Baylor football may very well go 0-12 this year, depending what happens on November 4th in Lawrence, Kansas.
Circle that one on your calendar. It’s Bears vs. Jayhawks for ninth place in the Big 12 Conference, a matchup between the movable object and the stoppable force.
It’s sad to think about because I really like Matt Rhule.
My first interaction with the Baylor head coach was two years ago while working at CBS 3. I was producing “Sports Zone” at the time, the half-hour special that aired on Sunday nights after the late news.
Rhule had just started his third Temple season with a 27-10 home win against Penn State, which was probably the biggest victory of his nascent head coaching career. He did every interview that weekend, from ESPN, to the Associated Press and Action News and all of the local papers. Rhule didn’t have to make time for us, but he did, showing up in person at 9 p.m. the night after the game to tape a segment for our 11:35 p.m. show. I took him to our studio after he got off the elevator and we spent 10 minutes just bullshitting about college football in general. He seemed like a grounded and genuine person.
Ask around and you’ll hear similar stories about Rhule, who left for Baylor after taking the Owls from 2-10 to 10-4. The guy made college football relevant in a parochial pro sports town. We had College Gameday on Independence Mall, for Christ’s sake.
The Sixers over/under win total for the 2017-2018 season currently sits at 40.5.
That’s an extreme jump from the 27.5 over/under win total heading into last season.
It’s an impressive number, considering that the 13-game year-to-year difference (plus or minus) is second only to the Houston Rockets’ 15-game difference (41.5 to 56.5). There’s obvious reason for the expected win increase, but I won’t exhaust you with that.
The tricky thing about using that 40.5 number to project the Sixers’ performance this season, for fans and degenerates alike, is that the team leaves the door open for a wide range of variance. Joel Embiid playing 40 games versus Joel Embiid playing 62 games could be a difference of seven, eight, nine, or more wins. Lineup experimentation could force the Sixers to play two or three months of basketball before they finally “figure it out.” Ben Simmons could light the league on fire right out of the gate, or he could struggle mightily with turnovers and become exposed as a poor shooter.
With so many factors surrounding this team’s potential, let’s focus on an extreme, while being realistic.
The latest Joe Paterno story slipped into the news cycle two Saturdays ago, nestling itself between the ongoing revelry of a new college football season and the impending calamity of Hurricane Irma.
Given the distractions that presented themselves that weekend, you would be forgiven if you missed it, or, more likely, quickly digested the lede before moving on to the next article.
After all, the Penn State scandal is yesterday’s news. Jerry Sandusky is in prison. Two former PSU administrators and the school’s ex-president received jail sentences for their roles in the cover-up. Paterno is dead, his legacy in tatters outside the Happy Valley bubble. The university has paid millions of dollars in settlements to Sandusky victims.
There are fresh tragedies for the public to consume. Frankly, some of us have even become so inured to atrocity that we’ve lost our capacity for outrage.
However, the primary revelation contained within Sara Ganim’s recent CNN offering should require us all to read past the headline and pause – not for anger – but for introspection.
The Eagles’ running game has been the topic du jour since the Birds traded for Ronald Darby and partially fortified their undermanned secondary. We deviated for a day or so to bitch about screen passes, but now we’re right back to square one.
Much of the debate focuses on why the running game is struggling – lack of called running plays, poor offensive line play, lack of decent running backs, etc.
As an aside, I am firmly in the “running game is fine, you just need to actually run the ball” camp. Most of the offensive line, from an individual talent standpoint, is a known quantity. The Eagles have had success running behind these guys in the past.
As for the running backs, Darren Sproles is obviously not an issue, Wendell Smallwood has shown he can at least be effective in spurts, and LeGarrette Blount is a nine-year NFL veteran. You don’t play nine years in the NFL with no running ability. I honestly believe that the answer is giving them more opportunity and some patience. In other words, trade everyone to New England!
I don’t want to talk about the actual running game, though. That topic has been analyzed and debated ad nauseam.
I want to discuss another topic that has spurred a lot of recent debate: the Eagles walking away from a “historic” running back class with nothing but a 5’8”, 176-pound change of pace.
With the recent running game struggles, and the early success of rookies like Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen, the masses have taken those events, rolled them into a half-baked narrative about the Eagles leaving the draft with only Donnel Pumphrey, and are now passing it around for everyone to take a hit.
Here’s why that’s wrong.
The New York football Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in the National Football League.
They’re 0-2 and likely will be 0-3 after your team, your town, your Philadelphia Eagles inevitably lay the smacketh down this weekend.
YES broadcaster and ESPN NY 98.7 FM radio host Don La Greca didn’t want to hear excuses for the G-men’s miserable line play:
No words. pic.twitter.com/btsaBZLrpf
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) September 21, 2017
As a public service, I transcribed the above clip.
