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[Posted early Tues. p.m.]
Tampa Bay Bucs Quiz: For a franchise that’s been around since 1976, 1) Name the only four to rush for 4,000 yards in a Bucs uniform. 2) Who is the only quarterback to throw for 100 touchdowns? 3) Who is the all-time leader in receiving yards? Answer below.
NFL Conference Finals
Bucs – Packers…3:05 p.m. ET…snowy, temps in 20s
Bills – Chiefs…6:40 p.m. …showery, 40-ish
Sunday night, after I posted, Tom Brady improved to 32-11 in the playoffs as the Bucs took advantage of four Saints turnovers, three of them interceptions by Drew Brees, Tampa Bay prevailing 30-20. The Bucs turned three of the four TOs into touchdowns.
But the Saints were up 20-13, and driving, when Brees found Jared Cook across the 50. And then the game turned, as Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. stripped Cook from behind and Devin White, who also had one of the three interceptions, snagged the loose ball, returning it 18 yards to the New Orleans 40. A huge moment.
Brees, 9-9 lifetime in the playoffs, who just turned 42 on Jan. 15 and is under contract for one more year, looked his age and this was no doubt his last game, while Brady, 43, looked like he could still play at a top level for another year beyond this one.
Brees said after the game, “I appreciate all that this game has given to me. There are obviously so many incredible memories.”
But only one Super Bowl for the NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing, way back in 2009.
As for Brady and the Bucs and their chances against the Packers in wintry conditions, the running back tandem of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette is critical for Tampa Bay. Jones had an outstanding year, Fournette not so much…that is until the playoffs, where he has contributed mightily. The Bucs will need 130 yards rushing between these two if they are to have any shot at the upset.
--As for Chiefs-Bills, we aren’t going to know a lot about the condition of Patrick Mahomes until Wednesday, or later.
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal notes that from 2015 to 2019, NFL quarterbacks were held out a median of seven days after suffering a concussion in a game, according to the league. The AFC Championship is exactly a week after Sunday’s game – meaning Mahomes would have to return earlier than normal to play.
But it’s not in Mahomes’ or the team’s hands. Even if he were cleared by the Chiefs’ physicians, he has to be examined by an independent neurological consultant who must concur that the concussion has been resolved before he’s allowed to participate in any practice or game.
--Houston’s Deshaun Watson has been bitching over not being part of the general manager search, which resulted in the hiring of former Patriots executive Nick Caserio. Watson’s in the midst of a five-year, $156 million deal, and has a no-trade clause, meaning he has some control over where he is traded because if it wasn’t the destination he wanted, he could decline to report.
The Dolphins remain prominent as a potential landing spot, as Watson reportedly likes the culture he has observed in Miami under head coach Brian Flores.
Watson was upset that while he offered input on potential general manager candidates, the Texans neither considered nor consulted with those endorsed by their franchise quarterback. Watson found out on social media, not from the team, that the Texans had hired Caserio.
As for a new coach, the Texans were said to be seriously considering Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, a man Watson has advocated for in the past, but Bieniemy is not conducting any more interviews until Kansas City’s postseason is complete. Bieniemy also may not even want to interview with the Texans, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
So lots of Jets fans, and many of you readers, hope the team goes after Watson full force, but the price tag would be huge.
Nonetheless, you know Jets GM Joe Douglas and new head coach Robert Saleh are discussing it.
What’s unfortunate is that it was just announced, as expected, there won’t a normal NFL combine, and instead the schools will hold pro days, though each team may be allowed to have a physician look at some of the key players at set dates in April. Otherwise, interviewing and other stuff will be conducted virtually.
With all the talk about Trevor Lawrence, who does seem destined for Jacksonville and Urban Meyer, not the small chance Meyer would go with fellow Buckeye Justin Fields, that leaves two top quarterback prospects kind of left out of the main conversation…Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, who didn’t get a chance at a 2020 season because of his league not playing a schedule due to Covid.
In 2019, Lance led NDSU to another I-AA (FCS) championship, throwing 28 touchdowns without an interception, while rushing for 1,100 yards.
Anyway, the dilemma is that teams like the Jets, who suddenly may be interested in Deshaun Watson, need to strike while the iron is hot. They don’t have the luxury of waiting, as New York otherwise does when it comes to the No. 2 pick.
By the way, Dr. W., yes, with all our experience (50 years of observations), the “eye test” is applicable, alongside metrics. [We’ve been musing about Fields, ditto Phil W. and I.]
