’t–is going to offer the offensive coordinator job to Jason Garrett, whose tenure as Cowboys coach was terminated Sunday when Jerry and Steven Jones refused to renew his contract. Not a bad idea to bring in a former NFL quarterback (who played collegiately just down the road from the Meadowlands at Princeton) with head coaching experience. Garrett coached quarterbacks when Saban was with the Dolphins in 2005 and ’06.

I’m beginning to wonder if John Mecom was secretly calling the shots in the Giants’ coaching search.

Mecom, who owned the Saints from their inception in 1967 until selling to Tom Benson in early 1985, made some of the worst coaching hires in NFL history, or at least in the Super Bowl era, which began the year before the pros came to the Big Easy.

Tom Fears, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Rams in the early 1950s, was the Saints’ first coach. He was an assistant to Lombardi in Green Bay before going to Atlanta for the Falcons’ first season in 1966. Fears proved playing the game and coaching it are worlds apart. Fears preferred veterans, which left the Saints as the NFL’s second oldest team (behind George Allen’s Rams) by time the 1970 season kicked off. Save for Doug Atkins, the Hall of Fame defensive end from George Halas’ glory days, and Billy Kilmer, who was buried behind John Brodie in San Francisco, none of the Saints’ old farts did anything.

Like Jerry Jones, Mecom called the shots in the early days, and the Saints made the dreadful mistake of trading the #1 pick in the 1967 draft for Gary Cuozzo, Unitas’ backup in Baltimore. Mecom became enraptured by Cuozzo’s performance in a 1965 game in relief of an injured Unitas. The Colts used the Saints’ #1 pick to draft Bubba Smith, who became an instant All-Pro. He would have followed Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti into the Hall of Fame if not for injuries.

Fears was fired midway though the seaosn and replaced by J.D. Roberts, an ex-Marine who was an All-American under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, winning the 1953 Outland Trophy as college football’s outstanding lineman. Roberts’ training camp practices were pure hell: three hours twice a day, both in full gear. He even ordered full-contact practices during game weeks, a practice which was falling out of favor.

In his first game leading the Saints, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal, a record which stood until 2013, to defeat the playoff-bound Lions.

Roberts was Archie Manning’s first NFL coach. As a rookie, Manning engineered big wins over the Rams and Cowboys, the latter of whom returned to New Orleans three months later and defeated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. After defeating the Cowboys, the Saints went 4-16-2 through the end of 1972.

Roberts was fired four games into the 1973 exhibition season and replaced by John North, who was hired in the offseason after a long stint as an assistant in Detroit. North’s first regular season game saw New Orleans get destroyed by Atlanta 62-7 in Tulane Stadium. The Saints had back-to-back 5-9 seasons in ’73 and ’74, up until then their best records. However, after a 1-5 start in ’75, North was gone.

Hank Stram, who won Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs, was hired in 1976. Manning missed the entire ’76 season with an elbow injury, and the Saints went 4-10, although one of the victories was over the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Stram ordered backup quaterback Bobby Scott to throw a pass on the game’s final play, and it went for a touchdown to Tinker Owens. After the game, Stram ordered his players to carry him to the center of the field, but Chiefs coach Paul Wiggin refused to shake his hand.

Manning returned in ’77, but he was still limited. The Saints bottomed out on December 11 of that season with a 33-14 loss to the Buccaneers in the Superdome. It was Tampa Bay’s first NFL victory after 26 consecutive losses. Stram was fired, although Mecom waited until two weeks after Super Bowl XII was held in the city, presumably to avoid media questions.

Dick Nolan, who led the 49ers to three consecutive division championships at the beginning of the 1970s, replaced Stram. Nolan led the Saints to 7-9 in ’78, with two of those losses coming to the Falcons on last-second touchdown passes by Steve Bartkowski. In the 1979 draft, the Saints blundered greatly by drafting Texas punter/kicker Russell Erxleben 11th overall. Erxleben proved his worthlessness in the ’79 season opener. When a punt snap went over his head in overtime, Erxleben went back inside his 10-yard line to retrieve the ball. He threw a chest pass which was intercepted by James Mayberry at the 6. Mayberry sauntered into the end zone to give Atlanta a 40-34 victory.

After defeating the Falcons 37-6 in the rematch in Atlanta, the Saints were 7-6 heading into Decmeber with a Monday Night game vs. the Raiders at home. New Orleans led 35-14 midway through the third, but Snake Stabler, down to his final three games in Oakland, led the Silver and Black to 28 consecutive points and a 42-35 victory. It may have been an omen for Tom Flores, a rookie coach in ’79, for almost 14 months later, the Raiders returend to the Superdome and defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

The Saints ended 8-8 in ’79 after defating the eventual NFC champion Rams in what was thought to be their final game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1980, the Saints house of cards collapsed. That was the infmous year of the “Aint’s”, with fans wearing bags over their heads to games both home and away. Following a 27-7 loss on Monday Night Football to the Rams in the Superdome (one night before Roberto Duran said “No Mas” to Sugar Ray Leonard) which dropped the Aint’s to 0-12, Nolan was canned.

