About a year ago, the Jets and Cowboys were playing on Thanksgiving, and that meant a day full of Ryan brothers on national TV. Ordinarily this would be a good thing, but not last Thanksgiving. That day, Rob's Cowboys defense got torched by RG3 and the Redskins for 38 points and 437 yards of offense. The Redskins were up 28-3 by halftime. Whatever Rob Ryan was doing to coach that defense, it wasn't working.
A few hours later it was time for the Patriots-Jets in prime time, and a miserable Jets season officially hit rock bottom. The butt fumble will live forever, obviously, but the Jets were a disaster on every front. They gave up 475 yards of offense. The Patriots were up 35-3 by halftime. And the game basically turned into a nationally televised reminder that the Jets were the most ridiculous franchise in football.
This weekend saw the studio hosts of the world spread out in commentary booths around this great nation to remind us all of that one inviolable truth: Wouldn't it have been better if this team just took the easy field goal in the first quarter? The NFL's best and brightest spent the weekend counting scores and adding three to the total before realizing that x + 3 is better than x. It was the 650th consecutive great Sunday for hindsight.
Of course, that's a really stupid way to look at things. As I noted in last week's TYFNC, that sort of logic ignores how the game's strategy would have changed, how later possessions that required a fourth-down conversion would have ended up producing a field goal instead. Even more naively, that logic doesn't consider the impact a touchdown would have had in that earlier situation. You never hear about the team that scored a touchdown early and came to feel smart about it later. You also don't hear about the team that takes the sure points early and comes to regret it later, as the Jets nearly did last week.
Mike Smith just can't get it right these days. When he's aggressive, his team fails and gets second-guessed. When he's conservative, his team eventually fails and gets second-guessed some more. I was ready to give his Falcons a week off from this space, since they were playing in the Monday-night game and I've usually got most of the column laid out by then, but a series of decisions by Smith and Rex Ryan in that game will keep them in Thank You for Not Coaching for another week. The only thing is that one of those two actually made the right calls.
Before I get to them, let's ease into this week's coaching evaluation with some smart decisions from around the league. Thank You for Coaching, you three folks
In case you were busy getting so jacked for football that you passed out at 1:30, here's what you missed in sports last night:
Peyton Manning was at his best, throwing for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns in the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Baltimore Ravens. "Yeah, but who has the biggest yacht?" asked monocle-and–top hat–wearing Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed an NFL-record $120.6 million contract in the offseason, while snacking out of a bucket of caviar. Flacco then blinked, allowing his monocle to fall to the ground, where it shattered. "Aww, crap, that was my dress monocle," whined Flacco, while bending over, which caused the top hat on his head to fall into a puddle of mud. "Gadzooks, my top hat," exclaimed Flacco before confessing, "guys, I don't even like caviar. And my yacht's hardly even a yacht. It's really just a big boat. Money isn't everything; why didn't anyone tell me?"
Stanislas Wawrinka dominated a woeful Andy Murray in a surprising 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 straight-set win over the tournament's reigning champion. A disheveled Murray, whose second serve was occasionally topping out at only 75 mph, asked after the match, "Does this mean I didn't win Wimbledon?" When told that of course it didn't, Murray smiled broadly, and added, "I thought not," before cranking up Van Halen's "Panama" on an old Sony boom box.
The 2013 NFL season is finally here. That means it’s time to talk about football, fantasy, and of course, gambling. In an effort to reduce the inconsistent numbers floating around due to the existence of so many viable sportsbooks, we’re unveiling the Official Grantland Super Bowl Odds.
We considered multiple sportsbooks in assembling these odds, granting extra weight to the highest available payoff for each team. Our logic: If presented with a handful of sportsbook options, the average bettor will bet the best available number.
We’re also providing each team’s official win total, rounded to the nearest half-game, and giving proper consideration to lay price leans toward the over or the under. For example, you can find the Browns at over/under 7.5 wins, but you have to lay -160 on the under. With each half-game worth 50 cents on average, the Browns’ win total is more accurately 7 when rounded to the nearest half-game.
One interesting nugget to keep in mind as you review the following chart: The public bets a higher percentage of Super Bowl futures, while the sharps bet a higher percentage of season win totals. If the odds for a given team are not in sync, it’s likely a sign that the public and sharps disagree on that team. For example, the public seemingly likes the 49ers and Falcons more than the sharps do.
