Before we get to the NFL's most powerful and powerless, the lessons on Monday Night Football were clear in several regards.
First, Booger McFarland was much more likable as an occasional contributor from his Booger Mobile last year while all the angst was being aimed at Jason Witten. (How much did the criticism obviously stink? Well, Witten left the booth for the calming, laid-back ways of getting tackled every Sunday by the world's most complete athletes.)
Booger tweeted in June 2017 that "it wont happen but if Louisville were really thinking about Lamar Jackson's future they would move him to wr, thats where he will play in the NFL."
Hey, Booger had an opinion and it was wrong. He was far from the only one that thought Jackson was destined to go the Hines Ward, Antwaan Randal El or Julian Edelman route. "Not even close, bud." (Side question: If you are Judd Nelson, do you have "St. Elmo's Fire" and "The Breakfast Club" running on a loop on the TV in the main room of your home? I'd say yes.)
And Booger apologized on more than one occasion last night as Jackson made the Rams look like a mediocre high school team.
That's not what this rant is about. This is about how Booger, when he's required to be involved on almost every play, uses more clichés than a first-year middle school football coach.
Try some of these on for size:
"If the Rams want to get the wildcard, they'll have to play better football." (Uh, they lost 45-6, so 45-6 is not the path to the postseason? OK. Noted.)
He said the Rams' presnap penalty to make third-and-short third-and-medium was a good thing for the Rams.
"Once you get Lamar Jackson out of the pocket, you have to tackle him." Yes, yes you do.
And the all-timer "There's no way the Rams can win this game if they don't score more points."
Hey, in-game analysis is difficult. Very difficult. And I think unless you are a bona fide savant — like Romo or another QB willing to roll the dice in the play- and strategery-prediction game — or a comedian, then there should be more people in the booth.
Here's my vision for the future of broadcasting football:
> Most crews will stay with the two-person booth and the sideline reporter. (MNF would have a three-person booth. We'll explain that in a moment.)
> The ref/replay analyst — who bailed Booger out on more than one occasion last night — will be centrally located and can serve on a multitude of games on a regular Sunday. You may need two for overlap in the busiest windows on Sunday and Saturday.
> The two-person booth would have a lead guy, and Joe Tessitore is getting better as he realizes every play is not the Immaculate Reception, and the analyst. If it's a guy with offensive background, he will handle all the offensive calls. There will be a pool of offensive, defensive folks and even a former kicker or two at the central broadcast hub to handle the other side of the ball when needed or going to the telestrator. Hey, Booger's bad, but he's much, Much, MUCH better discussing defensive sets and schemes, because that's what he knows the best. If there was, say, a Dan Orlovsky to handle some QB breakdown back in Bristol, then that broadcast would be much better. But for ESPN, which is spending a billion a year for MNF rights, sending a third announcer to the biggest event on your budget seems smart to me.
Especially with the avalanche of criticism Booger is getting.
(Wow, not sure how that got so lengthy because I truly was not intending to pick at any Booger for that extended amount of time. YES SIR! The biggest story out of MNF was Lamar dazzling on the prime time stage. The second biggest is the free fall a Rams team that the last two years has been as good as any in the league has endured. And with a litany of HUGE contracts for Ramsey, Goff, Donald and Gurley, and traded-a way draft picks, the window in L.A. is falling quickly. The Goff contract is going to be the albatross that changes the game in terms of paying QBs in my opinion. I have been saying it for years in the hard-cap league, but paying a middling QB franchise-dude money is the quickest way to mediocrity. The quickest way to contention — ask the Ravens, play-making QB on rookie deal, which allows spending on pieces around him like a Mark Ingram or a Marcus Peters.)
NFL Power Poll
1. Baltimore. OK, I am convinced that this is the most complete team in football and its strength — a dynamic offense that dares you to commit enough dudes to stopping the run, which means covering Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown one on one — is better than the Pats' strength. (That said, know I am taking the Pats in the AFC title game in Foxboro when these teams reconvene.)