--The Chargers hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be their next head coach.
It’s a stunning career climb for the 38-year-old Staley, who received his first NFL job just four years ago. He takes over for Anthony Lynn, who was 33-31 in the regular season in four years, one playoff appearance.
GM Tom Telesco said in the team’s news release: “It’s clear that Brandon will not be outworked. He’s the football equivalent of a gym rat, and that has earned him the universal respect of the players he has coached throughout his journey.”
Pssst…note to Summit’s Mike Badgley…start kissing Staley’s ass.
--New AP Poll (records as of Sun.)
1. Gonzaga (62) 14-0
2. Baylor (2) 12-0
3. Villanova 8-1…hasn’t played since Dec. 23, slated for Tues., Seton Hall
4. Iowa 12-2
5. Texas 11-2
6. Tennessee 10-1
7. Michigan 11-1
8. Houston 11-1
9. Kansas 9-3
10. Wisconsin 11-1
13. Virginia 9-2
23. UConn 7-1
24. UCLA 11-2
No Duke, no UNC…only 3 teams from ACC in Top 25.
For the Blue Devils it’s the first time they haven’t been in the rankings since Feb. 8, 2016. Their steak of 91 consecutive weeks in the Top 25 was second only to Kansas, which extended its record to 229 weeks. Gonzaga is now No. 2 at 87 weeks.
Monday, St. John’s (8-7, 3-6) then took out UConn (7-2, 4-2), 74-70.
2 Baylor beat 9 Kansas 77-69.
--Yes, the saga of Mets new GM, now-ex GM, Jared Porter, is rather sickening. The less said the better, but ESPN broke the story Monday night that Porter had harassed a reporter over the course of two months in 2016, including a string of 62 unanswered text messages culminating in a lewd photo. The woman, who was foreign and not working for a U.S. network, and who didn’t speak good English, gave permission after all these years to ESPN to print the story, providing them (Jeff Passan) with copies of the texts.
I feel sorry for Mets president Sandy Alderson, who clearly had no idea this story was lurking in Porter’s past. Porter was in the Cubs organization then and because the woman wasn’t working for a U.S. paper or network, and was just afraid to say anything, no doubt worried about her own job, she didn’t come forward.
What was predictable was that overnight all the U.S. scribes quickly rushed to give a rather OBVIOUS opinion….Porter needed to be fired.
Well no shit, Sherlock…and by 8:30 a.m. this morning, the Mets did just that.
I have nothing else to say on this. It doesn’t really hurt the Mets any. Alderson, with Uncle Stevie, is running the show until the organization gets more settled, and they’ll be fine. They moved quickly. Good.
The team/organization that needs to do some soul-searching is the Cubs.
--Johnny Mac passed along a Sports Illustrated piece from Tom Verducci, regarding a game long ago both of us didn’t either remember, or didn’t know about.
That back on March 28, 1970, at Dodger Stadium, to honor the memory and support the causes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball put together a game, the proceeds of which went to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and to the construction of the MLK Center in Atlanta.
Joe DiMaggio was one manager, Roy Campanella the other. Tom Seaver was DiMaggio’s starting pitcher, with Bob Gibson first out of the bullpen. On DiMaggio’s bench was Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline.
Campanella had Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson, his outfielders, batting 2-3-4. Willie Mays flew 12,000 miles to take one at-bat off the bench.
Koufax, Drysdale, Musial, Satchel Paige, Larry Doby, were there in uniform. Jackie Robinson watched from the stands, as did Hollywood stars.
But the ballpark was mostly empty, no local television coverage. There was some coverage around the country, but few saw it. As Verducci writes, “it may have been The Greatest (Forgotten) Game Ever Played.”
23 current and future Hall of Famers were in uniform that afternoon.
Mays flew back and forth from Japan, where the Giants were playing a series of exhibition games.
39-year-old Ernie Banks, who was so happy to be there, played shortstop for the first time in nine years.
Pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant sang the National Anthem. Coretta Scott King threw the ceremonial first pitch to Johnny Bench.
Tickets sold for as little as $2 and attendance was announced as 31,694.
The East won 5-1, Seaver and Gibson combining for six shutout innings. Ron Fairly and Ron Santo hit home runs.
Of course, when the game was over, Banks beamed, “I’m ready to play another game, aren’t you?”
