Morning. Hope this finds you well rested and giddy after a weekend in which the sun re-introduced itself and there was a ton of fun to be had outdoors. (Hope you enjoyed it as much as the 5-at-10 clan did because the winter stuff is coming back this week. Alas.)
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's drop the hammer and nail this puppy.
We approach the upcoming NFL semifinals knowing that this is one of the great days in American sports, right up there with Sunday in Augusta and that Thursday-Friday of the NCAA tournament.
After surviving brutally physical divisional showdowns, the 49ers will visit the Seahawks and the Patriots will visit the Broncos next Sunday to decide which teams will freeze their tuckuses off in the NYC outdoor Super Bowl. (Which is also known as the "Roger Goodell's Super Ego Bowl where we put the biggest event in American pop culture in the middle of a blizzard and stagnant traffic just because we can and because NFL postgame shows are among the top-10 most-watched shows every week.)
The action next week promises to be excellent and we can break down every facet in the coming. But the main reason the games next week will be magic is because the drama this week never really disappeared, no matter the score.
And, as our TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer said today here, the theme of football was overwhelming this weekend and figures to only increase next. But before we get the cart before the horse — which would not be a bad thing if Kramer is driving the cart and he fed Rusty some Beefarino — let's review the five takeaways from the playoffs (other than stupid penalties in the playoffs lead to putting the gear away — yes, we're talking to you Carolina defense and you Chargers defensive line):
1) Peyton Manning was in the moment. Dude was nearly flawless — his one interception was a perfectly thrown pass that bounced off Eric Decker's chest and resulted in a pick in the end zone right before the half — and could have had four TD passes if not for two drops. Also, if you ever wondered how big a deal home-field advantage is for Manning and his maestro moves at the line of scrimmage, well, Sunday was proof positive. Manning caused the Chargers to jump offside five times in the 24-14 win, and his presnap calls included several phrases and words led by "Omaha" which was trending on Twitter for a chunk of the day.
2) Anquan Boldin will be remember as one of the most-lopsided trades in sports history. The 49ers got Boldin — and his eight grabs for 136 yards in the 23-10 win over Carolina — for a sixth-round pick. Read that again. And we've been over this before, but when a team has to dump talent to give a good QB elite QB money like the Ravens did to sign Joe Flacco to a monster extension, well, you start to wonder whether it was the pieces or the player that made the good QB look so good. Case in point: Boldin is making plays in the postseason; Flacco and the Ravens are making plans in the offseason. But hey, that sixth-rounder could be awesome.
3) Tommy Brady is a bad dude. Period. In fact, this talk that Brady benefits from Belichick... Hogwash. Belichick and his stupid-looking hoodie benefit from Brady. Belichick was on his way out of the NFL before Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Brady saved that franchise — and the hoodie's career.
4) Andrew Luck will be the face of the league sooner rather than later. In Foxboro on Saturday night, the second-year pro made some throws that were simply eye-popping. Sure he was picked four times — two of which were balls that should have been completions — but the kid has it and it is easy to see even if it is tough to define.
5) Want to look at how to build a complete football team — check out the 49ers roster. San Fran has 13 first-round picks on its roster, including five players who were first-rounders for another team that the 49ers have helped get back on track. Good stuff. And they can afford those cats because they have not overpaid for a quarterback.
And now the coaching carousel has hit the SEC.
Penn State made the hiring of James Franklin official on Saturday morning. We had all heard the whispers and we figured it to be the case, but the announcement still hurt the Anchors Down crew and will leave a lasting mark.
First, Franklin has posted a high bar for the program, winning 18 games — at Vandy for crying out loud — in the last two years and that will be a tough wave for the next regime to ride.
Second, heading into the weekend, the Commodores had 20 commitments and a recruiting class that ranked in the top 25. As of Sunday night, some recruiting gurus were saying the Dores had three firm commitments — including East Hamilton's Tre Herndon, who is a very good player and will be a very good college player — and Franklin and Co. were trying to lure a slew of the former Vandy commitments to State College.
Anchors Down... in the mouth.
The Franklin news came a day after Lane Kiffin was hired as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Yes, that Lane Kiffin. The internet photoshop jockeys have had a ball with this one, and while there are a slew of jokes, if anyone has the backbone and the street cred and the status to handle Lil' Lord Lane, it's Nick Saban. Still, this seems so un-Saban like that it's impossible not to wonder why? Then add to the fact that Alabama currently has an opening for a defensive line coach, and there's a real chance that Ed Orgeron could also join the Alabama staff, and sweet buckets some one should sell tickets.
And then on Sunday, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made every Georgia fan don an old-fashioned, Larry Munson, "My God a freshman" smile by leaving Athens for the same job at Louisville. As TFP SEC ace David Paschall said on The Twitter, "Still searching these here Internets to see if I can find a Georgia football fan distraught by today's news. Still searching." And he's likely still searching.
The name that could be in world-class play and have a potential ties all three of the above schools is Kirby Smart, the Alabama defensive coordinator. Smart could be a candidate for Vandy or even return to Georgia, his alma mater.
Here's saying that we'll discuss these topics on Press Row from 3-6 on ESPN 105.1 FM and simulcast right here on timesfreepress.com
Take that A-Rod
When we look back in 20 years and try to explain the entire Alex Rodriguez saga, there will be hemming and hawing and back and forth, then we'll get to this phrase: "After much legal jockeying, it eventually took a powerful turn against A-Rod when Anthony Bosch dropped the PR A-bomb on him on '60 minutes.'"
Wow. Bosch nuked A-Rod and left him looking as childish and petty and guilty as anything this side of a video of Rodriguez putting a needle in his buttocks.
Man it was bad. And while it's very difficult to pick who the sleazier character is in this mess — of course the word sleazy and steroids have become so linked we may start calling them slearoids — A-Rod's decision to avoid the "60 minutes" story means we have sleazy speaking and sleazy silent, and while a closed mouth can gather no foot, a closed mouth also offers no rebutal.
Man. Here's an idea: Survivor: Steroids. Get A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds, Lance, Canseco, Sosa, almost every track sprinter of the last 20 years and any other disgraced PED user, put them on an island, and the last one standing gets a free pass back into the good graces of his sport. This needs to happen.
This and that
— The Australian Open started this weekend, and while it's a major championship, the time exchange the winter overlap make it a minor event in even the eyes of real tennis fans. See who says we don't talk tennis.
— Congrats to Jimmy Walker (Dy-NO-mite) for winning the Sony Open. He made a shade more than a million bucks for the weekend. Former Baylor School star Harris English finished fourth ($268,800) and rest assured the game has changed at your regular tour stops. Remember the adage, "Drive for show, putt for dough" that used to be gospel? Well, the two guys that led the week in putting were John Daly (crazy right?) and Brian Gay and they finished 10 shots back of Walker's 17-under. Guess who led the week in driving distance? Yep, Walker. Boom goes the Dy-NO-mite.
— Sunday was the pantless commute day on subways around the country. Wow, that could be a mixed bag huh? Wonder what Johnny Rocker has to say about that?
— Wow, how about them Mocs? A 4-0 start in the SoCon is not too shabby.
— And wow, how about that implosion the Vols trotted out on Saturday. That one left a mark.
With the looming Manning-Brady, part 1,206, what's your Rushmore of individual rivalries in sports?
Kiffin... inspired hire or mistake? You choose.
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 ...