NFL playoffs, part I
There's lots to like in these NFL playoffs, especially if you are rooting for newness.
In the AFC alone, the teams still standing have made three Super Bowl appearances in the last 25 years. (Ravens twice, Titans once).
So there could be some all-time franchise history made in the next couple of weeks for these AFC teams.
That pondering — along with seeing that the Music City Miracle was 20 years ago today — left me wondering: what are the all-time moments in Titans history?
Yes, the Miracle is there. And after that was last Saturday night in Foxboro,the second-best happy moment for a franchise that has been as forgettable since moving to Tennessee in the mid-to-late-1990s.
If we did a Rushmore of Titans moments, the tackle 1-yard short in the Super Bowl loss to the Rams is there. And the Miracle. Saturday's win seems like a pretty strong contender, too.
After that? Well, Steve McNair winning a co-MVP?
Wow, a couple more efforts like last weekend and Mike Vrabel and the boys could forever etch their spot in Titans lore.
Playoffs thoughts, part II
So, as we look ahead to what traditionally is the best weekend of the NFL playoffs, the wildcard round has been wild the last couple of years, but the divisional round has been divine for a long time.
We still get two games on each day of the weekend, but it feels like the pretenders have already been asked to leave. (Thinking more of you, Philly and Buffalo, than say, you, New Orleans and New England.)
We will offer several days of looking ahead before the divisional round, but here's a wondering query for the group to discuss.
Among the eight quarterbacks still playing, who has the most to gain over the next three weeks?
Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are fighting to get into the all-time category. They are among the best of their generation, and Rodgers is on the short list of the best to ever do it.
But those cats adding a second Super Bowl title moves that conversation from best of their generation to the best ever.
The first big step to Canton. That's the category for last year's MVP Patrick Mahomes and, presumably this year's MVP, Lamar Jackson. An MVP and a Super Bowl title is a punched ticket for a quarterback to get a Golden Blazer.
Right there on that cusp is DeShaun Watson, who also has the chance to make the "Don't forget about me" statement considering he was in the same draft class as Mahomes and a year ahead of Jackson. And his second-half heroics to get the Texans by the Bills give him a springboard chance to craft a legendary postseason.
Confirming the contract. That's Jimmy G and Kirk Cousins, who were given franchise QB deals and talented franchises to lead. They are now two wins from taking those long-standing storied franchises back to the Super Bowl. And for Cousins, the much-maligned and oft-barraged QB, brings the first Super Bowl title back to Minneapolis, well, dude will retire a purple-clad legend.
Which brings us to Ryan Tannehill, who may have more on the table financially than all the above dudes combined.
Tannehill, who was the highest-rated passer in the NFL after replacing Marcus Mariota as the Titans QB, is a free agent. A lot of us have thought for a while that Tannehill has played himself into a no-doubt extension with Tennessee. He was not good against New England, but if he keeps winning there's a real chance, considering what he did this year and his age and his looming freedom, he could be the most coveted player on the market.
OK, the biggest eye-opener from Tuesday was not the fact that a person with the last name Judge was hired by the New York Giants.
The biggest news was not the fact that the super-dysfunctional Redskins and the highly dysfunctional Cowboys appeared to have had the most normal and direct hiring approaches.
Heck, it was not even the annual hand-wringing of the farce that has become the Rooney Rule. (The Rooney Rule is an NFL mandate that forces teams to interview minorities for head coaching positions. And the fact that there are four minority coaches in the NFL — Washington added Ron Rivera to go with black coaches in San Diego (Anthony Lynn), Miami (Brian Flores) and Pittsburgh (Mike Tomlin) — is an easy stance for folks to take.)
That said, and I understand the nature — and sadly the need — for the Rooney Rule, but are we ever going to be in a place to mandate who private organizations can hire in high-profile positions in companies worth billions of dollars? That seems rather far-fetched.
No, the biggest news from the spinning seats on the NFL coaching carousel is that the Carolina Panthers turned it into the wheel of fortune for Matt Ruhle.
Ruhle, with incentives, landed a seven-year, $70-million deal. Friends, that's Matt Ruhle. And he got Gruden-money, and there's no doubt that the dudes who have been doing this NFL coaching thing for a while and had some success at the highest level all called their agents as soon as that news hit.
