5-at-10: Super start to NFL playoffs (unless you’re Philly), football coach chatter, Trump dominates Iowa

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) reacts after intercepting a pass with safety Darnell Savage (26) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Maria Lysaker)
Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) reacts after intercepting a pass with safety Darnell Savage (26) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Maria Lysaker)

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NFL playoffs

What a wild wildcard weekend to open the NFL playoffs.

Some would even call it Super.

Let's review our biggest takeaways for the three-day NFL feast.

— Green Bay wins the weekend. They jettisoned Aaron Rodgers, a move that raised a slew of eyebrows, but the path to improvement has been cleared by Jordan Love's development and growth. Look for several teams with current QB1s to follow a similar path this draft season. For example, could the Rams be looking at say Michael Penix Jr. late in round 1 with Matt Stafford getting long in the tooth and gray in the scalp?

— Baker Mayfield made himself a lot of money Monday night. The former No. 1 overall pick led the Bucs to a whipping of Philly and looked the part of legit QB1. How's this for NFC unknowns? Either the Bucs or the Lions are going to be in the NFC title game. Yeah, so explain it again why the Falcons are awful annually.

— Speaking of QBs, well, as if we needed any further proof about the importance of the most important position in sports. Look at the names at QB1 of the final eight teams left standing: There are more No. 1 overall picks — Baker and Jared Goff — than non-first-round picks left standing, as Brock Purdy is the only non-first-round QB1 still practicing this week. And the four dudes in the AFC semifinals are on Canton-trajectories with Mahomes, Lamar, Allen and CJ Stroud.

— Has there been a more complete collapse in NFL history that what the aforementioned Eagles went through over the last two months? Philadelphia, which made the Super Bowl only 11 months ago, was 10-1 and had the league's best record through 11 games. Since, they limped home 1-6 — and that 1 was against a Giants team that had more to gain by losing — with Monday's disaster in Tampa. Now, Jason Kelce — the team's emotional leader and an All-Pro center — looks like he's headed to retirement, and the coaching staff may get walked to the curb.

— I know Mike McCarthy has a Super Bowl ring. I know Dallas was the 2 seed in these playoffs. I also firmly believe Jerry Jones is exploring ways to can his under-achieving tuckus. Green Bay was better prepared in every phase and whipped McCarthy's crew. In truth, I'm OK with owners dying to win it all. Playing the games just to be competitive and just to turn a profit are far too common. Give me an ownership group that wants to win as much as the most diehard fan. Also of note: Every Falcons fan anywhere has thought at least once to themselves during the Packers' plastering of the Cowboys, "Yeah, that's the Dan Quinn we remember."

— Josh Allen is a dude. Does he turn it over a little more than maybe anyone in upstate New York would prefer? Sure. But dude is him. A top-three QB1 in this league. If anyone this side of Mahomes was on the market for a straight-up QB1 trade, the Bills say no to everyone first. And do it emphatically.


Coaching conversations

So, as we try to fight through the ice that is going to wreck most of the week — the roads are wet, and temps will hover around single digits for most of Wednesday — there are some coaching talking points we have to toss about.

Bill Belichick interviewed with the Falcons according to multiple reports. Few things here about agenda item 1.

First, I understand the Rooney Rule. I think affirmative action is an outdated concept that does as much to trivialize qualified minority candidates as it does to jump start fairness in the hiring process. But if there is anything that completely cuts the credibility of the Rooney Rule it is Bill Belichick being on the job interview circuit. The Falcons sat down with the six-time Super Bowl winner, and are clearly interested in hiring the future Hall of Famer who many believe to be the GOAT.

But now the Falcons — even if they wanted to hire Coach Hoodie and Coach Hoodie wanted to work in the A-T-L — the Falcons would need to schedule an interview with a Black coach in an effort for balance. Yikes. Makes me think back to when Gruden was hired by the then-Redskins, Washington also entered Tee Martin. Yeah that Tee Martin.

At first, as a Falcons fan, I thought, man, Belichick's lost too much of his fastball. Go get someone younger.

My mind has changed. First, he's forgotten more football than every A-T-L coach since Dan Reeves knows. Second, as for the tread on his tires, who is going to be more motivated than Belichick, who would love to emulate something close to the post-Patriots success TB12 had in the NFC South.

(That said, if you're Belichick, you hold out for the Dallas gig. Better pieces and a defense that could be dominant as soon as next year.)

Then there is Jim Harbaugh, who interviewed with the Chargers this weekend.

