Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cal Re-signs Football Coach Sonny Dykes--Dumb Move

Cal fans who were hoping the football team would be rid of a blight named Sonny Dykes are now submerged in gloom. The head coach didn't, as the haters hoped, sign with another school. Instead he did what the haters prayed he wouldn't do--sign a long contract extension with the Bears, through 2019, with a juicy raise, bumping his salary to an annual average of $2.85 million.

So, Dykes haters, shelve that bottle of celebratory champagne. Unfortunately it won't be needed. But do get yourself some hard liquor--whatever it takes to drown your sorrows, to ease the pain of the realization that you're stuck with this clown for many years.

The Dykes drama began not long after Cal came from behind on Nov. 28 in its final regular season game to beat Arizona State. 48-46, finishing 7-5 and getting a bid to play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth on Dec 29, the Bears' first bowl bid since the glory days of the Jeff.Tedford era.

This was the best record in Dykes' three-year tenure, which began with a miserable one-win season. Following this season, though, something was gnawing at Sonny.  He wanted more money--a contract extension and a raise. Insiders say he had been moping all season, feeling underpaid at just under $2 million annually, the lowest salary of any PAC 12 head coach.

When this season ended, Sonny's bosses didn't leap to give Sonny what he wanted. Feeling under appreciated, Dykes was pissed off. So he went job-hunting, first interviewing at Missouri. Also there were rumors he was in the running for openings at South Carolina and Virginia.  But Sonny didn't get any of those plum jobs. The athletic directors at those schools aren't dummies. They know a stiff when they see one. Sonny simply isn't good enough.

For that reason, Cal was slow to re-sign him. Many fans and boosters didn't want him back. Cal, they argued, could do much better. According to sources in the athletic department, the Sonny haters clashed with the Sonny supporters. The battle was apparently ugly. Arguing that Sonny's Cal teams improved each year, the supporters triumphed.

Here's why the haters are hating. Sonny is a one trick pony--an offensive wizard but a lousy head coach. His teams are record-breaking, offensive juggernauts because he smartly recruits and develops offensive players. His work with QB Jared Goff is a prime example. But defensively, the Bears are dreadful. The defenses in his first two years were a mess, the worst in Cal history.

This season the defense was improved but still awful, particularly that klutzy secondary. The Bears win by outscoring other teams in shootouts or preying on other horrible defenses. Cal's defensive players are poor tacklers, often out of position, easy to outwit and.unsure of their roles, They only won the Arizona State game because, in the second half, the ASU defense was, if  you can believe it, worse than Cal's.

To build a good defense you need quality players. That's where Dykes is a liability. When trying to sign defensive players Cal gets killed on the recruiting trail because the word is out that Sonny is soft on defense. If you're a hot-shot defensive prospect looking to maximize your potential, you steer clear of Cal, where you won't get the best coaching or be part of a Grade A unit. So Cal, due to Dykes' rep, is always stuck with average defensive players. Without first-rate coaching, those players never develop into anything special.

Lacking a top-level defense, the Bears will never crack the PAC 12 elite. Teams like Stanford, USC, UCLA and Oregon, which usually have strong defenses, will always be better. During Sonny's reign Cal will, at best, win seven, maybe eight games and go to some minor bowl,.

That's not good enough, insist the detractors. That's aiming low.

How about Cal going to the Rose Bowl or occasionally cracking the national Top 10? With Dismal Dykes and his dreadful defenses?

No Way

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

USC Hires Clay Helton--Another Blunder

This is USC's record for hiring head football coaches in recent years:
Lane Kiffin--blunder.
Steve Sarkisian--blunder
Clay Helton--blunder

Yes, the SC powers did it again, naming interim coach Helton, promoted in October from offensive coordinator, as permanent head coach, awarding him a five-year contract..

Many Trojan fans and boosters, rightfully, are not happy with this choice. They had visions of  blue-chip prospects dancing in their heads. That's because the SC head coaching position is one of the Top 10 in college football. So does the school hire someone in a league with Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban and Chip Kelly? No, they get Helton, a lifetime assistant with no significant head coaching experience. Simply not good enough.

A little over a week ago Helton seemed out of the running for the job. SC was crushed by Oregon, looking unprepared, unmotivated, demoralized and disorganized. The tackling was pitiful and the blocking was pathetic and the line play, on both sides of the ball, abysmal. How could SC hire a guy responsible for that debacle?

But somehow Helton got the job. What the hell happened?

All that happened is that SC whipped UCLA, 40-21, last Saturday. Does one win, even if it's over your arch-rival,  make all that difference? Does that lone victory wipe out the stench of the Oregon loss? Aside from the UCLA win,  Helton has done nothing worth getting excited about. Sure, SC did beat Utah, when that team was in the Top Five, but in retrospect, the Utes were way overrated..

Since Helton, a six-year SC coach, took over from Steve Sarkisian, the team is 5-2, but hasn't been particularly impressive. Helton's most notable accomplishment is changing SC from an uptempo, pass-happy outfit to a slower paced running team. Other blemishes on his resume--the loss to hated rival Notre Dame and the struggles with teams, like Colorado, with inferior talent. Nothing he's done makes you think he's a superior coach or that he has the makings of one.

Is Helton the best coach available? Not by a long shot. There are many out there who are much more qualified and who could do a better job. At the moment though, the SC head coaching position doesn't have its usual luster. According to sources close to the SC powers, the school has put out plenty of feelers, only to find out that big-name coaches or budding stars weren't interested. The problem is AD Pat Haden, who has been on shaky ground since his prominent role in the Sarkisian mess. No heavyweight coach wants to be hired by an AD who seems to be on his way out--and Haden, who also has health issues, is definitely on his way out. Who wants to step into an uncertain situation like that?.

If SC was going to hire Helton, this was the optimal time, after the biggest victory of his career and SC's biggest of the season. That's why the SC bosses rushed to sign him now. What it does, though, is piles on the pressure.

On Saturday SC plays Stanford for the PAC 12 championship. Beating a highly motivated and talented Stanford team in Palo Alto won't be easy. This season SC, which has already lost to Stanford, hasn't played well outside the Coliseum. If the Trojans lose, the hire looks even more stupid.

Signing Helton looks like a big mistake. If he's going to prove skeptics wrong, winning Saturday is the place to start.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

In Defense Of Niner QB Colin Kaepernick

Is QB Colin Kaepernick finished as a 49er? Maybe not.

Is he finished in the NFL? Definitely not.

This is a hellish time for Kaepernick, who just a few years ago, was considered one of the best QBs in the league. He led the Niners to the Super Bowl in February, 2013, which they barely lost to Baltimore. But, since then, he's been on a slow, shocking downward spiral. A few weeks ago he lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, an inept journeyman who's really not good enough to be a starting NFL QB. Then, this weekend, the Niners announced that Kaepernick is out for the season because of surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

Skeptics are predicting that he'll never play QB for the Niners again. Haters insist he'll never play in the league again.

But don't put the final nails in Colin's coffin just yet.

First of all, he just might play for the Niners next season. There will no doubt be a new coach and a new coaching staff running the team then. The current head coach, Jim Tomsula, is an inexperienced defensive line coach hired early this year when the owner and the GM dumped the great Jim Harbaugh. in way over his head. His staff isn't much either. The team just plain stinks. No question, Tomsula and his crummy crew won't be back.

Possibly, however, the new coach and his staff might want to keep Kaepernick. It would be a smart move.

Just 28, the five-year-vet is a decent QB--a superlative runner and, under the right circumstances, a good passer. A few years ago, the entire NFL was drooling over him, gushing about his skills and proclaiming him the model for the QB of the future. So all of a sudden he's no good? How stupid.

Not too long ago, the Niners were one of the top three teams, with a great coach, a top-notch defense, a formidable offensive line and a superb running back. But the team surprisingly collapsed, through injuries, defections, dumb trades, retirements, coaching changes and run-ins with the law. Suddenly, Kaepernick was surrounded by a lousy team and inferior coaches.

His confidence plummeted. His skills, because he was working with grade C talent, eroded. Now he's on the NFL scrap-heap, down there with the also-rans.

But he's salvageable. With the right team and capable coaching,  he can be a productive NFL QB again--maybe even with the Niners.

So don't write Kaepernick off just yet.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Coach Pitino Isn't Sweating The Louisville Sex Scandal

First of all let's dispense with a primary question in the University of Louisville sex scandal.
Head basketball coach Rick Pitino claims he didn't know anything about the campus sex parties, featuring paid escorts, organized by then director of basketball operations Andre McGee for players, recruits and others between 2010-14, costing $10,000. The details surfaced recently in a book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules,"  by Katina Powell, who organized the parties.

Face it, Pitino knew. Naturally, he says he didn't know, but he most certainly did..

There's no way those activities could have happened for years without Pitino, an obsessive control freak who keeps close track of everything involving his program, knowing about them.  If you're talking a few isolated parties that cost chump change, maybe they might have happened behind his back. But years worth of parties involving thousands of dollars, something that could topple his regime? No way he didn't know.

Sources at Louisville said those parties were so notorious, people outside the sports department knew about them, and wished they were invited. According to the sources, the parties detailed by Powell in her book were just the tip of the iceberg. There were more women and drugs and money involved. But investigators will probably never catch the others. The cover-up began as soon as word leaked out about the book.

