A Quarter Century Of Trying

charliestrongAfter so long, a man has to get frustrated. I suppose that’s what’s happened with UF D-coordinator Charlie Strong, whom in the Offseasn Of Black Coaches Getting Hired By Non-BCS Programs and the Turner Gill Effect, apparently got not one call for an interview about a head coaching gig, if his chat with an Orlando Sentinel writer is to be believed — and that his white wife is a factor (as written earlier, Gill’s also married to a white woman.) This is now getting even more attention post-Gill, as the NYT’s Harvey Araton is the latest to write about it.

Strong is a victim of the consistent bad rap against many lifetime coordinators (“they don’t interview well”, which is an excuse for just about anything, and also a legit reason to an AD when considering a man to be the head of its most prominent athletic program), being in the shadow of an immensely successful head coach, and the current college AD’s obsession with offensive numbers (because, if you are a D-IA program in a top BCS con, running up the score may be essential to your poll impact).  So he’s got the triumverate going against him, and a good enough job (with enough security) to wait to get a shot at a program with a chance to compete at the national title level.

But at what point will he get that chance? He’s 48 now, and watching men in the age ranges of his fellow Florida coach Dan Mullen get hired at Mississippi State (which we understand, given the complete O-related shortcomings under Sly Croom) and Lane Kiffin get inked at Tennessee (which I understand a bit less so, although I think it has a good chance of working out.)  Eventually, the only shot he may have, given the way ADs are chasing after younger coaches, hoping to latch onto a long-term solution, the more it seems Strong’s only shot might be if Meyer leaves Florida and the AD dubs him the successor.

If the man has two BCS chamipionship rings after tomorrow and there aren’t teams rushing to pay him after the 2009 season, something’s up.

Ill-Advised BCS Championship Game Prediction

Getty Images/Doug Benc

Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc

Not like this ever pans out or means anything. Please see everything under the “previews” category so you can observe my hit and miss ratio at this sort of thing, always.

So, consider the spectacle in Miami tomorrow, in which we only have the track records of the two 12-1 teams competing at Dolphins Stadium and their conferences to wage any sort of hacking through the guesstimation muck in order to consider what the end result of a BCS “championship” game might be (championship in quotes for damn good reason; Utah’s bid being the top one) between Oklahoma and Florida. We have the team with the fastest athletes playing the team that runs its offense the quickest.

Ultimately, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Florida will have all its playmakers, no matter how gimpy Percy Harvin may be — and OU is missing DeMarco Murray, which will hurt them in a sizable way, despite the capable back-ups available to take his place, Murray is a unique presence in that backfield.  Secondly, after watching two of the Big 12 South’s teams look rather pedestrian in bowl games, the equation is starting to skew a bit — and that’s before you consider that Bob Stoops has spit the bit in four consecutive BCS appearances, most recently, the Orange Bowl loss that was a wonderful rebound fuck of sorts for West Virginia after Rich Rod’s ignominous and acrimonious exit; as a result, WVU then decided to turn that ho Bill Stewart into a housewife (and has paid for it by wasting Pat White’s senior year in a bowl named after the dudes who fix your brakes.)

Meanwhile, the UF offense does not come unfocused much, and while the OU defense was stout enough to get by, there’s something that’s always unnerved me about a tema that’s compelled to put up half a hundred as often as possible — and sometimes they’ve actually kind of needed it (witness Kansas State, in which the Sooners actually allowed a 20+-point swing when up by gangbusters; it didn’t matter in the end, but you notice.) By default, it appears Florida’s defense will likely be the second best the OU offense faces, behind TCU — but the Horned Frogs don’t have anything close to an offense attack to respond in kind.

I will say Florida, 31-21, thanks to slow play from Tim Tebow and his corps of speed talent — an offense just as capable of slowing the pace down in order to keep the Sooners’ O and Sam Bradford off the field.