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl odds and season wins for each team, plus further breakdowns on prop bets, the hot seat, MVP odds and more.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
We’re finally here. After 113 days, the NFL kicks off tonight, and what better way to celebrate than by considering what might go horribly, horribly wrong for every single franchise. Every football season comes with the sort of major surprises none of us saw coming, and often, that involves a few teams that run into enough problems to see their entire season torpedoed. Last year, it was the Eagles, who shipped Andy Reid out of town despite nine trips to the playoffs since 2000.
Figuring out which franchises may be willing to blow it all up if things go south is a matter of looking at just how stable its leadership is. In order to take stock of where each NFL team sits, and figure out who’s closest to punching in the launch codes, we’re looking at the head coach and general manager for every franchise, how long they’ve been in place, and what that means for the panic level of both ownership and a team's fan base. (Just a reminder, the lower the DEFCON level, the more on alert everyone should probably be.)
I was out with some friends Friday night, and someone from San Francisco was explaining how he feels about the 49ers. He said he'd grown up watching the Super Bowl teams, and it was harder to care as much these days. Demanding more just made this guy feel greedy. Great players, great teams, Super Bowls. Niners fans has gotten everything they could ever want from their football team.
"So, the exact opposite of how I feel," said a friend who's a Jets fan.
Pretty much! Then we all laughed and spent five minutes discussing Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, and the sheer spectacle of suck that this Jets franchise has become. It's all pretty incredible. If teams like the 49ers have been successful enough to make fans complacent, the Jets are the team that has beaten their fans into some sort of dazed, fatalistic apathy.
And nobody can blame them. Every time you think the Jets have hit rock bottom and can't possibly get any more ridiculous, they go and one-up themselves. Which brings us to Saturday night against the Giants, a disaster in five acts.
In case you were busy letting down the thousands of people who retweeted you by not getting yourself arrested at a public event, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Despite being suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball for violating the league's drug policy, Alex Rodriguez's appeal of the suspension allowed him to play his first game of the season, in which he went 1-for-4 in the Yankees' 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "Tough game, but it's good to be out there with all my friends, fighting the good fight," Rodriguez said as he sat desperately alone both physically and spiritually at the team's postgame press conference. "I'm at home when I'm with my teammates, and while I've made some mistakes, we all agree that the punishment I'm facing is unfair. Right guys?" Rodriguez then nodded confidently while saying, "Sure thing, Alex. With you to the end," in a falsetto out of the corner of his mouth. Rodriguez then pulled out an acoustic guitar, and yelled, "OK boys, all together now," before launching into an off-key rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."
In more positive baseball news, Jeremy Guthrie threw a shutout while Kansas City's offense exploded in a 13-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Guthrie, despite the win, was fuming after the game, saying, "'This Land Is Your Land'? Seriously? Son of a bitch besmirches the game, and now he besmirches my family's good name? He better hope he's suspended before the next time we face the Yanks."
The All-22 All-Star Team is an attempt to provide some insight on the NFL’s 22 most underappreciated players. Some will be All-Pros who haven’t fully gotten their due; some will be names few casual fans have ever heard. All will, for one reason or another, have been overlooked.
After just two seasons, the 2011 defensive draft class already looks historic. Some are already sending Aldon Smith, Von Miller, and J.J. Watt to Canton, and somehow, it doesn’t feel all that ridiculous. That trio leads the group, but it’s rounded out by players who are, if not era-defining mega-talents, at least stars in their own right. The Lions' Nick Fairley figures to ride a strong finish to last season into a monster 2013, the Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan deservedly went to the Pro Bowl a season ago, and the Cardinals' Patrick Peterson has already been to two. None of them, though, deserves to have his name mentioned as the best player of that second tier. That’s a distinction that belongs to Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. Taken 30th overall two years ago, the Temple product has gone largely unnoticed playing a position devoid of stats on a bad team. The most impressive of Wilkerson’s numbers is probably nine. That’s the amount of alignments, on either side of the ball, Wilkerson is asked to play in the Jets' defense. Success in the NFL can often be as simple as being very good at one thing. Wilkerson is very good at about a dozen, and it could soon make him one of the league’s most indispensable defenders. He isn’t there yet. But after this season, Wilkerson’s name may belong right alongside Miller, Smith, and Watt.