The fact that college athletes and those surrounding them are treated to sex parties is no surprise. The only surprise is that Louisville was dumb enough to get caught.

Sex and drugs are integral parts of most college basketball programs, particularly the bigger ones, like Louisville. Those parties have long been considered one of the perks of being part of the basketball program. Reports an ex-player for an SEC team:

"Sluts and pot, they go hand in hand with college basketball. It's one way of paying the players  We get a little money under the table and occasionally girls and pot, That's college basketball. Even after you graduate you can get in on those sex and drug goodies. That's the way it is everywhere. Nobody wants it to go away. Everybody keeps it quiet and enjoys the hell out of it. The bitch who wrote that book about the Louisville parties ruined it for everybody--for a while anyway. Those parties won't be happening on any campuses til this dies down. But they will be back."

What about Pitino?  Is he in any danger of being fired?

It's doubtful. McGee, the coach who set up the parties, has been working for the University of Missouri--Kansas City in the past year. He has already resigned that post. Looks like he's the Louisville fall-guy. Every school has a plan in place to protect the head coach, who is carefully isolated from the dirty, illegal essentials. The filthy footprints never lead to his door. When the crap hits the fan, the layers of protection are so well set up that the head coach, particularly at the top schools, is never soiled.

But this case is a little different. Powell, who served as the madam for the Louisville parties, is peddling a book, so she's on the major media circuit. Consequently this scandal, unlike most, has legs and may snowball into something big enough to knock down Pitino.

But if he is forced to resign from Louisville it could be a blessing for him  He wouldn't be unemployed for long..Athletic directors from many colleges, waving fat contracts, will line up to hire him. He'll be tainted but so what? Those schools won't care.

Bottom line, he's one of the top five coaches in the college game. In the end, the way things are, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fire SC Athletic Director Pat Haden, Now !

Southern Cal's athletic director Pat Haden is toast. 

It's not official yet, but he's finished. You don't royally screw up the way Haden has in the Steve Sarkisian mess--angering fans and big-money boosters--and keep your job.

Two years ago, Haden hired a football coach who should never have been hired--Steve Sarkisian, a former SC assistant in the Pete Carroll era who, as head coach, had turned around the sagging U of Washington program.

Sarkisian, sadly, is an alcoholic.

You can bet Haden, who is no dummy, knew about Sark's problem, but figured it was manageable. Haden downplayed the problem because he was anxious to hire another link to the Pete Carroll era--just like Lane Kiffin, who Sark replaced. Sark's drinking problem was apparently no secret in Seattle, so there is little chance Haden didn't know about it. That was one of many reasons Sark wasn't that popular up there. Word is many fans and boosters were happy to see him go.

This season, Sark's second, after his respectable 9-4 debut, was supposed to the big one, with the Trojans trumpeted as strong PAC 12 title contenders. Instead, it's been a two-loss disaster, beginning with his drunken speech at an SC fan event in late August and culminating with a Coliseum loss, 17-12, last week to his old school, Washington. Word is leaking out that Sark smelled of booze, at games and practices, often during the season. According to sources close to two players, the team knew about his alcohol excesses and some players were disturbed by it and questioned him as a leader. No question, Sark's problem had a negative effect on the team. A responsible AD would have been on top of the situation and taken action. Haden did not.

With that August incident, Sark embarrassed himself, the team and the university. Haden should have dumped him then. Even though the coach was reportedly hung over and in no condition to coach a practice last Sunday, Haden still didn't act decisively, but just placed him on indefinite leave. It was the outrage of the SC nation and big boosters that finally forced Haden to fire him the next day. Offensive coordinator Clay Felton will lead the team for the rest of the season. Once again SC had to fire a head coach mid-season. This time the blame falls solely on Haden.

Sark wasn't Haden's lone coaching-hire misfire. The other black mark against him is basketball coach Andy Enfield. In two years he has coached the Trojans to consecutive last-place PAC 12 finishes. They are the laughing-stock of the conference.

Enfield was hot for a minute a few years ago when he coached obscure Florida Gulf Coast, of the Atlantic Sun Conference, to the Sweet 16, the first 15-seed in tournament history to get that far. His main accomplishment in that 2012-13 tourney? Just winning two games, over two good teams, Georgetown and San Diego State, to reach the regional semis. Bottom line, he was a coach in a rinky-dink conference. He's simply not PAC 12 coaching material and is in way over his head. Blame Haden for that foolish hire too.

Haden has proved he's lousy at picking head coaches. Is this the guy the SC nation wants choosing the next coach? Don't think so.

According to inside sources, the pressure from some big-money boosters is mounting to can Haden. The feeling is that he's in a shaky position and any coach he hires will be in a shaky position too. If Haden is fired where does that leave the new coach? So, with Haden in charge, top coaches might shy away from SC, realizing they might wind up working for a different AD. Also, with Haden still in charge, you know recruiters from rival schools will use that against SC, painting a bleak picture of a program in chaos..

The USC ship has sprung a leak. It desperately needs a new captain..


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

49ers' Win Over Vikings Misleading? Maybe

As usual. the NFL's opening weekend was loaded with shocking wins and losses, because transitioning from meaningless exhibition games to meaningful games isn't as easy as it looks. Some teams need a wake-up call. One of the sleepyheads is the Minnesota Vikings, who got trampled, 20-3, Monday night by the San Francisco 49ers..

It was possibly the biggest stunner of all..

The consensus was that the 49ers are ticketed for the NFL scrap heap while the Vikes are headed to the playoffs. Did the experts blow it? Don't think so. The results just might be misleading. After examining the game tape closely here's what happened.

The game was a miserably-played mess, full of bad blocking, bad tackling, bad quarterbacking, bad everything. The Niners won but they were awful. The Vikings, though, were worse. For some reason they simply didn't show up..

After several years of success, the Niners, who struggled through the exhibition games, figured to be horrible this season.. They have nothing going for them, a star-studded team that suddenly lost nearly all its stars, A team that had one of the best head coaches in the league, Jim Harbaugh, is now run by a rookie, Jim Tomsula, who appears to be in way over his head. The biggest problem, though, is that QB Colin Kaepernick, has been in regression mode since the start of last season.

In Monday's game Kaepernick didn't do much, but that was the plan. He became Trent Dilfer--hand the ball off, through the occasional short pass and don't make a mistake. He was a supporting player in the Carlos Hyde show. The second-year RB had the game of his career, rushing 26 times for 168 yards, carrying the offense just as the departed Frank Gore had done for so many years,. The defense, bolstered by the return of LB NaVorro Bowman, essentially won the game for the Niners, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone.

But the defense wasn't really taxed. QB Teddy Bridgewater was in a fog, missing open receivers, making bad decisions. The passing game was supposed to set the stage for the running game, the star of the offense, featuring RB Adrian Peterson, the best in the league. But Peterson, returning to the team after missing most of last season grappling with child abuse charges, wasn't ready. Reeking of rust, he carried just 10 times for a measly31 yards,

So, Niner fans,don't read so much into what happened Monday night. What most likely happened was that the 49ers ran into a superior team having a lousy night.

Still, it's possible the Niners, with this new cast of players and coaches, are much improved. Maybe coach Tomsula has some Bill Belichick in him and can wring wins out of a team loaded with inferior talent. We'll know more after Sunday, when the 49ers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out Pittsburgh's game plan. Armed with a tape of Monday's game, they will plot to gang up in the rushing lanes to stop Hyde and force Kaepernick to beat them. The Niner defense will have to slow down a solid offense lead by QB Ben Roethlisberger, who's much better than Bridgewater.

The Steelers are favored by five. If the Niners win or come close to beating a tough opponent on the road, then there will be real reason for SF fans to make plans for a decent season.

But not until then.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PAC 12 Football--Shaky Start

All we've been hearing this year, since the PAC 12 beat the pants off the other power conferences in the last bowl season, is loud chest-thumping from league fans and players, crowing about how the PAC 12 is the best in college football.

All of a sudden, though, you don't hear a peep out of those PAC 12 braggarts. What happened? A disastrous weekend, that's what.

The worst thing was that mess at Oregon, which is the No 1 team in the conference and No. 7 nationally. Oh, the Ducks won, scoring at will, piling up 61 points on 731 yards, on a northwest patsy, Eastern Washington. But here's the ugly part. EWU scored 42 points and gained 549 yards. Could it be that the PAC 12 big dog has a lousy defense? Looking at that game, it seemed like lack of talent, rather than lack of effort, was the problem.

But Oregon was just one part of the PAC 12 meltdown. No.15 Arizona State got whipped, 38-17, by an unranked SEC team, Texas A&M.  No. 21 Stanford didn't even score a TD in its 16-6 stumble against a minor Big Ten team, Northwestern. No. 22 Arizona didn't  look very strong sneaking past a very weak opponent, Texas San Antonio, 42-32. Even the PAC 12 bottom feeders stunk, with Washington State losing  to pitiful Portland State, 24-17, and Colorado not being able to handle horrible Hawaii, bowing 28-20.  .

It wasn't all bad, though, for the PAC 12. Utah did triumph, 24-17, over Michigan, but the Wolverines, under new coach Jim Harbaugh, aren't very good and don't have a quality quarterback. The top 25 Los Angeles teams did win big, However, SC trampling little Arkansas State, 55-6, means nothing and UCLA beating a so-so ACC team, Virginia, 34-16, isn't anything to crow about. Bruin freshman QB Josh Rosen was impressive but that Virginia secondary that was supposed to be so stellar looked like one of the sieves in the Mountain West conference. Rosen could be a superstar but let's hold judgement until he faces a tougher opponent.

