Blog Archives

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.

Your occasional blogger is back

Sorry for not posting for 12 days. Lots of things to write back home. I’ve had added responsibilities, and it has taken up much of my time Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the time has been spent with my vices, trivia and online racing.

Ben Roethlisberger’s injury had to send a shudder up the spines of Steelers fans. Many probably remember Terry Bradshaw’s career ended after the 1983 season due to an injured elbow.

Bradshaw played only one half in 1983. It was the next to last game of the regular season vs. the Jets which also happened to be the final football game at Shea Stadium. Bradshaw threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, but by halftime, Chuck Noll had seen enough and inserted Cliff Stoudt, the man who won two Super Bowl rings without having to set foot on the field.

Pittsburgh won the game against the Jets to clinch the AFC Central, but it was routed in the playoffs 34-10 by the Raiders. In the playoff game, Stoudt’s first pass was intercepted by Lester Haynes and returned for a touchdown. A month later, Stoudt was starting for the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions.

As a side note, Jets fans began rioting in the stands as the game vs. the Steelers neared its end. Leon Hess, the Jets owner, was the least popular man in the Big Apple, especially with Mayor Ed Koch, who took every chance he got to rip Hess and the Jets for not negotiating in good faith with Queens, Koch’s administration and the Mets.

The Jets looked like they would return to New York City with the West Side Stadium, but it was blocked by flaming dipshit James Dolan, owner of the Knicks, Rangers and Madison Square Garden. Instead, the Jets simply partnered with the Giants on what is now Met Life Stadium.

Drew Brees’ thumb injury makes the NFC South race competitive. Hopefully the Saints can tread water with Teddy Bridgewater (or Taysom Hill). It won’t be easy this week in Seattle.

Eli Manning to the bench? I never thought I’d see the day. By going to Daniel Jones, he is avoiding the idiocy demonstrated by Bill Parcells in his first season as Giants coach in 1983, when he thought Scott Brunner was a better option than Phil Simms. What the F**K? It shows even Hall of Fame coaches screw up.

The Brewers are still in the National League wild card chase despite losing Christian Yelich last week to a broken kneecap he suffered when he was hit in a game in Miami. Leave it to the Marlins to F**K things up.

Speaking of MLB, a CBS Sports writer will not use “Indians” when referring to Cleveland. Here we go again with the PC crap. Commissioner Rob Manfred blackmailed the Indians into getting rid of Chief Wahoo, stating the team would not host the All-Star Game until Wahoo was eradicated, and now this.

What is offensive about the word Indians? Come on. People need to stop worrying about things like the names of sports teams.

Global warming is real. For it to be 34 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) on September 19 in Russell and Hays is absolutely ridiculous. My jeans have not been worn since my trip to Columbia in April for the LSU-Missouri baseball series. If I were still in Louisiana, I could understand. But not now.

The climate change deniers need to explain how Hurricane Dorian reached winds of almost 300 km/h (185 MPH) and didn’t weaken when it hit the Bahamas. Katrina weakened (slightly) from a Category 5 before it struck Louisiana and Mississippi. That may not happen in the future. Look at Hurricane Michael, which was strengthening as hit made landfall in the Florida Panhandle last October.

I want to go back to Buffalo Wild Wings at Shoal Creek very badly. I have a crush on Rita Roberts, the general manager. I haven’t said anything to anyone about it…until yesterday when I mentioned to Crista Rita is cute.

I don’t want to jeopardize my ability to go to that Buffalo Wild Wings, so I’m probably going to keep my feelings to myself.

Speaking of Buffalo Wild Wings, on my last visit there, I met a couple who was going to the Backstreet Boys concert at Sprint Center that night. I told them the Backstreet Boys performed the national anthem before Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001. They were incredulous.

I am still puzzled as to what got into me the last time I was in Kansas City. Talking to Joanne was one thing, because I met her previously. But Rhonda and Kim after Joanne that night, and now the couple that Saturday. Maybe I am a late bloomer.

I woke up at 0318 this morning. There’s a reason. I don’t have time to expound upon it now. I will later. Enjoy your evening.

Saints shafted!

Football fans throughout Louisiana, at least most of them, are still steaming mad about the no-call which kept the Saints from Super Bowl LIII.

