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."