The other second-tier PAC 12 teams had so-what victories. Cal beating up on poor Grambling State, 73-14, and Oregon State whipping Weber State, 28-7,  is nothing for PAC fans to get worked up about.

Bottom line. Two of the PAC 12's six Top 25 teams, Stanford and Arizona State, lost and two others, Oregon and Arizona, won but looked wobbly doing so,  playing crappy defense against lowly teams.
You can't tell much about PAC 12 strength from the wins by SC and UCLA.

But you will be able to tell something about the PAC 12 after Saturday, following the biggest game of the early season, a battle of  Top10 powers, Oregon playing Michigan State in East Lansing.

For MSU, still smarting from last season's infamous 48-17 loss to the Ducks, this is a revenge game. The Spartans are coming off a lazy 37-24 win over Western Michigan in which their pass defense seemed suspect..Neither the Oregon nor the Michigan State defense looks to be superior, but MSU lives off its defense, while Oregon, with that explosive offense, can often get by with an average defense..

 This game means more to Oregon because they are the PAC 12 kingpin. If they lose to MSU,  the PAC 12 rep goes down with them. The Big Ten rep, however, lives and dies with Ohio State, not MSU.

Michigan State is favored by 3 1/2. Who wins?. I'm betting on the Oregon offense and multi-talented new QB Vernon Adams. After Saturday,  PAC 12 fans, quiet this week, will be roaring again.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

USC's Steve Sarkisian: Dead Man Walking

Steve Sarkisian is a dead man walking.

The USC head football coach doesn't realize it but his days at SC are numbered. Last Saturday, in front of thousands of hard-core fans and boosters he made a fool of himself with a drunken, obscenity-laced rant. It was so offensive his "speech" was interrupted.and he had to be dragged off stage, This guy is the face of SC sports, the face of the university, a leader that young people look up to?

Him? You gotta be kidding.

He claims he got drunk that night because he mixed booze with medication. That's crap. He may have mixed booze and medication but that wasn't why he went off the rails. The problem was rotten judgement. A responsible man, realizing he was getting drunk and knowing he had to talk to fans and boosters at this major annual event, would have taken steps to sober up. According to insiders, this isn't the first time Sarkisian has been inebriated in public and used bad judgment.. Apparently it happened in Washington a number of times when he was coaching the Huskies. He's not, according to two sources close to SC sports, an alcoholic, just a sloppy drunk.

Certainly personal problems have him off kilter. He's going through a divorce and selling his sprawling Rolling Hills mansion for $8.5 million, one million less than the asking price. Still, none of this is an excuse for his drunken behavior.

SC athletic director Pat Haden was screaming at him backstage that night after the incident, but didn't suspend him. Haden probably thought that was the end of it. Man, was he wrong. Sarkisian embarrassed himself but, more importantly, embarrassed the university. SC fans, alums and boosters usually mention, with pride, their affiliation with the school. But not right now. SC haters will taunt them with vicious cracks like: "How's that drunk doing, the guy that's heading your football team?"

Some boosters want Sarkisian gone now. According to sources, Haden has had to do some fast talking just to keep Sarkisian from being fired. Wealthy boosters could easily buy out this contract. Haden's argument, of course, is that dumping Sark now would ruin the team, which is in the preseason Top 10. But Haden, to satisfy angry fans and boosters, may at least have to suspend him for a few games.

The only way Sarkisian survives this is if SC has an 11 or 12-win season that would elevate the team among the nation's elite.Winning heals all wounds. After a super season; all would be forgiven. But having a respectable season, like nine or ten wins, won't be good enough..

Chances of SC winning 11 or 12 games in the tough Pac 12 are remote. After the Sark fiasco, SC will be the laughing stock of the league. When they're on the road the team will be taunted unmercifully about that bad night. Another thing. You can be sure his own players will look at him differently, with less respect. SC will need extra fire and dedication to overcome the fallout from the coach's drunken blunder. Don't expect that essential extra to materialize. The team is good but not that good.

And what about the recruiting season? You can bet other schools will relentlessly use Sark's drunken rant against SC. Unquestionably, if he stays, his faux pas.will cost SC some top players in the next few years,

A great coach, like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, might put this scandal in the rear-view mirror and
cruise to a solid season. But Sarkisian isn't a great coach and this is not a great team. Throughout the season, at any SC stumble--and you can be sure there will be stumbles--fans and boosters will be calling for Sark's head.

This will be a rocky season for Sark. Don't look for him to be SC's head coach next season.


Monday, August 3, 2015

49ers Face Pitiful Three-Win Season

Brace yourselves, Niner fans. This is going to be the season from hell, a miserable, circling-the-drain mess. You thought last-season's 8-8 was an abomination? After this one, you'll look back fondly on that as the good ol' days.

The ugly reality is that if the Niners win three games this season, they'll be lucky.

For starters, they have no decent head coach. Yes, they have Jim Tomsula, a 49er defensive line coach who was promoted. But his sole head-coaching experience was leading the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe in 2006. That resume really inspires confidence. He'll be learning on the job, surrounded by new coordinators, Geep Chryst (offense) and Eric Mangini (defense), who will be looking to him for leadership. Good luck with that. 

After owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke ran Jim Harbaugh, a great but hard-to-manage head coach, out of town following last season, they hired someone they could control. Tomsula is the anti-Harbaugh, a nice guy who listens to his players and creates a friendly atmosphere. Harbaugh is a crusty, nasty, headstrong SOB, who bullied and terrorized his team. Players hated him. But he got results, three straight appearances in the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth. Man, can he coach. He draws up smart game plans and is spot-on in assessing strengths and weaknesses of players and opponents. He has a feel for the game rivaled only by that of Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, the other super coaches in the NFL.

Jim Tomsula has to follow THAT. It's like replacing a lion with a kitten. Early word out of the 49ers camp is that players are comfortable with the new head coach. They find him pleasant and easy to work with. Do they respect his coaching talents? According to sources close to several Niners, the players think he's a marshmallow who has a fraction of Harbaugh's skills.

This fledgling head coach might have had a chance at a good season if he had inherited a first-rate team, but he didn't. He was left with dregs. Due to retirement, trades and defections, the Niners, once teeming with talent, have lousy personnel. The offensive line, a sieve at the end of last season, hasn't improved. Reliable RB Frank Gore is gone. Michael Crabtree went across the Bay to the Raiders. TE Vernon Davis, a one-time devastating deep threat, has to come back strong from an awful season. If Davis doesn't come through, they are really screwed.

The defense, once the team's strength, is in ruins. The line-backing corps, which used to be on a par with Seattle's, is in tatters. Excellent LB Navorro Bowman, back after missing last season, will be a step or two slow. The defensive line will be down a notch or two in quality. Opposing QBs are already licking their chops, dreaming about passing against the Niners' shaky secondary, which will no longer be protected by a top line and linebackers. And don't expect help from this year's draftees right away. None of them look to be starters this season on offense or defense..

The biggest problem is at QB. Colin Kaepernick, once an elite QB, took a giant step backward last season. Now he's among the NFL's also-ran QBs. Can he return to his former status? Not likely, considering he's flanked by average RBs, protected by a mediocre line and throwing to so-so wide receivers.

Add to these negatives one more. The Niners are plagued with a tough schedule, one of the toughest in the league. They'll be underdogs in just about every game.

Niiners fans will be crying and cursing throughout this rotten season. But back in Ann Arbor, where Harbaugh is coaching the Michigan Wolverines, he'll be doing a lot of smiling and celebrating, thrilled that he got out just in time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The DeAndre Jordan Bungle. Blame Paul and Doc Rivers.

Who's to blame for LA Clippers defensive whiz/center DeAndre Jordan defecting to the Dallas Mavericks, instantly dropping the Clips among the also-rans in the NBA's Western Conference title race?

Point the finger at point guard/ team leader Chris Paul for starters. He helped create an atmosphere that alienated Jordan to the point where he took less money to go to an inferior team. Jordan's exit leaves a giant hole in the team, one that can't be filled this season because he made his move after all the free-agent big men had been signed. The blame for that unfilled hole, which ruins the upcoming season, belongs to head coach Doc Rivers. But that's a separate issue.

First let's look at Paul, who was instrumental in driving Jordan away.  According to two sources close to two Clippers' players, Paul made Jordan's life miserable for years with his relentless badgering. Paul is a fanatical competitor who thinks players should be focused on work, work, work, all the time. He has little patience with a hang-loose guy like Jordan. He also was constantly pestering Jordan about his lousy free-throw shooting. The bickering, reported the sources, witnessed by those with seats near the Clippers' bench, was just the tip of the iceberg. The arguments in the locker room were louder and nastier.

According to the sources, nobody on the Clippers is crazy about Paul, whose somber, non-nonsense, super-authoritarian attitude turns players off. Teammates compare him to Michael Jordan , who was a hard-driving dictator in the Chicago Bulls' heyday. Michael took the fun out of playing. Arguably, say the sources, so does Paul. As DeAndre's stature rose in the NBA, he felt he was above being picked on by Paul. He simply had enough and wanted out.

