In case you were out demanding that Red Lobster serve you a never-ending pasta bowl, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
In a thrilling conclusion to the NCAA tournament, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win their first NCAA title in 27 years. Reserve forward Luke Hancock was named the Final Four's MOP after his 22-point performance in the title game. When asked if he saw his performance coming, Hancock responded, "I mean, how can you see a thing like this coming?" before Michigan's Trey Burke came up from behind to congratulate him on the win. Unfortunately, Burke's intentions were misinterpreted by a security guard, who immediately removed Burke from the stadium.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's good fortunes continued as he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Pitino, who'll be inducted alongside Gary Payton, Bernard King, and Jerry Tarkanian, among others, also saw his horse Goldencents win the Santa Anita Derby over the weekend. Pitino's great week didn't end there, as he was invited to two separate parties at the Louisville Discovery Zone this coming weekend, both of which are rumored to be supplied with both Pizza Factory pizza and Carvel ice-cream cake.
In the past month, the deck of quarterback mediocrity has seen plenty of shuffling. First, it was in Buffalo. Less than two years after getting $24 million guaranteed from the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick was released, off to Tennessee to back up Jake Locker. Three days later, the Cardinals, hoping to avoid a $2 million roster bonus and $9 million in salary, released Kevin Kolb. On Monday, the Oakland Raiders traded for Matt Flynn, who was Russell Wilson’d in Seattle last offseason. The next day, the Cardinals traded for former Raiders starter Carson Palmer. I hope everyone is following here.
Where each quarterback ended up is mildly important, but what all the movement really says, it says collectively. For the handful of NFL teams actively searching for a long-term answer at quarterback, this may not be the draft in which they’re going to get it.
There's one enormous misconception that keeps cropping up this NFL offseason in the reaction to surprising personnel decisions. In terms of evaluating how much a particular player is worth (to his team or another), one little tidbit matters more than anything else: Past performance, future performance, personality, and name value all fall by the wayside to this most essential bargaining chip. It explains both the Tony Romo deal from this past weekend and Carson Palmer's desperate attempt to flee the East Bay. In the NFL, leverage is everything.
Consider Dallas's predicament with regard to its occasionally brilliant, frequently embattled quarterback this offseason. With a team of expensive veterans surrounded by a relative paucity of players on cheap, team-friendly rookie contracts, the Cowboys normally would be up against the salary cap. It didn't help when the Cowboys failed to come to terms with Anthony Spencer on a long-term deal and were forced to franchise him for the second consecutive year. Throw in the cap penalty they're eating after the NFL took away $10 million over two years for their handiwork during the uncapped year, and the Cowboys were really struggling to create space under the cap. Cap figures aren't released publicly, but by some accounts, the Cowboys couldn't have fit a Crown Victoria into their cap space this offseason, let alone Victor Butler.
How did Chad Henne only score five BQBL points? How did Mark Sanchez only score four? Wait, Lauren Tannehill’s husband was in the red with -7 points? When I first saw the numbers for this week I thought that our scorer must have gone on a four-day “The only way to stop the sounds of my family is by drowning them with alcohol” binge, but when I saw who was on top of the leader board, it all made sense. Since Thanksgiving weekend has no mascot like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I am nominating Ryan Lindley. His fear-driven failure on Sunday was a calming transition to life as usual after a weekend that was anything but in both your life and in the NFL. Let me explain.
Three and Out
Cardinals (Ryan Lindley), 80 points: Last week, Ken Whisenhunt introduced us to rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, and we watched him make it through his first NFL game without throwing an interception. He didn’t look great, but he didn’t look Skeltony either. After getting a week’s worth of reps with the first team, his true test came Sunday against the Rams. Let’s have a look at the pass attempts during his first drive as a starting quarterback:
You may have noticed that we at Grantland take bad quarterback play very seriously. While Grantland's finest in the Los Angeles office take part in the BQBL each season, my basis for bad quarterback knowledge dates back to a childhood during which the starting quarterbacks for my favorite team were universally terrible. You try suffering through Dave Brown, Kent Graham, and Danny Kanell for a five-year stretch and see how much you enjoy it. Those mid-'90s Giants teams even gave away Tommy Maddox, who would eventually become a starter in Pittsburgh after winning an XFL Championship, but he delivered one of the worst backup performances in a single year I've ever seen: 6-for-23 for 49 yards with three interceptions and a fumble is probably deserving of professional excommunication.
With my esteemed qualifications, then, I was skeptical this Sunday when people started referring to Philip Rivers's bizarre pick-six against the Buccaneers as the worst pass of the year. Sure, it essentially turned a game that was about to be tied in the fourth quarter into one where the Chargers had an 11 percent chance of winning, but swings like that happen every day. A truly bad pass is more than just an ill-timed poor decision. It has to have panache. It needs to make you rewind with equal parts disgust and confusion. If possible, the cheery ex-quarterback doing color commentary should audibly groan or say something like "Oh no" as the pass is traveling in the air. It shouldn't look anything like a normal football play. Those are the truly terrible passes. And after I watched Rivers's pass, I realized that it did truly deserve to be in the running for worst pass of the year.