Don La Greca: “Did he have to throw the football? Come on, stop it already! Everybody’s coming up with these, ‘well this offensive lineman, only 27% of the time was Eli pressured from his left side on Monday nights when Sean McDonough is the announcer.’ Stop. Stop creating some narrative that everybody knows football better than somebody else. Your eyeballs tell the story. The offensive line sucks, period. That’s my stat. You want a stat? You want Sabermetrics? Don La Greca tweeted last night or said on the Michael Kay Show, that the offensive line stinks. That’s the stat. Give me a break. That’s what we’re going to do now, Michael? We’re going to be accountants now in baseball? What is it, the Pythagorean Theorem? The Pythagorean Theorem said that the their offensive line, that their record should be 1-1. The Pythagorean Theorem said the Giants should record should be 2-0. (random sounds)
Michael Kay: “When I talk Pythagorean Theorem I sound like that?”
La Greca: “No. The people that trust the Pythagorean Theorem, the people that listen to the Pythagorean Theorem, the people that sit there at their desk that only know the naked body through National Geographic that do the math to come up with the Pythagorean Theorem. That’s what they sound like. ‘duh daa duh duh da duhhhhh!’ Quit it. IT’S FOOTBALL. I’VE BEEN WATCHING IT FOR 40 YEARS. 40! 40 YEARS. THAT’S ONE OF THE WORST OFFENSIVE LINES I’VE EVER SEEN. And they have not gone this long without scoring 20 points since 1977-78 when Joe Pisarcik was their quarterback. (???). So take that with your PYTHAGOREAN THEOREM. The Joe Pisarcik theorem. YOU’RE DEAD.
The Philadelphia Flyers continued preseason game action last night with split squad games against the New York Islanders. Some Flyers played up in Brooklyn while others battled another Islander squad at the PPL Center in Allentown, the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The contest in the Lehigh Valley featured Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick. It also went to overtime tied at 2 before Gostisbehere netted the game winner in the extra period.
The young guns talked after the game:
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) September 21, 2017
Looking ahead, the team faces the Boston Bruins Thursday night and then has a home-and-home against the New York Rangers on Sept. 25 and 26.
The Roundup: Continue Reading
The season’s first loss is a pill that’s never easy to swallow, and the week leading up to the next game always feels just a little bit longer.
This was a winnable game for the Eagles, marred by mistakes, injuries, and questionable coaching decisions. Let’s see what they’re saying about the Birds’ week two setback to the Chiefs.
Philly.com’s Paul Domowitch graded every area of the Eagles on Tuesday and gave the birds a C overall:
Yeah, it was a tough road game that everyone had put an “L’’ next to before the season. With the exception of the long TD run they gave up to Kareem Hunt, the defense played pretty well. But the offense has a number of issues, including a non-existent run game and a continued propensity for third-and-longs.
Speaking of grades, Pro Football Focus broke down the game and doled out their own marks, with Rasul Douglas receiving the highest rating of any Eagle. Carson Wentz received a 50.5 and these remarks:
Carson Wentz struggled mightily against the Chiefs defense, the only real success the Eagles offense passing game had was the last drive where the Chiefs played soft coverage and a lucky 53-yard pass which bounced off a Chiefs defender’s arm into Zach Ertz’s arms. When Wentz was pressured (10 passes) he only completed 2 passes for 10 yards.
ESPN Eagles writer Tim McManus analyzed the shunning of LeGarrette Blount and why it’s a bad thing:
The early returns have not been good, but where can they turn if they turn away from Blount? Sproles is 34 and cannot be used as a workhorse at this stage of his career, Smallwood has not shown himself to be a reliable option to this point and undrafted rookie Corey Clement is no sure bet. Start cutting Blount out, and you run the risk of alienating a veteran presence in the room without a sound Plan B.
The Eagles are in this bind largely because of the front office’s inability to hit on running backs in recent years. The disastrous decision to trade away LeSean McCoy falls on former coach Chip Kelly, as well as owner Jeffrey Lurie for allowing him to do it, but executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has had a couple of offseasons to try and build the position back up.
Brett Brown, Bryan Colangelo and his thick, deep collars met with some assembled media today at what appears to be the set where they take product shots for food delivery services and explained to the gathered mass that, fuck no, Joel Embiid isn’t cleared to play 5 -on-5:
— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) September 20, 2017
“We just left the gym with him running around and getting shots. To be able to tell you specifically what I’m expecting to be able to get out of him next week, I’m not able to do that now.”
Me, watching that video:
Colangelo added that it is too early to tell when Embiid will scrimmage, but that he has not suffered a setback following his knee surgery this spring and that the team is just being overly cautious. It sounds like Embiid will meet with doctors next week.
Still, this feels odd. Why even the hesitation? The meniscus thing is a simple procedure and there’s no reason the Sixers shouldn’t know, for sure, that Embiid is good to go. Again, they’re likely being overly cautious, but this isn’t a group that deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to injuries. Anything short of yep, he dunked on Vegan Jah so hard yesterday in a scrimmage that we thought a sewage pipe burst because so many people were screaming “oh shit!” is concerning. Until that happens, I will remain inside my own clothing*, sobbing like a big baby.
More positive outlook: The Sixers are in contract talks with Embiid and are shooting to get something done soon. It is quite possible that Embiid, or his people, don’t want to risk further injury before the pen hits the paper.
*It would be so much easier if I had Bryan Colangelo’s collars.