Something else bothered Jordan about being a Clipper. He also wanted to play a bigger role in the offense. He was fed up with being the third option, behind Paul and Blake Griffin. Recognizing that was on his wish list, Dallas promised to make him an offensive star.

Everything, said the sources, pointed to Jordan leaving for Dallas, particularly since he's a Texas native who went to Texas A&M. Sources said it was 90-10 that he'd sign with the Mavericks. Why didn't coach Rivers see this? Others said it was clear Jordan couldn't wait to get out of LA. So why didn't Rivers take some steps to lure another decent big man, like Tyson Chandler or Robin Lopez, before they signed elsewhere? Instead, he was dragging his feet, allowing Jordan to leave the team high and dry. Colossal blunder by Rivers.

By the way, this sudden need for a center also probably means curtains for the Clipper career of Jamal Crawford, the No 1 offensive bench weapon,  He'll be the prime trade bait in their search for a replacement for Jordan. Losing Crawford will take considerable punch away from the offense, just like losing Jordan will subtract significant power from the defense...

The Clippers really blew the Jordan case on several levels. Regression, here they come.

Nice work, Chris Paul. Good job, Doc Rivers.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

How NBA Refs Have Been Fixing Finals

The NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors, are surprising close, and surprisingly entertaining. You can thank the refs for that.

Without their calls--or non-calls-- the Warriors, by far the most talented team, would have cruised to a four-game sweep  But, with help from the refs, all three games have been competitive, with the first two going into overtime. The underdog Cavaliers, even without two of their three best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are leading the Warriors 2-1. That's amazing since nearly all experts picked Golden Sate to romp in four or, at the most, five games.

Fans are loving it. So is the ABC TV network. These Finals have the biggest ratings in years. At first the Finals looked to be a low-rated, mismatched loser, with most fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area not caring to see Golden State be Goliath. But, with the undermanned Cavs playing David, they are whipping up on the Warriors.

How is this possible? It's very simple. The refs have set a rugged tone, beginning with the first game, that overwhelmingly favors Cleveland.  While an excellent defensive team. the Warriors are basically an offensive juggernaut that relies on the jump-shooting skills of guards Stef Curry and Klay Thomspon. They play a fast-paced style that uses bullet-passing to get their shooters open shots. But that's not what's happening in this series.

With the aid of the refs, the Cavs, a thuggish half-court team, are bullying the Warriors, beating up on them at every turn. The Warriors are best at a high-scoring, wide-open, fast-paced style. But these games are low-scoring, slow-paced, wrestling matches. They're much like those Eastern Conferences playoffs back in the day, with teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons and Celtics locked in bruising defensive battles, with scores in 80s..

What the refs are doing now is not calling penalties on the Cavs when they are roughing up the Warriors. There is so much Cavalier hacking and clobbering that goes on with the refs looking the other way. The refs are subtly encouraging this pro-Cavs style of play.

There was one play in the third game where Cleveland's LeBron James barreled into slender Curry from behind, bowling him over, without a whistle on James. It was shocking. Meanwhile the refs are letting James be in freight-train mode, without penalty. On many of his many drives to the basket, where he'll plow into two or three Warriors, he could easily be called for charging. But he almost always gets by with no penalty.

James' constant pounding and extra-rough tactics of other Cavs take their toll on the Warrior players, who don't have the energy to make their offense run more smoothly. This tiring style of play is a boost to the Cavs. The result is a bunch of ugly games, with the sleek, race-horse Warriors sinking into the sludge with the rhino-like Cavs.

How is it all going to play out? It's possible that the Warriors may get down and dirty and beat the Cavs at their own game. Or maybe this wrestling-style of play is so wearying that the Cavs, who aren't very deep, may wear down in the last few games.

It may not be pretty but the games will probably be close, which will attract fans. This series will probably go six or seven, unless the Cavs shock the world and win in five, which is unlikely. Even if it ends in five it's already been a much more entertaining series than expected.

Whatever happens you can bet the refs--the puppeteers pulling the strings with ABC in mind--will be guiding the action in a direction favorable to ABC. Naturally the network, as usual, will deny any hanky-panky.

But knowledgeable folks in the gambling and gangster underworld will tell you that the network, in this case, is full of crap.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Ugly Adrian Peterson Stain

This fall, after a year layoff, RB Adrian Peterson will be back terrorizing defenses, most likely for his old team, the Minnesota Vikings. But when he's bulling through the line, knocking over defenders like bowling pins, that's not what I'll be envisioning. What I'll be seeing won't be pretty,

I'll see Peterson running, all right, but not through defenses. I'll see him not carrying a football but a switch, which is a thin, bare tree branch about a foot long. He'll be chasing a four-year-old boy, looking to grab him and whip him with the switch..Whenever I see Peterson playing ball that's the image that will dominate.

I won't see Adrian Peterson, the great running back, the highest paid RB in NFL history. I'll see Adrian Peterson, the child abuser. I saw pictures of that youngster after a brutal Peterson whipping. It was ugly.

He sat out nearly all last season after being indicted September 11 by a Texas grand jury for severely beating his four-year-old son in May of last year. Following a media furor and a laughable Vikings penalty--a puny, one game suspension--Peterson got a more suitable punishment. He was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, ending his season. For months all we got from Peterson was a lot of whining and bitching, like he was being mistreated and misunderstood. He kept saying he made a mistake. But what he did, violently whipping his little son, is much more than a mistake. It goes much deeper than that.

Reinstated by the NFL in April, Peterson is back with Minnesota. Yeah, yeah, he's apologized and said some of the right things, about therapy and parenting and discipline and blah, blah, blah. Funny, but I don't believe him. His apologies don't right true. He claims he's a changed man. I don't believe him. What he's saying sounds rehearsed and insincere. Something is haywire deep down in his core, something that allowed him to viciously punish his son in the first place. My sense is that what was wrong hasn't been repaired.

I had the same problem with QB Michael Vick, when he was reinstated by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 after serving a 21-month prison sentence for his role in operating a dog fighting ring. When I watched him play I couldn't get those horrible animal-cruelty images out of my head. It tainted any game I saw Vick play in. But Vick worked hard to show the world he had changed his thinking about dogs. Gradually those gruesome images faded for me. After a while I could see Vick the football player again, and not that other monster.

Now Peterson will taint Vikings' games for me the same way. Maybe he'll eventually convince me and other doubters like me that he really is a changed man and finally close the book on that dark chapter of his life. The Christian thing for me to do is to be forgiving and him a second chance.

I'm working on it.

Pardon me, but, like many other Peterson haters, I'm not there yet--not even close. Will I ever get there? In this case, I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Greedy NBA Ignores Dwight Howard Guilt

Did anybody really think the NBA would suspend Houston Rockets' center Dwight Howard for tonight's game?  No way that was ever going to happen. Remember this is the money-grubbing NBA we're talking about.

What happened is that Howard clobbered the Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut at the 8:06 mark in the third quarter of the Houston's 128-115 victory on Monday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Howard was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul.

Rod Thorn, president of the NBA's basketball operations, announced that, upon review, the penalty would stand.  If it had been upgraded to a Flagrant 2, Howard would have been suspended and unavailable for tonight's crucial Game 5. The Warriors' lead the series 3-1 and could claim the Western title with a win.

Actually the call should have been changed to a Flagrant 2. It should always have been a Flagrant 2. When the foul happened the refs blew the call. What Howard did was worse than what Atlanta forward Al Horford did to Cleveland's Matthew Bellavedova in the second quarter of Game 3 of that series, which got Horford ejected immediately. In reviewing the Howard foul the league had a chance to right a wrong. So if the NBA was being fair and consistent Howard would be on the same Flagrant 2 boat as Horford and would not play tonight.

But, let's face it. What's important to the NBA is money. Fair play and consistency in penalties, who cares? The NBA wants a big audience for tonight's game. If it promises to be competitive, people will watch. Without Howard, it wouldn't be competitive and many fans wouldn't tune in, which hurts ratings, which hurts the NBA's wallet.

Consequently the NBA does what is necessary to attract the biggest audience, which means Howard plays, and fair play be damned. So that bogus Flagrant 1 stays a bogus Flagrant 1. This is just more evidence for conspiracy theorists who swear the NBA rigs games based on TV ratings.

Chalk up another stain on the NBA's soiled integrity..

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Real Story Behind The Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan Feud.

All of a sudden, in the wake of the LA Clippers' choking away the Houston Rocket series, a feud between Clippers' point guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan is taking center stage. Is there really a feud? If so what's behind it?

According to three sources close to the Clippers, here's what's going on. It's basically a clash of attitudes. One source referred to Paul as a "mini Jordan," meaning he thinks of himself as the Clippers' answer to Michael Jordan. Remember, Michael was the hard-nosed, dictatorial leader of the Chicago Bulls in their '90s heyday. Paul has tried to assume that lofty, tough-guy,.Jordanesque position as leader of the Clippers, but he has run into some opposition. One player who doesn't relish that attitude is DeAndre Jordan, a hang-loose, laid-back kind of guy.

The essence of the feud is that Jordan doesn't like Paul's pushy, bossy attitude. To Jordan, it feels like he's being shoved around and he doesn't like it. When Paul came to the Clippers a few years ago, Jordan was still raw and just a promising player, while Paul was a hot-shot All-Star. Jordan was just a second-tier player, so he had to take a subservient position to big-time Paul. But since then Jordan has blossomed into one of the top three defensive players in the league. He's a potent force who's actually more valuable than Paul. Finding another first-rate point guard would be a lot easier than finding an athletic, shot-blocking, top-notch rebounding rim-protector like Jordan.