The outrage has extended well past the Saints players, coaches, front office and owner Gayle Benson. It’s reached the point where the New Orleans City Council drafted a resolution condemning the no-call, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is drafting a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to take a look into overturning the result, or at least ordering a replay.

Edwards and other politicians should be commended for their love of the Saints and their willingness to do anything to support one of two professional sports franchises to call Louisiana home.

Sadly, it isn’t going to do anything. The Rams are on their way to Atlanta to face the Patriots, and the Saints and their fans can only wonder what if.

The play in question occurred with less than two minutes remaining in the NFC championship game and the score tied 20-20. With it third and 10 and the Saints on the Rams’ 13-yard line, Drew Brees threw a short pass into the right flat intended for Tommylee Lewis.

Before Lewis could move to his right in order to catch the pass, Rams safety Nickell Robey-Coleman barreled full speed into Lewis with a helmet-to-helmet hit with left the ball to flutter incomplete.

The Saints had to settle for a Will Lutz field goal to give them the lead, but there was still 1:41 remaining when the Rams began their next possession, more than enough time for Jared Goff to drive his team to a game-tying field goal by Greg Zeurlein.

New Orleans won the overtime coin toss, but on the Saints’ third play of the extra period, Los Angeles’ Dante Fowler came in untouched on Brees, forcing a flutterball which was intercepted by the Rams’ John Johnson at the Los Angeles 46.

The Rams picked up one first down before stalling at the Saints’ 39. A 57-yard field goal is out of the range of many NFL kickers, but Zeurlein drove it home with plenty of room to spare, sending the Rams to their first Super Bowl since 2001, and the first for the Los Angeles Rams since 1979.

Back to the no-call.

I think Sean Payton should have ran the ball on first down and third down and forced the Rams to exhaust their timeouts. Los Angeles had two timeouts at the two-minute warning, and the Saints would have been able to bleed 40 more seconds off the clock after third down. Even if the Saints lost 10 yards on three plays and taken a 5-yard delay of game penalty, it still would have been well within Lutz’ range.

That said, Payton has a Super Bowl ring and more wins than any previous Saints coach, so I defer to his judgement. He is paid $9 million per year to call the shots.

While we will never know how the game would have turned out had Robey-Coleman been flagged–either for defensive pass interference (DPI) or a helmet-to-helmet hit.

It is indefensible, however, that a flag was not dropped.

One of the cardinal rules of playing pass defense is the defender must play the ball, not the receiver. At no level of football–Pop Warner, high school, college, professional–is a defender allowed to simply go after the receiver. I’m certain every elementary officiating training video shows a defender playing the man and not the ball is obvious DPI.

Robey-Coleman did not turn his head once he started flying towards Lewis. His eyes were pointed in one direction and one direction only, at the player wearing black jersey #11.

For a split second, it appeared Robey-Coleman might be called out for his misdeed.

Down judge (head linesman in other levels of football; it was changed by the NFL to down judge because Sarah Thomas now officiates that position) Patrick Turner had his hand on his penalty flag, which was in his belt on his right hip. However, he took his hand off the flag and signaled incomplete.

The question is, did Turner decide himself to keep his flag in his belt, or did he have help in making the no-call?

Two officials are stationed on each sideline. The head linesman/down judge and side judge work one side, and the line judge and field judge the other. The linesman and line judge are stationed at the line of scrimmage, and the field judge and side judge are 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

I am wondering if Turner caught the eye of side judge Gary Cavaletto as he had his hand on the flag and changed his mind because of something Cavaletto communicated to him, either by voice or eye contact.

Turner and Cavaletto blew it, as did back judge Todd Prukop, who had a clear angle of the play from the middle of the field 25 yards deep.

Turner had no guts. If he threw the flag, it probably would have prompted a conference between the seven-man crew led by Bill Vinovich. If Vinovich and his mates opted to overrule Turner, then so be it, but Turner would have showed courage to do the right thing and make a gutsy call when guts are in short supply. Instead, Turner swept it under the rug.

Cavaletto and Prukop have both officiated in Super Bowls. This was Cavaletto’s 13th postseason assignment. This was Turner’s first conference championship game, and sadly, it could be his last NFL game, period.

