5-at-10: Heupel gets monster raise, should Falcons trade for Lamar, Rolen in Hall of Really Good

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel gets doused after Tennessee defeated Clemson in the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

Cost of doing business

So Josh Heupel joined the $9 million college football coaches club. Heck, it appears as easy to get into that group these days as it does to get into Cooperstown.

Yeah, I said it.

My first thought on Heupel getting, on average $750,000 a month through 2028 was -- "Dang, that's a lot of money."

My second was, "Dang right (and cue Teddy KGB from "Rounder") -- pay dat man his money."

There is no check too big to purchase hope, confidence and energy for an SEC football program. Period.

And if you think $9 million is a lot, ask Auburn how much they would shell out to the right coach so they don't have to pay close to that to the wrong ones named Gus and Harsin.

Is it quick? Of course.

Is it risky? Maybe a smidgen, but I think Heupel is special and his ability to get more than anyone expected from a QB is a truly valuable commodity. (Side question: Which coach would be better for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' hopes of ending a three-decade Super Bowl absence, Mike McCarthy or Heupel?)

Is it smart business? Absolutely. Especially with a looming expansion on the horizon, which will behoove coaches like Heupel (and even to some extent, Gus) in the years to come.

Follow along:

Fact A, no one in the current climate not named THE Ohio State is recruiting the Jimmys and Joes to play smash-mouth with the likes of Bama and Georgia.

Fact B, Tennessee will have to deal with Bama and Georgia annually to get to where the Vols aspire to be.

Fact C, teams that truly and effectively use pace -- like Heupel's Vols and Malzahn's UCF crew -- will have an inexplicable performance at least once a year because the offense doesn't click early (or at all), the defense gets gassed and the game spirals. It happened in Columbia last year. It happened for Malzahn's Knights against Navy. It happened for Malzahn's Auburn teams too many times to count.

It's fact C that expansion will help because with a 12-team playoff -- which is coming in the next couple of years -- UT is in the field even with that disaster at South Carolina and a two-TD loss in Athens.

And being in playoff contention even every other year is assuredly worth at least $9 million per season.

Dealing for a dude

Lamar Jackson is a top-10 QB in this league, and maybe a top-five guy in terms of excitement for fans and headaches for opposing defenses.

His skill set is akin to Mike Vick's, but Jackson is the better passer in terms of completion percentage and ball security.

That comparison is not new. What has become new is the rumbling that the Atlanta Falcons could trade for Jackson.

The potential trade is intriguing, and it would not come cheap for a Falcons bunch who had more 26-year-old-or-younger players see game action than any team in the league.

Jackson is a former MVP, and with a committed and young running game -- third in the NFL and paced by diamond-in-the-rough rookie Tyler Allgeier -- and promising pieces on the perimeter in Drake London and Kyle Pitts, Atlanta's skill guys are comparable to Baltimore's.

But the names being discussed are easily Atlanta's two best defensive players -- Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell -- as well as a truck load of picks.

It also would come with a long-term and lofty salary, as Jackson would almost assuredly demand a quarter-of-a-billion deal guaranteed.

That number is staggering of course in a league in which the QB salaries are not over-the-top but the cap commitment demands if acquiring a guy like Jackson is the prudent play.

First, a runner of his ilk and skill -- and for Jackson to be worth $250-plus-million, he would have to continue to use his feet effectively -- is always a target and a potential injury. That's the game.

Second, the numbers will surprise you. Did you know that no Super Bowl champ has ever paid their QB more than 12.75% of the salary cap?

Yes, history could be made this year if Patty Mahomes finishes the deal for Kansas City since he consumes a bit more than 17% of the Chiefs' cap space. (If you are curious, the rest of the QBs in the NFL final four are way, way, WAY below that with Joey Franchise at 4.64% and Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy at less than 1% of their team's salary structure.)

But it would give the Falcons a star, a bona fide building block. And likely give them the most popular player in franchise history not named Vick.

(Side note: As someone who is very well prepared to discuss almost every Falcons era from Mike Pitts to Kyle Pitts, Vick has easily been the most popular Falcons player of my lifetime. Deion is likely second on that list, and then everyone from William Andrews to Bartkowski to Matt Ryan to you name it could fight for the rest of the pecking order.)

Vick is a clear all-time 1 -- heck his 7 jerseys are still pretty ubiquitous at Mercedes Benz even today -- and Jackson could challenge that. There is value in that too.

I think that deal would make the Falcons better. It would make them more fun. It would make them an extremely hot ticket in the ATL again.

But it would not make them champions, and isn't that the point of all of this?

Rock and Rolen

Chas asked in last week's mailbag if the GOP had a candidate problem.

I countered that in a lot of ways, America -- not just one party but both sides and its citizens -- has a candidate problem.

Apparently so does Major League Baseball. Rather than not having someone in this year's Hall of Fame class from the writers' ballots, the perceived best of the bunch was picked for a place with the Babe, the Hammer and the Express.