2. New England. That defense is historically great at not only preventing opponents from scoring but setting up scoring chances for Tom Brady and Co. If you are part of the populace that wants to write off Brady because of a recent downturn that coincides with injuries on the perimeter and the realization that Gronk was a dude, well, feel free. I'll keep my blue-chip stock in Tom Terrific and we can discuss it at the shareholders meeting at the Super Bowl. (Side note: How much does the league need the Pats, and in turn the Cowboys? Well, the overnight numbers from the 4:15 window of New England-Dallas were off the charts big. And it was a stinky game aesthetically. The overnight rating for Pats-Pokes was a 19.5, which tied the highest regular-season overnight since Pats-Colts (Ah, Brady v Manning) which drew a 22.5. It matched a 2015 Seahawks-Cowboys game that also drew a 19.5 and it was the highest number for a regular-season game on Fox since 1996. It was the highest-rated TV event since the Oscars (20.6).
3. San Francisco. Maybe the 49ers should be higher, because what that defense did to make Aaron Rodgers look downright pedestrian was staggering. Rodgers attempted 33 passes for 104 yards. Seriously. The 49ers have a huge edge over everyone because they truly generate backfield havoc with just their defensive line.
4. New Orleans. Did anyone else notice that in the score-fest that was Panthers-Saints on Sunday, the replay refs actually overturned a non-P.I. call and it went against the Saints? It caused Sean Payton to comment afterward, "We didn't have our best day, they didn't have their best day and the guys in New York didn't have their best day either." Please remember that Payton and the Saints were the drummer-bangers for the changes to allow pass interference calls and non-calls to be reviewable after the NFC title game last January. The replay reviewers have all-but-ignored that edict, except of course when it comes into play against Payton. "Quid pro quo, Clarice."
5. Seattle. Yes, it pains the Rodgers Fan Boi in me to drop the Packers from the list, but how can you not after what we saw Sunday night? Which leaves us with Seattle, which is staring at an uphill climb in the playoff posturing conversation, considering that it lost to the Saints and is a game back in the NFC West race. That said, I have had some success riding the Seahawks, who are unbeaten on the road, in the NFL picks, which finished 3-2 this weekend for a 10-4 combined Saturday and Sunday showing in college and pro entertainment hunting.
28. Atlanta. The Falcons smell, and when did Calvin Ridley get the drops? And we are at the point of the season that you may need to consider some load management opens for some of the experienced stars. Because we can all admit that the Falcons need some stud defensive help like a Chase Young, so wins are counterproductive to the long-term goals, no? Side question: What would happen if the NFL started to have a load management issue, because if the Falcons sat Julio and/or Matt Ryan to make sure they are healthy, that would a) hurt the betting angles and b) be devastating to some fantasy football league owners, and both of those clauses — bettors and fantasy football players — are big reasons why the NFL is more popular than the kid that brings a pocket full of Skittles to Sunday school.
29. Miami. Rough football time for folks in South Florida. Dolphins are rebuilding and the Hurricanes just lost to FIU. Manny Diaz, yeah, that's not a long-term plan for growth, my man.
30. New York Giants. Hey, I love Saquon Barkley. When healthy, dude is a star. But the key there is "when healthy" more than "star." Look at the recent run of contracts and you simply can't deny the logic and theory about not paying top dollar for top RB talent. Look at the top 10 of highest-paid RBs: Zeke ($15 million per year), Gurley ($14.375 million), Le'Veon Bell ($13.125 million), David Johnson ($13 million), Devonta Freeman ($8.25 million), Barkley ($7.79 million), Jerick McKinnon ($7.5 million), Leonard Fournette ($6.78 million), Lamar Miller ($6.5 million) and Duke Johnson ($5.2 million). And who would not rather have bargain free agent signees like a Carlos Hyde or a Mark Ingram or a Tevin Coleman?
31. Washington. Anyone else think the hubbub about Dwayne Haskins missing the victory formation in Sunday's win because he was taking a selfie with fans was overblown? Shouldn't we be praising the beaten spirits of the fans who still show up for Redskins games, and shouldn't Washington players be doing anything possible to please those brave, downtrodden souls?
