On a night when the Browns might have saved their season -- for the moment, anyway -- you would have thought the final few seconds would have been different.
Cleveland was on the verge of putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Steelers on Thursday night that pulled the Browns up to 4-6 in the AFC North. A fairly benign schedule over their final six games was on the horizon.
Sure, it was only the Steelers, who were downright awful offensively last night. And, to be fair, Cleveland didn't look like the '72 Dolphins on Thursday night, as their offense sputtered for the most of the game.
But it was a win, at least, and 4-6 gives the Browns a little hope moving forward.
Editor's note: The Browns are lousy. The only reason they're going to finish somewhere around .500 is because a bunch of other teams stink as well. But that's our opinion.
In a league where occasionally 9-7 is good enough for the post-season, the Browns were alive and well as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
And then, just like that, the game and their record were secondary to an ugly melee that will likely result in Cleveland's star defensive player, Myles Garrett, missing most, perhaps all, of the final portion of the 2019 regular season.
With eight seconds left in the game, Garrett and Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph tumbled to the ground after the QB threw a short pass deep in Cleveland territory. Grabbing and clutching ensued, a skirmish broke out, Garrett somehow had Rudolph's helmet in his hand -- and then suddenly, Garrett clobbered Rudolph in the head with it.
Play-by-play man Joe Buck called it "barbaric". Professional broadcasters overplay things occasionally to milk as much as they can out of the moment, but Buck hit that one square on the head. No pun intended.
It was barbaric.
And just like that, the Browns' season was turned around. The Browns are always gonna "Browns."
To his credit -- if it's even possible to dole out credit to a guy who just committed a crime on the football field -- Garrett took complete ownership of the incident after the game, saying, "I lost my cool. I regret it."
A fairly clean record as a player and his immediate show of contrition after the game might help Garrett once the league decides to hand out its punishment. Social media erupted with cries for a suspension ranging from "rest of the season" to "(he should) never play in the league again." Both of those might be a tad too harsh, but there's no denying Garrett has to be suspended for a lengthy period of time. The guess here -- and it's just a guess -- is that he's suspended for 4 games and negotiates that down to 3.
But the suspension is almost secondary to the way the Browns played on Thursday night. They were, simply, out. of. control. Several hits by Cleveland defenders were shockingly dangerous, including a helmet-to-helmet hit that led to the ejection of Damarious Randall. Three Steelers suffered concussions on Thursday night and that doesn't include Rudolph, who is lucky to have not sustained a serious injury during the Garrett melee.
At some point, Cleveland's head coach Freddie Kitchens has to be held accountable for his team's over-the-top style of play. Perhaps they were amped up by the nature of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry, but Thursday night's wreckless play was unacceptable, even in the NFL, where lots of things are hard to believe on a weekly basis.
To his credit, Kitchens wasn't pleased after the game. And neither was Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who said in the post-game interview that Garrett's conduct was "inexcusable."
On a night when they might have hoisted themselves back into the AFC post-season picture, the Browns, instead, embarrassed themselves.
The Browns, still, in 2019, are always gonna "Browns."
It seems sort of appropriate that on the heels of a piece on the deplorable conduct of Myles Garrett that we'd have this for you.
There's good and evil.
For one night, anyway, Garrett and his Browns teammates were evil.
Jacksonville quarterback Nick Foles is "good."
Foles is a man rooted in his faith. During a press conference this week discussing his return from a shoulder injury, Foles was, in a word, sensational.
I'm looking for a Nick Foles jersey today.
God Bless him.
The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team returns to action this week with the final two games of the CONCACAF Nations League group stage. They get a chance to avenge the October loss to Canada tonight in Orlando and follow that with an “away” match against Cuba in the Cayman Islands next Tuesday. The U.S. needs to win both games with a combined goal difference of four or more in order to best Canada in the group and advance to the Nations League final round.
Under normal circumstances, the Americans would be heavily favored to secure the two wins and advance.
This U.S. team, however, has struggled to adapt Gregg Berhalter’s playing style and failed to produce results in meaningful games. Their job will be even tougher this week due to a rash of injuries to key players. Foremost is Christian Pulisic, who has been on fire for Chelsea since returning from the last international break. In six games he’s scored five goals and notched two assists. Unfortunately he picked up an injury while scoring the last of those on Sunday against Crystal Palace and will be unavailable.
In addition to Pulisic the US will also be missing Tyler Adams, Zach Steffen, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Weah, Matt Miazga, Miles Robinson, and Paxton Pomykal.
The U.S. will have two starters returning to their back line who were unavailable last month. John Brooks returns as the team’s top CB and backbone of the defense. His ability to break lines with his passing from the back could help the Americans bypass the Canadian midfield that gave them problems in October.
Sergiño Dest will likely start at LB. His pace, passing and skill on the ball should provide a huge upgrade from Daniel Lovitz and improve the linking play between the defense, midfield and wing players. One positive from these games regardless of outcome is that Dest will be cap tied to the U.S. team for good once he steps on the field. Returning starters Weston McKennie, Jordan Morris and Josh Sargent all come into these games in strong form for their club teams and will be the key pieces in the U.S. attack. McKennie has been up and down in his U.S. appearances, but when he is on, like the Cuba game, he is one of the best players on the field.
The rest of the roster is filled out with most of the core players Berhalter has relied upon for the past year.
Berhalter has opted for consistency over providing opportunities to any promising younger players. Many wondered if poor results in these two games might potentially cost him his job, but Sporting Director Earnie Stewart has confirmed that Berhalter will remain coach no matter the outcome. It seems that for better or worse, U.S. Soccer is going to stick with Berhalter throughout this World Cup cycle.
Berhalter was badly outcoached in the October match with Canada. Absent some of their best players the U.S. will need to have a well thought-out game plan to break down Canada’s box midfield and generate higher quality chances. We will see on Friday if Berhalter can learn from his mistakes and modify his strategy to maximize the players he has available.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
Anyone else disappointed in the Astros?
I mean, really disappointed.
And I'm not even sure why it bothers me. Chicanery and duplicity have long been accepted practices in baseball.
Heck, Gaylord Perry won 314 games and he's in the Hall of Fame and he flat out cheated throughout his two-decade-plus career.
But this Astros thing is bothersome because there for a while, we were all led to believe they had discovered a "better way" to do it. They were terrible, blew their team up to get even more terrible, got a little better and, then, BAM!!, they won the freakin' World Series in 2017*.
Now we're finding out their way might have been better, but their "way" is officially tainted after the story broke this week that they've been stealing signals in their ballpark in Houston and relaying them to Astros players at the plate.
I know what you're thinking...it didn't help them in the four World Series home games they had this October. They lost them all.
That's true, of course. But we can't let that get in the way of the story. The Astros broke the rules routinely in 2017* and, we assume probably were still doing it in 2018 and 2019. Former players are coming forward and admitting they knew what was going on. The story is probably just starting to get good, actually. Expect another bombshell or two to come along soon.
And here we thought that World Series win in 2017* was just a by-product of an organization who discovered a new way to win.
Instead, we found out they discovered a new way to circumvent the rules.
The Astros? Really?
If we would have found out the Yankees or Red Sox were up to no good, we'd all just nod, get out our pitchforks, and blast away on social media. No one would be surprised if those creeps were stealing signs.
But the Astros? So sad...
And there's a Baltimore tentacle to this, too, as the O's current GM, Mike Elias, was an integral part of that Astros organization that won the World Series in 2017*. To what extent did Elias know what was going on with the sign-stealing caper? There's obviously no way of knowing, unless Elias tells us, but I think we'd all agree that we'd be disappointed to find out he knew about it.
I don't know why the NFL put this Saturday's Colin Kaepernick "workout" together, but I know this: It's pretty obvious that the whole thing stinks.
I'm no Kaepernick fan. Anyone who has been a semi-regular visitor to this site over the last three years knows what I think about his situation.
But this "workout" the league organized is hilariously see-through. The dude has been wanting to get in front of NFL coaches, scouts and execs for, what, three years? And, so, the league puts this plan together on a Tuesday and tells Kaepernick and everyone else to get to Atlanta five days later, on Saturday, for this opportunity.
The NFL realizes their teams play games on Sunday still, right? The NFL must know that Saturday is a "work day" in their league from September through December. Sure, teams could send some 2nd year scout to Atlanta, as any team who attends likely will, but we all know that's a bad look.
And to the degree that the league is apparently trying to do Kaepernick a solid, why would they give him four days notice?
If you're hellbent on a Saturday, why not do this next Saturday or the Saturday after Thanksgiving?
Here's a better idea. NFL teams are typically "off" on Tuesday. Why not put the workout together for a Tuesday at 2 pm so everyone can get in and out on the same day?
It all reeks...sort of like most officiating crews in the league.
Why is the NFL even doing this in the first place? It makes no sense. The owners aren't suddenly going to pretend that they haven't blackballed Kaepernick, are they? I mean, we all know they have.
Why the change of heart?
As Gene Hackman said at the end of The Birdcage......I don't understand.
The league's doing just fine without Kaepernick. Sure, a bunch of teams have scrubs at quarterback at this point in the season, but it's not like Kaepernick is going to suddenly become Aaron Rodgers Jr. and lead some team from a 3-6 start to a 10-6 finish. At this point, he's just a guy.
So, again...why now? Why this Saturday? Why?
None of it makes sense.
I'm curious...is anyone else experiencing "MVP burn out" this week?
Don't be afraid to say "yes". I'm holding up my hand. I'm burned out from all the "Lamar Jackson is the MVP" banter we're reading and hearing about this week.
It's week 11, folks. There are 16 games in the season. I'd say there are at least FIVE candidates in play right now: Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Russell Wilson and, of course, because he's Tom Brady and he'll get votes no matter what, Tom Brady.
You can make a valid argument for any of them, except I think it's fair to say that Brady is a distant 5th on that list. But, still, you can certainly make a case for Wilson or Watson. And McCaffrey has emerged as an ultra-critical piece in Carolina.
I know how important Lamar is to the Ravens because I watch every minute of every game. I haven't watched every minute of every Texans, Seahawks or Panthers game...and I assume neither has any other Ravens fan in Baltimore.
Why worry right now if some guy on Fox Sports says Russell Wilson is "leading" after week 10? Who cares? They're not giving out the award this week.
Maybe this is just where we are in 2019, when everything we come up against requires a hot take or an overly supportive position where we're not backing down from anyone.
This week has been maddening here in Baltimore, if I'm telling the truth. Please, people, stop howling at the moon about the friggin' MVP award. Wait until January when Russell Wilson wins it and then scream about it as much as you want.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
On the night of December 12, the Ravens host the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. The only thing that might keep that one from 49-13 or 59-10 is the short week of preparation, and maybe whatever awful uniform combination (1) the Ravens decide on for that Thursday game.
Until then, it’s time to put Lamar Jackson’s various video-game moves aside. The Ravens’ next four opponents have combined for a 25-11 record heading into Week 11. Two of them are division leaders, one played in the Super Bowl in February and the other was the only team to get close to the Patriots before the Ravens got to them two weeks back.
All that being said, this one on Sunday against Houston really has my attention, and not just because it’s the next game on the schedule.
Deshaun Watson isn’t Patrick Mahomes, but he’s not far behind, having completed 70 percent of his passes and thrown for 18 touchdowns. Watson isn’t Lamar Jackson, but he’s run more than 50 times in nine games for an average of more than five yards per carry.
The Ravens, thanks to Jackson, are the only NFL team to have scored on more than half their possessions (2). But the Texans, like the Ravens, average more than five yards per carry and balance it out with some big-play passing capability.
In other words, Houston is only team of the four that can truly beat Baltimore at its own game. If there’s going to be a 37-34 game in this stretch, it’ll probably be on Sunday.
Somehow, a Rams team that couldn’t be stopped for much of 2018 is middle-of-the-pack offensive team in 2019, and they looked worse than that in Pittsburgh. The 49ers and Bills have been big surprises, but not because of their high-flying offenses.
This Houston team, coming off its bye week, is the scariest opponent for John Harbaugh’s team in the next seven weeks.
In some ways, Sunday’s game is bigger for the Texans than it is for the Ravens. Bill O’Brien’s team has just a one-game lead in the AFC South, and even last-place Jacksonville is only two games behind, though Houston has already swept the season series there.
The Texans get a huge boost after this weekend with three straight home games (3), which hardly ever happens in the NFL. That stretch might be what allows Houston to extend its lead in the division, but that’ll be harder to do with a loss in Baltimore.
The Ravens have never lost to the Texans in Baltimore, winning all four regular-season games and a playoff game following the 2011 season. But the Ravens have yet to face Watson, who was out for the year by the time his team, quarterbacked by the immortal Tom Savage (4), lost at M&T Bank Stadium on a Monday night two years ago.
That 2017 Ravens team was lucky to face plenty of backup quarterbacks on the way to missing the playoffs by one fourth-and-12 play in the season’s final game. The 2019 Ravens team has already beaten Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, and beating Watson would be another huge notch for the confidence of an improved defensive unit.
After winning the AFC North last year, the Ravens were rewarded with a first-place schedule for the first time since 2013, the season following the Super Bowl title. The Ravens have already performed poorly against the Chiefs, so Sunday’s game also gives them a chance to perform well against a first-place unit.
There may be one more chance for that when the 49ers visit M&T Bank Stadium on December 1, assuming San Francisco can maintain its lead over Seattle after games against Arizona and Green Bay. But thanks to the potential importance of conference record when it comes to tiebreakers, and playoff positioning in general, a first-vs-first intra-conference game like this Sunday’s has a bit more meaning.
As for the Ravens, it’s just a whole bunch of fun to look at the offensive numbers they’ve compiled through nine games. Here’s a simple one to start—they’ve already scored 300 points (5). In their final seven games, they’ll only have to average 15.7 points per game to break the team record of 409 set in 2014. Something tells me they’ll break it, and well before Week 17 against Pittsburgh.
And speaking of Pittsburgh, it’s been interesting to watch the Steelers play like the Ravens of old recently, asking their quarterback not to lose the game while making it possible for him to win it thanks to outstanding defensive play (6). The Steelers didn’t seem like a team that could win four games in a row in 2019, but they have.
Will that Week 17 game in Baltimore have great meaning? It’s seems silly to make a prediction there, with so many games in between. But it certainly looks like it could have meaning for Pittsburgh in a way the Steelers didn’t imagine after falling to 1-4. At this point, I’d put a few bucks on the Ravens having clinched a division title before that (7).
In the meantime, there are four games against quality opponents, though the Ravens have certainly shown themselves to be of equal or better quality than all of them. Those four opponents are under a lot of pressure to figure out a way to stop a machine, however, so the weight’s all on them.
(1) - My favorite uniform combination is the white jersey and the purple pants. The Ravens have worn that combination three times this year—against Arizona, Pittsburgh and Seattle—all wins.
(2) - The Ravens have scored on 53% of their drives this year. In 2017, Joe Flacco’s last year as a 16-game starter, they scored on 36% of their possessions.
(3) - The Texans have a quick turnaround for a Thursday game against the Colts, followed by visits from New England and Denver.
(4) - Savage finished 1-6 as the Houston starter in 2017. He hasn’t played a down in the NFL since, having been released by the Detroit Lions after this preseason.
(5) - There have actually been three 16-game seasons in Ravens’ franchise history where the team hasn’t scored 300 points.
(6) - The acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a huge boost. The Steelers’ front office had no thoughts of giving up on the season in September.
(7) - In case you care, Football Outsiders currently gives the Ravens a 90.5 chance of winning the AFC North and a 96.8% chance of making the playoffs.
#DMD brought in one of Baltimore's most avid Ravens followers, Tony Lombardi of Russell Street Report, for an in-depth session of Q & A.
Drew joins in with his thoughts on the various topics. Hope you enjoy...
Q - It's Lamar all the time, of course. Lamar, Lamar, Lamar. Where were you last summer in regard to him and his potential performance in 2019? Just wondering if you were in his camp or not in it?
Lombardi -- The Lamar doubters surfaced last season for two reasons. 1) They didn’t believe that Lamar’s style of play was sustainable; and 2) They concluded that the Chargers crafted the bullet-proof blueprint to beat Lamar, and since the NFL is allegedly a copycat league, the secret was out and No. 8 would be exposed.
Both reasons are nothing more than lazy narratives.