The first cardinal rule of officiating is you have to see it before you call it, so phantom calls are always a big no-no with the NFL. Yet missing something so obvious is just as bad.

How could Turner, Cavaletto and Prukop NOT see a foul? Robey-Coleman should have been called for either DPI or a personal foul. Either way, the Saints get a fresh set of downs, they can milk the clock, then call in Lutz to kick them to Atlanta the same way Garrett Hartley kicked New Orleans to Miami nine years ago.

Two former NFL Vice Presidents of Officiating, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, said the officials blew it. So did Terry McAulay, the referee for Super Bowls XXXIX, XLIII and XLVIII. Current NFL Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron told Payton the call was blown minutes after the game ended.

I do not like the direction of football in 2018. I do not like shootouts. I do not like pass defenders having so many restrictions placed upon them. I do not like defenders who are flagged for roughing the passer for ticky-tack things which would never have been called 20 years ago.

On the other hand, if it is egregious, it has to be called. The same way as a pitch which comes into a batter at his feet or his neck must be called a ball. The same way a hockey player who swings his stick at an opponent must be called for slashing. The same way Lionel Messi must be awarded a penalty kick if he is tackled in the penalty area when he is one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Yes, officiating requires good judgement, the same way the men and women in black robes requires it. Yet there are some areas which are black and white. Nickell Robey-Coleman bulldozing Tommylee Lewis was black and white. And the men in the black and white stripes failed miserably.

Robey-Coleman is fortunate the NFL does not have the NCAA’s targeting rule. In college, the replay official may buzz the referee if he sees forcible contact to the head or neck area that the officials on the field did not call. The player can be ejected for targeting based upon the replay official’s recommendation., Certainly Robey-Coleman would have been banished had the college rule been in effect.

The Rams-Patriots Super Bowl does not interest me. I saw this crap 17 years ago. Only this time, Brady and Belichick are heavy favorites against a second year quarterback, not the other way around. If the Patriots win, they’ll piss everyone off except those living in New England, Colin Cowherd and those who think Brady is the greatest thing to hit football. If the Rams win, it’s tainted.

Double dose of Saintly pain

January 3 is a day fans of the New Orleans Saints would rather forget for two major reasons.

The first occurred in 1988, when the Saints lost 44-10 to the Vikings in New Orleans’ first playoff game in franchise history.

The Saints finished the 1987 regular season 12-3, the second best record in the entire NFL, but they had to settle for a wild card berth to the playoffs because the 13-2 49ers were in the same division, the NFC West.

Prior to 1987, the Saints suffered through 18 losing seasons. Their best record was 8-8, achieved in 1979 and 1983. New Orleans was the birthplace of fans wearing bags on their heads, introduced during the abysmal 1-15 season of 1980.

In 1987, fans could rip the bags off–at least over the last nine games. The Saints lost three of their first six games, two of them to mediocre teams (Eagles and Cardinals) and one to the 49ers in the Superdome, a game in which Morten Andersen made five field goals, but missed his seventh attempt on the game’s final play, allowing San Francisco to escape 24-22.

The Saints should have been given kudos for coming close against the mighty 49ers, right?

Nope.

Second-year Saints coach Jim Mora went nuclear. Three words sum it up best.

Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

Mora stated he was tired of saying “coulda, woulda, shoulda”, and that the Saints weren’t good enough to beat the 49ers. Another famous line came when he said, “We’re close, and close don’t mean (bleep). And you can put that on TV for me.”

In 1987, there was SportsCenter, but the NFL Network was 16 years off. However, those of us in New Orleans got to see Mora’s tirade more than a few times, and nobody who grew up in New Orleans in the late 1980s will ever forget Mora’s postgame press conference of October 25, 1987.

Mora’s words must have had some effect on the Saints. New Orleans did not lose again in the regular season, ripping off nine consecutive victories, including a 26-24 decision at San Francisco three weeks later, a game which was won on a 52-yard field goal by Andersen, who last year became the second pure placekicker to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining former Kansas City legend Jan Stenerud, whose bust has been in Canton since 1991.