32. Cincinnati. OK, side question here, what if your boss removed you from an important role as the team leader on a project to replace you with a guy that many in the office thought could be your long-term replacement? Well, it goes terribly and then the bosses ask you to come in and bail out the organization to avoid a historically bad end of the fiscal year. Now, when the bosses come to you, moral is at an all-time low, your co-workers are banged up and running on fumes, and your career and mental and even physical health could be seriously damaged in taking over at this late date. What would you do, knowing that the organization is almost 100 percent certain of replacing you in three-plus months? That's what Andy Dalton is facing now that he is going back out there to replace Ryan Finley, who completed 47.1 percent of his throws for all of 474 yards in three games — all losses.
Saban the politician
OK, yes, Tommy Tuberville is running for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Don't know if he'll win or not.
If Nick Saban even hinted at running, he'd win in a landslide, and he'd raise a mint from every SEC stat across the footprint. (You think big-dollar boosters in Knoxville, Red Stick and Auburn would not do whatever it took for Saban to have any job other than coaching Alabama?)
Well, Saban is starting to politick, but it has nothing to do with the ballot box or a November run date. This is about setting the stage for the playoff committee and where his Crimson Tide bunch will fit into the field despite a) not having the most accurate quarterback in college football history available for the rest of the season, and b) not even winning its division. After losing to No. 1 LSU, Saban said this week that Auburn — Bama's dance partner on Saturday — is the best team Alabama has played this year.
Hey, I understand his point of view, I've been saying all year, Auburn is not the best three-loss team in America as much as it's the most underachieving team in the country with a defense filled with future Sunday dudes.
And who knows, as much as Saban could be angling to the importance of a win Saturday for the playoff committee, he also could very well be reminding people of the amount of talent that Gus and Co. are going to end up taking to a mid-level Florida bowl against a mid-level Big Ten team.
That said, the playoff committee's rankings tonight will be interesting, and I think there is a very real chance that Alabama steps in front of Georgia this week, which is monster news for the Pac-12 and the Big 12.
But it's relatively meaningless for Georgia fans, since the narrative remains unchanged for the Bulldogs to win out and pack your pullovers for the playoff.
This and That
— Did you see that the XFL blocked the Lions from signing Josh Johnson? Not the best way to work toward a much-needed partnership with the NFL for any league to succeed long term, in my view. (And please save the, "The Lions looking at Josh Johnson before Colin Kaepernick" mumbo-jumbo. The league settled the collusion case, and it's clear why Kaepernick is not in the league and it has nothing to do with his playing skills.
— The NFL said it missed the critical call at the end of the Cowboys loss to the Pats over the weekend in which a tripping penalty negated a big first down late. Oh well. But the fallout may cost Jason Garrett his job. In fact, here, from SportsBettingDime.com, are the odds for who will be the coach of the Cowboys come week 1, 2020: Odds to be the Cowboys HC for Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season: Urban Meyer +300; Josh McDaniels +400; Lincoln Riley/Robert Saleh +500; Sean Payton +600; Jim Harbaugh +1200. Also of note — Mike Leach is at +2000; Nick Saban is +4000; Dabo Swinney and Mike Gundy are +5000.
— Nice win for Tennessee last night, despite not playing crisp offensively. Here's more from Gene of Many Hats Henley. Also, Auburn is very athletic.
— Papa John wants back in the pizza BID-ness. Badly.
— Dang Giannis. He went 50-14-6 last night and did it without a turnover. It's the first 50-burger without a turnover since the NBA started keep track of turnovers in 1977.
— As a Dodgers fan, I'm all for it, but how much money can one team spend? Apparently, from the hot stove news, the Dodgers are interested in Gerrit Cole. And Anthony Rendon. And Stephen Strasburg. And somehow they will break the bank, get all three and lose to the Yankees in six.
True or false. It's Tuesday. (That's true, and a gimme.)
True or false, you thought Judd Nelson was going to be a much bigger deal in, say, 1990.
True or false, Jason Garrett is a dead coach walking. True or false follow-up: The Dallas Cowboys next head coach was on that list.True or false, you'd take Lamar Jackson over the field in an MVP bet right now.
As for today, well, on this day in 1789 the first national Thanksgiving in America happened.
Rushmore of Thanksgiving side dishes. Go, and feel free to give a shoutout to the cook. (Or share a recipe. I'm up for a challenge.)