published Monday, January 13th, 2014

5-at-10: NFL magic, SEC coaching craziness, A-bomb for A-Rod and best individual sports rivalries

Morning. Hope this finds you well rested and giddy after a weekend in which the sun re-introduced itself and there was a ton of fun to be had outdoors. (Hope you enjoyed it as much as the 5-at-10 clan did because the winter stuff is coming back this week. Alas.)

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's drop the hammer and nail this puppy.

NFL magic

We approach the upcoming NFL semifinals knowing that this is one of the great days in American sports, right up there with Sunday in Augusta and that Thursday-Friday of the NCAA tournament.

After surviving brutally physical divisional showdowns, the 49ers will visit the Seahawks and the Patriots will visit the Broncos next Sunday to decide which teams will freeze their tuckuses off in the NYC outdoor Super Bowl. (Which is also known as the "Roger Goodell's Super Ego Bowl where we put the biggest event in American pop culture in the middle of a blizzard and stagnant traffic just because we can and because NFL postgame shows are among the top-10 most-watched shows every week.)

The action next week promises to be excellent and we can break down every facet in the coming. But the main reason the games next week will be magic is because the drama this week never really disappeared, no matter the score.

  • photo
    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes against the San Diego Chargers in their NFL AFC division playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Denver.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And, as our TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer said today here, the theme of football was overwhelming this weekend and figures to only increase next. But before we get the cart before the horse — which would not be a bad thing if Kramer is driving the cart and he fed Rusty some Beefarino — let's review the five takeaways from the playoffs (other than stupid penalties in the playoffs lead to putting the gear away — yes, we're talking to you Carolina defense and you Chargers defensive line):

1) Peyton Manning was in the moment. Dude was nearly flawless — his one interception was a perfectly thrown pass that bounced off Eric Decker's chest and resulted in a pick in the end zone right before the half — and could have had four TD passes if not for two drops. Also, if you ever wondered how big a deal home-field advantage is for Manning and his maestro moves at the line of scrimmage, well, Sunday was proof positive. Manning caused the Chargers to jump offside five times in the 24-14 win, and his presnap calls included several phrases and words led by "Omaha" which was trending on Twitter for a chunk of the day.

2) Anquan Boldin will be remember as one of the most-lopsided trades in sports history. The 49ers got Boldin — and his eight grabs for 136 yards in the 23-10 win over Carolina — for a sixth-round pick. Read that again. And we've been over this before, but when a team has to dump talent to give a good QB elite QB money like the Ravens did to sign Joe Flacco to a monster extension, well, you start to wonder whether it was the pieces or the player that made the good QB look so good. Case in point: Boldin is making plays in the postseason; Flacco and the Ravens are making plans in the offseason. But hey, that sixth-rounder could be awesome.

3) Tommy Brady is a bad dude. Period. In fact, this talk that Brady benefits from Belichick... Hogwash. Belichick and his stupid-looking hoodie benefit from Brady. Belichick was on his way out of the NFL before Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Brady saved that franchise — and the hoodie's career.

4) Andrew Luck will be the face of the league sooner rather than later. In Foxboro on Saturday night, the second-year pro made some throws that were simply eye-popping. Sure he was picked four times — two of which were balls that should have been completions — but the kid has it and it is easy to see even if it is tough to define.

5) Want to look at how to build a complete football team — check out the 49ers roster. San Fran has 13 first-round picks on its roster, including five players who were first-rounders for another team that the 49ers have helped get back on track. Good stuff. And they can afford those cats because they have not overpaid for a quarterback.

———

Coaching swirls

And now the coaching carousel has hit the SEC.

  • photo
    James Franklin waves to reporters and fans gathered at University Park Airport in State College, Pa. on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Penn State made the hiring of James Franklin official on Saturday morning. We had all heard the whispers and we figured it to be the case, but the announcement still hurt the Anchors Down crew and will leave a lasting mark.

First, Franklin has posted a high bar for the program, winning 18 games — at Vandy for crying out loud — in the last two years and that will be a tough wave for the next regime to ride.

Second, heading into the weekend, the Commodores had 20 commitments and a recruiting class that ranked in the top 25. As of Sunday night, some recruiting gurus were saying the Dores had three firm commitments — including East Hamilton's Tre Herndon, who is a very good player and will be a very good college player — and Franklin and Co. were trying to lure a slew of the former Vandy commitments to State College.

Anchors Down... in the mouth.