Interim coach Dick Stanfel, a Hall of fFame guard during his playing days, was in charge when the Saints blew a 35-7 third quarter lead to the 49ers and lost 38-35 in overtime in the game which began the legend of Joe Montana’s comeback magic.

The next week, the Aint’s won their only game of 1980, defeating the Jets 21-20 at Shea Stadium on a day where winds gusted in excess of 40 MPH (64 km/h).

Bum Phillips, a close friend of Mecom, was hired three weeks after he was fired by the Oilers. Phillips almost got the Saints to the playoffs, but came up just short. In the 1982 strike season, New Orleans was tied with Detroit and the Giants for the last NFC spot at 4-5, but the Lions held the tiebreaker edge and got in. In 1983, the Saints could go to the playoffs by defeating the Rams in their season finale, but lost 26-24 despite not yielding an offensive touchdown. Los Angeles scored its points on two interception returns, a punt return, a safety when Jack Youngblood sacked Stabler in the end zone, and last but not least, a 42-yard Mike Lansford field goal on the game’s final play.

My brother and I attended our first NFL game on 4 November 1984, when the Packers defeated the Saints 23-13. Three weeks later, Mecom announced he was selling the Saints. In March 1985, Tom Benson ponied up the $70 million and became the owner of an NFL franchise to go along with his numerous automobile dealerships in Louisiana and Texas.

Bum stayed around in 1985, but resigned after 12 games. Son Wade coached New Orleans in its final four games of ’85.

Benson hired Jim Finks to run the whole footballl opertaion in January 1986. Finks hired Jim Mora as coach, and the Saints have not been plagued by bad coaching since, save for the three-year disaster with Mike Ditka.

Back to the Giants.

The good news is Parcells was largely unknown when he was promoted from defensive coordintator to head coach in 1983 to replace Ray Perkins.

The bad news is Belichick assistants have largely failed in the NFL. Josh McDaniels was booted after 29 games in Denver. Matt Patricia is an epic fail in Detroit. Even Saban was a pedestrian 15-17 in Miami.

Sorry about the dissertation, but I got on another roll.

Hiring head scratchers

Two more NFL teams filled their coaching vacancies today. Both moves stunned me.

Carolina hired Matt Rhule away from Baylor, one week after Rhule stated he would be staying in Waco. $70 million over six years was too much to pass up.

Now, Rhule must dertermine whether or not (S)Cam Newton is the right quarterback in Charlotte for 2020 and beyond. Newton missed all but the first two games of 2019 with a foot injury, and he is nowhere near ready to participate in any kind of drills, especially those which involve contact. Newon has been a shell of himself since winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and leading Carolina to a 17-1 record before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

If I were Rhule, I would wipe the slate clean. Time to move on and groom someone new. Maybe the Panthers go with a bridge–Eli Manning might be interested–and draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, which would be wildly popular in the Carolinas, in 2021.

Carolina is nowhere near as wretched as it was in the late 1990s and early 200s, when Rae Carruth was convicted of murder-for-hire and the Panthers went 1-15 in 2001, but nowhere near 2015. The Panthers are clearly no better than third in the NFC South right now. They need to make up their mind on Newton, or else they’ll fall behind the Buccaneers and farther behind the Saints and Falcons.

The track record of college coaches succeeding in the NFL is mixed. Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll won national championships and Super Bowls. Barry Switzer did as well, but there’s an asterisk since the team was molded by Johnson. Chuck Fairbanks was moderately successful in New England after leaving Oklahoma. Dennis Green, formerly at Northwestern and Stanford, coached the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season in 1998 with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history at the time, but Minnesota fell in the NFC championship to Atlanta. Sooners legend Bud Wilkinson bombed out with the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1978 and ’79 after 14 seasons as an analyst and politiicaan.

The Giants, who coveted Rhule, instead looked up Interstate 95 and plucked Patriots receivers and special teams coach Joe Judge.

WHO?

In November 1970, the Saints fired Tom Fears and replaced him with J.D. Roberts (see below), who at the time was the coach of a minor league football team in Richmond. The morning after the hiring was announced, numerous callers to the Saints’ offices asked “Who the hell is J.D. Roberts?”. If this were 1970 or 1980 and not 2020, the Giants’ offices might have callers asking the same question about Joe Judge.

Judge is 38. He has been on Belichick’s staff since 2012. He previously was an analyst or some other low-level staffer under Saban at Alabama for three years, including its 2009 national championship. He played at Mississippi State for Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom during a period when the best the Bulldogs could hope for was not to be as terrible as Vanderbilt.

