Morning, and thanks to those who have already jumpstarted the mailbag this week. Good stuff so far. The rest of you need to shoot some questions along.
From the "Richard Sherman studios" let's make the magic happen.
Building a champion
We have talked this year about the two NFL formulas to make a championship contender. We talked about this on Press Row on Monday on ESPN 105.1. It's something that we find interesting, so follow along.
There is the idea of building around an elite quarterback who makes top-shelf money and adding value pieces here and there and relying on draft picks. The Denver Broncos are the poster child of this model, which needs a little bit of luck in regard to staying healthy because depth is an expensive proposition in the salary-cap-structured NFL. (For what it's worth, the New England Patriots also followed this model, and the injuries that mounted throughout the season finally caught up with them.)
Then there is the formula that factors in a young QB on his NFL-mandated rookie contract (a four-year deal) that allows the team the chance to add veteran pieces and supply depth and difference makers. The Seattle Seahawks are the poster-child for this plan, since second-year pro Russell Wilson is paid a snip less than $700,000 this year and the Seahawks have roughly one percent of the $123 million salary cap committed to Wilson and his back-up Tarvaris King. (Seattle is paying its QBs $1.52 million, or roughly $16 million less than the $17.5 million Peyton Manning earned this year in Denver.) With that extra cap money, the Seahawks were able to add difference-making defensive linemen Mike Bennett and Cliff Avril during the offseason as well as Percy Harvin's big contract.
Each method requires some excellent decisions on draft day. The Seahawks were fortunate to land Wilson in round three; the Broncos have added 11 starters, including Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Orlando Franklin in the last five drafts.
Each method also puts extreme pressure on the championship window each team faces. The team with the elite QBs know that the salad days are now and since good luck in terms of good health are needed, the time is now. The team with the balanced roster knows that the clock is ticking on the rookie deal that makes the quarterback affordable.
So teams like Seattle and San Francisco have to decide if Wilson or Colin Kaepernick are the long-term solutions at QB. If so, the going rate for an NFL starting QB is between $13-15 million, and since that is a gigantic raise from their current deals, the roster will take a hit.
Coaching carousel slows
Now that the spinning coaching wheel has all-but stopped, let's examine the top three hires and the top three questionable decisions. Deal? Deal.
Top three decisions (plus-1)
Washington hiring Chris Petersen. How many times does a big-boy, top-five job national program scoop in and hire a coach and the school that has to replace said coach actually makes an upgrade? That's exactly what Washington did when USC plucked Steve Sarkisian away when the Huskies hired Petersen, the former Boise State coach who has rebuffed every other prominent program with interest the last five years to stay in the Northwest.
Penn State landing James Franklin. We have to assume that Penn State of all programs exhausted every avenue to make sure Franklin did nothing untoward in the rape case that has been hanging over the Vandy program for the last year or so. If not, then Penn State is dumber than a bag of hammers. And assuming that, they landed a guy that is a ball of energy, a great recruiter, a great motivator and a guy that has won 16 of his last 20 games at Vanderbilt for crying out loud.
Alabama hiring Lane Kiffin as its offensive coordinator. With great risk comes great opportunity. There is obviously great risk here, but there also is the chance for Nick Saban and Kiffin to become the recruiting Batman and Robin. Plus, the last time Kiffin just had to worry about calling plays, USC averaged better than six TDs a game.
Georgia landing Jeremy Pruitt as its defensive coordinator. Wow. Simply wow.
Top three question marks
How will Brian Kelly and Notre Dame fare after losing both coordinators? You want good assistants to do very good jobs and be given better opportunities because that means great things for the program. But for the Irish to be in the crucial fifth-year under Kelly to have to replace both coordinators could be tough.
Who will FSU land as its DC? After Georgia swiped Pruitt, the decision facing Jimbo Fisher and company is more about the future than the present. FSU is flush with talent and as long as the Seminoles do not promote Sal Sunersi — SAAALLLLL!!! — then the status quo will be more than fine. Replacing Pruitt's energy and acumen on the recruiting trail though is a priority.
Florida hiring Kurt Roper as its OC. Will Muschamp was in a tight spot looking for a new offensive boss, considering Muschamp's seat is hotter than a July day in Macon. And while the success at Duke this year was eye-poppingly impressive, we have a few head coaches that carry so much gravitas that we're not really sure we'd ever want one of their assistants because it is impossible to know if the success is the coordinator's or the head coach's. Roper may be aces — and we know Muschamp is praying that is the case — but being David Cutcliffe's OC certainly qualifies under that gravitas provision.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is mulling an end to PATs. OK, whatever.
Hey Goodell, how about fixing loop holes in the replay system so we do not have title-game changing moments that fall under the "Not reviewable" umbrella.
As normal, Goodell is borrowing a page from the old Bud Selig playbook and addressing a pressing need PR need like all-star games or PATs rather than looking at making the game better.
And this of course is on the heels of the federal judge questioning the NFL settlement on the concussion lawsuit for being too low.
When it comes time for the NFL to readjust its concussion negotiation, we fully expect Roger the Dodger to use some sleight of hand that every ticket carrying fan gets a free beer at their next game.
Cue Homer Simpson, "Ahhhhh, beer."
This and that
— If this video of a soldier mom returning to surprise her 13-year-old son at his basketball game does not make it dusty where you are, well, that's on you. Enjoy.
— Congrats to the UTC women's basketball team and to Jim Foster for winning career game No. 799. The Mocs who use the smaller basketball will try to get Mr. Foster No. 800 on Saturday as part of a doubleheader.
— The Mocs men's basketball program has a rather large game Thursday. They are trotting out a ticket deal that for $20 you can keep the same ticket and same lower-bowl seat as long as the Mocs keep winning. At this pace, you could get to see 142 basketball games for $20. No pressure Coach Wade (who will join us on Press Row in the 5 p.m. hour today on ESPN 105.1 FM and simulcast here on timesfreepress.com).
— How did we get to a place that UNC stinks at college hoops? This is no good for anyone.
Best college football coaching hire? Go.
And speaking of college hoops and UNC's struggles, what teams do we need to be good to make sports better? Case in point, baseball is more interesting when the Yankees are good.
PATs friend or foe?
(And remember the mailbag.)
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 ...