As we projected, Scott Rolen did make the MLB Hall of Really, Really Good Players and guys who were, for the most part, respectful of the voting media.

So it goes, and the watering down of Cooperstown continues.

Heck, look at the names of some of the last inductees in baseball's most prestigious and elite shrine:

-- Scott Rolen, .281 career hitter with seven all-star trips in 17 years.

-- Ted Simmons, .285 career hitter with eight all-star trips in 21 years.

-- Harold Baines, .289 career hitter with six all-star trips in 22 years.

-- Alan Trammell, .285 career hitter with six all-star trips in 20 years.

-- Fred McGriff, .284 career hitter with five all-star trips in 20 years.

Heck, if you had those five dudes -- who combined to win as many league MVPs as Spy has -- in your lineup in their prime in the 2000s when the Red Sox and the Yankees were slugging it out, that crew above finishes third in the AL East.

And its five recent Hall of Fame selections?

Tell me again that the Hall is not watered down.

Early which way Wednesday: Which of these players looked and felt more like HoF candidates during their careers than Scott Rolen: Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Todd Helton or Billy Wagner? I'm not sure any of them.

And that's not even considering the PED trio of A-Rod, Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez.

(Side note: Heck, there's no way to know who did or did not use PEDs in that era unless they were suspended or went full Brady Anderson on you. But it really feels like Sheffield is getting jobbed by this process. His résumé -- a higher career average than everyone listed above, more homers than everyone listed above and a batting title -- is clearly better but the shadow of steroids clouds his candidacy. It's a shadow that he has denied at every turn, too, and in fact there's more "perceived" evidence against David Ortiz, who was admitted to the Hall a few years ago despite being listed in the Mitchell Report.)

This and that

-- So the Plays of the Day bounced back Tuesday after an 0-fer on Monday. We had Rutgers minus-6.5 (the Knights whipped Penn State by 20), Missouri plus-1 (the Tigers posted a double-digit win at Ole Miss) and Kentucky minus-5.5 at Vandy (Cats cruised in a very blue-tinted Memorial Gym). Hope you tagged along, and if you are not getting my free afternoon email, go here and sign up.

-- Speaking of Kentucky, last night's predictable win over Vandy was not a résumé addition per se for a Wildcats bunch crafting a tournament portfolio. But in UK's current state -- winners of four straight since that disastrous home loss to a bad South Carolina team -- avoiding résumé blemishes is every bit as important.

-- Holy buckets, but check the lineup penciled in for Willie Nelson's 90th birthday bash at the Hollywood Bowl in late April. Snoop Dogg, Chris Stapleton, Lyle Lovett and Miranda Lambert, to name but four. There are a slew more including Neil Young but a Southern man don't need him around anyhow.

-- You know the rules. Here's Paschall with more on Josh Heupel climbing the SEC pay charts to a tie for fifth with UK's Mark Stoops and Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin at $9 million per.

-- I know we joked about the Bill O'Brien news Tuesday -- and Kevin rightly noted that Bama was fourth nationally in offensive rankings, so it was not like O'Brien was stinking up the joint -- and even offered Kliff Kingsbury's name as a possibility to be the next offensive "guru" that gets his rep rehab in the flowing Saban waters.

-- And to circle back, no Chas, I do not get too warm and fuzzy over Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and "Top Gun." And the reason I know this is because it simply is impossible to get TOO warm and fuzzy over "Top Gun: Maverick." There, I said it. It's in the books.

-- This is a pretty cool stat, even for LeBron. King James dropped 46 on the Clippers last night and now has the honor of being the only NBA player to score 40 or more against all 30 current NBA teams.

-- And speaking of LeBron, one of the commentators on one of the NBA shows last night mentioned this, and I think the NBA has to find a way to make this happen. But when (not if, when) LeBron breaks Kareem's all-time scoring mark later this season, James should do it with a sky hook. Thoughts?

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday started above with which player(s) on the HoF ballot would you have voted for ahead of Scott Rolen?

(Side note: We are in a strange place where numbers can point folks to vote for Scott Rolen and Dale Murphy is still not in Cooperstown. Hey, I likely would not have voted for either, but that Rolen and the others in that motley five listed above are in and Murph is not is laughable. And sad -- for both sides.)

Which would you rather have at QB for the Falcons (and the implications matter), deal for Lamar and pay his price, give Desmond Ridder one more year or spend the No. 5 overall pick on a QB?

Which $9 million-a-year SEC coach, listed alphabetically for fairness, would you rather have, Heupel, Kiffin or Stoops?

As for today, Jan. 25, let's review.

Alicia Keys is 42 today. Conredge Holloway is 79 today.

Which brings us to kind of an interesting spin-off Rushmore: Which SEC school would have the best Rushmore of QBs (got to have four) and who would it be?

Can anyone top Florida? Go.