Supposedly he’s like Belichick and Saban, a douchebag who hates the media and only cares about what a player can do for him right now, not what he did in the past. Eli, you’re better off getting the hell out of New Jersey.

If the Giants wanted a coach on the Patriots staff, why not go after Belichick himself? He was Parcells’ defensive coordinator for eight seasons, including the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl championship seasons. He didn’t get the Giants job after Parcells was forced to step down in May 1991 becuase Belichick was already in Cleveland.

Belichick has accompolished more than anyone could have dreamed with the Patriots when he was hired in 2000, and with the uncertainity surrounding Brady, this would be the best time to bail. Where better to go than the place where he cut his teeth and became the NFL’s preeminnent coordinator? The Giants are in sorry shape, and if he could turn BIg Blue back into a champion, he would cement the legacy he seeks as the greatest NFL coach ever.

Giants general manager David Gettelman–who drafted Newton in Carolina and somehow kept his job while Pat Shurmur didn’t–is going to offer the offensive coordinator job to Jason Garrett, whose tenure as Cowboys coach was terminated Sunday when Jerry and Steven Jones refused to renew his contract. Not a bad idea to bring in a former NFL quarterback (who played collegiately just down the road from the Meadowlands at Princeton) with head coaching experience. Garrett coached quarterbacks when Saban was with the Dolphins in 2005 and ’06.

I’m beginning to wonder if John Mecom was secretly calling the shots in the Giants’ coaching search.

Mecom, who owned the Saints from their inception in 1967 until selling to Tom Benson in early 1985, made some of the worst coaching hires in NFL history, or at least in the Super Bowl era, which began the year before the pros came to the Big Easy.

Tom Fears, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Rams in the early 1950s, was the Saints’ first coach. He was an assistant to Lombardi in Green Bay before going to Atlanta for the Falcons’ first season in 1966. Fears proved playing the game and coaching it are worlds apart. Fears preferred veterans, which left the Saints as the NFL’s second oldest team (behind George Allen’s Rams) by time the 1970 season kicked off. Save for Doug Atkins, the Hall of Fame defensive end from George Halas’ glory days, and Billy Kilmer, who was buried behind John Brodie in San Francisco, none of the Saints’ old farts did anything.

Like Jerry Jones, Mecom called the shots in the early days, and the Saints made the dreadful mistake of trading the #1 pick in the 1967 draft for Gary Cuozzo, Unitas’ backup in Baltimore. Mecom became enraptured by Cuozzo’s performance in a 1965 game in relief of an injured Unitas. The Colts used the Saints’ #1 pick to draft Bubba Smith, who became an instant All-Pro. He would have followed Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti into the Hall of Fame if not for injuries.

Fears was fired midway though the seaosn and replaced by J.D. Roberts, an ex-Marine who was an All-American under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, winning the 1953 Outland Trophy as college football’s outstanding lineman. Roberts’ training camp practices were pure hell: three hours twice a day, both in full gear. He even ordered full-contact practices during game weeks, a practice which was falling out of favor.

In his first game leading the Saints, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal, a record which stood until 2013, to defeat the playoff-bound Lions.

Roberts was Archie Manning’s first NFL coach. As a rookie, Manning engineered big wins over the Rams and Cowboys, the latter of whom returned to New Orleans three months later and defeated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. After defeating the Cowboys, the Saints went 4-16-2 through the end of 1972.

Roberts was fired four games into the 1973 exhibition season and replaced by John North, who was hired in the offseason after a long stint as an assistant in Detroit. North’s first regular season game saw New Orleans get destroyed by Atlanta 62-7 in Tulane Stadium. The Saints had back-to-back 5-9 seasons in ’73 and ’74, up until then their best records. However, after a 1-5 start in ’75, North was gone.

Hank Stram, who won Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs, was hired in 1976. Manning missed the entire ’76 season with an elbow injury, and the Saints went 4-10, although one of the victories was over the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Stram ordered backup quaterback Bobby Scott to throw a pass on the game’s final play, and it went for a touchdown to Tinker Owens. After the game, Stram ordered his players to carry him to the center of the field, but Chiefs coach Paul Wiggin refused to shake his hand.

Manning returned in ’77, but he was still limited. The Saints bottomed out on December 11 of that season with a 33-14 loss to the Buccaneers in the Superdome. It was Tampa Bay’s first NFL victory after 26 consecutive losses. Stram was fired, although Mecom waited until two weeks after Super Bowl XII was held in the city, presumably to avoid media questions.