Quite simply, Jordan has become a huge force on the Clippers--and he knows it. He feels he's above being pushed around by Paul. But Paul only knows how to be one thing--a pushy leader. That's his way. It doesn't please his teammates. Rumor has it that when he left the New Orleans Hornets in 2011, some of those players were happy to see him go.

He and the Clippers' other star, Blake Griffin, clashed when Paul first came to the team. Griffin, then, was the No.1 guy but Paul asserted himself right away as top dog. Griffin balked. There was bad blood between them for well over a year, before they finally declared a truce. When Doc Rivers came to the Clippers, replacing Vinnie Del Negro as head coach, his first order of business was to smooth relations between his stars.

Actually, this Paul-Jordan feud is nothing new. These two have been at odds since last year. The conflict has just been getting steamier in the last few months. Rivers has had to do what LA Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson did with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal--play referee. Jackson's biggest job on those championship teams wasn't dealing with Xs and Os but playing mediator between those two, making sure they didn't kill each other.

There have been many flareups between Paul and Jordan, report the sources, including some heated locker-room arguments and some conflicts that have been visible at court side during games. So far, though, the beefs have been neatly covered up. That's been possible because the LA media isn't as blood-thirsty and tabloid-oriented as media in other big cities.

One of the issues is that Paul has been riding Jordan about his horrible free-throw shooting. Sources say Paul thinks Jordan hasn't been working hard enough to improve this weakness. Jordan, however, resents Paul butting in.

Another problem, report the sources, is that Jordan is miffed at Paul doing his Michael Jordan imitation when he hasn't had the success that Jordan had. Michael helped the Bulls win many championships so his teammates felt obliged to succumb to his harsh leadership tactics. Paul, however, hasn't even been able to lead the Clippers to a conference championship game. So DeAndre resents him acting the tough-leader role when he hasn't lead them to anything close to a championship.

The feud is surfacing now because DeAndre is about to become a free agent. He can either sign a max deal with the Clippers, for $100 million, or go to another team for less money. Dallas has been mentioned as a possible new team for Jordan, a Texas native who was born in Houston and went to Texas A&M.

Clipper fans fear that if Jordan is not on good terms with Paul that may push him to leave Los Angeles. That's not necessarily true. There have been horrible fights between NBA players, sometimes to the point of fisticuffs, and that never forced the warring parties to jump ship. Do you think things were smooth on those Michael Jordan championships teams?. Actually they were plenty rocky. That was also true on Pat Riley's Knick teams and, way back in the old days, there was plenty of player strife on Bill Russell's Celtic teams. Recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a mess for months, but the players, led by LeBron, resolved the conflicts. Problems can be successfully handled internally. They don't have to break up teams.

This is where Rivers comes in. It's up to him to smooth over any problems and convince Jordan to stay with the Clippers. My guess is that he will stay. Paul and Griffin learned to co-exist. So can Paul and Jordan. If Jordan leaves, blame Rivers for being a lousy mediator.

By the way, expect a bunch of media stories in the next few weeks quoting Clipper players and various other sources denying there's any rift between Jordan and Paul.

Ignore those stories. That's just publicity b.s.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why Clippers Will Beat Rockets In Game 7

Look for the LA Clippers to climb out of that hole they tumbled into Thursday when they lost game 6 at home to the Houston Rockets, 119-107. But losing is the wrong word to describe what happened. What the Clippers really did was choke the game away.

It was really ugly. So, naturally, were the late-game stats. With about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Clippers were ahead by 19 and cruising. Then they barreled into an iceberg, turning into the Titanic. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter, a historic playoff turnaround. Actually they just scored 12 points in the fourth. It was 15 because Chris Paul.buried an uncontested three-pointer at the buzzer. At one point during that epic collapse they went nearly seven minutes without a field goal.

But that's all past. Forget that colossal choke. Sunday is a new day for the Clippers, a day of redemption.
The Clippers you see Sunday won't be that wobbly outfit that turned to jelly with the game on the line on Thursday.

In Thursday's game LA was pressing ferociously in the fourth quarter, pressing so hard on offense they forgot to play defense. The Rockets scored so easily because the Clippers defense was non-existent. LA players, crippled by the pressure, slipped into a mental fog and visibly slowed down, making the Rockets several steps faster. The more the Clippers pressed the more they crumbled. For the Rockets it was almost like pregame practice. Coach Doc Rivers was no help. He was powerless. He had never seen anything like it. He didn't know how to stop the bleeding.

The strangest part of the loss was that Houston's fourth quarter blitz happened with their best player, James Harden, who hadn't played very well most of the game, on the bench. The Clippers were mostly destroyed in that quarter by two so-so role players, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, who scored 29 of the 40 fourth quarter points.

Here's why the Clippers will win Sunday. First of all, in the back of their minds on Thursday, they knew they had another game, that Thursday's game wasn't the end of the series. That sense of urgency that usually short-circuits such meltdowns wasn't in play. But now they have that sense of urgency. For another thing, this game is more important to the Clippers. Winning it means they go to a conference finals for the first time in franchise history. That gives them extra motivation. The Rockets have won NBA championships so it's not as crucial to them.

The game is particularly critical for Chis Paul, one of the great point guards of the last decade. He has never been to a conference final, never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. This game is his chance to finally silence his critics. Even if the Clippers get to the finals and lose, it won't be so bad for him. But not reaching that level, once again, will gnaw at Paul and pump up his critics for the entire off season. He's desperate to win this game and his desperation will fuel his team.

One key stat is in the Clippers' favor. Teams that get a 3-1 lead in a seven game series win it 96% of the time. However there's another stat that works against them. In game7s in playoff history, the road teams have prevailed overwhelmingly, 24-95. But the Clippers can offer a stat which counters that one. They have been pretty good in game7s in recent years with this core unit. In the last three years the team has won its last three game7 efforts, including one on the road in Memphis in 2012. And, don't forget, just about two weeks ago, the Clippers beat the Spurs in a grueling game7, a team that's far better than the Rockets.

Another thing in the Clippers' favor. The Rockets wouldn't have won without spectacular games by Brewer and Smith. Those guys are unlikely to run wild again. The Clippers will see to that.

One more thing. The Clippers are favored by 2. Odds makers and gamblers have a sense that Thursday's game was an aberration, a blunder that, odds are, won't happen again on Sunday.

The worse in this series is behind the Clippers. They won't slip into that abyss in consecutive games. They are too talented for that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight Fix--Aftermath

A funny thing happened on the way to the fix of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Pacquiao's bum shoulder got in the way.

There was certainly a plan for a Pacquiao win. Would Mayweather have gone through with it and spoiled his spotless record with a loss? We'll never know.

The dream outcome would have been a close, action-packed Pacquiao win. That would have guaranteed a rematch that would have done two things--set up another whopping,  money-making, pay-per-view bout and kept interest in boxing alive among casual fans in America for another year or two. But Pacquiao's ailing shoulder ruined that plan. It turned out there was little action in the fight because, with only one good shoulder, Pacquiao couldn't make a dent in Mayweather's steel-curtain defense. The fight, a Mayweather cruise, was a snooze-fest for all except the knowledgeable boxing fans who appreciate the nuances of the sport.

This is what happened, according to sources in touch with both Pacquiao's camp and the depths of boxing's seamy underworld. A plan for a Pacquiao win, which made sense and was on the table, wasn't possible because, with his bad shoulder, no one would believe he could beat Mayweather. A healthy Pacquiao couldn't realistically beat Mayweather, so a wounded Pacquiao would have no chance. A Pacquiao win would look like what it was--a fixed fight. That plan, say the sources, was nixed when it was clear Pacquiao was hurt.

So what was left?. Just to capitalize on the inside info about Pacquiao's shoulder, which had been carefully guarded. The sources say the word dribbled out about Pacquiao's bad shoulder days before the fight. Naturally some who knew took advantage by betting on Mayweather. The wagering, of course, report the sources, was handled smartly and discreetly, with relatively small bets, scattered worldwide, made through many proxies, so there would be no.spikes to arouse suspicion. Apparently some people made a lot of money on this inside info.

Where do things stand now? A rematch is certainly possible once Pacquiao's shoulder heals. Since people now know he wasn't really healthy, this effort against Mayweather doesn't really count. The rematch wouldn't generate the same, high-level interest, particularly since this fight wasn't exciting and both aging fighters would be even older. But there would still be a decent payday for all concerned.

And the fix? We'll have to see which way the wind is blowing then.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mayweather--Pacquiao Fight Fixed? You Bet It Is

Is the mega-million-dollar superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fixed? Damn right it is.

There have been rumblings for months, from deep in the bowels of the gambling-boxing-gangster underground, that things will go according to a script in this fight. Forget who's the better fighter. Forget who has the longest reach or superior footwork or the quickest, deadliest jab or who's more skilled at dodging jabs. None of that matters. It would matter if this was just fighter against fighter. But that's not what this match is all about. It's about money, about business..

What matters in this case is the business of boxing. What will happen in this fight is what's best for business, what will make the most money for those involved, what will make money for gamblers who know the script.

A Pacquiao victory makes sense, since it would set up a rematch, which would be the best thing for the sport.