I felt that Lamar would improve because the Ravens committed to building a team around him to complement his skill set. They also spent time creating an offense to unleash his unique talents and the person at the control switch of the new playbook was a guy who is familiar with guiding a player like Lamar. Of course, I’m speaking of Greg Roman.
That said, I never thought Lamar would do as well as he has. But at the end of the day, this is what can happen when outstanding talent collides with a great work ethic. Back in July, I shared my outlook on YouTube. You can see what I said right here.
DF -- I loved the athleticism we saw from him last year. I wondered if had the goods to be a complete quarterback. 16 games is a small sample size, obviously, but it would appear that he does have the goods. I think the biggest thing we underestimated in him was his heart. He has “it”. He’s a winner.
Q - Here's a fastball for you. Who was the more important off-season addition...Mark Ingram or Earl Thomas?
Lombardi -- I’m a dead-red, first-pitch fastball hitter and my answer is Earl Thomas.
Ingram is a perfect fit for the offense and he’s a natural born leader. But I think the Ravens offense is a dream for a north and south runner like Ingram. And not that his talent is a dime a dozen, but I think most bangers like the former ‘Bama Heisman winner, could succeed in Baltimore’s offensive backfield.
But Ingram’s leadership cannot be underestimated. I did exactly that and so far between the two, I think Ingram has been more impactful. Time may change that opinion because Earl seems to be coming on, but for now it’s Ingram.
DF -- I think it’s Ingram. He’s precisely what the offense needs to keep opposing defenses honest. If you key on Lamar, Ingram can have a 20-carry, 120 yard day against you. I think Thomas is a very good player, but I think the Ravens would be 7-2 without him. I don’t think they’d be 7-2 without Ingram.
Q - Other than injuries, what's the one thing about this Ravens team that could derail them between now and the Super Bowl?
Lombardi -- My biggest concerns entering the season were the interior offensive line and the pass rush – or lack thereof. O-line coach Joe D’Alessandris has done a terrific job scheming less than ideal talent. And the way that Lamar and Roman can spread the field, the C level talent is playing in a B+ way.
D-Coordinator Wink Martindale has effectively game-planned to dial up pressure and at times it has worked – just not often enough. The Ravens are ranked 29th in the league in sacks and 31st in quarterback hits. A team with a big-armed QB and speed could end the Ravens big aspirations.
DF -- If they get a bad match up where the other team has some edge rushers who can rattle Lamar and the Baltimore pass rush doesn’t show up that day...that combination could be a season killer. As we saw last year vs. the Chargers, it only takes one game and one bad match up. One bad regular season performance in December and you slip from the #2 seed to the #3 or #4 seed and things change. One bad playoff performance and you're on the first tee in a few days. The team's biggest "issue" without question is their lack of a pass rush. They've been able to overcome that to some degree because Judon is having an excellent year and the L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes signings have supported an otherwise lackuster linebacking corps.
Q - Peer into your crystal ball now. 5 years from now, describe the career of Hollywood Brown from 2019 through 2023.
Lombardi -- I see a player who competes and contributes significantly when healthy, but never plays a 16-game schedule. In 5 years, he’ll have roughly 250 catches for about 4500 yards and 35 TDs.
DF -- I’ll say there’s a 60% chance Brown isn’t a #1 receiver in 5 years. I see him as a guy who annually plays 10 to 14 games a year and is “red hot” in half of those and “stone cold” in the other half. He'll have 8-10 TD catches a year, but they'll come in six games, in other words. He has enormous talent, obviously. Can he stay healthy? That’s his biggest nemesis, potentially.
Q - Can Lamar Jackson's popularity eclipse that of Ray Lewis or Ed Reed someday?
Lombardi -- Quarterback is the most highlighted position in sports and therefore it captures the most attention. And as the quarterback, if Lamar can play consistently for a decade at a Pro Bowl level while accumulating a couple of rings, he can eclipse Ray and/or Ed.
His genuineness and selflessness endear him to fans of all ages and races. And one day, he might even be the second QB from Louisville with a statue outside M&T Bank Stadium.
But first things first…
DF: Of course he can. But he’d have to win a couple of Super Bowls along the way and continue to say and do all the right things. Ray obviously had a significant slip up in 2000 and Ed was a mercurial personality that let his play do the talking for him. Lamar seems more "connective" to the average fan than those two were, but he has to maintain that personality and style for a long time in order to etch his place in the team's history.
Q - From 0% to 100%, what, right now, are the chances the Ravens are in the AFC Championship game?
Lombardi -- 25%
DF -- 70%. I’d be shocked if they aren’t there.
Q - What game or moment this season did you sit back and say, "Wow...this team is really legit"? (Assuming you've had that moment!)
Lombardi -- When the Ravens 17-point lead against the Patriots dwindled to 4 on the national stage of Sunday Night Football and they fought off the storm of the undefeated defending champions, that was my ah-ha moment. It was then that I knew the Ravens were capable of competing with the league’s big boys.
DF: When Russell Wilson threw that ball to Marcus Peters, I looked around the room and said to no one in particular, “There’s the sign we’ve been waiting for that this season is going to be special.”
Q - Other than Lamar, of course, who are the three players, in order, that the Ravens can ill afford to lose over the last seven games and the playoffs?
Lombardi -- Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey and Justin Tucker.
DF: -- Brandon Williams, Matthew Judon, Michael Pierce. They lose any of those three and they're in trouble.
Q - Let's close things with word association. We throw the name at you and you give us one word to describe them.
Pittsburgh Steelers -- Lombardi: Resilient .... DF: Overrated
Eric DeCosta -- Lombardi: Relentless …. DF: Sharp
Mark Andrews -- Lombardi: Beast .... DF: Reliable
Tom Brady -- Lombardi: G.O.A.T. …. DF: Winner
Marlon Humphrey -- Lombardi: Shutdown …. DF: Growing
Steve Bisciotti -- Lombardi: Brilliant …. DF: Smart
NFL officiating -- Lombardi: Confused … DF: Puzzling
Be sure and visit Tony's outstanding website at www.russellstreetreport.com for all the latest Ravens news and discussion.
We're 10 weeks into the NFL season and perfection is still attainable, despite the 49'ers loss on Monday night.
I'm talking about 2019 NFL Weekly Winners contest!
Get this: We have 4 people with the maximum score available thus far (30 points)!! We also have a handful of others who are a perfect 10-for-10, but they have several home winners mixed in along with some road winners.
Granted, you're "only" picking winners and it's not against the spread, but for anyone to go 10-for-10 is pretty freakin' impressive! In case you're wondering, all four of the top guys have a different road team this week.
Two games in particular derailed a lot of folks. The Jets' week 9 loss at Miami and last Sunday's New Orleans home loss against Atlanta.
Here's a look at the Top 10 through 10 weeks of the season.
1. Dan Murtaugh (30 points - 10 road winners)
David Stanmore (30 points -- 10 road winners)
S.B. (30 points -- 10 road winners)
Jason Collier (30 points -- 10 road winners)
5. Taylor McKay (27 points -- 9 road winners)
Bob Feltner (27 points -- 9 road winners)
Chris Phillips (27 points -- 9 road winners)
8. Jeff Porter (24 points -- 8 road winners)
9. Peter Wellingham (23 points -- 7 road winners, 2 home winners)
10. B.J. Carroll (22 points -- 7 road winners, 1 home winner)
A prize package from Royal Farms and Glory Days awaits the winner and the top 4 runner ups!
Good luck to all in the final six weeks of the season!
We asked those not attending this Sunday's game vs. the Texans to give us a reason why in Tuesday's edition of #DMD. The results from yesterday's poll question aren't surprising. They pretty much mirror what people have been saying in Baltimore for a year or two now.
The leading vote getter with 42% was "I'd rather stay home and watch it on TV". That makes sense. The league has done this to themselves, of course, by putting every game on television and creating the "Red Zone Network" so all you need to see are the important plays in the game.
Next up at 31% was "I haven't gone since "The Knee" in London." Not surprising. Lots of people said they weren't going back and apparently a lot of them are staying true to their convictions.
"I have other obligations" garnered 16% of the vote.
And "ticket prices" picked up 11% of the vote.
The Ravens will be happy to know that no one said "I thought the game was sold out". Their advertising is working, if nothing else.
I've seen a lot in my 56 years.
All 56 of them in Baltimore, by the way. Born here, raised here, stayed here.
I saw Unitas and Brooks at the end of their respective careers, then saw the entire run of guys like Cal, Eddie, Ray, and Reed.
In other words, I've seen everyone that would matter in this debate.
And I've never seen the city of Baltimore fall head over heels in love with an athlete as quickly as they have with Lamar Jackson.
It's not even close.
I'm talking more about the man than the football player, by the way. For as great as he's been -- and through 16 regular season games, he's been "great" -- the team isn't just Lamar Jackson. My buddy Glenn Clark authored an outstanding piece on Monday that you can read here reminding us not to forget about the running back, tight end, defensive end and cornerbacks. It's a subtle way of saying, "It's a team game, remember."
But the love people in this town have for Lamar is connected somewhat to his performance, for sure. I mean, if the Ravens were 4-5 instead of 7-2 and Lamar was really good one game, lousy the next, our social media blabberings would be more about "should have kept Flacco" and less about "Lamar might be the MVP."
That said, they're not 4-5. They are 7-2. And they're 7-2 primarily because no team in the league can figure out how to reduce Lamar's impact. He's that good. And if someone doesn't stop him soon, the Ravens will be in Miami in early February as Super Bowl favorites.
But something else interesting is happening. Lamar doesn't think it's all about him. You hear him say it all the time. "I just want the team to win," is his favorite saying. He deflects talk of AFC Player of the Week honors and brushes aside mentions of possibly being a league MVP. He'd rather the Ravens win the Super Bowl. He'd rather his team get the glory.
In this day and age, that's a rare commodity from an athlete. It's probably a rare commodity for a CEO or other corporate leader, too. They want the credit, the applause, the spotlight......and the reward.
Jackson, apparently, is different. In this case, he's much different. Athletes just aren't made like that any longer.
So this is where personality marries performance. The video clip the Ravens stared circulating yesterday is how we, as a city, fall in love with Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens and the NFL did their best to keep creeps like us from sharing it on websites. I get it. But if you have Twitter, you can see the much discussed clip from Sunday's game right here.
It's worth noting that here was no social media when Johnny U. and Brooks were playing in Baltimore. It didn't exist during Eddie's and Cal's career, either. Can you imagine what Twitter would have been like the night Cal Jr. broke Gehrig's record?
Twitter didn't even exist in the first decade of Ray Lewis' career, remember. Social media, the way we now know it and use it, is really less than a decade old. It's still a new frontier, mostly.
So while the playing field isn't level when comparing, say, 1971 or 1977 with what we have today, we can only go on what we have. And what we have, right now, is a city's complete infatuation with an athlete who is essentially one full year into his career. This city has never embraced someone so quickly.
And to think just three months ago, in early August, we were still wondering if Jackson was "the real deal".
"He has to be more accurate," they said. He's done that.
"He has to stop fumbling the ball," they said. He's done that.
"He has to be able to win games with his arm," they said. He's done that.
And he's enjoyed this success without being a miserable jerk, like, for example, the now-unemployed wide receiver whose last name rhymes with "Frown" or the quarterback in Cleveland who snaps at any reporter who questions why the team he "runs" isn't better.
This young man in Baltimore is a delight. And it appears to be authentic, which is more important than anything. Sure, there have been a few late night Instagram posts where he's flashing his bling and playing the part of athlete-out-on-the-town, but it seems mostly harmless. It's just a 22 year old being a 22 year old.
He's as grounded as a potential 22 year old MVP can be, if you ask me.
And all you need to do is watch that video of Lamar and Harbaugh and you can just tell -- you can "feel" it -- that he's special. Every compliment his coach gives him always gets back to the team and winning and the Super Bowl. Harbaugh's doing his best to give the young man some personal glory to file away and use when he deems necessary and Jackson wants none of it.
"I can't wait to see it," he says to Harbaugh when the coach tells him kids are going to be wearing #8 for the next 20 years. "When I get older, though. Right now, I gotta get to the Super Bowl."
That was a stirring conversation between Harbaugh and Jackson. It told us a lot about both of those men.
Oh, yes, there's a game coming up sometime in the future where Jackson will throw a few bad passes, fumble at the wrong time, and the Ravens will lose because the all-world quarterback had an off day. It's bound to happen.
And then, as sure as the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, the internet will be filled with the "I told you so" crew who will remind everyone they knew he was a flash in the pan.
My bet is those people won't be posting that stuff much, though.
My wager is that someday soon Lamar Jackson -- who on the night he was drafted said he'd someday deliver a Super Bowl to Baltimore -- will be the one saying "I told you so..."
The Ravens are at home this Sunday against the Texans.
You might have heard...things are going pretty well for the home team these days. They have an exciting quarterback, even, which aren't two words we've heard much in these parts over the years.
This Sunday's game isn't sold out.
Granted, a large number of the unsold seats are singles, but there are lots of seats next to one another still available, too.
Why is that happening?
The Ravens, in case you haven't noticed, have bought advertising -- mostly of the digital variety, with some TV sprinkled in -- to promote ticket sales for all four home games they've played thus far. There hasn't been an "advance sell out" all season, in other words.
It could be as simple as everyone just assumes the games are sold out and they don't bother responded to the advertising. I would definitely fall in that camp if not for the fact I see and hear the ads every week. I just figure the games are sold out. Even when they're not.
So how is it...or why is it...that here we are on Tuesday and there are at least a thousand seats available for Sunday's game?
It seems really strange to me.
It's not like the Titans or Bills or some other non-interesting opponent is coming to town. The Texans have one of the best QB's in the NFL and perhaps the game's most complete wide receiver. They also have the best helmets, but I know that's not much of a ticket seller.
But seriously...it's a showdown of sorts on Sunday. Lamar vs. Deshaun. Hollywood vs. Hopkins. Their defense trying to slow down our rumbling locomotive. You know what I'm saying.
And tickets are available en masse, at "regular prices", by the way. There are thousands and thousands of seats available for resale. I'm talking about unsold, face value tickets that are still on the Ravens' ticketing system.
How is that possible?
I don't understand...
If you aren't going on Sunday, would you kindly complete our #DMD's reader's poll below? We'll share the results on Wednesday.
If you came here looking for in-depth analysis of yesterday's 49-13 Ravens win over Cincinnati, here's the deal: We don't have much of it.
It went just about exactly as we thought. We called it a "cakewalk" and that's what it was.
The Bengals were never in the game. And the only reason it was 49-13 instead of 56-13 or 63-13 was because Lamar Jackson didn't play the final 15 minutes.
OK, if you want some expert analysis, I'll give you something. Why on earth would the Bengals win the toss and give the Ravens the ball first? Hello? Earth to Zac Taylor. Have you been paying attention to the NFL this season?
The Ravens took the ball to open the game and Lamar hit Hollywood Brown for a 49-yard completion to start the day. A few plays later, it was 7-0. And that was the ballgame, basically.
What Cincinnati should have done was this: Take the opening kick and try and put together some kind of clock-eating drive that garnered them some points. Any points. Just something to keep the Ravens from doing exactly what they did, which was score on their first possession and put Cincinnati behind the eight ball.
Oh, and the Bengals were actually "OK" on offense throughout the game, except for those occasions when their rookie quarterback was gifting the Ravens two touchdowns. But kicking off to the Ravens negated any chance of getting ahead in the game. Rookie coach...in over his head.
Wait, here's some more analysis. My friend Glenn Clark and I mused about this on Friday during my appearance on Glenn Clark Radio. Why didn't the Bengals use the Chargers' ploy from last January and put 7 linebackers on the field? More importantly, why hasn't any other team rolled that scheme out there in 2019?
That's not to say it would work, mind you. Maybe the Chargers just had their chakras lined up right that day. Perhaps Lamar just couldn't handle the heat of his first ever NFL playoff game. But we all remember that 7-linebacker scheme and how much it suffocated Jackson and the Baltimore offense in that playoff loss.
Why didn't the Bengals try that yesterday? I have no idea if it would have worked...but I know what they did try certainly didn't work.
At this point, maybe nothing is going to slow down Lamar Jackson. Who knows? He's been embarrassing defensive coordinators for the better part of nine weeks now. Maybe these teams just don't have the game plan or the personnel to negate his skill set.