Dick Nolan, who led the 49ers to three consecutive division championships at the beginning of the 1970s, replaced Stram. Nolan led the Saints to 7-9 in ’78, with two of those losses coming to the Falcons on last-second touchdown passes by Steve Bartkowski. In the 1979 draft, the Saints blundered greatly by drafting Texas punter/kicker Russell Erxleben 11th overall. Erxleben proved his worthlessness in the ’79 season opener. When a punt snap went over his head in overtime, Erxleben went back inside his 10-yard line to retrieve the ball. He threw a chest pass which was intercepted by James Mayberry at the 6. Mayberry sauntered into the end zone to give Atlanta a 40-34 victory.

After defeating the Falcons 37-6 in the rematch in Atlanta, the Saints were 7-6 heading into Decmeber with a Monday Night game vs. the Raiders at home. New Orleans led 35-14 midway through the third, but Snake Stabler, down to his final three games in Oakland, led the Silver and Black to 28 consecutive points and a 42-35 victory. It may have been an omen for Tom Flores, a rookie coach in ’79, for almost 14 months later, the Raiders returend to the Superdome and defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

The Saints ended 8-8 in ’79 after defating the eventual NFC champion Rams in what was thought to be their final game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1980, the Saints house of cards collapsed. That was the infmous year of the “Aint’s”, with fans wearing bags over their heads to games both home and away. Following a 27-7 loss on Monday Night Football to the Rams in the Superdome (one night before Roberto Duran said “No Mas” to Sugar Ray Leonard) which dropped the Aint’s to 0-12, Nolan was canned.

Interim coach Dick Stanfel, a Hall of fFame guard during his playing days, was in charge when the Saints blew a 35-7 third quarter lead to the 49ers and lost 38-35 in overtime in the game which began the legend of Joe Montana’s comeback magic.

The next week, the Aint’s won their only game of 1980, defeating the Jets 21-20 at Shea Stadium on a day where winds gusted in excess of 40 MPH (64 km/h).

Bum Phillips, a close friend of Mecom, was hired three weeks after he was fired by the Oilers. Phillips almost got the Saints to the playoffs, but came up just short. In the 1982 strike season, New Orleans was tied with Detroit and the Giants for the last NFC spot at 4-5, but the Lions held the tiebreaker edge and got in. In 1983, the Saints could go to the playoffs by defeating the Rams in their season finale, but lost 26-24 despite not yielding an offensive touchdown. Los Angeles scored its points on two interception returns, a punt return, a safety when Jack Youngblood sacked Stabler in the end zone, and last but not least, a 42-yard Mike Lansford field goal on the game’s final play.

My brother and I attended our first NFL game on 4 November 1984, when the Packers defeated the Saints 23-13. Three weeks later, Mecom announced he was selling the Saints. In March 1985, Tom Benson ponied up the $70 million and became the owner of an NFL franchise to go along with his numerous automobile dealerships in Louisiana and Texas.

Bum stayed around in 1985, but resigned after 12 games. Son Wade coached New Orleans in its final four games of ’85.

Benson hired Jim Finks to run the whole footballl opertaion in January 1986. Finks hired Jim Mora as coach, and the Saints have not been plagued by bad coaching since, save for the three-year disaster with Mike Ditka.

Back to the Giants.

The good news is Parcells was largely unknown when he was promoted from defensive coordintator to head coach in 1983 to replace Ray Perkins.

The bad news is Belichick assistants have largely failed in the NFL. Josh McDaniels was booted after 29 games in Denver. Matt Patricia is an epic fail in Detroit. Even Saban was a pedestrian 15-17 in Miami.

Sorry about the dissertation, but I got on another roll.

Saints-Vikings: been there, done that

When I was watching yesterday’s Saints-Vikings game, it reminded me quite a bit of New Orleans’ first postseason game, the 1987 NFC wild card game (there were two wild cards from 1978-89) against Minnesota in the Superdome three days into 1988.

First similarity: the Saints were favored by most of the “experts” who cover professional football. In 1988, the legendary Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder picked the Saints on The NFL Today, as did Pete Axthelm, Tom Jackson and Chris Berman on ESPN’s NFL Gameday. In 2020, nearly all of the Internet writers on ESPN, CBS and Pro Football Focus favored the Black and Gold.

Second, the Saints’ record was nearly identical. The 1987 Saints were 12-3 (their home game vs. the Falcons in week three was canceled by the 1987 players’ strike; games in weeks four, five and six became infamous for their use of replacement players), and the 2019 Saints were 13-3. Both the 1987 and 2019 Saints lost to the 49ers at home. The 1987 loss prompted coach Jim Mora’s “coulda, woulda, shoulda” tirade, which inspired the Saints to embark on a nine-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.

Third, the Saints had to play wild card weekend because the 49ers were ahead of them. In 1987, the 49ers went 13-2, losing only to the Steelers on opening day and the Saints in November. In 2019, the 49ers’ victory over the Saints helped them win a tiebreaker. The 49ers are 13-3 heading into Saturday’s game with Minnesota in Santa Clara.

