BOZICH | Monday Muse: Defending Nick Saban, Lamar Jackson, Charlie Strong
Bill Simmons is wrong about Nick Saban. An anonymous ACC coach is wrong to take a cheap shot at Lamar Jackson. Charlie Strong opens up. The latest on Grayson Allen. Time for the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I expected the Word of the Day to be chilly or dynasty or Grayson. But another word has tripped its way into the Monday Muse dialogue:
Serial blowhard Bill Simmons used it to describe Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
I’m using it to describe Simmons as well as an anonymous Atlantic Coast Conference football coach who took a cheap shot at Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Feel free to use it as you please when Duke and Allen arrive at the KFC Yum! Center to play Louisville Saturday afternoon.
Time for me to explain.
1. Bill Simmons is Wrong About Nick Saban
Confession: I’ve never had Bill Simmons’ fever. His interminable blog posts were never a Must Read for me.
I’m sure it’s a generational and geography thing. He’s a talented guy with a king-sized following. I have not watched every 30 for 30 that Simmons’ crew created, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve seen.
As writers go, give me Dave Kindred, Leigh Montville, Jim Murray, Bob Verdi, Roger Angell, Curry Kirkpatrick and a million others ahead of Simmons. Heck, give me Bob Ryan or Dan Shaughnessy on the Celtics.
When Simmons earned ESPN airtime on the NBA, I was as much of a fan as Sage Steele, Doug Collins or Jalen Rose. Those three learned to tolerate his obnoxious interruptions with Celtics’ blather. They had to -- until ESPN removed Simmons.
Now this: After his spectacular failure at HBO, Simmons took aim at Alabama football coach Nick Saban, calling him a coward for not returning to the NFL and proving himself at the highest level of the game. (The link.)
Marc Trestman, Abe Gibron, Rich Kotite, Les Steckel and a thousand other Grabowskis have coached in the NFL — without being nominated for a Profile in Courage segment. There are multiple qualities required to coach in the NFL. Courage is not one of them.
Heck, Brian Billick, Mike Ditka and George Seifert won the Super Bowl.
Anybody believe those guys can X and O with Saban?
Didn’t think so.
Yes, college football is not a level playing field. Saban starts every game with a considerable talent edge. He turns away prospects that other SEC schools cannot convince to visit.
Alabama has a jumbo-sized home field advantage, passionate fans and expectations to win, win, win. That’s not how it works in the NFL. Saban surely understands that.
But Mike Shula whiffed at Alabama. So did Mike DuBose. And Bill Curry. Ray Perkins, too.
Dominating the SEC West is just as daunting as the challenge that Bill Belichick faces dominating the daunting AFC East with Simmons’ beloved Patriots.
What Saban has achieved at Alabama has not been cowardly, it’s been remarkable. Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and several other programs offer as many advantages as Alabama has. Ask their fans how those programs compare to Alabama over the last decade.
Win or lose Monday night against Clemson, Saban is clearly as talented as any coach who has worked in the NFL or college football.
Even if Bill Simmons can’t recognize that.
2. Cheap Shot at Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson is not playing in the College Football Playoff national championship game but that didn’t stop an anonymous ACC football coach from taking this cheap shot at the University of Louisville quarterback in a story at SI.com:
“(Clemson quarterback Deshaun) Watson has a chance to be at least as good as (former Florida State star Jameis) Winston,” the coach told Pete Thamel of SI in this story.
“We played he and Lamar Jackson, and Jackson has no shot at playing quarterback in the NFL. None. He can’t make the throws and can’t read coverages. He’s not going to have a chance. Watson stands tall in the pocket and whips the ball around like Ben Roethlisberger.”
Jackson does need to improve his completion percentage. He completed less than 60 percent of his throws in five ACC games. Jackson managed only four touchdown passes in Louisville’s final four games.
But … he also completed better than 60 percent of his throws against Clemson and Florida State, the two best defenses in the league. He operated behind one of the least effective offensive lines in the league. He’s only started one full season and has another year to learn the game and improve his technique.
Jackson had 30 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Watson had 38 TDs but 17 interceptions — if you worry about a guy who throws the ball to the other team. It's a fairly important trait.
We’ve all seen some of the clowns playing quarterback in the NFL. It’s premature to determine Jackson’s NFL future. The odds are against Jackson or any college quarterback succeeding on Sunday. Check recent NFL Draft report cards.
To borrow from Simmons’ vocabulary, it’s cowardly to dis the Heisman Trophy winner like that without agreeing to be identified.
Only five coaches — Jimbo Fisher of Florida State; Dave Doeren of North Carolina State; Dave Clawson of Wake Forest; Dino Babers of Syracuse and Steve Adazzio of Boston College — played Clemson and Louisville.