There's another fortune to be made from a rematch. If good guy Pacquiao whips bad-boy Mayweather, that would set up a lucrative rematch. Mayweather would win that, setting up a third, best-two-out-of-three bout. Fans would be enthralled, the pay-per-view business would be booming and boxing would be, for the next year or two, a prominent sport.

But if Mayweather wins easily, boxing is dead. It's that simple.

Here's the problem. Boxing, a dominant American sport in the first half of the 1900s, is on its last legs in this country. Most of the American public doesn't give a damn about it. So, after this huge Mayweather-Pacquiao payday, boxing would be dealt a knockout blow if Mayweather pummels Pacquiao. These are the only fighters who matter on a national level. Pacquiao is the only fighter who has a chance against Mayweather, who has already announced he'll quit after one more fight, one that he'll certainly win since, after Pacquiao,  there's no real competition. That would mean no more big pay-per-view bouts. Mayweather could retire.undefeated, at 49-0. But his chances of making millions would also retire. Mayweather, who's made $420 million in his career, is a notorious spendthrift, like Mike Tyson was at his worst. Insiders insist that he's a candidate for bankruptcy. So money-hungry Mayweather surely doesn't want to derail the gravy-train.

Is fixing a fight possible? Of course. What nearly destroyed boxing in the last half century is flagrant corruption--bribing officials, boxers taking dives, etc. You think those shady elements have abandoned the sport? No way. People who know how to make a dive look good are still around. Fixing a fight is much easier than fixing a basketball or football game since there are fewer people involved.

By the way, if Mayweather wants to win this bout, he could do it. According to knowledgeable insiders, against a dedicated, focused Mayweather, Pacquiao wouldn't have a prayer.

A Mayweather win is a victory for honesty. But it's also a victory for stupidity since it would deal a death-blow to the sport and eliminate the possibility of a big-bucks rematch, taking money out of Mayweather's pocket. There's a crooked plan in place. Mayweather just has to follow the script.

Does honesty or corruption rule in this fight.? I'm betting on corruption.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winston vs Mariota? Winston By a Mile

All this fuss about which Heisman Trophy QB should be No.1 in Thursday's draft, Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, is wasted energy. It's obvious. The Tampa Bay Bucs have the first pick and they should use it to draft Winston.

Why? Because he's more ready to be a pro QB than Mariota. He's a version of Andrew Luck when Luck was coming out of Stanford. He's linebacker-size, can make all the required throws and is fairly elusive for a big man. Ignore all the arguments that makes Mariota look equal to Winston. He's not. Mariota is a super scrambler and has terrific speed but those qualities don't make him equal to Winston. Mariota is not nearly as accomplished a passer. According to some expert observers in the NFL underground, Winston is already better than half the QBs in the league and he hasn't even been to a NFL camp. These observers see Mariota as a potentially decent QB after several rocky years in the league.

Being drafted by Tampa might be lucrative but it won't be any fun. This Tampa team is a mess. The QB picked by Tampa is stepping into a disaster area. Without question he'll get off to a slow start. They have a horrible offensive line and no first-rate power RB to take the pressure off the rookie QB, who is going to be battered unmercifully. Winston comes from a Seminole system that's closer to what's run in Tampa and other pro teams. He can adapt faster to the Tampa system than Mariota. In his first few years at Tampa, Winston would unquestionably be a more productive QB than Mariota.

Here's what's wrong with Mariota. Yes, he can make the throws used to measure a QB's arm strength and can make them accurately. Yes, he's a good citizen. But too many are blinded by his speed and athleticism. They think those special qualities make him a better prospect. But they are overlooking and woefully downplaying something crucial and obvious. He has to unlearn so much from all those years in Oregon's QB-friendly spread system. That's MAJOR. That system, which works well against less skilled college defensive players, is designed for easy reads by the QB and gets receivers open quickly. For a fast, speedy QB like Mariota, it's a dream situation. Arguably he's the best spread QB ever. Like any good college spread QB he piled up great numbers against modestly talented college players. But it's way different in the pros, without the comfort of that system, which allows the QB to start a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. In the NFL the receivers won't be as open and the reads will be a lot tougher. Another rap against Mariota is that, against the best college defenses, he made slower reads and, faced with a strong rush, abandoned the pocket way too soon. In the NFL such tendencies would sidetrack offensive threats.

Oregon is not a QB factory. That system masks all sorts of weaknesses that show up when Duck QBs transfer to the pros. Look for Mariota, like all spread QBs making the transition to the NFL, to struggle early on. If he starts out in Tampa, with those crappy offensive players, he will REALLY struggle. Wherever he goes, Mariota will stumble his first few years. He's also very likely to get injured. No way will he be a good pocket passer right away, so he'll rely more on running, which is more dangerous in the NFL because the defensive players are so much bigger, stronger and faster.

While he's a far better choice than Mariota for Tampa, Winston does have his flaws. For one thing, he threw 18 interceptions last season, which is a serious red flag. Also, he's very immature, with the mentality of a college frat boy. What you read in the media was the tip of the iceberg. A lot more problems were handled quietly, without media scrutiny. In some ways he's a more talented version of Johnny Manziel. That juvenile mind-set might have a lethal effect his work ethic, which could hurt his rookie season.

But if Winston, who's loaded with talent, approaches his job with some maturity and works reasonably hard, he'll have a decent season and be far more productive for the Bucs than Mariota would ever be.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How Boneheads Baalke and York Ruined the 49ers

To angry Niner fans, San Francisco 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York are
irresponsible, short-sighted egomaniacs who put themselves before the team. Their colossal blunder has set the Niners back three-to-five years. It's becoming more and more clear that this is a broken team--and these are the jokers who broke it.

Their stupid move? Firing head coach Jim Harbaugh at the end of last season. It was completely unwarranted. Riddled with injuries and unsettled by the looming loss of their coach, the team stumbled to an 8-8 record and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's four years as coach,  But his first three years were incredible. He's the first NFL coach ever to reach the conference championship game in his first three seasons on the job. That record alone should have bought him several more years as Niners' head coach.

But here's what got him fired. Baalke and York had been butting heads with him all last year. It was no secret that they hated each other. Harbaugh had little respect for either of them, considering them meddling clowns who were full of bad ideas and were constantly interfering with his efforts to do what he thought was best for team. Make no mistake, Harbaugh is surly, hard-headed and hard-boiled, with limited "people" skills. He's a rigid no-nonsense guy who doesn't massage egos or play office politics. But he's also a great coach.

Harbaugh considered Baalke and York clueless obstacles and treated them as such. They couldn't stand that. By last summer it was clear that Harbaugh was done as the Niner coach. Baalke and York weren't going to put up with a coach who disliked and disrespected them. No matter that Harbaugh was the team's best coach since the great Bill Walsh and one of the two or three best in the history of the franchise. No matter that, in just a few years, he had transformed the Niners from doormat to powerhouse by emphasizing rushing and killer defense. But even winning a Super Bowl couldn't have saved Harbaugh's job.

Harbaugh was a lame duck last season and the team knew it. Consequently, the locker room was a land mine of emotions. Players aren't going to perform well in an atmosphere riddled with uncertainty and toxicity. Key injuries, particularly to the line-backing corps--the heart of the defense--didn't help. Under those circumstances, coupled with a power surge by teams in their division, an 8-8 season was pretty good.

Bottom line--Baalke and York screwed up. They dumped an excellent coach because they couldn't get along with him. Harbaugh is like many great coaches--difficult to get along with and more than a little crazy. Vince Lombardi was a mean-tempered bully who was hated by everyone. Bill Belichick is an abusive ass who treats people like pawns. Bill Parcells was like that too. Tom Landry was arrogant and nasty. So is Nick Saban. But this is the cream of the coaching crop. They're hard to get along with but they win and win and win. Their bosses should just accept that they are miserable bastards, leave them alone and let them go about coaching. But Baalke and York couldn't do that.

Replacing Harbaugh with a first-rate coach would have been acceptable. But there was a problem. Top coaches weren't interested in the Niners. Word was out in coaching circles that working for Baalke and York is no picnic. Why would a first-rate coach, with other options, go to a place where a giant like Harbaugh got the boot for a stupid reason like a personality conflict with the bosses?

So what did Baalke and York do? They hired an underwhelming, inexperienced nobody, Niner defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They replace greatness with an obscure position coach whose only head-coaching experience is leading the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe for ten games, winning six, in 2006. This guy isn't dynamic, has little credibility and doesn't command respect the way Harbaugh did. That superb coaching staff assembled by Harbaugh? Mostly gone. Tomsula has been hiring a new staff. So far, however, none of the new coaches has been that impressive.

Meanwhile there has been a blizzard of changes involving key players. Workhorse RB Frank Gore, the heart and soul of the team, signed with the Colts. Pro-Bowl offensive guard Mike Iupati jumped to division rival Arizona. Top-notch linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland have retired, while defensive end Justin Smith is considering it.. Defensive end Ray McDonald left to join the Bears. The status of  super LB NaVorro Bowman, who missed last season with severe injuries, is uncertain. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been shopping himself around the league, has one foot out the door. None of the recent Niner signees, like RB Reggie Bush and WR Torrey Smith, are game-changers. Meanwhile, in the midst of all these changes, struggling QB Colin Kaepernick, who will be operating behind a much weaker offensive line, has to reverse his drastic regression. Don't be surprised if he has another lousy year.

