5-at-10: Coaching search awards, Power Poll and baseball's arms race

5-at-10: Coaching search awards, Power Poll and baseball's arms race

December 11th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Remember Friday's mailbag, and don't wait until the end. Although we did a bunch of pre-work on the mailbag last week, and had to blow it up in the wake of the Butch Jones' hire.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's do the heavy lifting first...

Coaching moves, Day 1,265

We had shuttered the Coach Search Command Center, leaving behind a stench of Vienna sausages and hot sauce and "Co-Colas" that would make former fraternity house dwellers nostalgic.

And as we were putting the last board up, the moves continued to roll and the news continued to spin. Let's get to the recaps, award show style:

Bobby Petrino

Best performance in a coach's news conference: Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky. Petrino and Western Kentucky AD Todd Stewart were awesome Monday. Embracing every question with sincerity, enthusiasm and even humor (Stewart told the gathering of some of the big-time big timers - think USA Today would have sent Dan Wolken if WKU had promoted from within or hired Blake Anderson - "There's more of you here today than at any of our games). As much as we were against some schools looking at Petrino - and we maintain that he'd be a tough sell at some of the bigger programs right now - it's hard not to view this as anything but a Grand Slam for Stewart and WKU.

Best use of a movie quote: As friend of the show CJ passed along last night, new Southern Miss head coach and former OKlahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken is a great quote. He even used a "Sandlot" reference in a postgame news conference this year, and anyone who refers to "Sandlot" in conversation is goor by us.

Best throwback moves: We have co-winners here, but new UT coach Butch Jones would get the nod if he can convince Tee Martin to come home. Either way, Jones rightly kept former UT great and current running backs coach Jay Graham. Graham did work this year, and he's blessed with a boss first name. The other one is Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's dogged pursuit of former Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, who has a tough decision to make about whether to stay with the Tennessee Titans or come back to Auburn.

Best trades: There have been a slew of coach moves, and in truth, it's hard not to find a fan base that is not somewhat pleased and 100 percent certain that the new coach is light years better than the last coach. As far as marked improvements, here are the top three hires to date this offseason:

In this Nov. 24, 2012, file photo, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema shouts from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa. . A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, that Bielema has agreed to become the new coach at Arkansas. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

1) Bret Bielema at Arkansas: Bielema brings three consecutive Big Ten titles to Fayetteville. And say what you want about whether Beliema will or won't fit in the SEC. Still, dude has been to three straight Rose Bowls and he's replacing John L. Smith, and if Arkansas had hired Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's, it would have been an upgrade when replacing John L. Smith.

2) Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky: Willie Taggart did fine work for the Hilltoppers and deserved to move up the coaching ranks to South Florida. Petrino did bad things off the field at Arkansas and deserved to slide down the coaching ranks. The outcome is Western Kentucky had one of the hottest names in the coaching carousel this offseason and replaced him with the hottest name in next year's coaching carousel. Plus, WKU is in the national discussion this morning, and that's never a bad thing. (Side note: Among the many things WKU AD Todd Stewart did right in this deal was make Petrino's buyout higher than his salary. So let's say Petrino, who signed a four-year deal at $850K per year with a buyout of $1.2 million, keeps his nose clean (questionable) and wins (likely, since dude is 75-26 as a college coach), he'll be on the speed dial of every big-time AD with an opening next winter. If he leaves WKU after one season, the school will get $350,000 for being successful in its gamble.

3) Butch Jones at Tennessee: Let's be really honest, no one knows what to make of Jones just yet, but we all knew what to make of Derek Dooley. And Jones has to be upgrade, if for no other reason than Sal Sunersi - SAAALLLLL!!! - will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations. Side note for gambling fans: In the 10 UT games that Sal Sunseri - SAAALLLLL!!! - called UT's defense, the over went 10-0. Purely coincidence right? Heck, someone needs to give Sal - SAAALLLLL!!! - a job so we can plan a college fund for the Lil' 5-at-10ers. Think of the children.

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NFL Power Poll

All season, we have espoused the weekly Power Poll to the common NFL belief that you are what your record says you are. Today, that ends. Today, as the playoff field starts to fill we look beyond qualifying for the dance and look at teams that can go the distance. And playoff football is different in every regard.

There comes a point in the chase for the Lombardi Trophy that every team will have to do each of these three things:

1) Make one tough defensive stand;

2) Convert one tough third-and-4 to ice a game away;

3) Rally with 90 seconds left and down three.

In reference and deference to those three questions, here's this week's power poll completely thrown on its ear:

1) Denver: Ask yourself which team in the NFL has each of these three components more than Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos? The lack of qualified answers will surprise you.

2) New England: We're destined for an AFC semifinal or conference title game between Manning and Brady, aren't we? Well, it would be a great Christmas present for the sports fans in all of us.

3) New York Giants: Yes, they have some work to clinch a postseason spot, but when they get there, the NFC title goes through the Big Apple, regardless of records.