The Franklin news came a day after Lane Kiffin was hired as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Yes, that Lane Kiffin. The internet photoshop jockeys have had a ball with this one, and while there are a slew of jokes, if anyone has the backbone and the street cred and the status to handle Lil' Lord Lane, it's Nick Saban. Still, this seems so un-Saban like that it's impossible not to wonder why? Then add to the fact that Alabama currently has an opening for a defensive line coach, and there's a real chance that Ed Orgeron could also join the Alabama staff, and sweet buckets some one should sell tickets.

And then on Sunday, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made every Georgia fan don an old-fashioned, Larry Munson, "My God a freshman" smile by leaving Athens for the same job at Louisville. As TFP SEC ace David Paschall said on The Twitter, "Still searching these here Internets to see if I can find a Georgia football fan distraught by today's news. Still searching." And he's likely still searching.

The name that could be in world-class play and have a potential ties all three of the above schools is Kirby Smart, the Alabama defensive coordinator. Smart could be a candidate for Vandy or even return to Georgia, his alma mater.

Crazy indeed.

Here's saying that we'll discuss these topics on Press Row from 3-6 on ESPN 105.1 FM and simulcast right here on timesfreepress.com

————

Take that A-Rod

  • photo
    New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez reacts after striking out against the Los Angeles Angels in New York in this Aug. 13, 2013, file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

When we look back in 20 years and try to explain the entire Alex Rodriguez saga, there will be hemming and hawing and back and forth, then we'll get to this phrase: "After much legal jockeying, it eventually took a powerful turn against A-Rod when Anthony Bosch dropped the PR A-bomb on him on '60 minutes.'"

Wow. Bosch nuked A-Rod and left him looking as childish and petty and guilty as anything this side of a video of Rodriguez putting a needle in his buttocks.

Man it was bad. And while it's very difficult to pick who the sleazier character is in this mess — of course the word sleazy and steroids have become so linked we may start calling them slearoids — A-Rod's decision to avoid the "60 minutes" story means we have sleazy speaking and sleazy silent, and while a closed mouth can gather no foot, a closed mouth also offers no rebutal.

Man. Here's an idea: Survivor: Steroids. Get A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds, Lance, Canseco, Sosa, almost every track sprinter of the last 20 years and any other disgraced PED user, put them on an island, and the last one standing gets a free pass back into the good graces of his sport. This needs to happen.

————

This and that

— The Australian Open started this weekend, and while it's a major championship, the time exchange the winter overlap make it a minor event in even the eyes of real tennis fans. See who says we don't talk tennis.

— Congrats to Jimmy Walker (Dy-NO-mite) for winning the Sony Open. He made a shade more than a million bucks for the weekend. Former Baylor School star Harris English finished fourth ($268,800) and rest assured the game has changed at your regular tour stops. Remember the adage, "Drive for show, putt for dough" that used to be gospel? Well, the two guys that led the week in putting were John Daly (crazy right?) and Brian Gay and they finished 10 shots back of Walker's 17-under. Guess who led the week in driving distance? Yep, Walker. Boom goes the Dy-NO-mite.

— Sunday was the pantless commute day on subways around the country. Wow, that could be a mixed bag huh? Wonder what Johnny Rocker has to say about that?

— Wow, how about them Mocs? A 4-0 start in the SoCon is not too shabby.

— And wow, how about that implosion the Vols trotted out on Saturday. That one left a mark.

———

Today's question

With the looming Manning-Brady, part 1,206, what's your Rushmore of individual rivalries in sports?

Kiffin... inspired hire or mistake? You choose.

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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jomo11 said...

Bama might as well hang up a sign that says "We have decided to CHEAT" with the hiring of Kiffin and now Orgeron . . . .Vol fans are going crazy about Bama hiring Kiffin, think how crazy they are going to go when Bama or Georgia hires Bruce Pearl in April !. . . and now Vol fans are rejoicing the leaving of Franklin at Vandy, talking about how this is going to help Butchy with his brick building, wow have the mighty fallen when Vol fans have to be concerned about VANDY ! . . . .the Butchy bar sure is being set low for success...

January 13, 2014 at 10:07 a.m.
Walden said...

I love football (LOVE football), but I ain't no football genius. However, I am smart enough to have figured out early on that the Broncos never snapped the ball, on any count or cadence, prior to Peyton uttering the word "Omaha" (which he did on almost every down). Kind of funny that the Chargers D-line couldn't figure that out. I know, I know... all the noise, being in the moment, etc, but still.