Next, Mike Tomlin stormed out of the post-loss news conference Monday because he was asked about his future in Pittsburgh and his contract.

C'mon, Mike. You're a pro. A first ballot Hall of Famer who has been doing this for almost two decades. You had to know that question was coming, and in truth, your actions made the story — and the question — more pertinent.

Finally, with his hiring of former South Alabama head coach as his DC, new Alabama HC Kalen DeBoer is putting together his staff.

Not sure this will be on many season-ticket packages or recruiting pamphlets, but you realize the crew that was calling the shots at Indiana in 2020 is now the folks behind the wheel of the most important vehicle in college football, right?

And we're here

In some ways Donald Trump is Beetlejuice. And Voldemort.

We have spoken him into existence. And now he haunts us.

It was barely eight years ago at this time that the former big-city Democrat was comic relief at the GOP debates as the Republicans were looking for someone to run against Hillary Clinton.

(Side question: That Trump beat Hillary and all of the Trumpian missteps since make Hillary the poster person for worst presidential candidate of all time, no? Maybe Barry Goldwater would like a word, but yikes.)

Now Trump — as much as it grieves all of us who view ourselves as center-right conservatives who primarily want the federal guv'ment to be fiscally frugal and then pretty much stay out of our private affairs — is the face of the Republican Party.

Sure, several of us did not want to believe it, but the emphatic exclamation point Trump dropped on Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley and the rest of the GOP wannabes in the frozen tundra that was the Iowa caucus Monday night is simply undeniable.

Wow, Trump stomped everyone to the point that the narrative of the importance of the "race for second" seemed overblown and inconsequential.

We are left staring hard at Trump-Joe Biden, round 2, which means in the better part of the last decade the only three names we can find to run for the most powerful job in the free world are Trump, Hillary and Biden.

That seems inexcusable to me. On all sides.

And I also believe this: The only candidate that can galvanize the Democrats to the point that Joe Biden could get re-elected just steamrolled everyone in Iowa.

This and that

— The Sony Open started the 2024 golf calendar and all four Baylor School alums were in the field and cashed checks. Harris English finished tied for 10th ($209,575), Stephan Jaeger finished tied for 18th ($106,102), Keith Mitchell finished tied for 30th ($44,751) and Luke List, who celebrated his birthday over the weekend, finished tied for 66th ($17,430).

— Speaking of the golf, gang, a look at that leaderboard — the local connections aside, of course — is a whole lot of games and not a lot of star power. Who's the biggest name in that field? We'll wait. By my count there were all of five major champions at the event — Brian Harmon, Stewart Cink, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Webb Simpson — and not many of them are headliners.

— Coach David Boyd died Monday. He was 69. Coach Boyd was my high school basketball coach, and with the exception of my dad, I learned more from him than any man I can recall. He won six state titles at four schools in 30 years as a coach in Georgia. I had the pleasure of giving his introduction speech into the GACA Hall of Fame last May. Rest easy Coach. And thanks for everything.

— The Fab Five returned to Michigan on Monday. It was news because of the falling out of the crew, especially the hard feelings from Chris Webber after the NCAA scandals. And yes, Jalen Rose's sweatshirt says, "Black as Hail." So there's that.

— I find stories like this one interesting, as it ranks the NFL players on the most league championship fantasy teams. And yes, Christian McCaffrey, the automatic TD scorer was 1. In fact, there was a way to assemble a juggernaut with some deft drafting and early waiver wire realizations. McCaffrey in round 1, Tyreek in round 2 possibly, Dak later in the draft, Puka Nacua on waivers, and a slew of productive RB2s everywhere.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, you plan on leaving the house today. We are 100% iced in today on Signal. It's glass out there right now.

True or false, you'd want this Bill Belichick coaching your NFL team right now.

True or false, if you are Arthur Blank, you call Nick Saban.

True or false, Jim Harbaugh is 100% headed to the NFL.

True or false, you watched more than 10 hours of NFL playoff football since Saturday.

As for today, Jan. 16, let's review.

Arguably the biggest off-the-field day in sports history over the last 50-plus years happened on this day in 1970.

Curt Flood filed a civil suit against MLB's reserve clause. It was the first step toward free agency for players.

Albert Pujols is 44 today. We have done the Rushmore of 1Bs, and yes, Pujols makes it.

On this day 70 years ago, the play "South Pacific" closed on Broadway.

Rushmore of movies that have one of the four directions in their title. Go.

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