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.