The Saints’ opponents in the NFC wild card game, the Vikings, were in the playoffs for the first time in five years. Jerry Burns, who was in his second year in charge in Minnesota, had one of the NFL’s best receivers, Anthony Carter, but an unsettled quarterback situation between the oft-injured Tommy Kramer and the inconsistent Wade Wilson. The Viking defense, although not up to the standards of the Purple Gang of the 1970s, was still formidable, thanks to Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, rookie Henry Thomas, Scott Studwell and Joey Browner.

Minnesota was put into a hole during the strike called by the NFL Players’ Association during the 1987 season. The owners called up replacement players to substitute for the regulars for three games in weeks 4-6 (week three was canceled), looking to avoid the repeat of the disastrous 1982 strike in which the season was reduced from 16 games to nine.

The Vikings’ replacement team laid a giant goose egg, losing to Green Bay, Chicago and Tampa Bay. New Orleans had better fortune, defeating the Rams and Bears while losing in St. Louis.

Minnesota got back on track when the strike ended, but in December, the Vikings lost to the Bears, Packers and Redskins, finishing 8-7. However, Minnesota snuck into the playoffs when Dallas defeated St. Louis in what turned out to be the Cardinals’ final game representing the Gateway City.

Most of the experts liked New Orleans to easily defeat Minnesota and move into a divisional playoff game in Chicago, where the Bears were hampered by bickering, inconsistency from quarterback Jim McMahon, and an aged Walter Payton, who ended up retiring after the 1987 season.

The Vikings had different ideas.

New Orleans grabbed an early 7-0 lead, but an 84-yard punt return touchdown by Carter turned the momentum permanently in the Vikings’ favor.

Minnesota rubbed salt in the wound on the final play of the first half when Wade Wilson connected with Hassan Jones on a 55-yard Hail Mary, a play which the Vikings received when the Saints were called for having 12 players on the field on what should have been the last play in the first half. A half cannot end on a defensive penalty, and the Vikings made the Saints pay the ultimate price.

It didn’t matter. The Vikings were up 24-10 before the Wilson-to-Jones heroics, and they added to the lead in the second half, ending up a 44-10 winner.

The next week, Carter torched the 49ers with 11 catches for 227 yards, a playoff record, in a 36-24 Viking victory at San Francisco. Minnesota came within an eyelash of its first Super Bowl since 1976, but Darrin Nelson dropped a potential game-tying touchdown at the goal line in the NFC championship game in Washington. The Redskins won 17-10, then obliterated John Elway’s Broncos in Super Bowl XXII with the famous 35-point second quarter.

Exactly five years later after the debacle vs. the Vikings, the Saints were again hosting an NFC wild card playoff game. The Saints went 12-4 in 1992, but had to settle for second in the NFC West behind the 14-2 49ers, who swept the season series from New Orleans, negating San Francisco’s loss to the 4-12 Cardinals.

New Orleans was still in search of its first playoff victory when the Eagles invaded the Crescent City on January 3, 1993. The Saints made the playoffs as an 8-8 wild card in 1990 before losing to the Bears in Chicago, then lost to the Falcons at home after capturing the NFC West in 1991, the Saints’ first division title.

Philadelphia entered the 1992 playoffs riding a five-game postseason losing streak, a skid which started in New Orleans when the Eagles lost 27-10 to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV.

One factor working in the Eagles’ favor was Buddy Ryan was no longer coaching them. Ryan lost playoff games in three consecutive seasons between 1988-90, and combined with Ryan’s hatred of his offense despite the heroics of quarterback Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia owner Norman Braman had seen enough and showed Ryan the door.

Rich Kotite had the Eagles in the playoffs after missing out in 1991 despite a 10-6 record. Philadelphia defeated New Orleans 15-13 at Veterans Stadium in the season opener, and that led to the pundits splitting right down the middle as to whether the Eagles or Saints would advance to face the Cowboys in Dallas.

Through three quarters, the Saints led 20-7. It looked like the Saints would finally win a playoff game, and the Eagles would once again choke in the clutch.

Unfortunately for the Saints, football games are four periods.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles stunned not only the 70,000 in the Superdome, but millions of football fans watching on television by ripping off 29 unanswered points to win 36-20.

Fortunately for the Saints, few outside Louisiana noticed their collapse.

Mora and his players had the Houston Oilers to thank.

