We looked back at yesterday's marathon and wanted to thank all the brave souls who sacrificed half the morning to get through all that. Remember the Friday mailbag if you have something you want to ask about, and we're looking for a new contest in the coming days — who knows first prize may be two tickets to an Auburn game; last prize may be four tickets to an Auburn game. (Thanks Lewis Grizzard.)
From the "Talks too much studios," here we go...
NFL POW-er poll
Want the fundamental difference between the NFL and college football? In the NFL you can't overpay talent and need depth that can be coached. In college football you can't overpay coaches who can land talent and recruit depth.
Look at the best teams with the best record in the NFL, and other than Jim Harbaugh, there's hardly an "it" coach on the list.
In the AP top 5, there's Saban, Chip Kelly, Spurrier, hotshot Dana Holgorsen and Will Muschamp.
1) Atlanta Falcons (5-0): There's being 5-0, and that's the most important stat in the NFL. Then there's dominating the game-winning categories: Atlanta is second in third-down percentage (48.5), first in penalties (16) and penalty yards (127) and first in turnover margin (plus-10). Those numbers — and a legit MVP candidate at QB in Matt Ryan — equals 5-0 and a bright future.
2) Houston Texans (5-0): Painful win over the New York Jets on Monday night. The 23-17 win was marred by the loss of defensive leader Brian Cushing to a knee injury. That said, J.J. Watt may be the best defensive player you haven't heard of before Monday. Dude showed out against the Jets.
3) San Francisco 49ers (4-1): The 49ers have the best scoring margin (plus-81) in the — cue the Ron Jaworski music — NATIONAL FOOT-ball LEAGUE. That's a pretty stout stat by the way. Here's the top five in scoring margin: San Fran (plus-81), Chicago (plus-78), Houston (plus-76), Atlanta (plus-55), New England (plus-52). Those teams are a combined 21-4.
4) Chicago Bears (4-1): Winners of three straight, the Bears are in the precarious place of knowing they have Super Bowl talent across the board, and have to put their chips all in with well-dressed-but-not-always-well-prepared Jay Cutler at quarterback. Side question: If we say the name Lance Briggs, do you think "Was that the character Andrew McCarthey played in (fill in the blank on a mid-to-late-80s teenage angst movie)?" or future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker who is a poet warrior?
5) Baltimore Ravens (4-1): Read the above paragraph and take out well-dressed (but leave in not always well prepared) and change Jay Cutler to Joe Flacco. Another similarity, both the Bears and the Ravens have closing championship windows because of defenses that are getting long in the tooth.
UT-Miss State, Day 2
We spoke Monday about the stakes of Saturday's 9 p.m. kick in Starkville for Derek Dooley and our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer thinks UT will win 28-17.
More from Weeds: He drew the hinted comparison and suggestions from Monday that since Mullen is 5-0 in his fourth year at Mississippi State, could Dooley have a similar turn next fall?
Let's examine the learning curves of these programs over the last few falls: The Vols have landed the more heralded recruits; the Bulldogs have produced more talent (six NFL draft picks, including two first-rounders, in the last two years; UT had three players picked in the last two drafts).
MSU coach Dan Mullen was 21-17 and 9-15 after three years in the SEC; Dooley is about to reach the halfway point in his third season and is 14-16 and 4-14.
Whether Dooley gets (or deserves) the chance to start a fourth season in Knoxville as well as Mullen has started his fourth season in Starkville could hinge greatly on the events of Saturday night.
We said this yesterday, and we believe it — barring something unforeseen, 7-5 is the baseline of acceptable for these Vols and for Dooley to keep his job. And UT can get to 7-5 even with a loss Saturday. Is that desired or even good? No, of course not. But that's how we view the current status of the state of events in Knoxville.
Of course, a 7-5 situation does not answer the questions that a certain group of Johnny Vols Fans have about whether Dooley be the answer in Knoxville. A 7-5 situation does not turn down the heat on the orange seat of the most important chair in Knox County. A 7-5 situation is the baseline, neither better nor worse than what was expected, and after a tumultuous half-decade in Vols Nation, the improvement and the mediocrity that is 7-5 (especially with two NFL wide outs and an NFL-talented QB) may be the baseline, but it certainly would feel mighty flat.
UT legal unrest
We were asked Monday about the ongoing legal unrest between Debby Jennings and the UT athletic department, including UT AD Dave Hart.
Back story: Dave Hart was hired 13 months ago to be the UT AD. He had spent time as the AD at FSU and in the athletic department at Alabama.
When Hart arrived, one of his early objectives was to merge the men's and women's athletics department. Tennessee was one of the last programs with two separate athletic arms, and Hart merged them to save money. That makes sense of course. As with almost all mergers, jobs were eliminate and people were asked to go, which is always tough stuff. There are a few lawsuits pending from the decision and the transition, including the one filed by Jennings, who has claimed she was treated unfairly because in large part of her gender and age. Added note: There were accusations by the former FSU softball coach, JoAnne Graf, that Hart was a "bully" to women directly and indirectly in Tallahassee.