This is a team in turmoil. If Harbaugh was still in charge, he could, while fighting off Baalke and York, probably successfully navigate the Niners through these troubled waters. But can the new guy, Tomsula, do it while he's learning how to be a head coach and busy earning the trust of skeptical players? Wouldn't count on it.

What Niner fans can count on is a mediocre season. In fact, don't count on a good season for at least the next two or three years. The Niners will be in rebuilding mode. With boneheads at the helm, though, you can imagine how that's going to go.

Monday, March 23, 2015

UCLA Coach Steve Alford, Good or Lucky?

All UCLA fans aren't cheering about Steve Alford coaching the Bruins into the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row with a convincing 92-75 win over Alabama-Birmingham. The detractors are the legion of Alford haters. They're bitching and moaning because he now boasts two Sweet 16 appearances in two years at UCLA. Alford, whose job was in danger just weeks ago, now has two years of job security at least. That's the last thing Alford haters want to hear.

Until last week, this had been a horrible UCLA season, including a grim five-game losing streak, listless, undisciplined play by some of the starters, lazy second-half defense in way too many games and an embarrassing 7-point half against Kentucky on national TV. The general feeling was that the Bruins were a lousy team. There were rumors that some fat-cat boosters were pooling funds to pile up the $10 million needed to buy out Alford's contract.

Here's why the Alford haters, and there lots of them, hate him. They insist he's a crappy coach, that the Bruins are often out-coached and unprepared. They hate how he uses players, how he develops players--or doesn't develop players. They grouse about his misguided offensive sets and contend that he's a bad bench coach. They hate that he starts his son Bryce, barely average most of the season, at point guard. The haters weren't even impressed by the Bruins 28-9 record last season. Considering that great pool of talent, featuring a bunch of NBA draftees, that record, argue the haters, indicates gross underachieving.

When the Bruins were bounced out of the Pac12 tournament a few weeks ago, it seemed like their season was over since the experts didn't think they were good enough to make the NCAA tournament. The consensus was that Alford had better come up with at least a Sweet 16 team next season or he was through.

Alford haters were rejoicing. Then....

All of a sudden, against all odds, the Bruins get into the NCAA tournament--and as a surprisingly high No.11 seed at that. That was Break #1. Then they beat SMU via a controversial, rule-stretching basket-interference call on Bryce Alford's game-winning three-pointer. That was Break #2. So they advance instead of going home. Then there was Break #3. Their second-round opponent, 14th seeded Alabama-Birmingham, knocked off powerful Iowa State, which would have been a much tougher opponent for the Bruins. So all the Bruins had to do to make the Sweet 16 was beat UAB, a team they had easily whipped in preseason.

Presto, riding a string of breaks, the Bruins cruise into the Sweet 16. On the ropes just a few weeks ago, the same guy who was being called a bum and a loser, Alford is now being hailed as a great coach. Suddenly he's the next Wooden.

Alford haters are fuming about this turnaround, contending that Alford did no exceptional coaching these last two games, that the Bruins simply took advantage of a string of breaks and he was just along for the ride. The haters contend that, long term, the program still isn't in good hands, that Alford will continue with his subpar coaching and questionable decisions.

What would silence the haters and make them eat a heavy dose of crow? A win over Gonzaga, a team the Bruins lost to in preseason, that would elevate the Bruins to the Elite Eight. Beating a team with superior talent and exceptional coaching would show that Alford has something special.  

This Gonzaga game is the biggest of Alford's career. He needs a win or a very, very close loss. A Gonzaga rout would be fodder for the haters, who would go after him mercilessly, citing that berth in the Sweet 16 as a fluke. How will Alford respond? By this end of this game we'll have some idea what he's made of.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Denver's Dumb Decision To Keep Peyton Manning

Back in the 1800s, hard-boiled cynic P.T.Barnum, convinced that most people are gullible birdbrains, made his famous declaration, that a sucker is born every minute. Unfortunately for Denver Bronco fans, some of those suckers wound up running their team. The management was just suckered into signing QB Peyton Manning for another season.

Talk about your monumental blunders. Talk about guys wearing blinders. Talk about guys with their heads in the sand.

It was clear at the end of last season--that Manning is finished as a starting QB. He has a dead arm. He blamed his horrible second-half tailspin on a bum leg, but that was nonsense. He's now saying his injury has healed so he'll be the old Peyton again this season. Bull crap. He may have just passed his physical, but they're not going to measure his arm strength. After all those years of bullet passes, his arm has simply died.

He ended last season with a whimper, leading Denver to a playoff loss to the Colts, registering a mere 4.59 yards per catch in that game, one of the worst ypc tallies of his career. He was throwing more picks than TDs and couldn't throw with any accuracy beyond ten yards. His long passes had zero zip. What killed their offense is that linebackers and secondary players on opposition defenses were crowding around the line of scrimmage, playing medium and deep passes casually because they knew Manning was lofting easy-to-defend floaters in those areas. That crowd around the line of scrimmage also decreased the effectiveness of the excellent RB C.J. Anderson.

I'll say it again, like I did in a recent post. Manning's arm is dead. He'll be 39 later this month. Age is not only catching up with him, it's kicking his butt.

Manning took a pay cut, from $19 million to $15 million. That's supposed to be a bargain? Well, it's really robbery. He's worth maybe a third of that right now. At this point Manning is merely a decent back-up QB, nothing more.

The boneheads in the Broncos front office will learn the hard way. Here's how this drama will play out--guaranteed. Manning will look OK, with limited work and coddling, in the preseason and maybe in the first few games. Then that arm will flame out, just like it did last season, but only much sooner this time, since he's older and the arm is weaker. He'll start throwing picks and powder puff passes and the Broncos will start losing. Backup QB Brock Osweiler, who's underdeveloped because control-freak Manning was hogging all the playing time, is not ready to be a starting QB. The revamped offensive line will be a negative since it won't have had time to jell. The defense is very good but not good enough to carry a team with a wilting offense. That extra burden will break the defense.

New coach Gary Kubiak will wonder what the hell he got himself into. New Chicago Bears head coach John Fox, who coached Denver last season but was fired after the team tanked in the playoffs, will be snickering and relieved that he got out of that Bronco mess.

The front-office folks who signed Manning to another year will finally fess up and admit: "We got suckered."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kobe Bryant Is a Thief, Robbing The Lakers

LA Lakers' star Kobe Bryant is a thief.

He's not wearing a mask or carrying a gun or doing anything covert or sneaky but what he's doing is still plain old robbery. The Lakers are paying him a fortune--$23.5 million annually, the highest NBA salary--for what? What are they getting in return?. Next to nothing. He's so injury-riddled he played just 6 games last season and struggled through 35 this season before being forced, once again, to end it prematurely. At 36, his body is simply broken down. Each of the last few seasons different parts have failed--first an Achilles tendon, then a knee, then a shoulder. Next season, probably some different body part will flame out. He'll be a year older and even more vulnerable to breakage.

Yet, he did an interview on the NBA network recently announcing he's coming back next season, the final year of that insane two-year contract. He even confessed having doubts about what his body can endure now. And he's still going to show up to collect another $23.5 million?

What??!!! Is he kidding? Another year of this robbery?

Bryant is barely worth one quarter of that monumentally inflated salary. It'd be different if the Lakers were an excellent, well-stocked unit that didn't need that money to hire better players. But they're a rotten team, staffed with untalented nobodies. They desperately need Bryant's salary to rebuild.

It's the Steve Nash fiasco all over again. The Lakers stupidly paid Nash, who had one foot in the NBA grave, millions and millions, only to watch him play, not very well either, a handful of games. They're still suffering from that blunder. Clearly they didn't learn from it. They signed Bryant to a fat, equally dumb contract instead of offering him a much smaller amount, in keeping with his production. If he had refused that reduced-salary contract they should have showed him the door. The NBA is a business. There's no room for sentiment.

There's another reason Bryant is a liability. Because he has a reputation for being a selfish, difficult egomaniac, free agents have avoided this team like the plague. Do you think Kevin Love or Kevin Durant or any other big-time player wants to play for a Laker team anchored by an aging superstar with a diva-like mentality? The quicker Bryant is gone, the faster the team can start some serious rebuilding. They sure can't do it while he's still on the team.

The Buss family, which runs the Lakers, gave Bryant, despite his age and injuries, that huge two-year contract to repay him for what he's done for the team all these years. It was a nice gesture but, man, has it ever backfired. They figured he'd be healthy and at least be a box-office attraction. But it hasn't turned out that way. This is the reality. Bryant is playing--when he can play--like an old man, the team stinks and attendance is way down.

If Bryant really cared about the Lakers, who've been good to him, he'd walk off into the sunset, void the final year of that contract, save them a fortune and let the rebuilding get underway. But, unfortunately for the team, he's returning next year. Bookies are already taking bets on how long he'll last. The over-under is one month.

It's time for Bryant to go away. He doesn't need the Lakers' money. He's ridiculously rich, having enough money to live lavishly for several lifetimes.

The Lakers showed him love and respect by giving him that two-year contract, which has hurt the team..He could show them some love and respect by retiring--now.

I used to admire and respect Bryant, but not any more. I don't like thieves.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Seattle Coach Pete Carroll Is An Idiot

About two years ago I posted a story calling Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll an ass.
That charge now requires an amendment. Carroll is not only an ass but he is, without question, also an IDIOT.