And don't look now, but barring something unforeseen, the Ravens are about 90% of the way to either securing the #2 or #1 seed in the AFC and they're only 9 weeks into the season.
Kansas City is now 6-4. Houston will be 6-4 after next Sunday's loss in Baltimore. Those are the only two teams that could catch the Ravens or New England at this point and the Patriots still have to play both of them, remember. The Ravens are looking like a 12-4 team -- at worst -- given their remaining schedule. They could run the table, by the way, or lose just once between here and the finish line.
Unless they somehow fritter away this good fortune and go 11-5, which is highly unlikely, the Ravens are going to finish at 12-4 or 13-3 and they'll be the #2 or #1 seed in the AFC. And that will make them very dangerous come January. A week off to rest never hurt anyone.
Other than a rookie coach doing dumb stuff to start the game and a rookie quarterback looking petrified, there wasn't much else of note yesterday. It's remarkable how bad the Cincinnati defense is. "Lousy" called and laughed at them at halftime, that's how bad they were.
And to the Ravens' credit, they did precisely what they were supposed to do yesterday. Jump out to an early lead, pound the overmatched opponent into submission, and get back on the plane relatively healthy. The Ravens checked off all of those boxes on Sunday, with only Michael Pierce (ankle, X rays were negative) having any kind of injury scare.
Here's the last point of the morning. If you're looking for an underlying reason why the Ravens are 7-2, just check out the training room. You won't see many guys in there. Jimmy Smith's opening game injury notwithstanding, the Ravens have spent most of 2019 in pretty good shape, injury wise.
Hollywood Brown has been nicked up, but it appears like he's always going to have something ailing him. Mark Andrews was bothered with an ankle injury a month ago, but that appears to no longer be an issue.
Knock on wood...but the Ravens have been very healthy all season. As we saw yesterday when Pierce went out, once you have to rely on your second and third stringers, quality suffers.
Nine games in, the Ravens haven't done much suffering. They're really good. And they'll be playing deep into January. Plan accordingly.
There are lots of moving parts in the AFC these days, as the networks start showing playoff standings and such.
We'll clear up any misconceptions you might have. Don't listen to Al Michaels. We'll give you the gospel right here.
Worry about...Oakland? -- The Raiders are 5-4 now and starting to show signs of life in the AFC. Nothing really stands out about them other than their grit. They're playing pretty much like you figure a Jon Gruden team will play. Worry about them? No. If they make the post-season as a wild card team, they'll be a quick out. And to answer your question, no, they're not going to win the AFC West.
Worry about...Tennessee? -- The Titans are an interesting team, particularly at home, where they always seem to man up, especially against quality opponents. At 5-5, their AFC South destiny is very much in their hands. 4 of their final 6 games are against divisional opponents, including two meetings with division leading Houston. Worry about them? If they win the division and roll into the post-season with momentum, the Titans could pose some January problems.
Worry about...Pittsburgh? -- You have to give Mike Tomlin credit. He's somehow cobbled together 5 wins up there. It's weird seeing Pittsburgh's defense holding the team together and the offense struggling to put up 20 points per-game. At 5-4, the Steelers are "technically" in the playoff race, but please don't spend any time at all worrying about them. They're on pace to win eight games, nine wins max. Worry about them? Not in the least. They're zero threat.
Worry about...Indianapolis? -- It's hard to say if the Colts are really any good. They just lost to the Dolphins yesterday. At home, no less. Now, granted, their starting quarterback was out, but even so, it's not like Jacoby Brissett is the next Peyton Manning. He, too, could have thrown a shoe yesterday against Miami. Still, there's no denying that Indianapolis is better with Brissett under center than Brian Hoyer. Worry about them? If Indy somehow snags the AFC South, they might be a tough first round opponent with a home game. But over the long haul, the Colts would be a feast for the Ravens or Patriots in round two.
The summary here is simple. The AFC pretty much stinks except for the Ravens, Patriots and Chiefs. We'll see what the Texans have to offer this Sunday. If they come to Baltimore and beat the Ravens, we'll add them to the list of "real" teams. So far, here's their list of 2019 victories: Jaguars (twice), Chiefs, Chargers, Falcons and Raiders. Hardly impressive.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
Advanced stats can be annoying, but they can also be great. Take the case of Lamar Jackson and his running ability, which you don’t have to be very advanced to notice. Still…
It seems that Jackson, according to the metrics, has averaged exactly five yards before contact per rushing attempt. Yup. Real-time observation and film study has shown that he’s gained more than 500 yards this season before even a finger was laid on him.
The person in second place is San Francisco running back Matt Breida, whose average is 3.4 yards before contact. There are only three other players averaging more than three yards. Jackson is, as several of his teammates and opponents have noted, “one of one” here.
As a counterweight, consider the Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette, one of the league’s top tailbacks. His average of 3.6 yards per carry after contact is by far the best in the NFL. Not only that, it’s been a common way we evaluate runners over the years…by how tough they are after getting hit.
But Jackson’s unique ability, and the offense that’s been designed around him, has flipped that script. How long can a player running with the football avoid being hit? The Ravens have a real interest in that, considering that the answer lies in their starting quarterback.
Another key to the Ravens’ rushing success is that the team’s second-league rusher, Mark Ingram, is basically an opposite player to Jackson. Ingram has gained more yards after contact than he has before contact. Not like Fournette has, but enough to notice.
Jackson, according to the advanced metrics, has only two “broken tackles” on a rushing attempt this year. By the time that tackle might be broken, he’s so far down the field, and maybe even out of bounds, it makes no difference.
I wrote last week of F&M basketball coach Glenn Robinson, who retired after 48 seasons. Turns out that Robinson’s retirement was only the beginning of an interesting week for the team.
Immediately after the national anthem prior to the team’s first game, at home against York College on Friday, hundreds of students took the court for a sit-in, demanding the game be cancelled. After about 10 minutes, it was.
Protests broke out on campus Friday, in response to social media posts featuring Halloween costumes that some called culturally insensitive. The students in those photos are all F&M athletes, and all met with college officials earlier in the week and expressed remorse. But that, and the response from those administrators, wasn’t enough apparently.
I’ll let all of you go ahead and “own the libs” or act sufficiently “woke” or whatever you’d like to do here. No doubt some of you remember a time before I was born, when campus protests dealt with issues that seem more important than costumes.
It just seems unfair to me, to demand that a public event be cancelled. That’s especially the case when students from another institution are part of the event, and are unwitting participants. I’m guessing those protestors haven’t thought about apologizing to York’s players and coaches.
In these situations, there is offense, obviously. There is stupidity, for sure, for both the costumes and the continued lack of understanding that photos are going to be posted online. As for the beef between members of the student body and the campus administration, well that’s for them to work out.
The students who sat on the court, however? They were taking up space that wasn’t theirs, at least not at that time. Others, their fellow students, had worked hard to earn the right to be there.
Having watched Maryland basketball play once in person and once on television, I can say the following: this is probably the most powerful team I’ve ever seen in College Park. The Terps look like a football team as much as a basketball team.
As an ACC or B1G team, the Terps have always been bigger and stronger than 95 percent of their opponents prior to the conference season. But this is different. This team is one that will physically dominate conference teams, too. They look a lot like the Michigan State and Purdue teams that Maryland has knocked heads against since joining the league in 2014.
As far as individual players go, I’m most impressed with sophomore Aaron Wiggins, who’s transformed from an excellent three-point shooter to a guy who looks destined for an NBA career. Mark Turgeon has said something to the effect of “it’s ridiculous how much better he is now than he was last year,” so it’s not just me.
Meanwhile, Jalen Smith no longer deserves the “Stix” moniker, though the cool nickname will stick. He also seems prone to the same frustrating (for fans) moments as he did as a freshman, most of which come from the fact that, despite his size, he’s not a truly comfortable post player.
What Smith is, no doubt, is a high draft pick at the end of this season, barring injuries or other issues. You can tell just by looking at him compared to the other nine dudes on the court.
Really, this Maryland team is in the same spot as any of Turgeon’s talented teams in College Park, even though this one might be a bit more talented. If the Terps can do better avoiding turnovers, they’ll have a hard time losing too many games during the regular season.
As for yesterday’s game in Cincinnati, I’m not sure what else to say besides the fact that the Ravens play offense in a unique way and at an extremely high level, led by the player who should be the league MVP but probably won’t be.
Oh yeah…yesterday’s game marked the second time this year that Lamar Jackson finished a game with what’s considered a “perfect” quarterback rating of 158.3. He finished 15-for-17 (one incompletion was a spike) for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Against Miami in Week 1, he finished 17-for-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson didn’t throw an interception in either game, and didn’t play in the fourth quarter of either game.
Ok, so you can say that Jackson performs off the charts against the worst teams in the NFL. Luckily, he’s done ok against the decent teams as well.
But seriously, and be honest…did you think that Lamar Jackson would ever have one game in the NFL where he even approached a perfect quarterback rating, let alone two in 10 weeks?
And one more shout out…to John Harbaugh for dumping his buddy Marty Mornhinweg in favor of Greg Roman at offensive coordinator. We all wanted a guy who could figure out what to do with Lamar Jackson on the field, and we got him.
It’s tempting to look ahead now. The Ravens now have four straight games against teams with winning records, so no 49-13 scores are out there until the Jets visit M&T Bank Stadium on a Thursday night in December.
Still, would you consider the Ravens to truly be underdogs in any of those four games? Maybe that will be the case officially for the game at the Coliseum against the Rams in two weeks, but it won’t be the case in anyone’s mind.
#DMD GAME DAY
|Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
1:00 PM EST
Paul Brown Stadium
Spread: Ravens (-10.5)
There's no sense in trying to avoid talking about it. The Ravens are in Cincinnati today to beat up on the hapless Bengals and their rookie quarterback. It should be a blow-out.
In the end, the score really doesn't matter. A win is a win is a win. But this one should be a 20-point victory at the very least. The Ravens are 6-2 and rolling and the Bengals are 0-8 and reeling.
And while "trap game" has been mentioned time and time again this week, there's very little chance of the Ravens not taking this one seriously today. They know this is a gift...and they know they can't afford to lose to one of the worst teams in the NFL.
If things go well for John Harbaugh's team, we might get to see Robert Griffin III take some 4th quarter snaps once the Ravens run out to a 27 point lead with 10 minutes to play. Even the normally protective Harbaugh will probably make the sensible decision to remove Lamar Jackson at that point and let RG III break a sweat.
Only the real diehards will hang around for four quarters watching this one. It's not going to be close...or all that interesting.
I hate to be so "this one's in the bag" on you, but.....this one's in the bag. I mean, if you want me to create a scenario where the Bengals shock the world I can do that. But barring a first quarter injury to Lamar and Mark Ingram that sidelines the two of them for the rest of the game, there's just no way the Ravens can lose today.
Don't shoot the messenger. Shoot the Bengals. They're terrible.
It's a cakewalk from the first quarter.
Baltimore jumps out to a 14-0 lead, thanks in part to a Lamar-to-Hollywood 54 yard TD throw and an INT by Jimmy Smith that results in the Ravens getting the ball on the Bengals 15-yard line. A few plays later, Lamar scampers in from 7 yards out and the rout is on.
It's 21-0 in the 2nd quarter after a Mark Ingram TD run. The Bengals somehow get on the board with a touchdown of their own, but by the time the halftime whistle blows, it's 24-7 Ravens as Justin Tucker hits from 50 yards at the buzzer.
Both teams spend most of the 3rd quarter trying to avoid anyone getting hurt. Tucker's field goal from 33 yards out makes it 27-7.
After an L.J. Fort interception and lengthy return, RG III throws a TD pass to Seth Roberts early in the 4th quarter to make it 34-7. That's a combo you probably didn't think would factor in the scoring this season, huh? The Bengals get a garbage time TD late in the game as the Ravens improve to 7-2 with a 34-14 romp over the still winless Bengals.
Two non-losing weeks in a row, huh? We're starting to percolate, folks.
We were 4-2 two weeks ago and 3-3 last week, but that Ravens "guarantee" (over New England) that hit should have been worth three wins. I hope you remember me next summer when you're at the beach house in Dewey living your best life.
Speaking of beach houses, for those of you who don't have one yet, buckle up and pay attention to the picks below. You can have one, too, if you play your cards right today.
CHIEFS AT TITANS (+6.5) -- There's no telling which Tennessee team shows up this afternoon in Nashville. Our guess is the lousy one makes an appearance. Kansas City is 4-0 on the road this season and they get Patrick Mahomes back this afternoon. This one's close for a while and then K.C. pulls away. We'll take the Chiefs and lay the 6.5 points as K.C. wins 30-17.
CARDINALS AT BUCCANEERS (-4.5) -- Tampa Bay is a tough team to figure out. They're 0-3 on the season at home, but have played well in virtually all eight of their games, despite losing six of them. Arizona is improving week-by-week, but we're guessing the West to East travel bug bites them as Tampa Bay wins and covers the 4.5 in a 33-26 victory.
DOLPHINS AT COLTS (-10.5) -- This one just "feels" like Miami hangs around, battles hard, and, perhaps, even snags an upset road win over the Brian Hoyer-led Colts. Ryan Fitzpatrick is goofy enough to have one of those days where he riddles the Indy secondary with a 400 yard day, even though I have no idea who would be catching the ball for Miami. Let's take the Dolphins plus 10.5, but Indy pulls out a late 28-26 victory.
RAMS AT STEELERS (+4.0) -- The Steelers...a 4 point home underdog? Weird. I know they're not very good and all, but it sure seems like Vegas is just dying for you to latch on to Pittsburgh. And the Rams haven't really done much to position themselves as a team worthy of laying four points on the road. It all probably adds up to a 30-17 L.A. win. But we'll fall for the Vegas trap. Against our better judgement, we'll take the Steelers and the four points, and even call a Pittsburgh upset here, 23-20 in overtime.
PANTHERS AT PACKERS (-5.5) -- We want to take Carolina here. Really, we do. The Panthers are on the verge of being a playoff contender in the NFC and Green Bay didn't look so hot last week in that loss to the lowly Chargers. We're at the window, ready to lay our money down on the Panthers. But we remember how hard it is to win at Lambeau. And Aaron Rodgers doesn't lose two in a row very often. We're going with Green Bay here even though we know we shouldn't, as the Packers win 30-23.
BEST BET OF THE DAY -- We're going with Tampa Bay (-4.5) at home over Arizona as our "Best Bet".
RECORD TO DATE: 22-32
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 3-3
RAVENS AGAINST THE SPREAD: 3-5
BEST BET OF THE DAY: 4-5
I'm assuming four or five Alabama defensive players will be taken in the first 50 picks of next spring's NFL Draft.
Based on yesterday, I'm not sure how.
The Crimson Tide defense got shredded in the first half by Joe Burrows and LSU, as the visitors ran up a 33-13 intermission lead before hanging on for a 46-41 victory.
Tua's first half was so awful he had Kyle Boller giggling. TV cameras showed Nick Saban say to him at one point late in the first half, "What are you doing?" Tua probably said, "I'm not sure."
Burrows was nearly perfect in the opening 30 minutes. The Bengals and Dolphins could use a real quarterback next season. So could a lot of other teams, for that matter. Burrows sure looks like the real deal.
It was, if nothing else, an entertaining game. That is, if you like offense. The defense....wasn't all that impressive.
Speaking of defense and the lack thereof, Maryland got shellacked yesterday at Ohio State, losing 73-14 to the #1 team in the nation.
The loss was so embarrassing that one player quit. And he's not even at College Park yet. Offensive lineman Jordan White of DeMatha announced during halftime he was decommitting from Maryland. I guess seeing your future team trail 42-0 at the half will do that to a guy.
Twitter and social media lit up when White posted his news, but the reality is White probably did Mike Locksley a favor yesterday. If a kid is that narrow minded and gutless -- to post something on the internet without having a conversation with the coach -- who wants him anyway?
That said, this current edition of Maryland football is woefully overmatched in the Big Ten. They always have been, of course, but it's not getting any better.
The basketball team can compete in the Big Ten because there are only a handful of decent teams from year-to-year. The football team can't get the players they need because Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State scarf up all the really good ones.
Maryland officials are laughing all the way to the bank, of course, as life in the Big Ten is much better for their wallet than the ACC ever would be.