I considered guessing the identity of Mr. Anonymous, but that would be … cowardly.
3. Cards Crack Top 25 for 2017
The first college football Top 25 predictions for next season are typically filed before all the confetti has been vacuumed off the turf at the national championship game. Expect a string of announcements Tuesday.
The Sporting News preferred not to wait that long. The Sporting News wanted to be first.
The Sporting News has already posted its list — and it includes Bobby Petrino’s Louisville team at Number 12.
That’s higher than the Cards will finish this season. I realize Jackson will return for another season and that the Cards have a nice collection of receivers.
But Louisville will lose Keith Kelsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons, DeAngelo Brown and Devonte Fields on defense as well as James Quick, Cole Hikutini and Brandon Radcliff on offense.
4. Charlie Strong Opens Up
Charlie Strong doesn’t have many Go-To guys in the media. In fact, everybody is playing for second place behind Thamel of Sports Illustrated.
It was not surprising that Strong summoned Thamel to share his most extensive thoughts on his firing at Texas and subsequent hiring at South Florida. (Story link.)
Strong, to his credit, reflected on his role in his three-season meltdown at Texas as well as the outside factors that led to his spectacular failure. As expected, Strong also spoke of his tremendous resolve to get back into the game quickly and prove he can win the way he won at Louisville.
That’s what I expect to happen. Willie Taggart left Strong a talented collection of players. Florida is Strong’s recruiting sweet spot. He knows the American Athletic Conference. Look for Charlie Strong in a bowl game next season.
5. Changing NCAA Investigations/Enforcement
The fiasco around the North Carolina basketball, football and academic programs has damaged the Atlantic Coast Conference for years.
UNC folks generally think the world has piled on the Tar Heels. Others think UNC has received Most Favored Nation status unavailable to programs with more clout.
Nobody has been more unsettled with all the drama than ACC commissioner John Swofford, the leader of his league as well as the former athletic director in Chapel Hill.
I was not surprised to read the comments Swofford made Sunday when he suggested it was time for the NCAA and conferences to recruit administrators from outside college athletics to rule on cases like the Carolina case.
Swofford seems uncomfortable with the prevailing system that results in administrators from other leagues setting penalties.
I think North Carolina has received a sweetheart deal so far. Maybe Swofford doesn’t.
6. Grayson Allen, Part IV
The most interesting aftermath of the latest Grayson Allen tripping/kicking incident Saturday at Boston College was this:
Why didn’t any of the media members covering the game ask Connor Tava of BC if he believed that Allen intentionally kicked him as Allen fell forward?
Seems pretty simple.
If anybody asked Tava if he believed it was the fourth intentional cheap shot by Allen in the last two seasons, I cannot find the quotes.
All I could find was This Tweet by Tava. He retweeted a Sports Illustrated story about the dust-up with this simple comment:
“I have a name.” (Link to the latest story.)
He also has a story. I hope somebody asks him.
7. Are College Football Games Too Long?
I don’t need market research. There’s no reason games should not be completed in 3 1/2 hours or less. The game average has grown seven minutes -- to 3:24 -- over the last four seasons. Too many games stretch closer to four hours.
It’s a topic that was discussed over the weekend as administrators and media members gathered in Tampa for the national championship game.
Make it happen. (Story link.)
8. Brawl of the Year
Nominations are closed for the Brawl of the Year in college basketball — and it didn’t include Grayson Allen.
If you have not seen this video, you should click this link and watch. Players from Utah State and UNLV women’s teams kept playing after the whistle, resulting in the ejection of eight players as the benches cleared.
Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured and the crowd did not join the scrum.
9. Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year
Nearly 36 years ago, the Lexington Herald-Leader established a wonderful tradition of recognizing the top Sports Figure of the Year in the state.
Ballots are sent to media members around the state and the announcement usually comes in February. My 2016 ballot arrived last week. It is due on Friday.
I’m open to suggestions for the person (or animal) who should succeed the 2015 winner, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Here are the leading contenders (in alphabetical order):
Devin Booker (former UK basketball star); Jeff Brohm (former WKU football coach); DeMarcus Cousins (former UK basketball star); Adam Duvall (former U of L baseball star); Lamar Jackson (U of L quarterback); Corey Ray (former U of L baseball star; Tyler Ulis (UK basketball all-American) and Kelsi Worrell (U of L Olympic swimmer).
The winner has to be Lamar Jackson — even if anonymous ACC football coaches disagree.
But you can e-mail your choices (top 10) to firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Poll Results
Which team will win the ACC men’s regular-season basketball title?
Louisville 49.6 percent
Virginia 23.9 percent
North Carolina 11.6 percent
Duke 9.4 percent
Florida State 3.1 percent
Other 2.3 percent
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