According to this Forbes story ranking the highest-paid coaches in U.S. sports, Ruhle just moved into some very rarified air.
The highest-paid guys in their sports have a few more noteworthy items on their résumé than Ruhle. Yes, winning at Temple and rebuilding Baylor are fine accomplishments. But Bill Belichick ($12 million a year), Gregg Popovich ($11 million per), Nick Saban ($9.4 million per) and Coach K ($9 million per) have a combined total of 22 championships.
You think Andy Reid ($8 million), Mike Tomlin ($8 million) and Sean McVay ($8.5 million) are not going to reach out and have a quick conversation with their front offices?
Coach: "Uh, hey GM, this is coach."
GM: "Good to hear from you coach, we did some fine things this year."
Coach: "Yeah we had a good year, thanks. Just wanted to ask."
GM: "How are the wife and kids, Coach? Take some down time before the combine. Maybe head to Hawaii.."
Coach: "Uh, thanks. Got two words for you."
GM: "Coach, no need to say 'Thank you.' You know we appreciate your efforts around here."
Coach: "No, those are not the two words. It's"
GM: "Free agency. Good call. We will be ready to make the roster better."
Coach: "Again, those are not the two words. I want to say."
GM: "Just tell me it's not Antonio Brown."
Coach: "Nope. Matt Ruhle."
GM: "Yeah. Can we talk about Antonio Brown instead? That would be less expensive."
And don't you know that Cleveland just had to add a few extra millions to its offer to whomever.
This and that
— Cool story of Josh Jacobs buying his dad a house. That story is made even more emotionally cool with the knowledge that Jacobs and his family battled homelessness growing up. Kudos young man. And thanks for playing a large role in the Team Greeson hot streak to the title.
— College hoops picks from Press Row went 1-1, hitting on those Road Warrioring Wildcats and missing on the under in Florida-South Carolina. Yes, got too clever by half on that last one, and should have just sided with the visiting Gators. On the college hoops season we're now 15-11 against the number, which is slightly entertaining.
— In addition to UK and Florida getting nice road wins, that was a strong effort in the final minutes for UT at Mizzou last night, too. A much-needed win for Barnes' boys, too.
— On the NBA season we're 6-1, which is highly entertaining. And that's where our pick rides this chilly morn. We'll take Boston and lay the 6.5 in the Gah-DEN over San Antonio.
— Speaking of the NBA, Anthony Davis hurting his lower back and leaving the Lakers' win over the Knicks. He will miss the team's upcoming road trip with a bruised tailbone. Also of note, Davis turned down the Lakers' offer of a max contract. In truth, that's semantics — high-dollar semantics, mind you — because the max offer right now from L.A. is four years, $164 million. When the season ends under the cap rules, Davis can ask the Lakers for four years, north of $200 million.
— Here's the personification of bad times being missed up. This cricket player is wearing a mic and gets hit right in the tenders. Feel like this needs a cringe-warning before viewing.
— A lot of eyes are on the "Jeopardy!" showdown of champions. Round 1 went to Ken Jennings, who topped Jeopardy James by $200. But the real winner was the audience, because not only did Alex Trebek offer the phrase "bitcoin' mix tape" with some sass, we also got to hear the buttoned-up Trebek read the title of the Three 6 Mafia Oscar-winning song, "It's Hard Out Here to be a Pimp." Good times.
— Couple of late adds, the Tom Brady talk is heating up. He took to Instagram and all but said he's coming back. (Now there's no word about where, per se, but here's his post.)
— One more: Aaron Suttles reporting that there are major footsies being played between Mississippi State and Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian. If hired, he would go toe-to-toe with former buddy and disgraced former USC coach Lane Kiffin, who is now at Ole Miss. Any suggested new names for that "Cracked" Egg Bowl rivalry?
Which way Wednesday will start this way:
Which quarterback has the most to gain among the final 8? And why?
Which player still alive in these playoffs has the best case to be on his franchise's all-time Rushmore? (And again, why?)
Which NFL head coaching hire in the last few weeks do you like most?
As for today, we mentioned the history of the Music City Miracle.
Happy birthday to the King. (Speaking of which way, "Which all-time legend do you think of first when they say 'The King?'")
Elvis would have been 85 today.
Rushmore of Elvis songs. Go.