published Monday, December 16th, 2013

5-at-10: Brown out, crazy day in the NFL, NBA sighting and year's top sportsman

Hope you were able to stay warm this weekend. Warm like a cozy afternoon; not warm like Will Muschamp's chair. You get the idea.

From the "Talks too much" studios, be careful what you wish for... you just might get it.

Brown out

And it's done. Mack Brown left the University of Texas amid a week-long storm of speculation and rumor, resigning last weekend under the looming specter of being fired.

He left the program in a better place than he found it, winning 158 games and a national title in 16 seasons. The numbers are very similar to a very similar old-school, gentleman coach from the state of Tennessee that worked tirelessly at a program called UT.

Yep, Phillip Fulmer's 152-52 record and a national title in 16 seasons deserves mention today if for no other reason that the eerie math symmetry that makes you scratch your watch and wind your your head.

It also magnifies the importance of this hire for Texas and new athletics director Steve Patterson. There is no wiggle room — there rarely is anymore in big-time college athletics in general, and big-Big-BIG-boy college football in particular, where the bills of the entire sports landscape at the monolith programs are covered by the efforts of the boys in helmets chasing the ball that bounces funny.

But the five-year debacle in Knoxville serves as a working history lesson that a bad hire — and bad luck — can set back a program by years.

Brown's exit was classy and befitting a man that most of the fan base wanted out. Be careful wishing that hard for a change at the top when the view has become familiar. Not that the view has become bad mind, it's become comfortably above average and occasionally good but seldom great.

As Brown noted in his farewell, you have to win more than eight games at Texas, which the Horns did this year. That's understood. But timing is a key part of the equation because, as Brown noted, in his first year there were parades and back-slapping about the Longhorns winning nine games.

It's the modern-sports math that compares success on a daily basis and raises the expectations almost as quickly. It's also one of the reasons that the career of college football coaches should be gauged closer to dog years than regular ones. The days of coaches staying decades are dead. In this instant success, what have you done lately, are we contending for a title now and forever fan mania, wiggle room is for wormy programs with no history.

Sure fans will bemoan the "lack of loyalty" of their rivals, but let your team land back-to-back Holiday Bowls or a Heaven forbid a Christmas break or three spent at home, and it's "We need to hire Saban... or someone like him."

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NFL maturations

The NFL must have known that all the football eyes were on it this weekend.

It was the show that would not stop.

The Falcons win when they need to lose. The Titans lose in a painstaking way that was completely and totally the Titans.

The frontrunners in the AFC stumbled collectively. Well other than Kansas City, which has moved into the mix and looked legit Sunday.

The Saints suffered a painful loss, surrendering control to the Panthers in the NFC South.

And Dallas has hit a new low in the soap opera subterfuge that is the mess that Jerry Jones has built. Wow, we saw on Twitter Sunday that someone wrote that dumpster fires were offended at being compared to the Cowboys. Good times.

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Front-runners

Have you seen the standings in the NBA East? Heck, 1988 Dolly Parton called and said, "Wow, now that is top-heavy."

In the Eastern Conference, Indiana is a sterling 20-3 and Miami is 17-6. Atlanta is third in the conference at 12-12. Third. Atlanta, which counts Lou Williams as one of its best players. Yes, Sweet Lou Williams. No, the other one.

In the West, Minnesota is 12-12 and the New Orleans Pelicans are 11-11, matching the Hawks for winning percentage, and those teams are tied for 10th.

While there are more quality teams in the West — a lot more — the cream atop the standings in each league is rich and foamy.

Portland is 21-4 with Oklahoma City and San Antonio lurking at 19-4.

As we head toward Christmas — and as the sports calendar turns indoors — here's five quick things to know about the first quarter of the NBA season:

— Indiana is legit. The Paces have five players averaging double figures in scoring and could get former all-star Danny Granger back as soon as this week.

— LeBron James is scoring at an extremely efficient pace. James is averaging 25 points per game and is shooting 59 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3.

— Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge is the best player without a national commercial in sports. Kevin Love is very close, too.

— There are 29 NBA players shooting 42 percent or better from 3-point range, including five power forwards and center Spencer Hawes. Go figure. Way downtown... Bang.