Earlier that day, the Oilers built a 35-3 lead early in the third quarter in Buffalo, only to completely collapse and allow the Bills to rally and win 41-38 in overtime.

The Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 and changed their name to the Titans in 1999. The franchise is still searching for its first Super Bowl title. So are the Bills, who lost Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII to the Cowboys after losing XXV to the Giants and XXVI to the Redskins.

Minnesota has lost three more NFC championship games since 1987 (1998, 2000 and 2017).

New Orleans finally shook the playoff monkey in 2000, and won Super Bowl XLIV nine years later. Philadelphia is the reigning Super Bowl champion, the first title for the Eagles since 1960.

Here’s hoping the Saints can live up to the pressure of the NFL’s best team during the regular season and bring home the Vince Lombardi trophy from Atlanta one month from tonight.

28 1/2 hours left of November…

My Thanksgiving wasn’t that bad. I’m not going to lie and say I was doing backflips, but no drama, no problems with social media, no hiding from the family for Thanksgiving lunch.

I highly recommend eating the large holiday meals (Thanksgiving and Christmas) for lunch instead of dinner. You can certainly sleep late and skip breakfast, and then you’re ready to roll. After, you have more time to digest the meal before going to bed. I’ve suffered enough indigestion and heartburn after large meals in the evening to keep Alka Seltzer in business.

I didn’t get out of the house from the time I got back from St. Peters last Wednesday through Tuesday. A blizzard hit Sunday, and we lost power in Russell from 0300 to 1200.

We had a very long power outage in the summer, and I thought I was going to die. It was 37 Celsius (98 F) that day and without any circulation, it was an oven.

I was just fine without heat, so no need to get out there. Besides, Interstate 70 was closed from WaKeeney to Junction City (280 km; 175 miles), and all the streets in Russell were snowpacked. I woke up in time to eat lunch with my parents; my mother cooked shrimp scampi, although my father and I said she didn’t have to, but I guess she was tired of turkey and the side dishes, so I don’t blame her for cooking.

I planned on going to Salina for 0900 to get my hair cut, but as I was on I-70 near Wilson, Frank texted me and told me he needed copy as soon as possible. Therefore, I pulled off at Chick-Fil-A on Ninth in front of the Mall, and worked for two hours. I had to buy breakfast and lunch there, simply because I felt I would have been squatting had I not at least bought something. I hadn’t had Chick-Fil-A for a while anyway, so it was a good change. I finally got my hair cut at 1130; Amber was training a new stylist, Morgan, and I tipped them both.

Snow is still all around Kansas City. North of the Missouri River, some areas got as much as 7 inches, and earlier this week,  the Kansas City Star ran an article saying Kansas City was having much trouble plowing the streets, while the streets in Kansas and other municipalities in Missouri (Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Liberty, Gladstone) were plowed. KCMO Public Schools were closed for three days this week! I would not want to burn snow days immediately after Thanksgiving, but it is what it is.

The Saints are ready to kick off vs. the Cowboys in Arlington. There are a lot of Cowboy haters in Kansas City, but I don’t see why. After all, had the Cowboys not forced Lamar Hunt and the Texans out of Dallas, would Kansas City have professional football? New Orleans was going to get the Texans at first, but Tulane said no way to using Tulane Stadium. That wasn’t the only problem; the other was Tulane Stadium was segregated, and blacks had to sit in a small section of the south end zone. It took the Louisiana Legislature, Governor John McKeithen, U.S. Senator Russell Long and U.S. Representative Hale Boggs to get the stadium desegregated AND for Tulane to relent and let the Saints use its stadium.

FYI, three years before the Saints played their first game, Tulane was approached about holding a rock concert in their stadium. One which would have drawn at least 85,000 spectators. The university told The Beatles to get bent, leaving the Fab Four to play at the smaller City Park (now Tad Gormley) Stadium, which seats only 26,000.

Bill Snyder is still the football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats. He is being a stubborn and ornery old man, much the way he was during his first tenure in Manhattan.

I am sick and tired of hearing about how great a man he is and how much he has done for Manhattan and the state of Kansas. Okay, he’s won a lot of football games. But he is more paranoid than Nick Saban can ever dream of being.

More on Snyder in another post. The Saints are ready to kick butt yet again.