Fourth, the stakes of the games were similar. In both 1987 and 2019, a Vikings victory in the Big Easy would send them to San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Saints would face a road game in a frigid locale with a win: in 1987, it would be Chicago; this year, it would be Green Bay.

Fifth, the Vikings and Saints did not play in the regular season.

Sixth, a team from Houston won a wild card game at home in overtime the same weekend. In 1987, the Oilers defeated the Seahawks; in 2019, the Texans defeated the Bills. I guess you can add the Seahawks playing on the road after the Saints and Vikings played the same day.

Seventh, the Saints defeated a team from Houston during the regular season at the Superdome. In 1987, it was the Oilers in the 13th game (I was there with my dad and brother); in 2019, it was the Texans in the opener on a Monday night when Wil Lutz made a 58-yard field goal as time expired.

Yes, this year’s game–a 26-20 Vikings victory in overtime–was closer than Minnesota’s 44-10 romp 32 years ago, but this one will be a lot more painful.

In 1987, Saints fans were overjoyed to finally have a winning season and a playoff berth; anything which happened in the postseason would have been lagniappe, as they like to say in New Orleans.

This year, many Saints fans probably had a “Super Bowl or bust” mentality in the wake of what happened in the playoffs of the previous two seasons: the “Minneapolis Miracle” in 2017, when Case Keenum hooked up with Stefon Diggs on the game’s last play for a touchdown after Marcus Williams whiffed on the tackle; and last year’s egregious no-call when the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.

New Orleans was looking good when it won all five games while Drew Brees recovered from an injured wrist, but home losses to the Falcons and 49ers raised red flags.

Now it’s all over for the Saints. As depressed as much of Louisiana feels this morning, it will pale in comparison with how the Bayou State will feel the morning of January 14 if LSU loses to Clemson.

If history continues to repeat, the Vikings will be playing in Seattle or Green Bay January 19.

Six days after beating the Saints 32 years ago, the Vikings went to San Francisco and rolled over the 49ers 36-24, thanks to 227 yards receiving from Anthony Carter, which was then a playoff record. In the second half, Bill Walsh replaced Joe Montana with Steve Young, touching off a quarterback controversy which dogged the 49ers through much of the 1988 season. Montana ended the controversy by winning four games late that season to help the 49ers clinch the NFC West. San Francisco went on to beat the Vikings and Bears in the playoffs before winning a thrilling Super Bowl vs. the Bengals on Montana’s 8-yard TD pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining.

Mike McCarthy is the new coach of the Cowboys. He’ll now be coaching home games in the same stadium where he led the Packers to victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is going to enter the NFL draft. Players, coaches and fans at the 13 other SEC schools are breathing easier.

Just another post-23:00 post

Five for five posting in 2020, although I’m cutting it close.

I’ve been back in Russell for about 11 hours. No problems checking out of my hotel or the drive home from Kansas City.

I got home to see the Saints lose in overtime to the Vikings. New Orleans looked terrible and probably deserved to lose. Minnesota now goes to San Francisco Saturday. Ironically, the Vikings will be playing 50 years to the day after they lost Super Bowl IV to the Chiefs in New Orleans. Super Bowl IV was Joe Kapp’s last game with Minnesota; could it be Kirk Cousins’ last with the team?

The Seahawks defeated the Eagles, or at least what was left of the Eagles, in the other NFC playoff game today, sending Seattle to Green Bay in a week.

New England didn’t complete the comeback I thought it would. I don’t think Tom Brady is going anywhere.

It’s Titans-Ravens (Saturday) and Texans-Chiefs (Sunday) in the AFC playoffs. Kansas City fans were really rooting for the Bills, since Houston won at Arrowhead in October. Chiefs fans fear DeShawn Watson, who was drafted one spot after Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and pissed off Bruce Arians, who was hoping to get one or the other to replace Carson Palmer in Arizona. It took the Cardinals blowing their 2018 first round pick on Josh Rosen and going 3-13 under Steve Wilks, one of the worst NFL head coaches ever, to earn the right to draft Kyler Murray, who looks like he may work out in Arizona.

Just how stupid are the Bears, who not only picked Mitchell Trubisky instead of either AND traded an extra draft pick to the 49ers just to move up one spot? San Francisco didn’t draft either, which proved the Bears made a bad decision. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Bears without a bad quarterback, which has been their tradition since Sid Luckman retired in 1951. Ever heard of Billy Wade, Jack Concannon, Kent Nix, Gary Huff, Bob Avellini, Steve Fuller, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Henry Burris, Caleb Hanie, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Peter Tom Willis, Will Furrer, Rusty Lisch and Rudy Bukich? They all have been starting quarterbacks for the Bears over the last 60 years.

The 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, and after a 2018 season lost to injury, looks like he will fill the bill. San Francisco needs stability there after the Kaepernick mess.

