Not a lot of stories to cover today, but alot to say about the few big stories that there are…..
What a long strange trip it has been for Lance Armstrong. I didn’t watch the show because I would rather soak my private parts in scalding hot vinegar while simultaneously being beaten in the face with a bat made of thumbtacks rather than provide Satan’s favorite talk show host Oprah with the ratings for her “network” that she so desperately craves, but one would have to have been hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan this past week not to know that after years of vehement denials Armstrong finally admitted to using illegal performance enhancing drugs. The strange dichotomy with Armstrong is that he cannot so easily be discarded into the trash heap of shunned former athletes who have been proven to be megalomaniacal cheaters. ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who continues to fight cancer to this day, offered a passionate defense of Armstrong on Mike & Mike in the Morning this week, saying in essence that the things that have been accomplished & the people who have been helped by Armstrong’s Livestrong charity are far more significant than the fact that he cheated to win a meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) bike race that few people in America care about anyway. It strikes me that it is a contradiction that applies…to varying degrees…to nearly all of us. Very few people are all bad or all good. I know lots of good people who have some major flaws, and I have been acquainted with people in my life that I didn’t particularly like for one reason or another who nevertheless had families & friends who I am sure wouldn’t hesitate to enumerate the person’s vast array of positive traits. Right now it is easy to dump on Lance Armstrong, but just like other famous folks that we love to hate…Barry Bonds, the Kardashian twits, Lindsay Lohan, etc…I suspect that if we met him or them in person they’d make a generally favorable impression. Such is the everlasting complexity & imperfection that is humanity.
Now that the NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning it is time to make a snap judgment about what each of the teams who fired & hired were able to accomplish. Of course no one ever knows exactly how these things are going to play out because there are so many variables that go into building a successful football team. It is difficult to gauge if a retread will be more or less effective in their new job as compared to former gigs and it is nearly impossible to forecast whether or not a fresh face will be a great coach or a complete bust. It is all just a big ol’ shot in the dark that can go one way or another based on countless things big & small. But hey, we’ll give it a shot anyway.
Grading the recent NFL coaching hires:
Arizona Cardinals Bruce Arians B
As a Steelers fan I have an appreciation for what Arians was able to accomplish as offensive coordinator from 2007-11 and one also cannot underestimate his role in guiding the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs this season while head coach Chuck Pagano was battling cancer most of the year. The Cardinals must get a legitimate starting QB and either Beanie Wells or the oft injured Ryan Williams has to seize the primary RB role. If those things happen Arians could have tremendous success down the road.
Buffalo Bills Doug Marrone B-
This isn’t Marrone’s first rodeo in the NFL, as he spent several years as an assistant with the NY Jets & New Orleans Saints before being the head coach at Syracuse the past few years, a program which looked like it might be on its way back to respectability in 2012 after a decade as a bottom feeder. It isn’t a sexy hire for the Bills, but it just might be effective, especially if they can grab a franchise QB in this year’s draft.
Chicago Bears Marc Trestman B-
Trestman has been on & off the NFL radar for years. He’s had effective stints as an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, & Miami Dolphins…among others…stretching back over two decades. More recently he has won two Grey Cups as a head coach in the CFL. The general consensus is that if anyone can help QB Jay Cutler fulfill his potential it is Marc Trestman. We’ll see.
Cleveland Browns Rob Chudzinski C-
To be perfectly honest the grade was initially a D. The Browns really needed to make a splash with the hiring of their 7th coach in 14 years and, with all due respect, Chudzinski doesn’t even come close. However, he scored a major coup by snagging Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner is one of those guys who doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to be a head coach but he is an excellent assistant. I don’t know if anyone can really turn around the lowly Browns, but if the new ownership & management has some patience and maintains consistency instead of changing coaches like people change socks then maybe this thing has a puncher’s chance of working.