Usually These Sorts Of Things Don’t Take Two Years

adamjonesThere are all kinds of unanswered questions regarding the release of Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones in the wake of a proposed Outside the Lines report by ESPN’s John Barr. The quick rundown, from the Four-Letter’s standpoint, is that Jerry Jones released the cornerback after Barr contacted the Cowboys’ organization about a response to allegations that Jones hired someone to shoot at men he had a dispute in while a member of the Titans (albeit suspended) in 2007. (This happeend in the ATL; a random reminder that all sorts of cool stuff goes down in that city late at night, but for an athlete, not much of it is good. I had a hell of a time the one time I set foot in there, at least while not cursing the traffic.)

While lamenting that Jones is again getting cut or disciplined for shit he was never convicted of in court (yes, I understand Lord Rog is gonna nail ass to the wall for even being arrested; that doesn’t mean I have to like it as policy), a bigger question arises: if the inquisition from the Four-Letter is behind the release and the NFL knew about the allegations, then it means a couple of things:

  1. This obviously was of no concern to the league because no one could put Jones there at the time. There wasn’t enough evidence.
  2. Jerry Jones had to have known about this when he signed Adam Jones. I find it hard to believe otherwise.

That said, why the uproar now over a confidential informant whom we don’t know a whole lot about (and with good reason)?  There’s obviously a lot of bluster behind the whole thing, and Jones appears to be very, very pissed, even threatening a lawsuit against ESPN. Be looking forward to Sunday; see if this OTL piece tells me anything or is a hack job on what seems to be the channel’s favorite subject: athlete misdeeds.

Randy Lerner Loves Him Some Coach Hobo Disciples

manginiGenerally, when owners in the NFL decide to clean out the entire front office, it’s usually along the lines of a complete housecleaning, resisting anything that could reek of the prior regime. But that probably doesn’t apply to Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, who apparently could not get enough of hiring Bill Belichick disciples — specifically, his defensive coordinators — and now he’s done it in sequence, replacing Romeo Crennel with recently canned Jets coach Eric Mangini.

It sounds like one hell of a mancrush, if the Cleveland Plain-Dealer is to be believed:

Lerner was informed of Mangini’s firing during a sit-down with Cleveland reporters. His eyes lit up at the news and he almost immediately made arrangements to meet with Mangini the next day. Lerner was so impressed that he never wavered from Mangini as his first choice.

In fact, Lerner effectively chose Mangini to head his football reorganization ahead of GM candidate Scott Pioli of the New England Patriots.

Once close friends and former roommates, Pioli and Mangini became estranged when Mangini left the Patriots as defensive coordinator to coach the Jets. When Lerner surmised that the relationship between Mangini and Pioli might be unworkable, Lerner proceeded with plans to make Mangini the coach.

I have no reason to doubt Mangini’s connection (likely emotional) to the franchise as a 14-year old ballboy.  I also will say that he got an extremely raw deal from the Jets; despite some bonehead coaching handles and obviously not handling the defense as well as needed (the Jets’ secondary was awful), that didn’t seem like a firing year to me. He should have been on the hot seat for next year, for sure. But anything coming out of the Meadowlands about the Jets’ coaching search informs you of how dysfunctional that organization is compared to the Giants (what other owner leaves the country on vacation while the coaching situation is in flux?)

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t think this might not blow up in someone’s face. Homecomings are always awkward, made all the more so by a need to guide a team crumbling on both sides of the ball.

Horns Show Up Just Late Enough To Win

AP/Ross D. Franklin

AP/Ross D. Franklin

Texas 24, Ohio State 21 – That vaunted Longhorns attack via Colt McCoy wasn’t having a whole lot of luck in the first half thanks to a stout Buckeye defense (one of the squad’s better points as it has fits and starts by trying to mesh its QB’s amazing skills with the conservative nature of its coach), and Ohio State decided, for whatever reason, to keep shooting itself in the foot by trotting out Todd Boeckman for his Last Stand when they likely may have been better off putting their future in the hands and on the legs of Terrelle Pryor (personally, I’m still convinced that Pryor chose the wrong school; the Sweater Vest will get much too conservative on him in the years to come. He would have been a great fit with DickRod at Michigan, obviously, but I would think he’d be the natural heir to Daryll Clark at Penn State; running the Spread HD would have been good.)