In the meantime, though, they've become a laughingstock football program. That's a shame.
Oh man, Dion Waiters is in for a season's worth of arena banners, chants and Twitter memes.
I hope he has thick skin.
The Miami Heat player was unable to play on Friday night in Los Angeles after he ate a THC-infused "edible" and suffered a panic attack on the team flight from Phoenix.
Let the puns begin.
Waiters didn't play in the Thursday night game at Phoenix due to a stomach ailment. He then ate the edible seeking relief from that condition.
In mid-flight, Waiters apparently fell asleep, then woke up in a state of panic. By the time the plane landed at LAX, medical officials were on hand to attend to him.
NBA rules prohibit the use of THC. I know what you're thinking. I thought the same thing. I assumed NBA players were prohibited from NOT using it.
Waiters, meanwhile, is hopefully over his condition and ready to get back on the court. It's high time he starts earning his money.
1. Here are the six AFC playoff teams, in order: New England, Baltimore, Kansas City, Houston, Buffalo, Oakland.
2. Why Oakland? They're 5-4 now. And here's who they have left. Bengals (W), at Jets (W), at Chiefs (L), Titans (W), Jaguars (W), at Chargers (L), at Broncos (W). That's 10-6. If Indy finishes 10-6, the Raiders get the playoff spot because they beat the Colts earlier in the year. Crazy, right? Oakland with 10 wins? How?
3. Something tells me the Yankees are going to get one of baseball's big three free-agents: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or Anthony Rendon. With C.C. Sabathia's money off the books, they can spend some cash this off-season. My guess is they go after Gerrit Cole.
4. Arundel H.S. beat Broadneck in last night's football playoffs, 45-23. I wonder if the Wildcats got the opportunity to try an onside kick late in the game when they were ahead by 22 points?
5. Someone in the comments section yesterday asked me a hypothetical question about the Presidents Cup. If I could remove one player and add one player, who would they be? Interesting water cooler topic. I would remove Matt Kuchar and add Matthew Wolff. Kuchar has played in enough "team events" and his expiration date isn't far off. Wolff is one of golf's most exciting young players and will be a Ryder Cupper someday soon. He needs team event experience, so why not give him a Presidents Cup as a small sample?
6. I don't see any way the Ravens lose on Sunday and I don't really see any way they can't cover 10.5 points, either. Cincinnati is awful. It's one thing if you're playing, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down there. They're 2-6, but they beat the Panthers and Rams on the road and shoulda, coulda, woulda won three other games along the way. Their record is lousy but their team really isn't. The Bengals are horrible. Awful. More than lousy. A loss tomorrow by the Ravens would be one of the worst in the history of the franchise.
7. Looking for the two winners in today's big college football games? Let's go with Penn State and LSU, outright, but I feel like Minnesota plus 6.5 at home is the worthwhile wager. The Nittany Lions win that one 27-23 on a late TD.
8. The Redskins-Trent Williams story is one of the more ugly developments in the NFL this season. Because both parties were originally hesitant to discuss Williams' medical situation due to privacy matters, it's hard to know who is telling the whole truth and who is telling mostly the truth. But here's what is 100% certain. Cutting the guy and not paying him his $5.1 million salary is bush league. It's the Redskins, though. So it's not really all that surprising.
9. With the NBA's "load management" policy getting lots of ink and airtime this week, LeBron James took a different path with his comments after last night's win over Miami that pushed the Lakers to 7-1. "If I'm hurt, I'm not playing," he said when asked about taking a night off here and there. "If I'm not hurt, I'm playing. There's a back-to-back Tuesday-Wednesday? Phoenix first, then back home against Golden State? I'll be ready to go." Take that, Kawhi.
10. It probably won't matter today, but making Chase Young from Ohio State sit out the game vs. Maryland is just wrong. If the kid violated NCAA rules, investigate it, come up with a decision and then you can sit him out, take away wins, whatever you want. But to hear "rumors" of a summer loan from a friend and make him sit out first? That's wrong.
11. Here are the six NFC playoff teams, in order: New Orleans, San Francisco, Green Bay, Dallas, Seattle, Minnesota. Am I crazy?
12. It wouldn't shock me to see the Eagles nip the Cowboys in the NFC East. Philly has two tough ones coming up, both at home, vs. New England and Seattle. If they can split those two (sounds like the same thing we said about the Ravens), they have a cakewalk schedule down the stretch, including two against the Giants, one against the Redskins and a visit to Miami. And they play the Cowboys in Philly on the penultimate weekend of the season. I think Philly can get to 10 wins. Not sure if Dallas can.
13. UMBC men's basketball beat something called University of Valley Forge earlier this week, 134-46. Last night, Towson beat Bryn Athyn, 100-31. I know you don't know where they are, and neither did I, so I looked it up. They're both up near Philadelphia somewhere. And they play one another later this season. By the way, the Bryn Athyn website lists last night's game as an "exhibition" while Towson counts it as a regular season win. Not sure why...but anyway.
14. Oh, and speaking of those two schools. Why would UMBC and Towson play incredibly inferior opponents like those two? Just to get a win? Seems weird...
15. Just for kicks, I put together six obvious Presidents Cup pairings. Time will tell if I'm right. Tiger and DeChambeau (alternate shot), Johnson and Finau (better ball), Cantlay and Reed (better ball), Thomas and Woodland (alternate shot), Kuchar and Simpson (better ball), Koepka and Schauffele (better ball).
16. 2020 World Series? It might depend on who gets Strasburg and Cole. If one of those two goes to the Dodgers, or if Rendon winds up there, L.A. has to finally break through, right? The Braves are close, too. The Phillies might be a pitcher away. I'm going to assume the Yankees get one of the two stud pitchers, so I'll say it's New York (A.L.) and Atlanta (N.L.). What do you say?
17. I saw a clip recently of the "final outs" of the most recent 50 World Series'. It's remarkable how many of the 50 were strikeouts. I'd say at least 20 of them. Oh, and here's something else I don't think I knew. Gary Thorne was a Yankees broadcaster when they won the World Series in 1998 and 1999. No wonder he always sounds so excited when the Orioles get clobbered 11-4 up in the Bronx.
18. New England does not have an automatic path to the #1 seed in the AFC. Here's their remaining schedule: at Philly, vs. Dallas, at Houston, vs. Chiefs, at Bengals, vs. Bills, vs. Dolphins. The last three are automatic wins, obviously, so that gets them to 11. They'll probably need two more to get 13 and earn home field. They should beat Dallas. Now they just have to win one of three against Philly, Houston or Kansas City. It's not as much of a lock as we might think, and remember, the Ravens only have to tie them in the standings. Of course, the Ravens don't have a cakewalk schedule either.
19. Because it was Friday night and I didn't have a drive-the-kids-somewhere assignment until 8 pm, I streamed the second half and overtime of yesterday's women's college soccer Patriot League semifinal between Loyola and Navy. I had a rooting interest in the game. I know...you were wondering...why on earth would you be watching that? Joe Mallia, the head coach for Loyola, once played for me during the days of the Baltimore Spirit in the mid 90's. It was 1-1 after regulation. The two teams then played a pair of ten minute "golden goal" overtime sessions, with no goals scored there, either. So, they went to the dreaded "penalty kicks" to decide the winner. After missing their first one, Navy scored four straight to win. Once again, as I watched the young lady from Loyola clang one off the crossbar to give Navy the win, I wondered this: What would the coaches rather do? Go to penalty kicks or take one player off the field every 3 minutes until a goal is scored? If, for example, you played an additional 15 minutes of overtime (and let's say you start the third overtime with just 9 players instead of 11), you'd eventually get to where it was 7 on 7, 6 on 6, etc. Perhaps you would set a limit of, say 6 on 6 (plus the goalkeeper), but either way, I think you'll get a "real goal" at some point within 15 minutes of the third overtime. Would coaches rather do that? Or stick with penalty kicks? Me? I say take a player off the field every three minutes.
20. Just a hunch, but I think Andy Dalton is the quarterback in Nashville next season.
To no one's surprise, Tiger Woods added himself to the U.S. Presidents Cup roster last night. His additional three picks were no surprise, either: Patrick Reed, Tony Finau and Gary Woodland.
Of the four picks, only Finau failed to win a tournament in 2019. Woods won the Masters in April and added a 2nd victory in Japan two weeks ago, Reed won a FedEx Cup playoff event and Woodland, of course, won the U.S. Open in June.
But while the Reed selection might not have been surprising, it was at the very least a curious pick given his recent past. The former Masters champion became a bit of menace after the 2018 Ryder Cup in France, where he openly criticized captain Jim Furyk and then blamed his lackluster play on the breakup of a formerly staunch pairing with Jordan Spieth. Reed also complained about being paired with...Woods. In the end, he violated one of team sports' unwritten rules. You don't throw other guys under the bus when you lose.
Woods, however, looked past all of that. Reed wasn't really on the radar screen until late in the season when his play picked up. His win at The Northern Trust in August was enough to garner attention from Woods and his vice captains and his recent play in The Far East swing was also impressive.
The question, of course: How will the rest of the team take to Reed's addition?
The answer? As long as Woods can find a partner or two to mesh with his rambunctious style, what the rest of the team thinks probably won't matter one bit. Reed and Xander Schauffele have been rumored as a pairing, which might make sense in the four-ball format. Both players are outstanding putters and would likely be in every hole. Reed and Patrick Cantlay have played team/partner events together in the past. They also make sense to be paired together in Australia.
One of the more interesting parts of the pairings comes in the alternate shot portion of the competition, where players have to play the same golf ball throughout the entire hole. So, Woods, who plays a Bridgestone ball, probably wouldn't partner with Justin Thomas, who plays Titleist. Dustin Johnson plays the Taylor Made ball. Matt Kuchar plays Bridgestone. Those two wouldn't be a good fit. That's one of the bigger issues for both Woods and International captain Ernie Els when they're putting together their pairings for the alternate shot (foursomes) competition.
The other missing piece for Woods is the prospect that Brooks Koepka won't be available to play due to a bothersome knee injury. In the event Koepka's unavailable to play, Tiger will have to choose an additional player to take his spot. Rickie Fowler would seem the logical selection based on his finish in the standings, but Fowler hasn't played an event since August. Jordan Spieth would be a good fit within the team itself, but he hasn't played good golf in a year. Kevin Na would also garner some consideration.
Is this the end of the road for Philip Rivers? It sure looks like it. Rivers and his Chargers dropped a 26-24 decision to the Raiders last night, and Rivers was awful. He finished the night 17/31 for 207 yards and 3 interceptions.
The final drive of the game would have made Kyle Boller laugh out loud.
Rivers got the ball back, down 26-24, with 1:02 remaining in the game. First and ten on his own 25. All Rivers needed to do was get the Chargers down to the Oakland 30 or so and give his kicker a chance to win it. That's a total of 45 yards or so that was needed from one of the game's most veteran quarterbacks.
He threw eight passes.
None of them were caught. Well, one was...but by the wrong team.
Not one of Rivers' teammates caught a ball. That's more like it.
The Chargers did manage a first down in there on a defensive penalty, but Rivers didn't complete one pass.
His final throw of the game was intercepted and Oakland improved to 5-4 with the win. L.A. fell to 4-6.
Rivers has been a terrific quarterback in the NFL. He will get in the room one day as a Hall of Fame candidate but it's a coin-flip if he gets to Canton. A Super Bowl appearance would probably make him a lock, but that ship has apparently sailed.
Last night's performance in the final minute was shockingly bad. The Chargers are in the market for a new quarterback for the 2020 season.
The Capitals pulled off another gut-check win last night, beating the Panthers in Florida, 5-4 in OT.
Washington is off to a glorious start at 12-2-3, winning 9 of their last 10 and improving to 8-1-1 on the road thus far in 2019-2020.
Florida led 3-1 before Alex Ovechkin got involved with a couple of goals. Tom Wilson scored the game winner in OT after Braden Holtby's doorstop save ten seconds into overtime.
Ovechkin is off to an amazing start himself, with 13 goals, giving him 671 career tallies.
Wayne Gretzky is the NHL's all-time leader with in goals with 894.
Flyers fans, no need to rush to find your calculator. I'll handle the math for you. Ovi is 223 goals shy of tying Gretzky's all-time record.
Wanna do it, just for sticks-and-giggles? OK.
Let's say he finishes with 45 goals this season. That's an additional 32, which would put #8 at 703 goals at season's end. And, no, playoff goals don't count. They're a separate category.
If he scores 45 this season to get to 703, he'd need to figure out a way to score another 191 to tie The Great One. That's a lot of goals. That's, like, four seasons worth of goals.
Ovi's 34 now, 14 years into a career that has certainly taken its toll on him physically. Can he still score 45 goals at age 38? That's the big question. He'll get 45 or more this year. He can probably still get 45 or more next season, even. But at some point, age and wear and tear have to start taking over. Right? Or maybe not?
One thing that's certain. Barring a major injury that sidelines him for a significant portion of a season, Ovechkin will at the very least get to the 800 goal plateau. And it will then become a legitimate discussion point. Can he break Gretzky's record?
The smart money would say "no" on that, by the way. But Ovi's been defying the critics for a long time now.
Give the NBA credit.
The LeBron-in-Los Angeles story is a year old and out of gas.
Steph Curry's injury and the departure of Kevin Durant have turned Golden State into the Wizards.
The 76'ers and Celtics are on a collision course, but the real sparks won't fly until May.
So......we're left with something called "load management", which is the league's fancy term for giving a player the night off when the rest of his team laces them up and takes the court.
The story took on a life of its own on Wednesday when Kawhi Leonard sat out the first game of a back-to-back set for the Clippers. Fans in Los Angeles were upset, ESPN was upset and the game lost a lot of buzz with the gamblers in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
Leonard officially sat out the game vs. the Bucks due to load management, although the NBA was quick to point out the star of last year's NBA Finals (with Toronto) has been battling a knee injury.
"Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers' injury report," NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN earlier Wednesday. "The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine, is comfortable with [the] team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time."
Across the country, sports fans have been bellyaching about the concept of load management.
"Michael Jordan didn't miss games and he played an 82-game schedule," was a familiar cry this week.
"You don't see hockey players sitting out and they play 82 games," others have said.
While those arguments might be valid, they aren't really part of the NBA's load management protocol. The league is allowing teams to be smart with the use of star players, and back-to-back situations or 3-games-in-4 days have become the benchmark for "resting" an otherwise healthy player.
Perhaps the most puzzling part of the story is this: Why would any player need to use load management eight games into the season?
The Clippers originally used "load management" to explain Leonard's absence, but the NBA quickly followed up with the "injured knee" explanation. It's almost like the league office doesn't want people giggling at a player who says he needs a break three weeks into the season.
The real loser in load management are the league's two primary mid-week TV partners, ESPN and TNT. Leonard, for example, sat out two consecutive Wednesday night contests, and both happened to be on ESPN. The network didn't lose out completely this past Wednesday, as Giannis Antetokounmpo -- one of the league's biggest drawing cards -- helped Milwaukee win in Los Angeles, 129-124.
But not having Leonard on two consecutive Wednesday nights wasn't cool for ESPN, one of the main promoters and supporters of the NBA. It was made even worse last night when Leonard suited up for the Clippers as they hosted Portland in Los Angeles. That game was televised on TNT.
Last Wednesday, Leonard sat out a game in Utah, depriving the fans there a chance to see one of the league's biggest stars. It's one thing for the home fans to miss out on seeing Leonard. They have six months worth of opportunities left. It's another thing entirely for one of the league's star players to sit out a road game to "rest" his body.
Teams will typically announce usage of load management a few days before the player misses a game. They do that, of course, to appease the gamblers. Imagine the outrage if the Clippers waited until one hour before the game to announce Leonard wasn't playing that night.
In the end, load management might help keep a star playing longer. If it extends a career, that's a good thing. But in the meantime, lots of people are getting shortchanged because of it, including the league itself.
It goes without saying that the Ravens are perfectly positioned to win the AFC North and, perhaps, claim one of the top two spots in the conference.
The AFC North somehow became the AFC East. Everyone in the division is lousy except for Baltimore. But....we'll take it. Gladly.
There's no doubt the season turned on the two most recent wins, at Seattle and home vs. New England. Both of those wins weren't just "wins", they were thrashings. The score in both wasn't indicative of Baltimore's dominance in the game.