4) Atlanta: The Falcons' record has been inflated over the course of the year. The Falcons' shortcomings have been inflated since Sunday's thumping at Carolina. They simply are not as good as 11-2 suggests or as bad as they looked against Cam Newton and the Panthers earlier this week. These Falcons have Super Bowl dreams, and those are based in the success generated by an elite passing game. But if the Falcons hosted the Giants in the NFC title game, who you putting your hard-earned entertainment on? Yeah, we got Eli and the Boys, too.

5) Green Bay: The Packers get a slight edge over San Francisco and Houston because Aaron Rodgers lives in Green Bay. And come playoff time, that's plenty.

Expensive arms race

That sound you heard in the wee hours of Monday night was baseball axis shifting yet again.

The bidding war that is baseball free agency - the most out-of-control spending spree since Imelda Marcos quit shoes - took another turn Monday when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Zach Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal. It's the largest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher. Read that again.

OK, where does that leave us? Well, wondering why in the world we didn't spend more time working on our throwing mechanics is point No. 1. Think of pitching drills for the Lil' 5-at-10 - he's 5 - is No. 2.

As for the Dodgers, well, in truth, the deal makes some sense. They have the coin to spend, and when the new ownership group spent $2 billion last year, you knew they had to rework the roster. You don't spend $2 billion on a team you hope contends for a wildcard.

It also means they better have another $30 million a year for Clayton Kershaw, who will be a free agent after the 2013 season.

And with that the divide between the haves and the have nots will only widen, and the franchises that use baseball as TV station filler - and can account for the expense as such - will only continue to strengthen their position.

So there you go, going rate for elite starting pitchers will escalate to a $1 million per start.

Good work if you can get.

This and that

- The NFL's designated rep, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, has said he will rule on the Saints' Bounty-Gate today. We're trying to think of a story that is as meaningful and as meaningless at the same time, and that we collectively just want to go away. Here's a quick Rushmore of big stories that we're done with and if they never get another mention, we're good: Saints v. Goodell in Bounty-Gate; Lance and PEDs; Roger Clemens and Congress; NHL and Labor. Side question: How flummoxed would you be if you had spent 18 months of your life chasing the story of the 20th century and the lasting impression of it was that every other scandal gets the "Gate" ending as in The Watergate Hotel? Wonder if Woodward and/or Bernstein cringe at Spygate or Bountygate or if there's a neighborhood squabble over a fence, possibly even Gategate?

- Remember the "Bowling in the super bowl of bowl games bowl game contest" and the rules are in Monday's 5-at-10 here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/10/5-10-coach-search-conclusion-un-lucky-titans-bowl-/?sportsColumns. So far we have entries from Roadrunner, Dawg747, DL560429, TennFlyer, ThatIDoKnow, OTWatcher, StuckinKent (who correctly noticed that the maximum number of points is 85), Harold, Joe B., Big Hitter and The Mrs. 5-at-10. We're going to see how many of the local media types want to play as always, and we're going to reach out to Coach Mac, who does the picks show with the SportTalk gang, too. Hey, it's the holidays, and what better time to reconnect with old friends.

- Pamela Anderson owes close to $370,000 in combined taxes to the IRS and the state of California. Who knew that you had to pay taxes on plastic surgeries? We're sure it'll be OK, since he can rely on her considerable talents to generate revenue. Side question: If Anderson - who owed more than $400,000 in taxes as recently as 2010 - and Allen Iverson lived in the same neighborhood, would the IRS assign just one agent to the place or open a field office?

- Got in a Twitter discussion with TFP hoops ace Gene Henley on Monday night about Hawks forward Josh Smith's game. Let's take these in order: Yes, we're on the Twitter at @jgreesontfp (shut up, Spy). Second, Mean Gene's description of Smith's game - it makes Gene mad - is perfect, because Smith has the physical skills (dude is a thick 6-9 with world-class ups) should equal more than one highlight-reel dunk and seven missed 3s every game. Not unlike Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh, Smith was given a Hall of Fame frame and he's wishing it away. Wonder if he has a 911 with a Quadrophonic Blaupunkt? Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Smith played his high school hoops at McEachern in Powder Springs, Ga., and dude was the second-best player on just the third-best team in the county that year. That was some Cuh-razy good high school hoops in Cobb County in 2001.

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Today's question

OK, we took Monday afternoon off to finish up some Christmas activities with the family. Good times.

We roamed around the TV dial last night as the Monday Football game turned to a massacre and realized, it's two weeks until Christmas. Sweet buckets of Bing Crosby, claymation specials and eager anticipation of the 24-hour "A Christmas Story" marathon on TNT.

It dawned on us then that we need a ranking, a bracket and a playoff for the best Christmas movies. (We thought about TV specials, but really there are too many of them out there, and it would be really hard to vote against South Park's Mr. Hinkey the Christmas poo or Emmitt Otter's Jugband Christmas.)

OK, we're thinking a 16-team field with brackets on Classics, Current, Comedies and Christmas in general. Or maybe two eight-team draws of Comedies and Christmas others. Here's our first list of Christmas movies vying for the top seeds: It's a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Love Actually, Scrooged.

Discuss, and let's set the field. It's two weeks until Christmas, after all.