The funny thing is that Texas wasn’t really able to get after Ohio State late in the game.  McCoy got after it for a 17-6 lead, but then Brian Robiskie stopped dropping balls and became a deep threat in the third quarter, with Pryor using his legs to scramble all over the place (not like he got a whole lot of time to set) and Boeckman got the occasional open shot, like when he threw a fade to the 6’6″ Pryor to take the lead by four points in the fourth.

Then, an EPIC FAIL of tackling and basic defensive skills by OSU, as McCoy had little more than a minute and led the Horsn down the field, using Quan Cosby as his go-to guy. A 4th down spot determined the game at the OSU 40, as part of an 11-play drive. Two inches shorter and it’s OSU ball, game over, the Big 10 saves a bit of face — but no….and a couple plays later, Cosby catches a pass (McCoy threw for more than 400 yards), and a Buckeye safety looks like he hasn’t even passed the most basic of tackling drills, letting the wideout slip through his hands, jiggling like Jello all the way to the end zone with 16 seconds left.

(I enjoyed Yahoo’s headline: “Wrath of Quan.” I imagine the Sweater Vest yelling it Shatner-style.)

The Buckeyes got back to about the Texas 40 when Boeckman, fittingly, was sacked to essentially end the game. At the end, both McCoy and coach Mack Brown made their pleas for being number one, as if barely scraping by an undermanned and clearly sloppy OSU team was any sort of achievement for one of the Big 12 South’s Holy Trinity, two of whom have been embarrassed in some fashion in their bowl games (Texas’ defense is not exactly top tier, but could and should have done better; Texas Tech’s meltdown against Ole Miss goes without saying).  Those calls likely fell on deaf ears, and 45-35 chants ought to be treated as such should Oklahoma win.

(A final note: Big East officials are just as bad as their Pac-10 and SEC counterparts. I’d accuse them of being in the tank for a team, but after a couple of questionable roughing the passer calls on OSU defenders, there were make-up calls of PI on the Longhorns, and a totally weak dual PI call on the two-point attempt after the Pryor receiving TD which should have been flagged solely on the OSU receiver. They may have bet on an OSU cover.)

Full Of Sound And Fury

jaymariotti

So, it’s mildly amusing that AOL decided to take one of the most universally loathed sportswriters and give him a platform. I don’t know what drove the decision to hire Jay Mariotti for AOL Sports other than the desire for what I’ve personally called “The Rush Effect”*: people will click to be outraged at what he writes, but since page views are what matter, it will be a success either way, no matter how blatantly wrong he is.

In my original note about Mariotti’s debut at Awful Announcing on Sunday, I snarked about Jason Whitlock, which, in retrospect, isn’t exactly fair to Whitlock for a couple reasons:

  1. Whitlock, from what I can tell, has a fanbase.
  2. He also is right on occasion. Rare, but that’s better than Mariotti’s ratio.

Now, everyone is weighing in: Brian followed up at AA in the AM, MODI is calling for people to speak out forcefully at SOMM, and Deadspin’s Rick Chandler employed some good old fashioned snark and mockery.  After reading his introductory column, with some fashionable talk about how behind the newspaper world is (predictable) and spoiling a movie ending (yes, everyone could probably guess that the dog bites it in the end, but that’s still bad form), he goes into some victimhood:

I resigned after the Games with a calm, professional letter, a decision that came mere months after I’d signed a contract extension. I guess I hurt some feelings. The boys called me a “rat,” forgetting those 5,000 columns through the years. They accused me of using Beijing as vacation time (“Hey, kids, let’s ditch Hawaii and hang out in a Communist country.”). They let a few staff writers, who should focus on doing better work, react with rage reminiscent of Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” All because I handed back about a million bucks and wanted something more.