— The stench from the rotten Big Apple is staggering. New York (7-16) and Brooklyn (8-15) have two of the highest payrolls in the league and are looking at the tailpipes of such renowned rosters as Cleveland, Toronto, Charlotte and Washington. Egad.

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This and that

— Tough weekend for the local fellows on the court. Vols lost at Wichita State, another in a river of missed opportunities to land a hat-hanging nonconference win. UTC lost at Northern Kentucky, which is not good on a variety of levels, highlighted by the toe injury of Z. Mason, and magnified by the fact that the Northern Kentucky Norse (yes, Norse) is now 2-7. Heck, even chas9's UK Wildcats drew the short straws against the schizophrenic UNC Tar Heels.

  • photo
    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after winning the Heisman Trophy, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in New York.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— In the background of college football news this weekend was the announcement that quarterback Tyler Murphy will transfer from Florida. Murphy, who started six games in 2013 because of injuries to starter Jeff Driskel, has already graduated and will be eligible to play next fall. Murphy is the sixth Gators player to announce he is transferring and the second QB, and neither fact looks good for Florida coach Will Muschamp, who will be on the hottest seat in the country next fall.

— Seattle handed the New York football Giants their first home shutout since 1995. It also cashed $35,000 for 12 lucky fans from the Jet Chevy dealership in Federal Way, Wash., which ran a contest to give away the cash prizes if the Seahawks blanked the Giants. Here's the story.

— Jameis Winston won the most predictable Heisman race in recent memory. So it goes.

— With Navy landing the knockout blow Saturday. the Fab 4-plus-1 college picks finished the regular season 51-40-1. Bowl contest stuff will be released today. Looking forward to it.

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Today's question

  • photo
    Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, left, celebrates a touchdown with Peyton Manning during Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Peyton Manning was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. We're OK with that, but we likely would have gone with LeBron. Who you got?

We finished up our Christmas shopping this weekend. Are you done?

Discuss and it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

"I'm gonna take this right foot, and I'm gonna whop you on that side of your face…and you wanna know something? There's not a damn thing you're gonna be able to do about it."

One tin soldier rides away.

Peter O'Toole said the only exercise he got was walking behind the coffins of his friends who did exercise. Or maybe it was Spy who said that, I'm not sure.

The Wildcats are clearly legit #1. Premier game of the weekend was 'Zona edging Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both teams looked way better than our SEC faves.

The SEC Wildcats are still developing. Losing close at Chapel Hill ain't bad, but UK's not the monster some (OK, me) expected yet. They will struggle when smart teams with big front lines get UK in foul trouble, as happened Saturday.

The Harrison twins and Young had strong games, but Kentucky's apparent strength, Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein underperformed. Largely because of foul trouble, they didn't keep UNC's quick drives to the rim. But they did own the boards.

When The Tarheels get their suspended players back, they'll be among the best.

Don't mean anything, but UK is now #8 in the SEC by win-loss record. But all three losses are to ranked teams, so The Cats are still a top 20 team. Next up is Belmont (who whipped UNC).

The Vols were competitive at #12 Wichita State, but stud Stokes showed even less than stud Randle did for UK. He's got to be more aggressive.

The Amazing Mr. McRae scored 26, but when he scores big it tends to mean UT's not playing team ball. Hubbs showed he's not yet adjusted to the pace of the college game.

As I figured he'd have to, The Cuonz is playing Barton less at PG and Thompson more. Neither looks like an effective point guard, but Thompson has more upside. They don't pass the eye test and Barton's box score (0/0/4) was particularly putrid.

I think I was the first to mention Famous Jameis in the 5@10 space, but I'd have voted for A.J. So it goes.

December 16, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

First of all, be sure to tell me about any bowl stuff I need to know. Looking forward to getting into the mix.

Secondly, there has to be concern for both SEC programs mentioned, UK and UT. Both are starting to look a lot like last year. Yes, UK is still very talented and very good, but at some point, you have to beat good teams. Boise State? Providence? Not sure those qualify. Neither are expected to be Top 50 wins by the end of the year per rpiforecast.com. The SEC is awful. Belmont? Louisville? Those become even bigger for the Cats. Without UK winning games against quality competition out of conference, getting a high seed is very problematic because of how bad the SEC is and that there won't be any quality wins to speak of. And if things go the wrong way a few times in SEC play, they could find themselves on the bubble, much like last year.