This hit the national wires last week when an affidavit given by Pat Summitt as part of the Jennings' suit was released that said in part that she initially felt forced out by Hart. Summitt has since released the following statement:
"I did not then, and I do not now, feel that I was "forced out" by the University. Anyone who knows me knows that any such effort would have met with resistance. If my affidavit has caused confusion on that point, it needs to be dispelled. It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as Head Coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee."
The key words there for us are "such an effort would have been met with resistance." And we agree with that, and if Summitt had wanted to stay the coach, all it would have taken was a news conference saying that she wanted one more year.
Let's for a second assume for kicks and giggles that Dave Hart wanted her out in March (which on its face is silly since a Summitt farewell tour would have made the women's basketball program the most watched and followed female sports team on the planet). Let's assume the meeting happened and Hart came in with the world's worst "barefoot and pregnant routine" and said "You're not a wartime consigliere Pat. Things may get tough with the moves we're trying to make." Pat answered: "Maybe I could help." Hart retorts: "You're out Pat."
If that scene — as crazy as it may sound — had happened, and if Pat didn't want it, she could have stopped it with the wave of her whistle. Call Big Jim Haslem. Call a news conference. Heck, the meeting Pat referenced in the affidavit was in Chicago before the NCAA tournament, and all Pat would have needed to do was take the mic before an NCAA tournament game an offered a, "Hey gang, wanted to share that Dave Hart has asked me to step down, so this will be my last run. Any questions?" and the Internet would have melted.
As to whether there are legal implications to Pat's affidavit and then subsequent statement, we say no. We think Pat was trying to do Debby Jennings a solid by being a character witness to Debby's contributions — the first page of the affidavit is about Jennings' professional work — and the story turned to that meeting with a casual and likely calculated question from Jennings' attorney.
We believe that there was likely some passionate discussions in the Chicago meeting about Summitt's job and her future and that the only people that know exactly what happened there are Summitt and Hart. And let's say Summitt and Hart come to this idea of head coach emeritus and the exit plan — which was all smiles and hugs by the way, and when people are forced out, secrets may be kept but kids are not sharing the podium for good-bye news conferences. But let's say Summitt's employees and friends — like Jennings — are not thrilled about this because that means their best connection to the UT athletic department is about to be head coach emeritus rather than head coach and beg Summitt to stay. Summitt then talks of the meeting.
And knowing the competitor that Pat is, of course she was disappointed and angry and upset when she realized it was time. And that should not be part of this suit — in fact, we think that's Jennings using Pat (and in some ways Pat's condition) one final time.
We can't speak of the suit — we were not in the office or in the various meetings with Jennings and Hart — and we don't know if Hart is a member of N.O.W. or "The He-Man Woman's Hater Club." We do know if he had the ability to talk to Pat about her future and discuss whether it was time to step down considering her early on-set dementia, that does not make him an ogre. It actually shows he's a pretty good administrator, since having those hard talks is a big part of leading people.
This and that
— We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced today. Sandusky re-stated his innocence on Monday despite being found guilty of 40 counts of sexual assault on young boys. Here's hoping he gets what he deserves.
— We're trying to swing an appearance on Jim Gumm's show on ESPN 105.1 FM today around 3 p.m. We'll keep you updated.
— Alex Karras has only a few days left to live after kidney failure, according to the Detroit Free Press. Karras was the 10th overall pick in 1958 and played 12 standout years for the Lions. He was also the TV dad to "Webster" and was Mongo in "Blazing Saddles." Go in peace Mongo, and know you were more than a pawn in the game of life.
— Playoff baseball update: Cincinnati can sweep San Fran today starting at 5:37 p.m. Detroit can sweep Oakland today starting at 9:07 p.m. The Washington-St. Louis and New York-Baltimore series are tied 1-1.
— After 30 years of marriage, Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito have split. It's official, there's no way a Hollywood marriage can last.
We paraphrased "The Godfather" earlier. It's right there among the best trilogies ever. Agreed? Agreed, even if III was less than great. (Side note: Godfather III was easily the worst of the three, but it may have the most remember line of the three considering almost every knows the "They pull me back in!" lament from Michael.)
We also saw over the weekend that there are plans for Die Hard 5: Die the die of a clear blue die. That may not be the back part of the title, but it's close.
What's your Rushmore of the best trilogies (or more) out there?
We'll take Godfather (I,II and III), Rocky (I, II, III, IV and Rocky Balboa — Rocky V did not exist and that's not up for discussion); Indiana Jones (I, II, III and IV) and Lord of the Rings.
Discuss. And if you want to be serious and talk playoff baseball or the Jennings-Hart-Summitt triangle, knock your self out.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...