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Let's talk some football

Saturday 2/10/24

I'm a touch surprised that the Forty-Niners are favored in tomorrow's Super Bowl. They're fortunate to be there given how they played--with thanks to how their opponents found ways to lose--in their two previous playoff games. I like Purdy, but he needs to be dramatically better than he's been.

It wouldn't be some shock if San Francisco was blown out, but I don't think that'll happen. These Chiefs aren't a blow-the-other-team-out kind of team. They remind me of the 2018 Patriots. And sure, he could throw for 400 yards and 3 TDs tomorrow and win the MVP, but there's been some slippage in Mahomes' game this year. I'll likely miss a good chunk of the game. Hoping to get to Barry Lyndon and a program of Brakhage films at the Brattle.

Speaking of surprised: Bill O'Brien was named the new Boston College football head coach yesterday, which may something about how low he's fallen (and I suspect his desire to keep his family in the Boston area). I don't think he's a good coach or a good coordinator, but getting him is big for BC. You don't need to be some great tactician to be a successful college football coach. You need to recruit, instill a mentality and style of play, and get buy-in.

Kids will come to BC because of where O'Brien has worked and with whom: Had a somewhat successful stretch as an NFL head coach, then there was Penn State, working with Brady, and his time as Alabama's offensive coordinator. This was a huge hire for BC, the hire with the most on the line in the history of the school's football program. The ACC is going to break up, and if BC doesn't get better soon, they could be in danger of dropping down a level and being a Patriot League school. College football at BC's current level is more of a business than at any time previously, which I detest, but that's how it is. BC has to have something to offer, business-wise. He's not close to what Coughlin was as a coach, but I'm sure Eagles fans are hoping for Coughlin-like results with O'Brien. If he's successful, he's likely to be gone pretty soon, unless family considerations say otherwise.

Someone asked me when I thought the Patriots might be good again. I wouldn't count on them being good for the next five years, at least. Could be ten. There's nothing there right now. No players, no quarterback, no plan, no proven coach, no integrated staff, no coordinators who have shown they can do anything, no competent GM or GM-type, and I think you have a boob for an owner and that boob's meddlesome son who's worse. You might have to go through this coach and and another coach and more.

What will it take in terms of the fix? Could very well take the right quarterback and having him play at the right time. What I'd try to do right now is create a scrappy bridge team. Instill a culture and attitude. Those bridge Celtics weren't going to win it all, but they were a playoff team that could make some noise and people enjoyed supporting them. Swap out parts as you go along, and keep improving. Hopefully somewhere in there you find that quarterback. For now, I don't think it hurts to bring in Justin Fields. Good attitude guy who is also getting better.

I think .500 (which you can't technically be anymore without a tie, annoying as that is) is the absolute best they could be next year, and that's pretty far-fetched to me. I wouldn't take a quarterback in this year's draft. Marvin Harrison, Jr. is supposed to be some can't-miss receiver. Well, there aren't a lot of those. If you're telling me he's a guy who can get you 1300 receiving yards year in, year out, I'd go with him. Then hope he's still around if and when you do get the quarterback you need.

But I will say this, too, which no one else does: Offense is coming down. The NFL is cyclical. Again, look at the Chiefs. They gutted out wins this year. The most prolific passers are closer to 4000 yards again instead of 5000. Winning has a lot to do with not beating yourself. Being fundamentally sound. Tackling well. Not turning the ball over.

People say the game passed Bill Belichick by and they couldn't be more wrong. Do you know how different the league was in 2003 than it was in 2011? Guys just started throwing for 5000 yards and it was all offense, or just about. Belichick won both ways. But then he became someone who cut corners, became less driven, made more decisions because of personal feelings, got complacent, coasted, hired because of cronyism and nepotism, lost drive and focus. The game didn't pass him by. It was more like he--or his former self--passed himself by.

Then all of these "experts" who actually know nothing say they're shocked that Belichick didn't get a job. I told you he wouldn't unless a stupid person made a stupid mistake. There was no reason to hire Belichick. Not at that age, not after all of those years of failure, obvious bad decisions, all that he demands, all that you'd have to deal with with his pettiness and his network of people. This was the guy who made Cam Newton his quarterback when no one else in the league would sign him. He was a bad coach for four years. That's forty percent of a decade. And, what? He was about to reverse? Find that new lease on coaching life and pull off a turnaround? Why would you think that? And how many seventy-two-year-olds do you know who just all of a sudden get open-minded and start fresh with anything? Sure, it's possible. That will be me. But it's not very many people. The only surprising thing is that no one was stupid enough to bring him in. But there shouldn't have been any market for him. That, in and of itself as it pertains to him, isn't surprising at all.

In reality, none of these people are experts. That's how it is with everything. It's just people saying stuff, and because hardly anyone knows anything or is that bright, it's all unchecked. Being an expert, in this context, isn't about knowledge or insight. It's about platform and mediocrity. How many followers you have. The pulpit you're given. Actual expertise has nothing to do with it, save that people tend to resent actual expertise and someone who possesses it, because then those people get self-conscious about just talking out of their ass and doing their stupidity and hot takes and what not with a smart person around. It's sort of like you have a swimming club and everyone in it is some fat guy, and then one day in comes this hot woman in a bikini and all of these fat guys are all of a sudden super uncomfortable. But if another fat guy walked in, they'd just carry on, business as usual.

Broncos' linebacker Randy Gradishar made the Hall of Fame, which was well-deserved and a long time coming. I was pleased to see that. Here's the thing with the football Hall of Fame: It's the easiest Hall of Fame to get into, but it can also be the trickiest. Why is that? Because you don't have numbers in the NFL like you do in the other sports. Yes, we have QB numbers, and running back numbers, and receiver numbers, but those numbers change so much from era to era. People are often too stupid to realize this, so you'll see someone compare the numbers of Mahomes with the numbers of Terry Bradshaw. You can't do it. Whereas, many baseball career numbers are consistent. 3000 hits is a self-contained value, whether you played in 1923 or 1973 or 2023. There's something much closer to numerical consistency.

And then with football's Hall of Fame, the careers can be so short. Look at Terrell Davis. Or Earl Campbell. He's in the Hall of Fame for his first four seasons, pretty much. Should he be there? Yeah. But still--it's not like you need to do it for twenty years, or ten. Now, imagine if with baseball or hockey players we were considering guys who only had three, four, five great years. How would you figure out who belongs?

With these older players, people didn't see them play, or not a huge amount of people saw them play or remember them that well because that's how people's brains are. I can look at a lot of guys and think they should be in as much as other guys who are already in. I felt that way about Joe Klecko, who did get in. But there are a lot of players like that. For instance, where's Jim Marshall?

I've talked about Randall Cunningham. He was better than Troy Aikman. I'm not too keen on Aikman being in. But if I had to pick one guy who should have been in long ago, and whom I bet many people think is in already, it would be Roger Craig. Before there was Thurman Thomas, Marshall Faulk, or LaDainian Tomlinson, there was Roger Craig, Mr. Dual Threat. And he was on those great Forty-Niners teams? Seriously, why is he not in?

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