Tag Archives: NFL

UVA declines invitation to visit White House … what gives?

The list is now up to three.

The University of Virginia won the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a stunning victory over Texas Tech University. Then the White House invited the Cavaliers to be feted by Donald Trump.

The Cavs’ response? No can do, Mr. President.

They now join the University of North Carolina and Villanova University in declining to take part in what most of us thought was a part of D.C. normalcy. Teams win national championships, then travel to the nation’s capital to be honored by the president of the United States.

That was until Donald Trump became president of the United States. Now we find the president politicizing these events, criticizing pro football players for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. He infuriates players, who then balk at coming to the White House. The Golden State Warriors this past year won the NBA title, chafed at going to the White House and then the president disinvited them.

Now the third straight men’s college basketball team has said “no thanks” to the White House, citing what school officials called “scheduling conflicts.” Sure thing, man.

When you think about it, what we’re seeing is an ongoing trend involving this president.

Donald and Melania Trump haven’t attended a Kennedy Center Honors event that pays tribute to artists who contribute to the world’s culture. The president refuses to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, I presume because of his antipathy toward the “enemy of the American people.”

These once-pro forma events have become news in and of themselves because of the president’s clumsy relationships with national institutions.

So the drama continues.

The UVA Cavaliers won’t break bread with the president. I fully expect Donald Trump to say something inappropriate — if not downright stupid — in response to the NCAA men’s champs’ decision to stay away.

Weird.

NFL wants to slow the game down even more?

One play in a key playoff game . . . and the National Football League goes ballistic!

The NFL has decided to introduce the option of reviewing pass interference calls on the field, in real time, moments after the fact. It’s going to be a one-year trial period.

Call me old-fashioned, but this is a ridiculous idea!

OK, I get that the play in question occurred during a National Football Conference championship game this past season. The Los Angeles Rams won the right to play in the Super Bowl largely on a missed pass interference call in a game versus the New Orleans Saints. The Rams should have been penalized; they weren’t. The Saints lost the chance to win the game and play in the league championship contest against the New England Patriots.

Now the NFL wants to prevent future injustices from occurring on the field? Please. The NFL already allows for reviews of calls involving touchdowns, pass receptions, first downs, those kinds of things. Pass interference calls are considered “judgment calls” that until now had been left for the official to make on the spot.

May I now declare that I detest instant replay? I do. It slows the game down. It disrupts the flow. It robs players of the momentum they might have. I don’t like it any of the major sports where this technology is deployed. Not in baseball or basketball, either.

I know what you might be thinking: This is the same clown — me! — who endorses the use of red-light cameras to deter lawbreakers from running through stop lights at intersections. That’s different. We’re talking about public safety. Thus, I want the cops to have technological assistance to help them do their job to “protect and serve” the public.

Professional athletic events are performed and controlled by fallible human beings. Of all the calls NFL officials make during the course of a game, they get the overwhelming amount of them right. Overwhelming!

I get that they missed a big call in one of the biggest games in anyone’s memory. New Orleans Saints fans are still steamed over it. They’ll never get over the theft that occurred that day late in a playoff game. I’m sorry for them.

But the sun still rose the next morning. Life went on. No one was physically damaged. Sure, a lot of emotions suffered harm.

Hey, it’s a game! Let the players play it and the officials officiate it!

Any questions?

What’s so wrong with a defensive struggle?

I am going to take up the cudgel for the two professional football teams that just played in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

The New England Patriots scored 13 points compared to the three points rung up by the Los Angeles Rams.

I’ve been reading social media and other commentary about how “boring” and “stupefying” and “disappointing” the game turned out to be.

Let me stipulate that I didn’t want either team playing for the NFL championship. My favorite among the four teams vying for the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, lost to the Patriots in overtime in the AFC championship game. The New Orleans Saints, it can be argued, should have been the NFC rep, but were robbed by a non-call that should have gone against the Rams in that conference’s title game, which the Rams won also in overtime.

When did massive offensive output, though, become the benchmark for on-the-field excellence in these football games? I watched most of the game Sunday night. I watched a lot of sequences when both teams would take three snaps and then punt the ball away. It got to be so repetitive that CBS Sports color analyst Tony Romo joked that the first-half highlight was the Ram punter’s record-setting kick of 65 yards.