There were some very eerie similarities between today’s Saints-Vikings playoff game to the one the teams played after the 1987 season, which happened to be New Orleans’ first postseason game. I’ll explain tomorrow.

Enjoy the first full work week of 2020.

Roll Green Wave

It took 126 seasons, but Tulane has won bowl games in consecutive seasons.

The Green Wave dug themselves a 13-0 hole vs. former archrival Southern Miss in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, then reeled off 30 unanswered points, while keeping the Golden Eagles off the board for the final 54 minutes.

Last year, the Wave defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in the Cure Bowl (don’t get me started) in Orlando.

Nearly all college football fans 45 or younger don’t know Tulane was a founding member of the Southeastern Conference in 1933, and played in the SEC until leaving in July 1966.

The Green Wave played in the first Sugar Bowl following the 1934 season, defeating Temple 20-14. That was three years after Tulane lost to Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Wazzu didn’t return to Pasadena until Ryan Leaf led them there in 1997.

If you are (a) younger than 75, and/or (b) not from Louisiana, raise your hand if you knew either of those facts. Put your hand down. You didn’t.

The Rose Bowl appearance is the ONE thing Tulane can claim that its in-state archrival cannot. LSU has never been to Pasadena or any bowl game in California; in fact, last year’s Fiesta Bowl win over UCF was the Bayou Bengals’ first bowl west of Dallas.

LSU thought it would be in the Rose Bowl following the 2006 season, but a series of events gave the Tournament of Roses its desired Pac-10-Big Ten match (USC 32, MIchigan 18), leaving LSU to take out its frustration on a woefully overrated Notre Dame team coached by Charlie Weis and quarterbacked by Brady Quinn in the Sugar.

Tulane won its lone SEC championship in 1949. However, the Sugar Bowl said it would take the winner of the LSU-Tulane game.

LSU went to New Orleans and hammered Tulane 21-0. The Bayou Bengals, in turn, were hammered 35-0 in the Sugar Bowl by Oklahoma, coached by Bud Wilkinson and quarterback by Darrell Royal, who won three national championships and 176 games at Texas from 1957-76.

Following 1949, Tulane became the whipping boy for the SEC’s other 11 schools. The biggest culprit was the university’s decision in 1951 to force athletes to take a full course load in core subjects, not the typical “jock” curriculum. It got so bad LSU beat Tulane 62-0 THREE times between 1958 and 1965. The first of those saw LSU scored 56 points in the second half (eat your heart out, Joe Burrow and Joe Brady) to clinch its first national championship.

Georgia Tech left the SEC after the 1963 football season. The Yellow Jackets were angry after an incident during their 1961 game with Alabama in Birmingham when Crimson Tide guard/linebacker Darwin Holt slammed both of his forearms into the face of Tech’s Chick Graning, breaking Graning’s face and causing a Grade III concussion. Tech also had the same problem of a rigorous academic curriculum (mostly engeineering) which also handicapped Tulane and Vanderbilt.

As LSU prepared to face Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1965, Tulane announced it was leaving the SEC effective at the end of the 1965-66 school year. The Bayou Bengals’ going away gift to the Green Wave gridders? The third 62-0 beatdown. At least this one (and the one in 1961) were in Baton Rouge, so most Tulane fans didn’t have to sit through it.

The Green Wave played as an independent in football from 1966 through 1995 (all other sports joined the Metropolitan Athletic Conference, or the Metro, in 1975, and again from 1989-95; Tulane was expelled from the Metro in 1985 after it shut down its men’s basketball program in the wake of point shaving). There were a few nibbles of success: 1970, when Jim Pittman led the Wave to a Liberty Bowl win over Colorado to cap a 9-3 season; 1973, when Tulane defeated LSU 14-0 for its first win over the Bayou Bengals since 1948; 1979, when the Wave opened the season by defeating Stanford in John Elway’s first collegiate game, then defeating LSU in Bayou Bengals coach Charlie McClendon’s last regular season game.

Pittman left for TCU in January 1971. Sadly, he dropped dead of a heart attack on the sideline in Waco nine months later during the Horned Frogs’ victory over Baylor.

Bennie Ellender, the coach of the 1973 team, saw his 1974 team start 5-0, only to drop the last six in the last season at Tulane Stadium. It got no better in 1975, the first season in the Superdome, and Ellender was fired following a 42-6 loss to LSU, which experienced a 4-7 season, its worst since 1956.

Larry Smith left Tulane for Arizona in December 1979. Had he stuck around, he might have been LSU’s coach. Bo Rein, hired from North Carolina State to replace McClendon six days after LSU lost to Tulane, died in a plane crash seven weeks later.