But to get to 6-2, lots of other things had to go right for the Ravens. Here they are...the five biggest points from the first half of the season.
5. Light schedule helped -- If there was ever an occasion for the Ravens to have a light schedule in the early going, it was in 2019. It gave Lamar and the offense a chance to work out some wrinkles, it allowed Greg Roman to get his feet wet as the team's offensive coordinator, and it provided the organization a solid opportunity to put that terrible home playoff loss to the Chargers fully in the rear view mirror. You play who the schedule tells you to play...but look what happened to Cleveland in the first half after that difficult schedule they played. The Ravens got a soft start to 2019 and took full advantage of it.
4. The addition of Hollywood -- Despite missing games and being injured, the addition and emergence of Hollywood Brown has been critical to Lamar and the offense. He was sensational in the opening win at Miami and then hauled in the key late 4th quarter game-sealer against the Cardinals the following week. His presence alone -- particularly once opposing teams saw game film from that Miami romp -- has opened up the offense for Andrews, Ingram and Lamar to do their thing. And even when he hasn't played, the confidence those three have gained has made a drastic impact on the offense. There are whispers around Owings Mills that the organization is worried about his fragility, but if Brown gets healthy and stays healthy, he could be a dynamic receiver in the league.
3. Skura's play -- Before the season started, it was assumed the Ravens would go one season with Matt Skura as the team's full time center and then they'd shop for a high quality college center in the first 4 rounds of the 2020 Draft. Now.....maybe not. Skura has blossomed in the Greg Roman offense and continues to improve with each game. The Ravens were at their best, remember, when the center position was locked down by veteran Matt Birk. Not that he changed the organization or anything, but Birk's role was quietly very pivotal during the Super Bowl run in 2012 and the years leading up to it. Skura's emergence has quietly done somewhat of the same thing. He's been very important. As one Ravens staffer told me, "His improvement has been almost night and day from where he first started."
2. Lamar's gift -- Goof balls around the country who are trying to poo-poo what the Ravens have done are calling it a "gimmick offense". Instead, they should really be talking about Lamar's "gift". He's one of the most electric athletes the NFL has seen in years. Are there potential durability issues with a quarterback who runs around a lot and takes on challenges a "pocket QB" might not take? Of course. Ask Cam Newton, a similar type player to Lamar, who might very well be out of the league next year due to his injuries. But in the meantime, Jackson has quickly established himself as perhaps the league's most dangerous weapon (with all due respect to Patrick Mahomes). At this point, a full season into his career (half of last season, half of this season), there's really nothing Jackson can't do. His arm is big, his accuracy has improved, and his legs and speed are from another world. And then there are the intangibles. He talks like a winner, acts like a winner, and seems like he's just "a winner". With no offense intended to RGIII, the Ravens would be sunk if something happens to Jackson. He's become "The Franchise" in 12 months time. And he might very well be the MVP of the league if his play continues over the final half of the season.
1. The Cleveland loss -- You'd have to look long and hard to find a regular season loss that apparently inflicted more damage to the Ravens than the one they suffered at the hands of the Browns back on September 29 in Baltimore. That loss clearly shook up the organization. Changes were made, immediately. Tim Williams was jettisoned, a surprising move given his draft position and college (Alabama). L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes came in and made immediate next game impacts, with Bynes intercepting a pass against the Steelers in his first game back with the team. It took a while to percolate, but an October trade for Marcus Peters also solidified the team's secondary. Peters came up with a huge INT for a touchdown in his first game. Something happened after that Browns loss. John Harbaugh stood at the podium afterwards and said, "We'll learn from this." And the organization took that to heart. They made roster moves and did enough self-scouting to realize they needed defensive help, particularly in the linebacking area.
Other points of consideration include the addition of Ingram, who has been more hot than cold. His running style is perfect for the AFC North.
Earl Thomas has also been integral to the team's successful first half. He's a winner.
Marlon Humphrey continues to evolve as one of the league's top cornerbacks. He'll have the occasional bad half, but they're few and far between. And he's a ball hawk in the same style of Ed Reed. Somehow, someway, he's always around the pigskin.
John Harbaugh deserves a lot of credit. He gets a lot of blame when the team loses, so he rightfully gets some applause when the team wins. Say what you will about Harbaugh, but this is undeniable. His players play hard for him on every play. You can count on one hand how many eggs the Ravens have laid in his 12 years in Baltimore. Week in, week out, the Ravens come ready to play, play hard, and make every game a potential victory.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
Tuesday was the beginning of the 2019-20 college basketball season. I even attended a game as a fan, which I hardly ever do. As expected, the Terps didn’t have much of a problem with Holy Cross at Xfinity Center.
Tuesday also marked an ending, one I heard about via email at 8:58 a.m. Three days before his team’s first game of the season, Glenn Robinson retired.
Who is Glenn Robinson? Well, I’ve written about him here before, but it’s worth repeating now that a 48-year career has come to an end.
He was the head coach of men’s basketball at Franklin and Marshall College (F&M), located in the city of Lancaster, Pa., about 70 miles north of Baltimore. The sports teams there, known as the Diplomats, compete in NCAA Division III, which consists of schools that do not offer athletic scholarships.
He was a brilliant coach, using concepts he learned directly from Dean Smith and tangentially from John Wooden to lead his teams to 967 wins, which rank behind only Mike Krzyzewski and a Division II coach named Herb Magee in NCAA history.
He was a great scout, at a place where he didn’t have a cast of assistant coaches to do that for him. He took people who had trouble with simple fundamentals at 18 years old and turned them into all-conference players at 21 years old. He was beholden to routines, whether the color of his dining hall tray at pregame meals or the rolling chalkboard he continued to use well into the 21st century.
He was an easy man to understand. He liked winning, and he liked basketball, and he was certain he knew more about both those things than you did. He was proven right about that many years ago.
I was lucky to have been around him for a few years. In particular, those four years, from 1991 to 1995. They changed my life. He had a lot to do with that, even though I never looked at him that way. Seeing a lot of winning has an effect on a person. In those four years, the team’s record was 103-12. Only one of those losses came at home, a 28-point defeat to Lebanon Valley that was such a shock that, the next day at practice, Robinson made the team watch the entire game from beginning to end while stopping the tape what must have been 50 times for, um, commentary.
That day aside, I liked the feeling of being involved in that success. In retrospect, I spent many years in vain waiting for something similar to happen. I came to realize how difficult it was, and the kind of coaching leadership that was needed to bring it to life.
You can have any big-time coach you want, trying to figure out how his NBA prospects are going to beat the NBA prospects on the other team. Sure, they’re in a competitive environment that brings a certain pressure that the F&M coach doesn’t have. Even so, there’s no way any of them is a better coach than Glenn Robinson.
Twenty-four years after I graduated college, Robinson remains the most competent person I’ve ever seen. He had it “figured out.” He was organized to a fault, yet smart enough to realize when he could let it get off track for a while. He knew “X’s and O’s,” but he never bogged down his players with all of it, which can’t be said about most other coaches, even successful ones. His players might have been 10 or 15 points better than the other team, but they won by 30 instead.
He saw everything, and I mean everything. The now-retired Johns Hopkins coach, Bill Nelson, told me a story about a close game between his team and F&M in Lancaster. Nelson couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Robinson run down toward the end of the bench to admonish the Diplomat mascot (dressed as Ben Franklin) for not standing behind the basket waving his arms when a Blue Jay player was on the free-throw line.
Allen Iverson once ranted about “practice,” but he was good enough to have that luxury. Robinson’s players understood that it was practice that made them as good as they were. Once they saw the game rewards that effort brought them, they tried even harder in practice. It was the opposite of the vicious circle.
Besides competence, there was also confidence. They can be related, of course—it’s easier to be sure of yourself if you’re know what you’re doing. But Robinson always took it to a higher level. I’m quite sure that, in his professional life, Glenn Robinson never apologized for anything he’s ever done. That’s not to say that he blamed others, or never complimented anyone. That’s certainly not to say that he never adjusted, whether it was basketball tactics or something else.
He simply believed that what he was doing in that moment was correct. He never questioned himself. He had so much success in the bank that nothing he did was wrong, even if the ultimate outcome wasn’t great.
There’s no doubt that sometimes made him a difficult person. He wasn’t a man who wanted advice, really. He wasn’t a man you could convince, of anything, not that any 18-year-old might have tried. He had the answer, always, even about subjects on which others had more expertise.
More importantly, he wasn’t a relationship guy. He’s a father and grandfather, but he was never a father figure as a coach. Players didn’t attach themselves to him. He appreciated good people, yet never believed it was his role to make them that way. Working at an academics-focused place helped him, of course. There were no tutors or “gut” courses or athletic dorms. The players were on their own before they walked into the gym, and back on their own once they left the gym.
Pete Carril, speaking about character, famously said that “you can’t separate the player from the person.” Coach Robinson didn’t look it at that way, I don’t think. His goal was to improve the player, and then figure out if the player could help him win. That was it. He focused on doing that even as a young man, when he wasn’t much older than his players, and his early success told him to keep with it.
These days, Coach Robinson certainly has relationships with many of his former players and staffers. At 74 years old, after a half century of coaching, there are a lot of them. In fact, he says that he plans on visiting some of them that are still involved in basketball in some way, of which there are quite a few.
I think all of them will remember two things…his competence and his confidence. He won nearly 1,000 games, and none of them came from some recruiting advantage or AAU pipeline. He went about it in a certain way, and none of it was personal. It was that simple.
There won’t be any national news about Glenn Robinson, but there never was anyway. He was among the best at what he did, and that’s worth remembering.
Something very interesting happened on Sunday night when the Ravens hosted the Patriots.
Besides that thrashing of New England, I mean.
The whole thing only took 15 seconds, but it hopefully gave Lamar Jackson a glimpse into what it's like to be the best at what you do.
I'm talking, of course, about the much-publicized pre-game and post-game interaction between Jackson and Tom Brady. The video started to make the rounds late Monday and was in widespread-share mode by Tuesday morning.
In the pre-game meeting, Brady approaches Jackson. In the post-game encounter, they see one another in the traditional area near midfield. That Brady initiated the pre-game visit speaks volumes about his respect for the young Baltimore quarterback.
The video below tells the whole story.
Brady's not the most popular guy in Baltimore, but that's only because he's been to nine Super Bowls and won six of them. No one around here dislikes Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota or Matt Schaub, right?
But when you see the pre-game exchange and hear Brady's genuine praise after the 37-20 loss, you get a small glimpse into why he might very well be the greatest quarterback of all time. Brady has always seen the field better than everyone. He doesn't have the strongest arm, he's certainly not the most mobile guy in the position, and his overall skillset is probably rated no more than "good". But he understands the game and sees the field better than the rest.
So when he takes a few seconds before the game to approach Jackson, it tends to stand out. Perhaps Brady does that before every game. I'm not sure. But I can't imagine he approaches the visiting quarterback with the sort of praise he had for Jackson.
Hopefully Lamar was paying attention afterwards, too, when Brady was quick to offer congratulations to him. We tend to make a big deal out of athletes and coaches scurrying off the field and not congratulating their opponents. We've dissected more than our fair share of cold post-game greetings between John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin over the years, for instance.
But there was something very genuine about Brady's personal interaction with Lamar on Sunday night. Please don't come at me with stupid stuff about Deflategate and taking the air out of footballs, as we all know that nearly every veteran quarterback in the league over or under inflates the footballs to their liking. And let's not get into "TB12" and the other business stuff Brady does that make us raise our eyebrows.
Let's -- if this is possible -- just look at football. It speaks volumes about his football character that Brady took those moments to praise the young Baltimore quarterback on Sunday night. There are lots of reasons why Brady is a winner. We saw a small glimpse of why that is on Sunday before the game.
Here's hoping Lamar was paying attention. We might have a real gem in Jackson. I think we all see that and know it, or at the very least, we're starting to believe it when we hear him talk after the game or during the mid-week press conferences. He appears to be different than other rookie quarterbacks. Not in the way he plays. But in the way he carries himself.
If Lamar wants to be like Tom Brady someday, he got his first personal lesson on Sunday night. Be humble and respect the other guy.
Tiger Woods will make his Presidents Cup captain's picks tomorrow, and there's already a brewing issue that Woods must consider. There's a rumor swirling that Brooks Koepka is not going to play due to a knee injury, which would give Tiger an additional selection to replace the world's #1 player for the American side.
Woods is going to add himself and Gary Woodland for sure. Those two are slam dunks. The other two picks are still a mystery, although Patrick Reed's solid play during the recent three-tournament swing in the Far East would appear to give him some momentum.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are both veteran "team event" performers. There's growing speculation that Woods would add at least one of those if Koepka can't go. Tony Finau is also thought to be a strong candidate, although he's never won a full-field TOUR event in five years as a pro (he won an opposite field event to a WGC tournament a few years back).
If Koepka doesn't play, that certainly impacts the American side. Tiger's additional pick will take on even more importance. And the International team looks locked and loaded this time around. In fact, I'd say the Americans will go into the event as a very slight underdog from a roster compilation standpoint.
I'm sticking with what I've been saying all along. Woods should definitely add Matthew Wolff to the American team as one of his four picks. And if Koepka can't go, Tiger should then add another TOUR young-gun, Colin Morikawa, who also won a tournament last summer in his first month as a professional.
But I don't see any way Tiger will add two greenhorns like Wolff and Morikawa, even if it is "just" the Presidents Cup.
If Koepka can't play, Spieth or Fowler will get added to the team. That's my guess. I hope I'm wrong.
I bumped into Towson basketball coach Pat Skerry yesterday at a Towson-area eatery. He spoke confidently about this year's Towson team, citing a strong returning class and a solid pre-season workout schedule as major factors. His Tigers opened their season last night with a 72-58 home win over George Washington.
Skerry is now starting his 9th season at Towson. In his first campaign, the Tigers went 1-31. Although they've never made it to the CAA Finals, Skerry has done a nice job in getting Towson basketball percolating again after the Pat Kennedy era.
The CAA remains in the top 3 of mid-major basketball conferences, with perennial contenders like UNC-Wilmington, Hofstra and College of Charleston leading the way.
Towson returns 8 of 9 of the program's top contributors from a year ago, including guards Brian Fobbs and Tobias Howard.
My buddy Glenn Clark and the staff at PressBox recently compiled an outstanding pre-season preview of all of the local Division I men's basketball teams. It's worth a read if you're a fan of local hoops. I try to get out to one game per-season at each of the local venues. Towson hosts UMBC this year on Wednesday, December 11, by the way.
For the complete PressBox team-by-team preview, click here.
Five questions to ponder:
1. When will Maryland football be good again? 2020? 2021? Or, maybe never?
2. Does Maryland basketball finally put it all together this year and claim at least a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament next March?
3. Any reason at all the Orioles should try and make a deal for Mookie Betts in Boston and build around him? The price tag would be hefty, and there's no way of knowing if Boston would even trade him within the division. But if they would.....
4. Is this red-hot start the Capitals are experiencing just a first-month thing or are they legit? Their defense was a question mark heading into the season but other than a few games thus far, it's been outstanding.
5. In the history of NFL "trap games", has there ever been a more obvious one than this Sunday's Ravens game in Cincinnati? Ravens: 6-2, riding high, coming off of one of the biggest wins in franchise history. Bengals: 0-8, coming off their bye, potentially getting A.J. Green back, nothing to lose, everything to gain.
Thought we'd do something a little different this week. A team-by-team rundown with some "analytics" thrown in for the younger folk who like that sort of thing.
If you're home from work, Sick As A Dog, this might be even more appealing. It will take your mind off of your illness.