There are only three undefeated teams left in the NFL: the Atlanta Falcons, the Houston Texans, and — wait for it — the Arizona Cardinals. Not only is Arizona's record a surprise, but to get there, they knocked off preseason favorites New England and Philadelphia, as well as a Seattle team with wins over Dallas and (however controversial) Green Bay. Most of the credit for Arizona’s perfect record has to go to its defense. Although the smart money remains against their ability to keep up this success, going 3-0 is extremely difficult in today's NFL, and Arizona deserves respect for that alone.
The main concern about Arizona going into the season was its offense, and although they haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard, whether it was Kevin Kolb's off-the-bench comeback drive to beat the Seahawks in Week 1 or their get-the-lead-and-hold-on performance against a normally resourceful Patriots team, the Cardinals have made just enough plays to win. Last weekend against Philadelphia was no different: Arizona was actually out-gained by the Eagles, but they made enough key plays on offense to put pressure on Michael Vick and allow their defense to force three turnovers (including a 93-yard fumble return for a touchdown) on the team’s way to victory.
As the long, hot summer drags on, we here at The Triangle figured we’d provide a steady stream of NFL goodness as a reminder of the light at the end of the baseball-lined tunnel.
With NFL training camps opening today, it’s about time we touched on what is inevitably going to be the biggest story line of the next few weeks. We’ve known for a while that one quarterback battle is set to dominate the news as teams prepare for the regular season. One QB has already been a star in New York City, and the other was once a highly talked-about backup who shined in his only few starts before leaving his former team. It’s the matchup everyone has been waiting for, and now, it’s finally here:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Florida St. scored 28 points in the first half to beat Boston College 38-7. With the win, the Seminoles qualified for a bowl for the 30th straight season. With three losses and their long fall out of the Top 25, though, they also qualified for welfare.
Every movement has a defining moment. The American Revolution had the Boston Tea Party. The hippies had Woodstock. Occupy Wall Street has well, regardless, the BQBL’s defining moment occurred on October 23, 2011, in Week 7 of the NFL schedule. For generations to come, on the morning of October 23, families clad in Carson Palmer, Curtis Painter, and A.J. Feeley jerseys will grab a football, head to the backyard, and throw errant passes to each other in recognition of this glorious day.
Keeping with BQBL Day tradition, the elder generations will describe the events of Week 7 in 2011 to the young'uns while aimlessly scrambling around the yard and throwing passes 30 feet over their heads. They will tell of the mythical Matt Hasselbeck and his 104 passing yards against the Texans. They will repeat the story of Palmer, who helped solidify a scoreless afternoon for his Raiders and — keeping with BQBL Day tradition — they will don a long blond wig and detail exactly how Painter, on national television, willed his team to lose by 55 points. Then, BQBL Day will culminate with the whole family around the dinner table, poised to dive into their traditional BQBL Day feast of nachos, buffalo wings, and HGH flakes, and they will first all take turns telling the tale of the Miami Miracle. The day that it was revealed to the world that Timothy Richard Tebow was not only the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football, but the greatest man to ever walk the earth. I can’t wait until next year. I think I am going to adopt a son right now.
It happened. Down 23-10 to the San Diego Chargers at the half, and in front of the home fans, Denver coach John Fox finally said: “Screw it. Things can’t get any worse. Let’s put that Tebow kid in.”
And so began the Tim Tebow Era in Denver. Tebow did his Tebowy thing. He ran quarterback draws out of the shotgun, yelled his face red after big plays, and ultimately came up short. But he did give Denver fans and Broncos BQBL owners a lot to look forward to. Denver now has a bye week, which it can use to make the Tebow package bigger, before the Broncos unleash it against the lowly Miami Dolphins. Sorry, I tried as hard as I could, but I simply can’t restrain myself from making Tebow package jokes. I am ashamed.
This week, the BQBL was filled with so much ineptitude that even Kyle Orton’s 34-yard first half, Michael Vick’s four picks, and Eli Manning’s game-losing interception couldn’t top the absolute pee puddle of a performance Kevin Kolb put together. The man who once started over Vick is now being benched in favor of the pride of Tarleton State — Richard Bartel.
In 1945, facing an unwinnable football game against Army at Yankee Stadium, Michigan coach Fritz Crisler resorted to a desperate ploy: Utilizing the free substitution rule implemented due to the shortage of male bodies on campuses during World War II, he shuttled in a separate offense and a separate defense. His team lost 28-7, but his controversial tactic was considered a success. The next season, Army copied his idea, and by the mid-1960s two-platoon football became a permanently accepted practice, and one-platoon football became the quaint product of a bygone era. (When Stanford’s Owen Marecic played both fullback and linebacker last season, he came across as a Bronko Nagurski fanatic with a death wish.)
For all of its Neanderthal tendencies, football is as susceptible to evolution as anything else in American life. What seems like an inane gimmick may someday become conventional wisdom, which is why, if the Philadelphia Eagles really want to live on the edge, they shouldn’t trade Kevin Kolb to anyone. They should play him.