Vince Gibson, who coached Lynn Dickey at Kansas State from 1968-70, took Tulane to a bowl in 1980, the first time Tulane went to bowls in consecutive seasons. Gibson went 3-1 vs. LSU, including a 31-28 victory in Baton Rouge in 1982 over a Bayou Bengal team headed to the Orange Bowl, but he was fired.

Tulane came perilously close to shutting down its football program in early 1985. The new Green Wave coach, Mack Brown (yes, that Mack Brown) was forced to take over as athletic director for a brief period in the wake of the point shaving scandal. Brown’s first Wave team went 1-10, but in 1987, Tulane went 6-5 and played in the Independence Bowl. Following the loss to Washington, Brown went to Chapel Hill.

On the other hand, Brown’s second squad lost to Wichita State. The Shockers won only once more, then shuttered their program in January 1987.

The period from 1988-86 was one of the darkest for the Wave. Tulane bottomed out with 1-10 seasons in 1991 and ’94. In both of those seasons, the Wave hosted LSU, which was in the throes of its own woe under Curley Hallman. Neither game drew a paid attendance of 40,000 (30,000 short of capacity in the Superdome), and there may have been 25,000 at most in 1994, which was four days after Hallman was fired (he coached LSU to wins over the Wave and Arkansas after the announcement).

Tommy Bowden, Bobby’s son and Terry’s brother, took over in 1997 and turned the 2-9 of ’96 to 7-4. The next season, Tulane ran the table–admittedly against a weak schedule which did not include LSU–and defeated BYU in the Liberty Bowl to finish 12-0 and No. 7 in the final Associated Press poll. Tulane was hoping for a BCS berth in the first season of the system; however, if Kansas State could not get a BCS bid ranked #4, even after the loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game, what chance did Tulane have? Under the College Football Playoff system, Tulane would have likely played A&M or Florida as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion.

Bowden accepted the Clemson job before the Liberty Bowl, and he did not coach the Wave in Memphis. Instead, that job fell to incoming coach Chris Scelfo, who was Georgia’s quarterbacks coach under Jim Donnan. Scelfo, a New Iberia native, took Tulane to another bowl in 2002, but the Wave fell off quickly.

Then came 2005. Hurricane Katrina. Tulane was forced to play 11 games at 11 different locations due to the catastrophic damage at the Superdome. Ironically, one of those locales was Tiger Stadium, where the Wave defeated Southeastern Louisiana.

The Wave floundered shortly after returning to the Big Easy, but in 2011, Tulane earned its biggest victory in a long, long, LONG time.

It was announced Tulane would return to campus in 2014 to play in Yulman Stadium, a 30,000-seat facility which would occupy much of the footprint of the old Tulane Stadium.

The Wave needed it worse than an alcoholic needs cheap wine. By the end of their time at the Superdome, most crowds were under 10,000, and some were as low as 3,000, not enough to fill most high school stadiums in the New Orleans area.

Fittingly, Tulane’s first opponent at Yulman was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were thrown a lifeline in 1979 with membership in the ACC. While Tulane played in Conference USA from 1995-2013 and the American Athletic Conference since 2014, the Wave has been shut out in its attempts to join a power conference.

In 2016, Tulane hired Willie Fritz, who had success at Georgia Southern.He has upgraded the Wave’s recruiting, and while Tulane will never be able to attract as many blue chippers as LSU, it is doing quite well in taking the second and third tier recruits and molding them to Fritz’s triple option offense.

Sadly, LSU and Tulane don’t play any more. Both sides are stubborn, and I see where they are coming from.

LSU’s contention is most, if not all, games should be in Baton Rouge. Tiger Stadium now seats 102,000, and Tulane will net more from a game in Death Valley than they would anywhere else. With no travel expenses, except for gas for the busses, LSU has a point.

Tulane, however, wants the series to resume being a home-and-home, or at least a two-for-one. I don’t see any way LSU would play at Yulman. The games would have to be at the :Superdome, but the Wave has a good point about that becoming a de facto LSU home game.

I find it sad LSU will play the lower level colleges from Louisiana–Southeastern, Northwestern State, McNeese, Nicholls (in 2020) and Southern (2021)–but not Tulane. I would rather LSU play two Power Five teams in non-conference if the SEC is not going to play nine conference games, but Tulane should be on the schedule no matter what.

I’ll root for the Wave, except when they play LSU. I have a soft spot for Tulane, because one of my favorite people on earth, Rebecca Hale, who taught me English during the first semester of my junior year of high school, is a huge Wave supporter and has been all her life.

I hope Rebecca was in Fort Worth today. It had to be a thrill to see the Wave make history and do it against Southern Miss, which gave Tulane so many heartaches throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

I have a strong antipathy for USM, since it was the Golden Eagles’ success under Curley Hallman which prompted then-LSU athletic director Joe Dean to lure Hallman to Baton Rouge. What Dean forgot was a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, one which was gifted to Hallman by his predecessor at USM, Jim Carmody, was leading the Golden Eagle offense.