What he did at the end of Sunday's Super Bowl is the definition of idiocy. It certainly cost his Seahawks the game. With about thirty seconds left, trailing by 28-24, and Seattle with a second down at the one yard line of the New England Patriots, Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson threw an interception to safety Malcolm Butler on a quick pass over the goal line. Wilson, of course, screwed up but he should never have been placed in that high risk situation, having to squeeze a pass over the middle in among several players..

But, first of all, what in the hell was he doing passing in that situation? Everybody in the stadium, including the Patriots defenders, thought he was going to hand off to RB Marshawn (Beast Mode) Lynch, who hits the line like a runaway tank. He had just battered the Pats for four yards and was salivating for another carry or two, to try to score the winning TD. So just give him the damn ball and let him do his thing.

But Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had other ideas. They decided to fool the Pats and throw a short pass instead of turning the ball over to Lynch, a play that's as close as possible to a sure thing.
Here's another reason not to call a pass in that situation. Let's say the pass had been successful and the Seahawks were ahead 31-28, there was enough time, about 20 seconds, for the Pats, whose offense was in high gear, to get the ball and move into position for a tying field goal.

Bevell may have called that boneheaded pass play but Carroll shoulders the blame because he obviously had been informed of the call and had the power to overrule it. That play had disaster written all over it. If they had to try a pass they could have at least tried one less dangerous, like a corner route or one deep in the end zone. But over the middle? That's like jumping into quicksand.

That idiotic play call will haunt Carroll for the rest of his days. Here's hoping he has many, many sleepless nights and, over and over, wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming the name of Patriots' safety Malcolm Butler. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

49ers Hiring Lane Kiffin As OC? Big Mistake

The 49ers have gone stark raving mad. They're making boneheaded move after boneheaded move.

First they fire one of the best coaches in the sport, Jim Harbaugh, not because he's lost his ability to coach but because of personality conflicts with the top brass--CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke  Then they replace him with an inexperienced nobody, their defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula. Not only does he have no significant head coaching experience, but he wasn't on any body's must-hire list. No other teams with coaching vacancies were interested. That's a monster red flag. Will he comfortably fill Harbaugh's shoes? No way. Not only is Harbaugh gone, but so is most of that great coaching staff. So Tomsula, while learning how to be a big-time head coach, has to recruit and break in a whole new staff--no easy task.

Which brings us to boneheaded move No.3.

Reportedly the Niners are considering replacing offensive coordinator Greg Roman, just hired by the Bills, with--and this is no joke--Lane Kiffin. There are so many reasons why this is a stupid move. First of all, if he's hired, he's not likely to stay very long. Inside the football world they've nicknamed him the jackrabbit, because he jumps from job to job. Kifffin is always looking for his next position. His current job, whatever it is, is just a stepping stone to the next one. He's had some great head coaching jobs--Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, USC--but left them all on bad terms. For a while, after he bailed out on the Volunteers, he was the most hated man in Tennessee.

Right now he's OC at Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban hired him last year to infuse some PAC 12 zip into Bama's stodgy offense, which he did. However, he and Saban were reportedly at odds because Saban felt Kiffin was mismanaging the running game. Bama, as usual, had a great season but you can't give Kiffin much credit for that. Any OC could have done that. Bama has a stable overflowing with some of the best players in college football. With all that talent, even an incompetent couldn't miss.

No question Kiffin is a whiz at game-planning and play calling. That's why he keeps getting jobs. But that's not all an OC does. He has to smoothly interact with players, coaches and fans, and Kiffin is notoriously awful at that.. He has limited people skills. Players and coaches tend not to like him because he's abrupt, self-absorbed, single-minded and a lousy listener. When he was at USC, one of his assistants punched him out at a bowl game. Wherever he is there's underlying animosity against him and behind-the-scenes melodrama. Yes he has high-level OC skills but they're far outweighed by all that baggage.

Is this the kind of guy--a known disruptive force--you want on a staff full of mostly new coaches guided by a novice leader, a situation that can easily plunge into chaos? Is this the kind of guy you want dealing with QB Colin Kaepernick, who's fragile after coming off a season in which he clearly regressed? Kaepernick needs a wise, stable OC to guide and retrain him. No way is that Kiffin.

Here's hoping the Niner brass wises up and doesn't make Boneheaded Move No.3.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Message to Peyton Manning: Please Retire!

Peyton Manning is like Willie Mays. That's not a good thing.

While watching the Broncos' QB stumble through Denver's 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, center fielder Mays, one of baseball's all-time greats, came to mind. In 1973, he was 42 years old, a member of the New York Mets, pathetically stumbling through his last season. I recall seeing him in a game in New York, playing center, fielding a single, with a slow runner on second. Mays botched the play, taking forever to pick up the ball, bobbling it, and finally throwing a wobbler over the catcher's head. The runner lumbered home safely. In his prime, Mays would have routinely swallowed up that grounder and gunned down that runner at third base. In 1973, many years past his prime, he shouldn't have been playing.

Manning, one of the all-time great QBs, is ancient, broken-down Mays all over again. He's as sad and as painful to watch as Mays was during that pitiful last year, when he hit .211 and had a fraction of his phenomenal skills. Nearing 39, Manning has lost it. He and Denver are feeding us some line about him struggling because he's suffering from a torn quad. Hah! That's pure bull.

Manning's problem is obvious. His arm is dead. It has been that way since late in the season. His passes, once laser-like, now flutter. He can't throw long or medium-length passes with zip or accuracy any more. After an OK start, he slowly tailed off. His aging arm couldn't stand the wear and tear of a long season.

Defenders figured him out. They were no longer afraid of being burned by his long or medium-range passes, so they just crowded around the line of scrimmage, waiting for those dinky little passes and screens, which didn't pick up much yardage. Denver was forced to rely more and more on its running game. However, as the season wore on, it was tougher for chief RB C.J. Anderson to gain yardage because defenses were expecting the run. Once its strength, Denver's offense became a liability. Once Denver's strength, Manning became a liability.

That loss to Indianapolis was a factor in head coach John Fox being canned not long after the game. The blame for that loss is largely on Manning, who played badly. Now he's about as effective as a so-so second-stringer. The old Manning would have pulverized the Colts, who aren't that good. With little help from the offense, Denver's much-improved defense had to shoulder the entire load in that crucial game, which it wasn't able to do successfully.

Here's a message to Manning:

Dump that phony torn-quad excuse and get real. You'll never approach your old form again. Don't drag your team down because your ego can't stand facing the hard, cold, ugly fact that your arm is dead. It's never coming back to life. Deal with it. Don't be selfish. Don't stain a great career with a sad, stumbling exit. It's time to retire. Find a comfy rocking chair and settle in it. Whatever you do, please don't wind up like Willie Mays.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gamblers Talk About Fixing the Lions Game.

Conspiracy theorists, you're barking up the wrong tree.
That ref's call in the Dallas 24-20 win Sunday was a travesty, but it wasn't part of a fix.

A controversy is still raging about a call on a third-down play in the fourth quarter that led to a Detroit defeat. With his team leading 20-17, Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw an incomplete pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was mugged by Dallas' LB Anthony Hitchens, clear pass interference. An official walked off the penalty, which would have set up the Lions deep in Dallas territory. But, shockingly, ref Pete Morelli announced, with no explanation, that there was, after all, no penalty. It was a game-changer. Instead of  keeping the ball and increasing their lead, the Lions, after a horrible punt, surrendered the ball to the Cowboys, who scored the winning TD. Many Detroit fans screamed foul, contending the fix was in, that the TV network preferred that Dallas advance, because its huge fan base would mean higher ratings.

But.according to two sources, both veteran professional gamblers, who know something about fixing NFL games, there was no way that call was part of a fix. Said one source, who we'll call Rex: "When a ref is fixing a game, the number one thing he does not do is make it obvious. Fixing a game is subtle. The refs look for plays that could go either way in crucial situations and then rig a call. That pass interference against Dallas was flagrant. A fixer wouldn't go near that play. Reversing it was insane. Reversing it without an explanation was more insane. You might as well be screaming, 'Hey look at me, I'm fixing the game.' When a ref is fixing a call, if it's done right, you don't know it. Refs who fix games are also watching out for league investigators. They have to be subtle. Nothing about that call in the Dallas game was subtle. "

Added another source, who we'll call Joey A: "First of all, there were too many refs involved in that call. You don't fix a game by committee. When a game is rigged, there's one guy working alone, looking for small windows of opportunity throughout the game. There were a bunch of people involved in screwing up that call. That's not fixing. No way."

Explained Rex:  "Rigging for gamblers and rigging for networks are two different things. Refs working for gamblers are working against a point spread and usually work low-profile games. Rigging for networks is trickier and tougher because it's making one team win and it may be a high-profile game. When you're under a microscope in a high-profile game it's tougher to rig without tipping your hand."

Concluded Joey A: "The key to rigging is getting good refs in your pocket. Some refs are so good they can fix a game and you won't even have a hint of rigging. The refs in that Detroit game are clowns. They bungled that play. That was just rotten officiating, not rigging. People looking to rig games know which refs to trust. They would never hire those idiots. There's a list of bad refs. Some are downright incompetent and should be kicked out of the league. I haven't seen the list but I bet some of the crew that worked the Detroit game are on that list."