Jacksonville Jaguars Gus Bradley C+
Who?? Bradley was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, a group which allowed their opponents only a nugget more than 15 points per game in 2012, making them one of the league’s top defenses. Kudos to the Jags for going with a fresh face rather than a tired old retread. However, it’ll all be for naught if they don’t have the balls to pull the plug on the Blaine Gabbert failure ASAP and either trade for a young QB with potential (names like Matt Flynn, Ryan Mallett, & Kirk Cousins immediately spring to mind) or make the right selection with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. A note to the Jags: if the KC Chiefs pass on QB Geno Smith you should probably follow suit. FYI…the + is because the dude is named Gus. I like guys named Gus. It’s a solid, tough, manly name…unlike Blaine.
Kansas City Chiefs Andy Reid B
I am of the opinion that a confluence of events lined up juuuust right (or wrong I guess) to sabotage Reid’s last couple of years with the Philadelphia Eagles. By no means do I believe he is a bad coach. The untimely death of his son during training camp due to a drug overdose seems to have been completely glossed over, but in hindsight maybe he would have been wise to take this past season off to deal with that loss, and no one can convince me that it did not have a deleterious effect. I think the change of scenery will be a good thing, and because the AFC West is a weak division there may be rapid dividends. Everything hinges on the quarterback situation. It might not be a bad idea for the Chiefs to sign a veteran band-aid (Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Kellen Clemens, Rex Grossman, & Matt Moore are all available) in addition to drafting a rookie QB. Now the question is should they use the top overall pick for that purpose. My answer would be no. I’d grab a big time left tackle with that choice and take a QB in the 2nd round.
Philadelphia Eagles Chip Kelly A-
The minus is only because of the poor way the hire was handled, with Kelly initially saying he was going to stay at Oregon then changing his mind 2 weeks later after the Eagles had interviewed practically everyone but Jerry Glanville and the reanimated corpse of George Allen for the job. The history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL is hit & miss. Guys like Jimmy Johnson, John Robinson, Jim Harbaugh, & Bobby Ross pulled it off. Others…Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, & Dennis Erickson just to name a few…not so much. My money is on Kelly being successful. The Eagles are a solid organization with good support from ownership who have been a perennial playoff team until the past couple of seasons. Kelly isn’t exactly starting from scratch. If he can turn Nick Foles into a decent starting QB and take advantage of the considerable talents of players like RB LeSean McCoy & WR DeSean Jackson then we might just see a fairly quick turnaround. The NFC East is traditionally a tough division, but the Cowboys are a mess, the Redskins don’t know what the immediate future holds due to the knee injury to RGIII, and the NY Giants seem to have plateaued.
San Diego Chargers Mike McCoy C
McCoy spent the past few years as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, which means his potential is difficult to gauge. Before this year he had to rely on guys like Kyle Orton & Brady Quinn as his QBs and was forced to endure the Tebow circus in 2011. Then in 2012 Peyton Manning came along, and who in the world could possibly screw that up?? Having said all that, this is, like the situation in Jacksonville, another case where a newcomer is being given a shot rather than hiring some failed harbinger of mediocrity. I have to give props to San Diego for rolling the dice, but there just isn’t enough data to offer a proper evaluation just yet.
I have been searching for the right words to assess the Manti Te’o story at Notre Dame. It seems to me that there are two possibilities. Either he was in on the whole thing, which makes him a filthy liar, or he was made a fool of by a few tricksters who perpetuated this joke for no apparent reason other than boredom & cruelty since there doesn’t seem to be any tangible gain to be gotten. After much consideration I am leaning toward the latter probability. And while that would absolve Te’o of any responsibility in regards to straight up lying to the American public, it still leaves one with the inescapable impression of him as an emotionally crippled 12 year old masquerading as a man. Either way he appears to be a rather pathetic human being with some curious mental issues who is under the delusion that a woman you’ve never met can be considered your girlfriend. What is almost as amazing to me is that I’ve heard multiple talking heads…football “experts”…say that all this is unlikely to have any significant negative impact on his NFL Draft status. Really?? I’m sorry, but linebackers aren’t that tough to find. I’d rather take some unknown kid out of a small school in the 4th or 5th round, sign him for peanuts, and give him an opportunity to shine than guarantee this wackjob big bucks just because he played for almighty Notre Dame. I am sure that won’t happen though. I sure as hell pray that the Steelers don’t take him because if they do I will lose all faith in the intelligence of their front office.