Green Bay Packers -- I guess Aaron Rodgers and that Packers offense don't Walk On Water after all. That was a bad loss to the Chargers on Sunday. Still, they're in great position at 7-2. Chances they'll make a deep post-season run: 80%
Minnesota Vikings -- They had a chance to pick up some ground on the Pack by beating the Mahomes-less Chiefs, but K.C.'s kicker had the Magic Touch in the final three minutes on Sunday. If they can somehow wrestle the division away from Green Bay, Minnesota could be a tough out in January. Chances they'll figure out a way to lose two games they shouldn't lose before the end of the season: 55%
Chicago Bears -- They've been Livin' On The Edge all season, with a couple of good wins and then some awful losses, including Sunday's putrid offensive display in Philadelphia. Chances the Bears will be quarterback-shopping in next April's College Draft: 85%
Detroit Lions -- Matt Stafford is so hard to figure out. One week he plays great, the next week he plays like a Blind Man. Sometimes those two guys show up in the same game, actually. Chances the Lions make the playoffs: 2%
San Francisco 49'ers -- Maybe it's just a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo that has led the 49'ers to their undefeated record thus far, but they've definitely come Full Circle from last year's dismal team. Their trip to Baltimore later this month will be very interesting. Chances they'll make a deep post-season run: 70%
Seattle Seahawks -- I Wanna Know Why that Seattle defense suddenly stinks? The Ravens lit them up (albeit, they did score two defensive TD's) and then Tampa Bay poured 34 points on them before falling in overtime on Sunday. Russell Wilson's good and all, but if Seattle keeps giving up 30 per game, they're going nowhere. Chances they're going to the Super Bowl: 20%
Los Angeles Rams -- Some folks are shocked that the Rams aren't playing well this year, but to me it's No Surprise. Their defense is lousy. Jared Goff is inconsistent. And Sean McVay might have bought into all the "next Belichick" hype a little too much. Chances they miss the playoffs: 60%
Arizona Cardinals -- There's nothing definitive yet, but given time Kyler Murray might wind up being Arizona's Legendary Child. If they get him a few more offensive linemen and another competent receiver or two, the Cardinals might be a .500 team in 2020. Chances they win a game they shouldn't win in November or December: 70%
Dallas Cowboys -- They lost to the Jets. If you think Dallas is really any good, Dream On. They're never winning anything with that guy coaching them. Sorry, they're just not. Chances Jason Garrett is still the coach next year: 100%
Philadelphia Eagles -- I don't know what to make of these guys. Lost at home to the Lions, but went to Buffalo and beat the Bills. I don't think they're really any good, though. Maybe they'll snag a wild card berth, but that's where I'd Draw The Line. Chances they play in the NFC title game: 3%
New York Giants -- With Eli Manning apparently on a Permanent Vacation, this is one of those throw-away years for the Giants where their record really doesn't matter that much. They'll need another year or two to get on track, but the Giants will be heard from in the next decade. Probably. Chances they play in a playoff game in the next three years: 20%
Washington Redskins -- It's the Same Old Song and Dance in D.C., as far as football goes, anyway. The owner is nuts, the front office is woefully inept, and the on-field talent is always oddly unproductive. They've had quality players there, but they always seem to forget how to play football. Chances they ruin Dwayne Haskins within three years: 98%
New Orleans Saints -- If you thought New Orleans would drop off when Drew Brees missed a month with a thumb injury, Shame On You. Teddy Bridgewater came in and ran off five straight wins to save the Saints season. They're good. Really good, in fact. Chances they play in the Super Bowl in February: 60%
Carolina Panthers -- I figured they'd be cooked without Cam Newton, but Kyle Allen has come in and done a nice job, that blowout in San Fran not withstanding (and he doesn't play defense, of course). But When Push Comes To Shove, the Panthers will bow out of the playoff race gracefully. They're just not good enough. Chances that Newton retires this off-season a la Andrew Luck: 70%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Another weird team. They only have two wins, but they've been mostly competitive all season. Shoulda, coulda, woulda beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday. If Bruce Arians can get a better quarterback to team up with all-world wide receiver Mike Evans, the Bucs just might be Back In The Saddle Again come 2020 or 2021. Evans is a game changer. Chances that Tampa Bay makes the playoffs in 2020 or 2021: 50%
Atlanta Falcons -- I don't know what they need down there in Atlanta. An Attitude Adjustment, maybe? Or perhaps just a new coach and a new quarterback. Either way, they're in dire need of big time help. They might only win 3 games this season. Chances that the Falcons pick a quarterback in the first two rounds of next April's Draft: 50%
The AFC --
Kansas City Chiefs -- Matt Moore supposedly told Andy Reid, "I Won't Let You Down" when he replaced Patrick Mahomes two weeks ago. And, frankly, he's been true to his word. That was a big win for the Chiefs on Sunday vs. Minnesota. Once Mahomes is back and healthy, K.C. will again be a tough task, thanks in part to the job Moore did. Chances they'll be in the AFC title game: 50%
Los Angeles Chargers -- It's No Surprise that L.A. has struggled this year. They didn't have Melvin Gordon for the first month of the season and they lost Derwin James back in training camp and he still hasn't played a down in the regular season. But if the Chargers get into the post-season, they could be dangerous, as the Ravens found out last January in Baltimore. Chances they make the playoffs this season: 25%
Oakland Raiders -- This is one weird team. Good one half, lousy the next. Dangerous one week, soft the next. They might wind up winning eight games this season, but that Ain't Enough. They do own the honor of having the second best helmets in the league behind Houston, though. So they have that going for them, which is nice. Chances they would have been a 4-12 team with Antonio Brown on their roster all season: 100%
Denver Broncos -- Unless something weird happens, I suspect Joe Flacco will be saying Another Last Goodbye sometime in January or early February when the Broncos cut him loose or he retires. Poor Joe. Well, not "poor" Joe. But you know what I mean. He went out there with every intention of proving his critics in Baltimore wrong, but instead he wound up proving them right. Chances the Broncos screw up their quarterback situation again next season: 85%
Houston Texans -- Chiefs fans might argue this point, but the Texans have the best QB-WR combo in the league with Watson and Hopkins. And they have the best helmets, by far. How on earth do they lose? The J.J. Watt injury will wind up being their downfall, I think, but so far they haven't Fallen Off without him. We'll see how "real" the Texans are when the come to Baltimore in a couple of weeks. Chances they win a playoff game this January: 60%
Indianapolis Colts -- I'll admit it. I was wrong. I thought they'd be a Sight For Sore Eyes without Andrew Luck, but Jacoby Brissett has been good at QB and their running game has kept that offense moving along nicely. Don't think they can make any post-season noise, though. Chances they make the playoffs as a wild card team: 45%
Jacksonville Jaguars -- A lot of female Jags fans think Gardiner Minshew II is Drop Dead Gorgeous. I just think he's a pretty good quarterback, myself. It will be very interesting to see what happens when Nick Foles is healthy enough to return. I mean, they have to give him the starting job, right? Minshew didn't Wally Pipp him, did he? Chances they have a quarterback controversy on their hands in Jacksonville: 80%
Tennessee Titans -- People in Nashville thought the Titans were going to make some noise this season. I'd say those people were Crazy. Their biggest win might have been the opening Sunday upset of the Browns in Cleveland. But now that we've seen Cleveland, we know that wasn't much of a win at all. Chances they'll be looking for a new starting quarterback next season: 70%
New England Patriots -- Boy, Bill Belichick sure was Uncle Salty after the Ravens punched his Patriots in the mouth on Sunday night. "You saw the game. There's really not much to say about it," he said afterwards. Typical Bill. But we all know that was a rare night of disappointment for the Pats in 2019. Their piece-of-cake schedule will pave the way for yet another 13-3 season and in order to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, you'll have to go up there and beat those bums in late January. Chances that Brady quarterbacks for at least two more seasons after this one: 60%
Buffalo Bills -- The AFC East has been a One Way Street for the better part of two decades now, but the Bills are starting to show some small, yes, small, signs that perhaps they'll be the team to reckon with once Brady packs it in. They haven't exactly played a murderer's row schedule this season, but 6-2 is 6-2. At this point, the playoffs are on their serve. Chances the Bills figure out a way to choke away their post-season berth in the final three weeks of the regular season: 40%
New York Jets -- I'm not sure what's worse. Sam Darnold getting thrown around like a Rag Doll by that Miami defense on Sunday or losing at home to the Browns in Week 2 for one of Cleveland's only two wins thus far. Then again, the Ravens also lost to the Browns at home. So, anyway...we'll go with Sam Darnold. Chances the Jets win more than 3 games this season: 15%
Miami Dolphins -- Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick? At some point, Something's Gotta Give and the Dolphins have to make a decision. This rotating thing at the QB position isn't really working. It's a miracle they won a game, honestly. I'm sure they don't want to win more than that. But they do host Cincinnati later on, remember. Chances the Dolphins win more than 2 games this season: 20%
Cincinnati Bengals -- How hard is it to go 0-16? Think About It. That means not winning ONE home game. It's one thing to go 0-8 on the road, but 0-8 at home is really hard to do. That said, if A.J. Green comes back and he's healthy and giving 100%, the Bengals will beat someone before the end of December. Let's just hope it's not this Sunday, right? Chances the Bengals choose a quarterback in the first round of the Draft next April: 80%
Cleveland Browns -- Would it be mean of me to say this Browns 2-6 start is Beautiful? How about Beyond Beautiful? Well, it is. Nothing better than seeing a bunch of ego maniacs get together and go 6-10, right? The high point of their season is going to be that win in Baltimore back in early October. Everything else has been garbage. Chances the Browns will have yet another new head coach in 2020: 80%
Pittsburgh Steelers -- The Steelers are 4-4 and yinz up there in "dahntahn" are talking about playoffs. I suggest those folks Get A Grip. That team isn't beating anyone of substance when it matters. Heck, they barely beat the Colts on Sunday with a 5th string quarterback and a 64 year old kicker. The Steelers are easy to figure out. They'll hang around and occasionally beat the bad teams but they'll get clobbered by the good teams. Chances the Steelers make the playoffs this season: 1%
Baltimore Ravens -- Sure, maybe I'm Jaded, but I see the Ravens as one of the top five teams in the NFL right now. And this AFC dominance by the Patriots? It might be No More, No More. I don't know about you, but I'm Ready for that big showdown with the Texans in two weeks. Chances the Ravens play in the AFC title game: 60%
So, that's become the new "slap" at the Ravens and their 6-2 start.
They're apparently doing it with a "gimmick offense".
That was the word on Monday as experts and social media goofs from New England tried to rationalize how the Ravens bloodied the Patriots on Sunday night.
If by "gimmick" you mean having a quarterback who can run and throw the ball with nearly-equal degrees of success, then, sure, call it a "gimmick". Go ahead.
But what Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are doing on offense isn't a "gimmick". Not in the least. They're running the ball well, throwing it well, and putting points on the board in the red zone. If that's a gimmick, I know of about 26 other teams around the league who would like to purchase the complete set.
Calling the Ravens offense a "gimmick" is like having one of those long drive guys earn his PGA Tour card and then start hitting 425 yard drives on TOUR and winning 4 of the first 6 events he enters...and calling him a "gimmick" golfer. The scorecard doesn't have pictures. It just has numbers.
If the winning score for the U.S. Open next June is even par, is it a "gimmick" if the winning player made 72 pars instead of 54 pars, 10 birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys?
I can just hear Joe Buck now. "We have the U.S. Open champion, Rickie Fowler, here with us now after a sensational even par performance over four days at Winged Foot. Now, Rickie, we know you did it in an odd way, with 72 straight pars over four days. Does that take away from the fact you're finally holding a major championship trophy?"
And of course it wouldn't, in the same way it doesn't take away from the Ravens 6-2 record thus far that their quarterback is on the verge of setting the all-time single season rushing record for a quarterback. It's not a gimmick. It's called "winning".
Now, yes, Lamar Jackson would be a "gimmick" if, let's say, he had never played football in his life but ran a world record time in the 100 meters in college and the Ravens said, "Hey, he's really fast, maybe we'll just let him play quarterback and see if he can outrun everyone." Now, a track star with no football experience playing quarterback in the NFL -- that would be a gimmick.
But Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. As a quarterback. He knows what he's doing. Is he "unconventional"? Maybe. But that's only because his skill set is more unique than rougly 95% of the other NFL quarterbacks.
I seem to recall Steve Young and Randall Cunningham were unconventional too. I don't remember. Did anyone call those offenses "gimmicky"?
These people and their "gimmick offense" digs crack me up.
Just take your loss like a man and move on...
That wasn't just a win.
The Ravens treated the Patriots the way Leonardo DiCaprio treated those two guys from Providence in the movie The Departed.
Except the Ravens didn't poke anyone in the face with a pole from a hat rack.
They did just about everything else, though, on their way to a 37-20 win over the Patriots last night that wasn't nearly as close as the 17-point margin of victory would indicate.
It doesn't happen often, so we'll pile on today for good measure.
The Ravens sent a message last night, albeit at home, yes, that the AFC playoff picture is still in "to be determined" mode. It's not a done deal for New England. They know it, the Ravens know it, and anyone who watched last night knows it as well.
For one night, at least, the Baltimore Ravens showed they might be the best team in the conference.
The Ravens did everything right on Sunday night, except for two turnovers and a rare missed extra point from Justin Tucker.
Time of possession was a critical factor. That went to the Ravens, 37:01 to 22:59. Want to beat Tom Brady? Keep him off the field. 37:01 to 22:59 keeps him off the field.
Third effectiveness? Ravens were good in both areas. They were 5-10 on offense (and 1-1 on 4th down) and 8-13 on defense. That's how you beat New England. They get 13 third-down opportunities in the game and you get them off the field in 8 of those situations.
Overcoming adversity? Ravens won there, too.
After jumping out to a 17-0 lead, a Cyrus Jones muff on a 2nd quarter punt changed the momentum in a big way. Later in the quarter, Mark Ingram fumbled. On both occasions, New England turned those gaffes into scores. But rather than gag away a 17-point lead, the Ravens defense came up big late in that 2nd quarter and held New England to a short range field goal that kept them ahead at the half, 17-13.
Most times, you can't recover from turning the ball over twice in (or near) your defensive red zone. Those kind of mistakes almost always prove fatal, particularly against New England. But on this night, no mistake was too big for Baltimore. They overcame all of them.
And Lamar Jackson upped the decibel level on that MVP talk with yet another impressive performance. Sure, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson can also lay mid-season claims to the award. We're not here telling you it's Jackson by a landslide or anything like that. But last night was another game of maturation for Jackson, with 61 yards on the ground and a tidy 17/23 night throwing the ball, with 163 yards in the air and a 107.7 passer rating.
No one here is ready to say something stupid like "Lamar is better than Brady", but it's not out of the question to say that Jackson means as much to the Ravens right now as Brady means to the Patriots. Without their starting quarterbacks, neither team would be any good. We get that in Baltimore, just like they get that in New England. But "our guy" is pretty freakin' good.
And, as has been the case over his 12 years in Charm City, John Harbaugh had his team foaming at the mouth and ready to play against a premium opponent in a prime time national TV setting. Because they're the Patriots, they're featured on Sunday Night and Monday Night Football quite often. Most teams can't handle the heat of facing the Patriots and their two wizards, Brady and Belichick.
The Ravens handled it last night. With ease, really. Some of the credit has to go to Harbaugh. The Ravens very rarely ever lay a national TV egg.
And Harbaugh even rubbed it in a little at the end of the game, calling a meaningless time out with 1:15 to play as New England got set to punt the ball away so Lamar and the offense could snap-and-kneel twice to put the finishing touches on the victory. That was something Belichick has probably done 20 times in his career. Just keep the other coach out there a little while longer so he can seethe and think about his post-game press conference and how he's going to explain what just happened. Way to go, Harbs...
Let's be clear: The 37-20 win was a beat down. A dominating performance, really, in an era where New England gets pushed around like that once every two or three seasons, maybe. They'll be OK, of course, but they flew home to Boston last night knowing a return trip to the Super Bowl isn't locked up.
Baltimore ran the ball at will against that supposed "all world" New England defense, with 210 yards on 41 rushing attempts. Nothing in football damages a defense's pride like having the other team run through them. The Ravens slapped New England's defensive interior around like Ethan Hawke clobbered Denzel Washington at the end of Training Day.
All that talk about the Patriots soft schedule played out last night. This wasn't Miami or the Jets or the Steelers or the Redskins. This was a real team, with qualities on both sides of the ball that had to be dealt with. And for nearly sixty minutes, New England didn't have an answer for any of it.
New England doesn't lose like they did last night very often. They were manhandled.
And the Ravens are now 6-2 and very much alive for a first-round playoff bye. The #1 seed isn't out of reach, either, particularly now that they own the tiebreaker against the Patriots.
For all that talk about "having to go through New England", here's the funny thing: You might have to go through Baltimore instead.