In case you were out looking for a shooting star to wish on, but finding only derelict satellites, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
It took two overtimes and 53 saves from Tuukka Rask, but the Boston Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. Rask was jubilant after the win, saying, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" while pounding his stick on the ground. When asked what had inspired him to produce such a stellar showing, Rask added, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" before again pounding his stick on the ground. When asked whether Boston's poor showing after taking big leads in previous rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs had him at all nervous going into Game 4, Rask slashed the reporter in the knee with his stick, severing the bottom portion of his leg from the rest of his body, before adding, "Rask! Rask! Rask!"
After 13 scoreless innings, the White Sox and Mariners engaged in a seesaw battle at Safeco Field, including a game-tying Kyle Seager grand slam, before Chicago finally put away Seattle, 7-5, in the 16th inning. White Sox pitcher Addison Reed, who pitched three innings in relief, wound up getting the win despite allowing all five Mariners runs. Adjusting for park and opponent, Reed's win is hold on a second, let me just carry the three yes, yes, yes, eureka! It is the proof I've been looking for! Wins are the most useless statistic in sports! I win! Now if anyone has seen where I've put my ironic victory trombone, I have some Sousa marches to play whilst stomping around my living room in my boxer shorts.
Every year, as the NFL draft process drags on, a handful of players spark the same conversation about what evaluators should trust. Most often, they’re debates about the importance of 40 times or three-cone drills compared to what a player has put on film during three or four years of a college career. The consensus is often that the latter takes precedence. Few positions in the NFL are ever required to run far in a straight line, and if the tests and the tape have disparate results, falling back on 30 games is safer than falling back on 40 yards.
There are cases, though, when the stopwatch has been enough to scare teams off. Terrell Suggs’s final season at Arizona State included 24 sacks, still an NCAA record. When the draft process began that spring, Suggs was a top-five talent based on the film, but when he turned in a pair of 40-yard dashes in the 4.8 range, doubt started creeping in. Suggs went 10th overall to the Ravens, and we know what’s happened since.
This year's version of that player is Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. In college, Jones was a two-time All-American and probably the best defensive player in a conference littered with them. He can rush the passer, track down ball carriers, and has a knack for big plays. There was a point, before players were putting on track spikes, when he was considered by some to be the best player in the draft. Now, at the end of March, a suspect 40 time and some medical concerns have some analysts projecting him in the bottom half of the first round.
NFL teams don't often get the chance to rebuild on their own terms. In most cases, they're the last people to find out that it's time. A team that can scratch some credible way to contention in August finds themselves wasting away at the bottom of the league by November and realizes, after all, that it's time to make wholesale changes. Other teams see the writing on the wall and battle against the truth for a couple of years, desperately clinging to shreds of relevancy as they lose the leverage they'll never regain. The latter explanation, as you probably suspect, aptly characterizes the New York Jets, whose miserable loss to the Titans on Monday Night Football eliminated Gang Green from playoff contention, while crystallizing the need to make a change in their three-man core of Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s BQBL Bowl is over. It wasn't the BQBL points scored in the Jets-Cardinals game that made it special. There's no way to appropriately quantify this brand of failure, no stat that captures how terrified each quarterback was, and no metric for embarrassment to measure what happened in New Jersey on Sunday. There is just the film. Let’s go to the tape.
Jets (Sanchize and Greg McElroy) 84 points, and Cardinals (Ryan Lindley) 65 points
In anticipation of this column, I rewatched this entire game. I had my eye on it and everything Sunday, but when a game like this is played in front of cameras and microphones, and it's your job to bask in the ineptitude of quarterbacking failure, you would be a fool not to savor these performances. Also, as I mentioned, there's no number that can capture the experience of watching these men attempt to move the football forward. The most dynamic part of this adventure from kickoff to final kneel-down was tracking the tortured reactions of both the play-by-play team of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick and the Jets fans in the stadium. I now present to you a running diary, of sorts, of the 2012 BQBL Bowl. No lie — I might go back and watch it again.