And give it up for Pete Rose, who filed a column for the Cincinnati Enquirer in which he wrote: “I played a baseball game Saturday that meant an awful lot to me. It was more than just another game and even though it was an exhibition game it had meaning. In this game I felt I did some good for my country. I believe I’ve got to help any way I can and this is my way of doing it.”
And thank you, Tom Verducci, for bringing this to light. [And you, J. Mac.]
--Finally, we learned late today that another Hall of Famer, Don Sutton, passed away. He was 75. His son tweeted he “passed away in his sleep” last night.
“He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known,” his son, Darron, wrote, “and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful. Rest in Peace.”
Sutton, a four-time All-Star, built his reputation on durability. He only won 20 games once, but overall won 324 games.
He did pitch at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons, with the strike-shortened 1981 season the only exception. Sutton ranks third all time in games started – behind only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan. Wow.
I have thoughts about this man’s career I’ll keep to myself. But you have to totally respect not just the durability, but that he went 15-11, 3.74 ERA, 207 innings at age 41 for the Angels! And he was a solid 6-4, 3.68 in the postseason.
--So late this afternoon we learned Tiger Woods’ 2021 season is on hold after he announced he underwent a microdiscectomy procedure on his back to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve.
So this sucks. He will be out at least two months and miss the Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines) and the Genesis Invitational (Riviera), where he doubles as tournament host.
Doctors characterized the surgery as a success and expect a full recovery, per Woods’ release, and Woods is telling friends he hopes to return in time for The Masters, which begins April 8.
It’s the fifth operation Woods has had on his back, but the first since a spinal-fusion surgery in April 2017.
Woods said in his statement: “I look forward to begin training and am focused on getting back out on tour.”
Tiger had a poor 2020, playing in just nine events, and he’s admitted he’s at the mercy of his now 45-year-old body and the wear and tear he’s accumulated.
--After I posted last time, Kevin Na made up three shots with six holes to play; birdied three straight and finished with an up-and-down birdie from behind the 18th green for a final-round 65 and a one-shot victory in the Sony Open at Waialae (Honolulu). It was his fifth PGA Tour win.
To me, in the gradations of marking one’s career, ‘five’ is solid, ‘eight’ is good, 10-12 with a major is very good, and anyone with 15 wins and two majors in today’s modern game had a super career…as in made a boatload of money, too.
Joaquin Niemann was runner-up a second straight week, speaking of beaucoup dollars, while Chris Kirk also took a share of second with his fourth-straight round of 65.
This was huge for Kirk, who stepped away from golf in May 2019 citing alcoholism and depression. He was given a medical extension to make up for lost time, and this was the final event for him to regain full Tour status. He did that. Good for him.
But for a second straight year, Brendan Steele entered the final round as the leader, only to emerge without the win.
Last year Steele blew a two-shot lead with two holes to play and wound up losing in a playoff. This time, after an eagle on the ninth hole gave him a three-shot lead into the back nine, he blew it a second time.
So now the Tour heads to the west coast for a good stretch, and better TV viewing times.
--Eamon Lynch / Golfweek…the best writer in his sport these days, period…
“Justin Thomas doesn’t seem the type to read Oscar Wilde, but he might nevertheless wince at the painful truth in the Irish author’s acid observation that experience is the hardest teacher because it gives the exam first and the lesson afterward.
“Barely two weeks in and 2021 is already delivering a tough (and expensive) lesson to the world No. 3, who was dumped by Ralph Lauren in the wake of an incident at the Sentry Tournament of Champions when he audibly muttered a homophobic slur after missing a putt.
“The social media reaction to both the utterance and the fallout has been dispiritingly predictable, whether its those declaring (without evidence) that Thomas is a rampant bigot or those insisting (without empathy) that everyone is too damned insensitive. These are tediously reflexive positions that require neither contemplation nor even the full allocation of 280 Twitter characters.
“There is a third path, obviously, but one seldom traveled in an era when corporations are eager to publicly distance themselves from hateful comments, when the concepts of education or rehabilitation are deemed riskier than censure and cord-cutting.
“There are two immutable facts in this sorry mess: what Thomas said was as despicable as it was dumb, and Ralph Lauren has the right to decide who is an acceptable ambassador for its products. The company’s decision to drop Thomas won’t sit well with many, but it does not fall under the lazy jargon of ‘cancel culture.’ It’s merely an example of the free market at work. The flip side of those facts is that an isolated, angry comment isn’t the full measure of a man, and that the defense of human dignity isn’t best mounted by an industry that postures while surviving on sweatshops.