Oh, and because I know you're thinking about it, I already checked it out for you: This year, the AFC title game is the "early one", meaning it starts at 3:05 pm on Sunday, January 19. Plan accordingly, Ravens fans.
"The Keen Eye" of
Checked in at 1:00 yesterday for the Steelers-Colts game from Heinz Field and watched the whole thing, right down to Adam Vinatieri’s lame attempt at a go-ahead field goal for the Colts in the final two minutes. I was reminded right then that the Ravens had Justin Tucker to kick the game-winning overtime field goal in Pittsburgh, while the Colts had a guy who’s going to be 47 years old next month and has missed five extra points this year.
Throughout the game, though, I thought to myself that neither team was in the same position it would have expected to be in Week 9 of the season. And yet…it was a really entertaining game.
Andrew Luck vs. Ben Roethlisberger would have been a match of top-level quarterbacks, for sure. But Mason Rudolph vs. Jacoby Brissett, and then Brian Hoyer, wasn’t so bad. If each team had the guy they would have liked out there, it probably would have been a tight game too.
As for the Steelers as they are currently, I give Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff a lot of credit. They’ve impressed upon Mason Rudolph that it’s better to take the sure thing than to always look for the big play. The Pittsburgh defense is much better with Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary, and T.J. Watt is almost approaching the “beast” territory occupied by his brother.
The Steelers may not make a true run at the playoffs, but they’ve been better than I thought they’d be with Big Ben sidelined for the year.
Speaking of the Colts, CBS threw up a historical note during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, after Hoyer threw his third touchdown pass. With that play, he became the first Colts’ quarterback since 1970 to come off the bench and throw three TD passes in game.
The graphic immediately made me laugh, knowing the game was being televised in Baltimore and that every person watching over the age of 50 was screaming at the television…something to the effect that Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas never played for the Indianapolis Colts.
Yes, Brian Hoyer became the first quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts to come in as a reserve and toss three TD passes. However, what he did had nothing to do with Earl Morrall did against the Chiefs on a Monday night at Memorial Stadium 49 years ago. And so on…
I never know exactly what to think of these notes, or about the local reaction to them. Either way, I don’t blame the television networks for using them. The NFL says the Colts are a continuous franchise, so that’s what the networks go with. They aren’t in the business of making editorial decisions about that, I guess.
And for those Baltimore football fans under 40, well they care as much about the Baltimore Colts as they do about the Indianapolis Colts.
You do wonder, however, whether anyone in a production truck somewhere has ever thought about separating the two eras of the team with a horseshoe on the helmet.
So, the Miami Dolphins won a football game in 2019. For real. They beat the almost-as-terrible New York Jets 26-18 yesterday in Miami, leaving the idle Bengals as the only winless team in the NFL through Week 9.
Not surprisingly, it was the veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick who led his team to victory, throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns. The paid attendance was listed at 59,229, on an 85-degree November day in South Florida, so I’m sure the 39,000 or so actually in the stadium were thrilled with the outcome.
When the Ravens were done with the Dolphins in Week 1, on another hot day, the likelihood of a winless Dolphins’ season became a hot (sorry) topic nationally. Miami, it was said, was “tanking” like no other NFL team had before. And those thoughts continued as the Dolphins began trading their players that did have value, such as Fitzpatrick (Minkah, not Ryan) and Kenyan Drake.
Miami actually has several more legitimate chances at victory this season, especially now that the Dolphins have experienced the feeling. They play the Jets again on December 8, and host the Bengals on December 22. Will Cincinnati be an 0-14 team heading into that game?
Fitzpatrick might be able the help the Ravens, and the Steelers, in a big way if he can lead his team to victory in Cleveland in three weeks. You never know who might assist you along the way to the playoffs, even one of the worst football teams you’ve ever played against.
The NFL brought out it’s “Salute to Service” gear now that it’s November. It was on every sideline this weekend, on the coaches and even on injured players like Roethlisberger. You can buy that sweatshirt Ben was wearing for $99 on NFL.com, as there’s nothing the league won’t commercialize to sell merchandise.
One person who didn’t wear the gear yesterday was Bill Belichick, who has abstained from doing so since the NFL began the campaign nearly a decade ago. In 2018, he was asked about that, particularly since Belichick has such a connection to Annapolis and the Naval Academy and a great interest in military history.
“Honestly, I don’t think what sweatshirt I wear is important,” he said. “What’s important to me is what your actions are, and what you do, so I try to make those count.”
Surely, Belichick is also kind of superstitious. He tends to wear the same thing every game, only adding or subtracting layers for the weather. Perhaps you’ve noticed that he proudly dresses like a schlub, or whatever you call someone who favors sleeveless sweatshirts.
That being said, Belichick’s comment brings to mind something I heard years ago from the Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Carril, when he was asked about wearing American flag patches on uniforms during the Gulf War.
“What good is it if you wear a flag,” Carril said, “but you also cheat on your taxes? Those kids who are dying over there…what are you doing in your life to make sure you’re worthy of them?”
Something’s gotten lost in the excitement about Lamar Jackson, both locally and nationally. Yes, he’s a running quarterback in a way that nobody has really approached, even Michael Vick. Just ask Vick.
But the league has really rediscovered how important running the ball is in general. Or at least it feels that way.
Many years ago, college teams published preseason prospectuses in the summer. The prospectus had a list of pertinent facts about each school and team, and on the list were always “Offense” and “Defense,” as in the formation/type the school played. Inevitably, as if each school was paranoid to tell the truth, the offense was listed as “multiple.”
It’s no joke, however, to say that NFL offenses have become more “multiple.” They’ve borrowed that from the college game, and at first that was mostly about passing. Now, we’ve seen the various ways in which college teams run the ball seep into the NFL, and not just for the quarterback.
My favorite thing about running the ball well is that it truly showcases the most important players on the field—the offensive linemen. They grew up learning to run block, well before their quarterback could throw a ball 25 or 30 yards. Running gives them the chance to dominate, while passing only gives the defensive line and linebackers that chance.
As the league’s older quarterbacks — Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Rivers, et al. — finally ride into the sunset, it’s possible the running game will become even more important to the NFL’s best teams. That is, until something new comes along…
#DMD GAME DAY
|New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
8:20 PM EST
M&T Bank Stadium
Spread: Patriots (-3)
If you had...one shot,
Or one opportunity,
To seize everything you ever wanted,
In one moment,
Would you capture it...or just let it slip?
Eminem, Lose Yourself
It might not be the AFC title game or the Super Bowl, but tonight's game represents a rare moment for the Ravens since they only play the Patriots once every three or four years.
They get a crack at the defending Super Bowl champions, in Baltimore, and they're the latest team to have a chance at handing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their first loss of the season.
These moments don't come along often. Oh, and it's on national television, too. What more could the Ravens ask for?
Two weeks removed from a signficant upset of the Seahawks in Seattle, the Ravens now go from a mile and a quarter horse race to a mile a half. They go from the 13.1 mile half-marathon to the full 26.2 mile test. In other words, this one, tonight, is a massive step up in class for John Harbaugh's team.
Do they have what it takes?
Here's the thing. Anything less than a Baltimore win isn't good enough. A 17-13 loss where Brady throws late TD pass to sneak the Patriots to 9-0? Not good enough. A 30-27 barnburner where New England gets a last minute field goal to hold off a spirited Ravens 4th quarter rally? Not good enough.
If the Ravens don't win, there's nothing positive coming from tonight's game. It's certainly not a must win for the Ravens. They're still making the playoffs even if New England comes out on top tonight. But if they're really good enough to compete with the likes of the Patriots and Chiefs in the AFC, tonight's game has to be a Baltimore win.
The good news for the Ravens is they didn't say anything dumb during the week to give New England any kind of additional motivation. It was business as usual, with mostly just the normal "we're just excited to play them" quotes and nothing more.
They're relatively healthy, with rookie Hollywood Brown a likely gametime decision due to a bothersome ankle sprain.
It's all set up for the Ravens to perform at a high level in front of the entire country who will be watching this marquee matchup on Sunday Night Football.
The game might not crucial for the Patriots, but it's really important to the Ravens. They're looking to prove something tonight. New England doesn't have that need for respect that the Ravens do. And that's what John Harbaugh and his players are looking for this evening: Respect.
This game represents a handful of different directions for the Ravens depending on the outcome.
On the good side, a win tonight moves the Ravens to 6-2 at the halfway point and puts them in great position to secure the AFC North without having to worry about that penultimate game in Cleveland in late December. It's doubtful the Browns can do any better than 10-6. A win tonight would go a long way towards the Ravens finishing at least 11-5, if not better, for the regular season.
If Baltimore wins tonight, they're also in prime position to secure a first round bye in the AFC. Kansas City and New England will still be challengers for those top two spots, but they both have pressing second half schedules and they play one another later this season in Foxborough. In fact, the Chiefs are a better bet right now to finish at 10-6 than they are 11-5 or 12-4.
Let's throw it out there...a win tonight for the Ravens and they have a reasonable shot at finishing 1st in the AFC. The Patriots still have Philadelphia (away), Dallas (home) and Houston (away) over the last half of the season. A loss tonight and two or three losses from that batch of tough games and, suddenly, New England isn't a lock for the #1 seed after all.
On the bad side, a loss for the Ravens tonight puts them at 5-3 at the halfway point and gives the Browns some hope that their soft second half schedule could make that December 22 game against Baltimore an important one.
If you're the Browns, that's your goal. Without getting the cart too far in front of the horse, they have to be looking at that December 22nd game and saying to themselves in the locker room, "If we can only make that game matter..."
A loss tonight to the Patriots would all but end the Ravens hopes of securing the #1 seed, barring an injury to Tom Brady, of course. At 9-0, New England would realistically only need to finish the season at 12-4 to get home field throughout the post-season. That means they'd be able to go 3-4 in their final seven games. They can probably handle that task.
And a New England win tonight would likely do some serious damage to the Baltimore swagger. This game gives the Ravens a real shot at making some noise in the AFC. If they don't win, it will leave a deep, dark bruise.
I don't see this one being an offensive showdown.
In fact, New England's best bet for winning will be to mirror what the Chargers did in Baltimore last January when they came to town and suffocated Lamar Jackson in what was his worst performance -- by far -- of his young career to date.
Tom Brady and his offense threw up some big numbers earlier this season against the Dolphins, Steelers, Jets and Redskins. What do all of those teams have in common? They stink. The Patriots aren't scoring 33 points tonight.
Likewise, it's unlikely that Lamar and Company will be able to scorch the New England defense, which right now is on pace to challege the Ravens 2000 defense for fewest points allowed in a 16-game regular season. This, of course, will present the Patriots biggest defensive challenge of the season. They're not facing Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Case Keenum tonight. This is a real offense they'll see.
As I wrote here at #DMD on Friday, I think the Ravens are winning tonight. I just don't see New England getting the job done this evening, not with the home crowd, the momentum from the Seattle win, the week off for the bye, and all of the other intangibles the Ravens have going for them.
I see the Ravens ahead at the half, 10-6, on a Lamar Jackson TD throw to Mark Andrews in the first quarter and a second quarter Justin Tucker field goal.
The Ravens make it 13-6 with another field goal in the third quarter, and the Patriots hit one of their own to make it 13-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
Lamar's legs take over in the 4th quarter and he helps engineer a 75 yard drive that culminates with a Mark Ingram TD run. A rare Justin Tucker extra point miss makes it 19-9.
Tom Brady and the Patriots get on the board with 3:24 remaining on a Sony Michel run on 4th and goal from the 2. The game comes down to a 3rd and 7 play with 1:54 remaining. Jackson scrambles for 9 yards and a first down and the Ravens are able to run out the clock as Baltimore pulls out a 19-16 victory.
There's good news and bad news about this week's edition of "Show Me The Money".
Let's start with the bad news. My 9-year old daughter, Lucy, went 4-2 last week. The bad news? She's not availble this week. I mean, she's "available", but I'm smart enough to know there's no way she's going 4-2 (or better) in back-to-back weeks. What she experienced last week was beginner's luck. We're going to stop right there and bask in the glory of winning effort.
But I have good news. An old football-savvy friend of mine, Rocco Castanelli III has reached out to me with five games that he says are "stone cold locks". Ten years ago or so, Rocco used to be great at betting first half college basketball lines. I assume he still has the same magic touch since he drives a Tesla.
So, let's roll with Rocco this week and see if he knows what he's doing.
If not, he'll be gone next week and I'll dive back into the predicting business.
TEXANS AT JAGUARS (+1.5) -- "This game is in London," Rocco says. "Jacksonville understands those travel challenges. Houston doesn't. This one's a slam dunk 3-star lock." We're going with the Jaguars to cover and win outright, 27-23.
BEARS AT EAGLES (-4.5) -- -- "I've watched a lot of football," Rocco explains. "That gibroni Trubisky is a hack. There's no chance he can go to Philadelphia and win." Philadelphia covers in a 24-13 win over Trubisky-the-hack.
COLTS AT STEELERS (-1.0) -- -- "Have you seen the Steelers this year?" Rocco asks. "They're worse than my Aunt Carla's Christmas cookies. They're awful. And the Colts, they ain't that bad actually." We're taking Indy and their run-heavy offense to cover and hold off the Steelers in a 23-20 win.
BROWNS AT BRONCOS (+4.0)-- -- "With Flacco, Denver would have lost by 3 points," Rocco reasons. "With someone else at quarterback, they're losing by 7 points at least." OK, then, we're taking Cleveland to cover and win, 24-17.
PACKERS AT CHARGERS (+4.0) -- -- "The Chargers are four point underdogs at home? What the hell? That one smells awfully fishy to me," Rocco says. "I can see Green Bay winning, but they're not beating them by five points." We'll stick with that theory and call it a Chargers cover but Green Bay wins with a late field goal, 26-23.
BEST BET OF THE DAY -- "Mitchell Trubisky couldn't beat Temple in Philadelphia, let alone the Eagles in Philadelphia," Rocco says. "So we'll go with the Eagles as the Best Bet."
RECORD TO DATE: 19-29
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 4-2
RAVENS AGAINST THE SPREAD: 2-5
BEST BET OF THE DAY: 3-5
The Ravens had a chance to pluck wide receiver Josh Gordon from the waiver wire on Friday afternoon.
Gordon almost made it through the entire league before he was picked up by the Seahawks, who were in the 28th position. In case you care, the Ravens were stationed at #25.
So, Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh had a shot at Gordon and didn't take him. Mistake? Or the sensible thing to do?
Here's how both angles looked on Friday.
Don't Take Gordon -- He's talented, yes. But Gordon has more baggage than a private jet of 12 heading to Las Vegas for the weekend. He couldn't cut it in Cleveland, got suspended numerous times, and has had multiple run-ins with the league's drug and alcohol policy.
He started this season in New England, played a bit, then was released this week after missing several games with an injury.
Neither the Browns or Patriots thought highly enough of Gordon to keep him around, despite a wealth of natural ability.
That's a telling statement in and of itself. When the Browns give up on you, you know you've hit rock bottom. And Bill Belichick will give virtually anyone a chance. See: Randy Moss, Antonio Brown and, Josh Gordon.
The guess here is that DeCosta and Harbaugh simply didn't want to endanger what appears to be a brotherly locker room. There's no way to know for sure if Gordon would have screwed up yet another chance, but the bet here is that the organization just wasn't willing to gamble on him and his mercurial personality. This wasn't about production or promise. It was simply about past experience and history haunting a talented player who has routinely seen the aggravation he brings outweigh the production he brings.
Take Gordon -- Let's be honest about the Ravens receiving corps. It's just OK. Nothing more. On any given day, if everyone's healthy, the wide receivers and tight ends can compete with anyone, but therein lies the rub. Hollywood Brown has missed two games already this season and is showing early signs that he'll constantly be an injury report candidate. Mark Andrews has been nicked up this season as well.
So, adding Gordon, even if he only lasted a month, might have been the smart play. Even if he only makes it through November, let's say, what's the harm in having him around for four games? What if he catches 5 balls and a touchdown against the Bengals next weekend or snags the game-winning TD against the Rams or 49'ers? One game could make the difference between the #1 seed and #2 seed or the #2 seed and the #3 seed.
If you keep him around for three weeks and then he acts like a fool, you cut him loose.