January 13, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.
chas9 said...

Seattle may have the best coffee and top NFL team, but Chattanooga got twice as much rain in 2013, dethroning them as the rain capital of the USA.

Thanks for the dy-NO-MITE update. Kiffin's too volatile. Bad hire.

Did you see the nasty cover of the Denver Post's playoff section? Full page pic of #18's back under the headline A LEGACY UNDER A CLOUD, stating that Peyton has been "merely mortal in the postseason with a 9-11 record." Seems a bit harsh to me.

He's not a Kansas City star, but Manning's a Roger Miller fan. No thanks, Omaha, thanks a lot.

In the ACC, Syracuse held UNC to 45 and proved they're one of the two elite teams this year. And Clemson killed Dook, proving Jay's early assessment of Coach K's boys was correct.

The three best SEC teams (Florida, UK and Mizzou) won by single digit margins on the road, and a road win in the conference is a real W.

Tennessee's ugly loss to A&M convinces me what Cuonzo's cagers are made of and which side of the bubble The Vols will land on. Among other deficiencies, the fellars in orange can't defend the 3 to save their lives, or to save their coach.

Pearl to an SEC team is a good call, jomo. Could easily happen. Would Knoxville try him again? Bringing back Petrino to The 'Ville recalls other non-consecutive tenures by coaches. Johnny Majors and others have bombed second time around.

Remember the UGA game when Grantham repeatedly grabbed his neck and yelled at the Florida kicker "You're gonna (expletive deleted) choke"? Does that suggest his temperament may not be poised enough to be a head coach?

January 13, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, don't know if you read David Climer's column on Franklin leaving Vandy. Let's just Christmas cards likely will not be exchanged between the two in the future.

Don't see Smart headed back to Athens. Granted, there are now rivals on board to replace Saban once Darth Vader throws him down the shaft, I mean, he retires. Then again, it is Lane Kiffin plus, so it's not like the competition to assume the throne is all that swuft.

Rushmore of rivalries? Ali-Frazier, anybody? Bird-Magic. Pedro-Rocket. Duran-Leonard. Ric Flair=Ricky Steamboat.

January 13, 2014 at 11:51 a.m.
chas9 said...

Shug vs. Bear, Bryant vs. Neyland, Petino vs. Calipari, Mears vs. Rupp, Hall vs. Crum.

January 13, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - while everyone was watching NFL games Saturday evening, I watched the trainwreck in Knoxville. I saw it coming in the second half, but couldn't look away. For the mailbag...if the Cuonz doesn't get it done this season, any chance Pearl could make a return to the college game?

January 13, 2014 at 12:42 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Great list, but Calipari-Chaney was better.

Syracuse is legit. In fact, the Orange are the best in the country for our dollar.

And we have long been a fan and a defender for The Conz, but, man, that was a tough loss on all fronts.

Jomo —

Pearl's fate in the coming six months will be very, Very, VERY interesting to watch, indeed.

Vandy's run has been historic, but it also has been aided by timing with the Vols in the doldrums and erratic play from Florida and Georgia's injuries.

Walden —

Manning baited the hook with Omaha chicken livers and the San Diego catfish were jumping. (Side note: That was not a Manti' T'eo joke... until now.)

In the first quarter, Manning yelled "Omaha" and then snapped the ball a second later. When he started getting to jump, he'd yell "Omaha" to get them going.

Spy —

Yes we saw the Climer column. And yes Christmas cards are likely to be skipped.

Ali-Frazier, check. Bird-Magic, check. On the rest of your list, we'd lean to Pedro-Zimmer and Flair vs. everyone (save the ladies).

Chamberlain-Russell deserves consideration too.

January 13, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Arnie vs. Jack. Chrissie vs. Martina. Borg vs. Connors.

Just heard Mocs MBB #1 assistant Wes Long at the weekly QB Club meeting...he was fantastic. He is a great follow on the Twitter @coachweslong.

Billy-In-Brainerd

January 13, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Paschall is wasting his time searching for Georgia fans distraught by Grantham's departure. He would have better odds of finding Bigfoot riding a unicorn.

"Thank God and Greyhound you're gone...I didn't know how much longer I could go on..."

January 13, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.
chas9 said...

Calipari-Chaney was bad all right. Then there's Calipari-Knight. Don't forget Woody Hayes vs. Bo. And finally, there's the epic struggle between Rick Majerus and the buffet.

January 13, 2014 at 3:08 p.m.
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