“I have no idea if Justin Thomas is homophobic, having never discussed with him the latest shenanigans on RuPaul’s Drag Race. What I do know is that Thomas is prone to tripping over hot mics on broadcasts. This incident illustrates that not all F-bombs are created equally, that there’s a fine line between being passionate and being a pillock, and for a brief moment Thomas strayed to the wrong side of it. But absent a pattern of hateful comments, there’s no reason to define him by that moment. The social media ecosystem is obviously not a three-strike society, but Thomas is certainly deserving of a second.
“Which is not to condemn Ralph Lauren as a villain in this piece. The decision to dump an athlete in whom it had invested millions of marketing dollars cannot have been taken lightly, and the company deserves kudos for its willingness to take a stand against homophobia while so many others are content to look the other way. But a glitzy fashion brand founded by Ralph Lifshitz from the Bronx might also have allowed for the possibility that a man can reinvent himself. [Ed. I wrote last time that Ralph Lauren DID keep the door open to Thomas.]….
“In 2020, Scott Piercy posted to Instagram a homophobic meme about Pete Buttigieg and lost his sponsors overnight, two of whom (Titleist and FootJoy) also sponsor Thomas. But there’s an enormous difference between angrily muttering a disgusting comment to oneself on the golf course and taking the time to post a loathsome image to social media that targets an openly gay individual. Piercy got what he deserved. Thomas does not warrant the same.
“As one of the few out gay men in the golf world, I occasionally hear from college-age golfers who love the game and want a career in it… Those kids are the unseen and unheard impact of Thomas’ language, the people who will simply drift away from golf while this binary debate exhausts itself between those who are vocally upset at the slur and those who are just angry that others express their upset.”
--Boy, talk about a Covid mess. Two Australian Open tennis players have now tested positive after arriving in Melbourne, a third case involved a “non-playing participant,” according to the state of Victoria’s chief health officer.
1,200 people, including players, staff and officials, have flown to Australia (or are in the process of doing so), with the tournament beginning Feb. 8.
But lots of folks are complaining over the two-week quarantine period. Some players are bitching about being confined to a hotel room, while at the same time, some residents of Melbourne, who have endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns, have their own concerns about holding the event and the Covid risk.
Positive cases on three flights have forced 72 players into full quarantine, meaning they can’t train like other participants. World number one Novak Djokovic is lobbying authorities to relax quarantine rules for players.
Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios said of Djokovic, when last year he organized a Covid superspreader at an exhibition in Croatia, “That’s what happens when you disregard all protocols. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.”
This time Kyrgios criticized the girlfriend of fellow Australian player Bernard Tomic after she was featured in a news clip complaining about the hotel food and having to wash her hair by herself.
“[She] obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes,” Kyrgios tweeted.
Kyrgios has been popular in Australia where many of the people have mocked the players’ attitudes towards the restrictions.
--Last Sunday, Nathan Chen won his fifth straight U.S. Figure Skating Championship, the longest streak since Dick Button won each title from 1946-52. Just typing Dick Button’s name brings back good memories for those of us of a certain age. He was the sport for over two decades in terms of his Olympic broadcasting career, and for longer doing national and world championships for ABC. The dude is still alive. Age 91.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/18/69: #1 “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye) #2 “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (Diana Ross and The Supremes & The Temptations) #3 “Soulful Strut” (Young-Holt Unlimited)…and…#4 “Crimson and Clover” (Tommy James and The Shondells) #5 “Hooked On A Feeling” (B.J. Thomas) #6 “Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell…in my top ten all time…) #7 “For Once In My Life” (Stevie Wonder) #8 “Touch Me” (The Doors) #9 “Worst That Could Happen” (Brooklyn Bridge) #10 “Son-Of-A Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield… ‘A’ week…New York Mets a month from spring training and what would be a season of Amazin’ Memories…)
Tampa Bay Bucs Quiz Answers: 1) Only four with 4,000 yards – James Wilder, 5957 (1981-89); Mike Alstott, 5088 (1996-2006); Warrick Dunn, 4986 (1997-2008); Doug Martin, 4633 (2012-2017). 2) Jameis Winston is the only Tampa quarterback with 100 touchdown passes, 121. 3) All-time receiving yards, Mike Evans, 8266.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.