The same exact story can be said for the Vols. There is a real lack of quality wins coming from the out of conference portion of the schedule, and it's going to be hard to make up for that come SEC time. Given that the expectations are lower for the Vols, the concern is getting on the right side of the bubble. They'll need to win a bunch of SEC games to get there.

Both are good teams. Kentucky has way more upside, but I'm not sure they're anywhere close to there yet.

I was at the Chattanooga-Northern Kentucky game yesterday. The Mocs played hard. But without Mason and with McGhee not scoring anymore, it is hard to rely on Martynas Bareika to be your offensive option, no matter how hot he was. The NKU people sitting around me kept on talking about how Bareika was one of the best shooters they'd ever seen up there. I just laughed and said, "This is clearly the best game of his career so far." They couldn't believe that he ever missed a shot in any game ever. It was an amusing discussion.

December 16, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, KC played Oakland, who makes anybody look legit. I mean, Jamaal Charles scored touchdowns on three screen passes. Remember that feared, vaunted, hard-hitting Oakland defense? Neither does even Pretend Al Davis.

But who will replace Mack Brown in the eyes of Texas? Rodney Allison is available. And maybe Vic Grider's agent will make a call or two.

I once watched, by choice, in person, a Northern Kentucky basketball game in the Division II playoffs. Can't remember why. I think Al Key Hall beforehand may have been involved.

December 16, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Good point about the Heels getting back to full strength. Still, their indifference to defense — a hallmark of Roy Boy's teams — will limit their ceiling.

Stuck —

The SEC is indeed poor.

What was your view of the Mocs defensively? Chaos has started rather slowly, don't you think?

Spy —

Is All Key Hall a cousin of Joe B. Hall? We're pretty sure they've at least met a time or three.

Hey, cut the Raiders some slack. That new-fangled screen pass thingy is something else. Next week the Chiefs are going to unleash a run they are calling a "draw" play. You heard it here first.

December 16, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From Stuck —

Quite simply, on defense, the Mocs can't guard in the half court. That's because the Mocs can't stop dribble penetration. Just don't have the quickness. Yesterday, I noticed a lot more NOT pressing after made baskets than I remember from earlier games (though maybe that's just my mind playing tricks on me), and I think that's because Coach Wade is trying to get them back and in good defensive position to give them a CHANCE to guard in the half court. This team is a disaster on the defensive end right now. I'm not sure if it can be fixed without new players. The Jimmy's and the Joe's are coming, I think, though. Thanks to the SoCon being terrible, I think the Mocs will win their fair share of SoCon games, but this year, on the whole, is going to be pretty tough to swallow. But swallow it we will. I look for a much better team next year. I wish Z Mason was going to be around to see it.

December 16, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.
Stewwie said...

It's looking like the NBA East playoffs won't really be worth watching until the conference finals. Wow, what a letdown when the 3rd place team really isn't that great. On the flip side, every matchup in every round in the West should be compelling.

Having Mason (our best player) out yesterday hurt for sure. But assuming it's not a long-term injury, I am still looking forward to seeing how the team competes in conference play now that Rico is back. I'm not worried about a lack of size. Wade's aggressive game plan seems to fit better with a more slender group of personnel anyway. It will be a matter of want-to more than anything. Also, not sure what's up with Gee right now, but he needs to get his game back on track. And fast.

I wasn't a fan of Bareika a couple of years ago, but I've slowly become a big fan over time. There has never been a game that he hasn't given 110% and you have to respect that. That said, it was good to see him have a great game yesterday.

I saw a highlight of McRae's throwdown jam over the weekend and couldn't help but also notice the obvious palming violation that he got away with when he started his crossover to get to the hoop. What in the world were those refs looking at to miss that? Even the 1990s NBA refs would have called that.

December 16, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

For some unknown reason, I had a hankering to listen to the late, great Jeff Buckley today. You talk about somebody poised to be a huge, huge star. Such an incredible talent.

December 16, 2013 at 4:23 p.m.
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