Well, I don’t know. I suppose that if you happen to take potshots in print and on TV at professional athletes and their coaches without daring to set foot in locker rooms any longer, the beat writers and columnists who do might be tired of taking shit aimed at you. When your paper uses your resignation to ramp up a subscriber drive, you might want to consider where your ego ran off the rails.

Jay, bless him, does no such thing.

I’m working for a company, AOL, that attracted 54 million unique visitors to its programming content sites in November and ranks fourth in traffic among Internet news sites. As established writers keep moving Web-ward, it will cause consternation among a few members of the sports blogosphere, some of whom think they own the Internet when, as everyone knows, Bill Kurtis owns the Internet. I’ve never bought into this “mainstream media vs. bloggers” blood war because, in my mind, we’re all writers. The best young writers provide compelling takes on sports. The losers wake up each day and attack (choose your ESPN target), an approach that can’t attract much audience beyond a few neurotic souls in sports media. Now hear this: I’m a bit too busy to hate bloggers or, really, anyone but terrorists and certain Illinois politicians. I just think they should be writing about Steve Smith, not Stephen A. Smith.

Well, we would, Jay, and happily, but the problem is that you, Stephen A. Smith, and many others have gone past the point of no return — you, through your writing, TV appearances, etc., in which you spout off, define the prism of sports for so many people and propagate coverage that makes the writers, reporters, and pundits as news-worthy as the athletes.

The angles taken by big-box columnists in an out-dated 80s narrative style and the focus of ESPN in paying more attention to athlete misdeeds (with a racial double standard to boot) is only part of what makes sports media an unwelcome part of the news when it comes to sports. A monopoly by one network is part of it, but when Ed Werder can take a completely anonymous sourced report and foment two weeks of Terrell Owens nuttiness, ESPN can ignore the civil suit against Brian Giles of abuse filed by an ex (along with the video), and when all sports websites run wire stories about athletes getting fucking parking tickets, of all things, sports media is as much a part of writing about sport as the competitions themselves.

Mariotti’s wishful thinking is just that — and a refusal to accept responsibility for the things he’s written before. The irony of all of it? His first full column is about Charles Barkley and his DUI, calling him “An American Idiot.”

You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t bother reading.

(*Named after Rush Limbaugh, naturally. I never understood why he had such a large audience as a kid. There are reliable conservatives, but I sense there are plenty of liberals listening just to hear the outrageous bullshit he’ll spout next.)

Ill-Advised Day After Bowl Game Predictions

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

Cotton Bowl – The reason a Texas Tech/Ole Miss match-up fascinates so many is not only because they are invited in a location somewhat available to both fan bases, but the personality and tendencies of both coaches. Mike Leach is the Pirate of the Skies, his luster diminshed just slightly after leaving his BCS title hopes in Norman; Houston Nutt is the boredline insane hick who will throw every manner of trick at you — he calls it as if he has nothing to lose, but is uneven enough to win a big game he’s not exepcted to and blow the next one on a bizarre coaching decision. On pure assembled talent alone, Tech should win this, but any time you think a Nutt team isn’t talented enough to pull it off, you get made to look like a fool. Tech by no more than a touchdown.  The line of -4 is just about right.

Sugar Bowl – Everyone’s hoping for a Boise State, but many are resigned to a Hawai’i. Utah is likely somewhere in the middle. This time they’re not lining up against a Big East patsy like Pitt a few years back; they get the SEC’s power-hitting pro-set team.  What the Utes need to do — MUST do if they want a realistic shot at the upset — is to make John Parker Wilson look like the incosntent thing he can be. I’m not sure Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram will play poorly enough to force him to have to be that.  Meanwhile, the Utes will score some — but Terrance Cody and the rest of the Bama front seven are a rather revved-up TCU, hungry for redemption after falling before the Florida attack in the SEC championship game. Tide by two scores, in the range of 10-14 points.

Liberty Bowl – Fairly simple. Kentucky is atrocious on offense. If East Carolina can at be mediocre in its attack, this should be handled rather easily.