My dissertation on Tulane football began at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek and ended at Minsky’s. In between, the Texans defeated the Bills in overtime to advance in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots are trailing the Titans 7-3 late in the first quarter, but we all know New England isn’t going to lose at home to Tennessee.

The Superdome must be secured!

Donald Trump announced yesterday he would attend the College Football Playoff championship game in New Orleans.

Security was already going to be problematic with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and nearly all 144 members of the Louisiana Legislature making their way down Interstate 10 from the state capitol, where Edwards, other elected officials and legislators will be inaugurated that day.

Adding a visit by POTUS is going to exacerbate the problem exponentially.

Security for the game will be as tight as it was for the two Super Bowls in the Superdome since the September 11 attacks. The Secret Service will take the lead from the Louisiana State Police and New Orleans Police Department for security, and searches will be much longer and more thorough.

The Superdome would be better off asking the Transportation Security Administration to get full body scanners and place them at each of the four main entrances.

I bring this up because 16 years ago tonight, the Sugar Bowl matched LSU and Oklahoma for the BCS national championship. Nearly 80,000 crammed into the Superdome, which was–and still is–a record for a football game in the facility. The record for all events is 87,500 for a 1981 concert by The Rolling Stones, although an estimated 95,000 attended a 1987 youth rally with Pope John Paul II.

Please forgive me as I go off the trail to tell another story about John Paul’s only visit to the Crescent City.

The pontiff hosted an outdoor mass behind the left field fence of the University of New Orleans’ baseball stadium a few hours after the youth rally. It was not the best idea. It poured before the mass, which proved to be the lesser of two meteorological evils for New Orleans in September (at least when there’s not a hurricane bearing down on the Bayou State). Better wet from rain than dripping with sweat.

If the Archdiocese of New Orleans was smart, it would have held the mass on Sunday morning in the Superdome and asked the Saints to play on the road in week one of the 1987 season. Sure, fewer people would have been able to attend, but it would have been much more comfortable for all. John Paul was frail after he was shot in May 1981 in St. Peter’s Square, but had not yet displayed symptoms of the Parkinson’s which would claim him in 2005. He made it through the nearly two-hour service, but Archbishop Philip Hannan breathed a lot easier when the pontiff got into an air-conditioned limousine after the service.

Now, back to LSU and Oklahoma playing for half the 2003 college football national championship.

I say half the national championship, because the media voting in the Associated Press poll had Southern California (DO NOT EVER use Southern Cal) atop its poll following the regular season, and the Trojans figured to stay there after hammering Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl three days prior. The coaches poll was contractually obligated to name the winner of the designated BCS championship game its champion.

Oklahoma stayed No. 1 in the final BCS standings despite a disgustingly ugly 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, the Wildcats’ first conference championship since 1934. LSU moved into the No. 2 spot following a 34-13 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Two weeks prior to the Sugar Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert threat from “Elevated” (Yellow) to “High” (Orange). Since September 11, 2001, DHS devised a terrorism threat chart with five color-coded levels. The highest was “Extreme” (Red), followed by High, Elevated, “Guarded” (Blue) and “Low” (Green).

For the Sugar Bowl, DHS, LSP and NOPD ordered nearly all of the parking lots attached to the Superdome closed. Only the garage at the southwest corner of the stadium would be opened, and very few permits would be issued.

I was one of the fortunate few. I assisted the media relations staff in the week leading up to the game, and I would be in the press box on game night researching information for the media to use in their stories. The media from out of town had a shuttle running from their designated hotel to the Superdome, so they did not receive parking passes. Some media were staying at the Hyatt Regency attached to the east entrance of the stadium, so all they had to do was walk.

When I arrived at the Superdome, I got out of my car to allow a search of all areas, including the trunk. I was driving the Oldsmobile 88 which I totaled running into a deer in Kansas in October 2005.

I made sure to only take what was essential to the game to make the search easier. I took it in stride. At least my car wasn’t being searched for drugs or other contraband!

The Bayou Bengals defeated the Sooners 21-14, giving LSU its first national championship since 1958. Nick Saban celebrated for all of six minutes, 13 seconds, give or take. There was no Gatorade shower for Saban, which was a good thing for LSU players, given Saban’s anger over his dousing by Alabama players six years later when the Crimson Tide defeated Texas for the first of five titles won by Saban in Tuscaloosa.

Security was a breeze for the 2005 Sugar Bowl, where Auburn completed a 13-0 season by defeating Virginia Tech, but had to settle for No. 2 behind USC.

The 2005 Sugar Bowl marked the last time I have set foot in the Superdome. What I wouldn’t give to set foot in there one more time.

I’m into my last day in Kansas City. Tomorrow morning its back to humdrum Russell. All good things must end.