And if Hollywood continues to hobble around like a one-legged-pirate for the rest of the season, you might actually need another "real" receiver for the final nine games plus playoffs. The guess here is the current crop of receivers is good, but nothing more than that. Gordon isn't the league's best receiver...not by a longshot...but he's good enough to help out along the way.
He might also give you an edge against the Browns at end of December when the Ravens head to Cleveland.
And what if it's Baltimore vs. New England at some point in the post-season? Gordon could have the bit between his teeth for that one as well.
It would be interesting to know what happened at #25 when the Ravens had their shot at Gordon.
Did Harbaugh want him and DeCosta object? Or did the general manager want to add him and the coach say "no"?
Or did both of them have no interest in Gordon?
Because of his baggage and league-related issues, it's also very possible -- even likely -- that DeCosta had to first confer with owner Steve Bisciotti before taking a flyer on the veteran wide receiver. Bisciotti wouldn't care one way or the other if Gordon's record was clean and he was just another player. But given his suspensions and such, the owner probably needed to approve the waiver selection.
So, perhaps it was Bisciotti who threw in the "no" vote?
And it's also fair to wonder how much influence the Ravens record had on things. If they're 2-5 or 3-4, would their decision have been the same as it was on Friday when they were 5-2 and said "no thanks"?
We'll never know, of course. Gordon could have come to town and flopped like he did in New England. Or he could have figured out a way to keep his nose clean and stay the course.
Seattle's about to find out if 27 other teams made a mistake.
The bet here is that the Seahawks will wind up regretting the Gordon waiver claim. But it's certainly worth wondering if the Ravens should have beat Seattle to the punch on Friday and brought Gordon to Charm City.
One day earlier this week, a comment appeared below that said, "If you need to read a book to learn how to live, your parents shortchanged you."
We all say stupid stuff occasionally. It's part of being human. That comment could easily be filed under "stupid stuff".
Reading is one of the greatest things you can do. (Hint: I'm glad you like to read...or else you wouldn't be here).
And both my mother and father encouraged me to read, in fact. They said the exact opposite of the comment that was posted here. "If you want to learn about life, you need to read every day."
The greatest book ever written about "learning to live" was, of course, the Bible. I won't babble on about it here because that's not my intended subject today. But pick it up and read it sometime and you'll figure it out for yourself.
These days, books aren't as commonplace as they were, say 30 years ago. Yes, people still write them. And some great ones are published every year. But this thing called the internet has done a good job of replacing books. If you want to learn about something now, just Google it and off you go.
But books still matter in 2019. Writers still matter. Stories still matter.
And one of the best authors I've found in a long, long time comes from a rather curious source.
Ladies and gentlemen...
I introduce to you, Neil Peart.
Peart is the now-retired drummer of the Canadian rock band Rush. His life story is filled with happiness, accomplishment, sadness and grief. Peart lost his wife and daughter to tragic deaths only ten months apart about a decade ago. It was from those two situations that Peart started a lengthy writing "career" that still evolves today.
One of these cold, snowy days that we know are coming around soon, I suggest you get a coffee or your favorite drink and spend a few hours going through Peart's website and assortment of reading materials. He's authored a number of outstanding books, mostly connected to traveling around the country trying to find some way to cope with the loss of the two people closest to him in his life.
You can find his official website right here.
And, no, you don't have to like the music of Rush or be a drummer to appreciate any of Peart's work or books. You just have to appreciate the human spirit.
Looking for a great holiday gift for someone who loves to read and wants to learn how to live life? You can't go wrong with any of Peart's books. They're short, easy to read and understand, and they'll leave you thinking about your own life and what you've done with it.
Let's be honest with one another. Back in April when the NFL schedule first came out and we started doing the "win that one, win that one, lose there, win that one, lose there" thing that we always do, we wrote "L" next to the Ravens' Sunday, November 3 home game against New England. If you say you wrote "W", you're fibbing.
I wrote "L" because I assumed Tom Brady and Company would come to down and do what they do 70% of the time when they play on the road. I figured they'd win.
But the times...they are a changin'.
And this one on Sunday night is setting up to be a real barnburner..."Game of the Year" stuff and all that. The Ravens are primed, healthy and ready for the unbeaten Patriots. New England hasn't been challenged much over the last decade or so, but John Harbaugh and the Ravens have done their fair share of damage against them, albeit mainly in post-season play.
For whatever weird reason, Harbaugh's team is always a good match-up against the Patriots.
OK, OK, OK. Enough of the trailer. Let's get to the action. Is that what you're saying?
Here it is...
The Ravens are winning on Sunday night.
In fact, let's be really bold and guarantee it. That's right. Put the "G" on this one, kids. The Ravens are beating the Patriots. Guaranteed.
All of the issues and factors that you think are important are, in fact, important.
Does it matter that the Patriots haven't faced a good team yet this season? You bet it does. At some point, the schedule balances out. You play lousy teams, you play good teams and you play a few really good teams over the 17 weeks. You're not beating everyone. And you're certainly not beating all of the really good teams you play.
New England hasn't seen anyone like the Ravens yet this season. They're in for cold-water-to-the-face on Sunday night.
John Harbaugh's team always performs well after the bye week. In fact, they're 4-1 over the last five years after the bye. For whatever reason, Harbaugh does a good job with that extra week of preparation and he clearly does something right with the players. They come back refreshed and play hard.
The Ravens are really good at home, and especially good in evening, prime time games. That this one comes against the undefeated Super Bowl champions only adds flavor to the mix. There's no way New England can come in and match the intensity of John Harbaugh's team. They just can't.
Have we mentioned Lamar Jackson yet? New England hasn't seen him or anything even remotely close to him this season. They're in for a rude awakening. Sure, Belichick has spent 60 hours this week studying film and trying to figure out how to minimize Jackson's impact, but trying and doing are different things entirely. Lamar Jackson isn't getting shut down on Sunday night.
New England's offense is Tom Brady and some magic dust. Julian Edelman's decent and Sony Michel can put up some big numbers if the New England offensive line matches up well on that given Sunday, but other than, how on earth will the Patriots score? If they score three TD's in the game and Edelmen and Michel aren't involved somehow, it would be a shock.
Intangibles matter. That the Ravens are riding high at 5-2 is important. So, too, is the fact that a win on Sunday night would actually give Baltimore a breath of hope that they could potentially earn the AFC's #1 seed if some things swing their way and New England winds up losing 4 or 5 games.
Let's be fair here. The game on Sunday night means far, far more to the Ravens than it does to New England. The Patriots have won six Super Bowls, including two of the last three. A mid-season game in Baltimore is ho-hum stuff to them, but it smells and feels like the AFC Championship game to the Ravens and the fans in Baltimore.
There's just no way New England leaves with a win on Sunday night. Well, there's a way. Jackson gets hurt on the first series of the game and can't return. That's about the only way the Ravens can lose.
We don't do it much around here. Maybe once every two or three years. But this one is a done deal on Sunday night.
We'll wait until the Sunday edition to give you the details on how it plays out and what the final score will be, but go ahead and erase that "L" you wrote down back in April and put "W" there in big, bold magic marker.
You can also throw in "G" for guaranteed if you want.
The Ravens......are beating the Patriots on Sunday night.
Given our survey results from 2017, it's likely that only about 20% of you reading this very edition of #DMD are also regular readers of the (sports?) website Deadspin.
I say that not to make judgement on you and your ability to read, but rather because of your age. The majority of Deadspin readers and devotees are likely 21-35, and that represents a fairly small number of our daily visitors.
So, it stands to reason most of you won't directly connect to this story. But it's about sports, sort of, so it felt topical to me. And I've been a fairly loyal Deadspin reader for more than a decade now, although I've grown less and less interested in it over the last year.
Earlier this week, the new boss of the parent company that bought Deadspin a year ago issued a memo to all writers and editors and said, in short, "Starting now, all stories must be about sports or have a direct relation to something sports oriented."
It quickly picked up its own hash tag in the social media world: #sticktosports
The edict was met with an avalanche of resistance from Deadspin employees. On Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the memo was leaked, several writers penned intentional non-sports stories, with topics touching on beer, sex, travel and other things having nothing at all to do with Tom Brady, Stephen Strasburg, Sidney Crosby or Tiger Woods.
By Wednesday, longtime writers and editors were resigning. Several had built incredibly large social media followings through their work at Deadspin.
Wednesday night and into Thursday, those that elected to hang on were still authoring non-sports stories or doing their best to agitate, including one column from a popular female writer who ranked the "hotness" of professional athletes and openly asked for the entire Washington Nationals team to meet her in bed. Well...athletes...Washington Nationals...it's sports, right?
Late on Thursday afternoon, Drew Magary, the most-tenured and well-known Deadspin employee, finally caved in and submitted his "I just resigned from Deadspin" tweet. Several others also quit at day's end. There's a chance that Deadspin doesn't have a staffer right now, as you read this sometime on Friday. Nearly everyone is gone.
It's first worth noting that every Deadspin writer was fully capable of producing outstanding sports commentary on a regular basis. Lauren Theisen was one of my favorite (ex) Deadspinner's. She quit on Wednesday.
Lauren was the site's hockey writer. She covered the games and seasons like a beat writer should, but added her own early 30's (?) view of the world to everything she wrote. It came with an edge, of course, but along the way I learned she really loved hockey and had grown to understand the game as well as anyone. She was a young Linda Cohn, but with a keyboard instead of a TV camera.
Others like Lauren also quit. They were household names to others the way Lauren was to me. Drew Magary had a massive national following, for example. By late Thursday, no new stories were being published because there was no one in the office to write them and hit "publish".
So what happened?
Why would the new company leader come along an issue the "stick to sports" mandate? Deadspin has been on uneasy track over the last couple of years, losing millions of dollars while trying to figure out how to stay competitive with sports-monster Barstool, whose appeal with 21-35 year olds has tripled over the last 24 months. Does Deadspin management believe the only way to go after Dave Portnoy and Barstool is by providing *better* sports coverage? If so, that was a swing and a miss on their part.
But what responsibility do the writers have to follow the rules and protocol set forth by management? Those writers don't pay themselves, remember. Deadspin pays them. And, so, it would seem natural that a company mandate like "stick to sports" would largely be met with approval.
Across the board, nearly every staff writer and editor objected to #sticktosports. "We can't be considered journalists if we're not allowed to have creative freedom to write about whatever is we want," was a typical response. "If I want to rank the all-time best rock-n-roll guitarists, I should have the luxury of doing that without concern for my job security," was an example of something that was written by a former Deadspin staffer.
But wait. If you write for a sports site, aren't you're aware that your work should relate...to....sports?
By creating popular writers, many of whom shared their personal lives within their work at Deadspin, the website brought a certain level of family connection to the relationship between the readers and writers. When Lauren Theisen ranked the coffee shops in New York, you were interested because it was Lauren who was handing out the awards. If you like her work, she assumes you'll be interested in what coffee shops she frequents the most. So, instead of writing about Jacob deGrom's ex-girlfriend saying he was a bad kisser, she authored a piece about New York City coffee shops.
And guess what? You came back tomorrow. And the next day.
Deadspin created their monster. They made their writers extraordinarily popular, both on the site and through social media. They craved that at one point, needing that "personal connection" to keep readers coming back every day.
Suddenly, it all changed.
No more writing about how to sneak marijuana onto an airplane or how to spill a coffee at Starbucks and make them give you another one. No more of that stuff. It's just sports, sports, sports now at Deadspin.
Except there's no one there to write about sports because they all quit.
I don't have a "side" in this one. I see it for what it is. The business owner believes his best chance for success is to have his writers stick to sports. The writers believe they should have the flexibility to write about whatever they want. It's hard to settle on that one and come up with a compromise.
But Deadspin still has a problem on their hands. They have no writers. And every day that goes by, they're losing more ground to Barstool and other national sites. Oh, and once they do find writers, how eager will those guys and gals be to sign off on #sticktosports?
Deadspin was great for a decade or so. But they created a monster. And at some point, the monster got too big for its own good.
Top-ranked Archbishop Curley did not begin the 2019 season as the league favorite in MIAA A Conference soccer race. In fact, some rated Coach Barry Stitz’s squad no better than fourth or fifth in the league.
Once the season got underway, however, the Friars, relying on a deeper more balanced roster than most expected, dominated their rivals with a 12-1 conference record as they ran away to the Black Division crown. The only thing that stood between the Friars and a place in Sunday’s league championship game was No. 5 Calvert Hall, Curley’s semifinal opponent on Thursday in East Baltimore and the only league rival to top the Friars this fall.
The Cardinals (11-5-2), playing without senior star Ben Bender, who injured his left knee in Tuesday's quarterfinal win at No. 3 Mount St. Joseph, gave Curley (16-2-1) all it could handle in a gutsy end-to-end effort, but the Friars had just enough to get past their old rivals, 1-0, and advance to Sunday’s championship game, providing a much appreciated 50th birthday gift to their head coach.
No. 2 McDonogh, winners of the last two league championships and four of the last six, will be Curley’s opponent at CCBC-Essex at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Eagles advanced with a hard-fought, 3-2, win over No. 4 Loyola Blakefield, in Owings Mills, also on Thursday.
Curley, which had practiced all week with the intention of slowing Bender, who had a goal and an assist in Calvert Hall’s 3-2 win over the Friars in the Reif Cup two weeks ago, had to adjust to a more defensive minded approach by the Cardinals which relied on aggressive counter attacks. In the first half, the usually fluid Curley attack appeared frustrated, but once the game opened up in the second half, both sides created numerous dangerous opportunities.
Ultimately, Curley was the only team to finish one of those opportunities, on a beautiful play seven minutes into the second half, as senior Bryce Woodward came up big for the Friars. Junior Brandon Holy initiated the play from the back, driving a long ball some 40 yards in the air over the top of the Calvert Hall defense where it was met by a streaking Woodward. The run provided Woodward with a one-on-one chance with Calvert Hall goalkeeper Andrew Levi. On the right side, Woodward dribbled a couple of strides before rolling a low, hard right-to-left shot in front of Levis and into the goal.
Stitz said that he told his team (after they sang a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to him as part of the postgame celebration) that the win was the best present he could get.
“It was a great game,” said Stitz. “Hats off to Calvert Hall. They battled today and they played especially well without Ben Bender.”
Bender, who scored in regulation and then converted a penalty kick in Calvert Hall’s shootout win at St. Joe, had left that game with a left knee injury, but came back to help secure the win.
He has been receiving treatment ever since and had hoped to play against Curley as recently as Thursday morning, but Zinkand said they had to make the difficult decision to hold him out.
Even without their senior star, the Cardinals made themselves dangerous, creating several quality scoring chances in the second half and nearly tying the game with four minutes to play, but a Sean Barwick shot from 12 yards out just missed finding the net.
Zinkand gave credit to Curley for getting the goal. “I told my team after the game, that I was extremely proud of the effort,” said Zinkand. “We hit the bar twice today, but we couldn’t quite get the bounce that we needed. They played their hardest, and that’s all I could ask.”
In Owings Mills, McDonogh (14-4-1) saw the visiting Dons erase a 2-0 Eagles’ lead with a pair of second half goals before junior midfielder Richie Nichols saved the day for McDonogh with his second score of the day.
The winning goal came when Nichols dribbled himself open at the top of penalty box and drilled a hard shot inside the left post, with 13 minutes to play in the second half.
Mason Christian, with an assist from Nichols, had staked McDonogh to a 1-0 lead early in the first half and the Eagles appeared as if they might coast to Sunday’s final when Nichols got his first score, 10 minutes into the second half.
The Dons (11-5-2), however, did not let any time waste getting back into the contest, as Dominic Caltabiano countered, less than a minute later. Less 10 minutes after that Chase Llewellyn score on a tap in to tie the game at two and suddenly, Loyola was on the offensive, nearly scoring the go-ahead goal on several occasions.
The game remained wide open after Nichols’ second score as Loyola pressed for the equalizer which never came.
In its only meeting with McDonogh this season, Curley defeated the Eagles, 3-0, at Curley on Oct. 7th.
This game story was written by Varsity Sports Network and originally published on their website on October 29, 2019. Varsity Sports Network is the area's leader in high school sports coverage, covering regular season and playoff action in the MIAA and other private conferences, plus public school sports throughout the state of Maryland. #DMD and Varsity Sports Network have a longstanding relationship of shared coverage and story ideas. For more information on subscribing to Varsity Sports Network, please visit www.varsitysportsnetwork.com.