However, we all did watch some stellar defensive strategies being played out. Both teams were hitting hard and their tackling was sure-handed. Patriots QB Tom Brady got sacked for the only time during this year’s playoff season. Rams QB Jared Goff was hassled and chased around constantly by New England’s defensive front line.

I didn’t see many defensive mistakes out there. I saw some hard-hitting tackle football.

So what if the teams couldn’t ring up 30 or 40 points apiece? The outcome was in doubt until practically the very end of the game.

There. Having said all that, I am kinda/sorta glad the Patriots won the game, owing only to my longtime affection for the AFC over the NFC. We saw a bit of history made Sunday night, with the Patriots winning the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What is so wrong with that?

Patriots vs. Rams: not the preferred matchup, however . . .

OK, here we go again. The New England Patriots are going to play for their umpteenth Super Bowl championship against the Los Angeles Rams.

This wasn’t the matchup I wanted. I already declared my desire to see the Kansas City Chiefs win the whole thing. They were long overdue for another trip to the Big Game; their latest Super Bowl was in 1970, when they beat — while still representing the former American Football League — the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7.

I remain a diehard American Football Conference fan, so I’ll root (more or less) for the Patriots against the Rams.

The LA Rams last played in the Super Bowl in 1980 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans in 2000. So the franchise is a recent participant in the big game. So now the Rams, who have returned to La La Land, are back.

I didn’t predict the Chiefs would take it all home. It was merely my stated preference.

However, having said that, I have to declare that the AFC championship game was incredibly well played, given the utterly frigid temperatures the players endured on the field at Arrowhead Stadium.

As for the NFC game, I’ll merely say that the refs stole that game from the New Orleans Saints with that remarkably hideous non-call on pass interference.

They shoulda called the cops.

How ’bout them Chiefs?

OK, here goes my selection for the next National Football League championship.

I am pulling hard for the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Super Bowl 53 (or is it LIII?).

They play the New England Patriots next weekend for the AFC championship. They’ll play it at Arrowhead Stadium in KC. The NFC championship will be decided between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints; I don’t care about that one, because I have been a long-time AFC fan.

My cheering for the Chiefs stems from the fact that they last played in the Super Bowl in 1970. That was 49 years ago, man!

Those Chiefs defeated the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7. They manhandled the Purple People Eaters. Their coach was a guy named Hank Stram, who crafted something called the Offense of the 1970s. He was a dapper dresser who strolled the sideline with his plays written on a rolled-up sheet of paper he carried with him.

The KC Chiefs had the misfortune, too, of playing the mighty Green Bay Packers in the very first championship game. The Packers won that game 35-10; it wasn’t even known yet as the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs represented the American Football League against the powerhouse NFL titans from Green Bay. They got thumped, but then in the final game representing the AFL, which merged with the NFL, did their own thumping three years later in Super Bowl IV.

That was too long ago. The Patriots have been to many Super Bowls over the years. They’ve won their share of them, too. Sure, whoever wins the AFC title game must play the NFC winner at the Big Game.

This is the Kansas City Chiefs’ time. At least I hope it is.

Super Bowl III: Was it that long ago?

Can you believe it? Fifty years ago this weekend, Joe Willie Namath allegedly “guaranteed” that a prohibitive underdog football team would win the biggest game of the year, the Super Bowl.

As it turned out, the New York Jets did win that game, 16-7 against the Baltimore Colts. The date was Jan. 12, 1969.

One aspect made this game among the most memorable in pro football history.

It was the first victory of an American Football League team over a team from the supposedly “superior” National Football League. The AFL and NFL had brokered a merger after the two leagues battled over draft picks out of college. The merger took effect the season after the Jets-Colts Super Bowl III game. Three NFL teams — the Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers — moved into what became the American Football Conference, which competed with the National Football Conference in the newly reconstituted NFL.

The AFL had come into being in 1960. The new league proved to be an entertaining venture for football fans. I was one of them as a youngster. I followed the AFL closely during its early years, cheering the exploits of Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, Len Dawson, Cookie Gilchrist, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln, Lance Alworth and, oh my . . . I could go on. But I won’t.

The AFL then landed a prize rookie out of Alabama named Joe Namath. The flashy quarterback became an instant celebrity. He signed a $400,000 contract with the New York Jets.

The leagues met in two prior Super Bowls. The Green Bay Packers defeated in order the Kansas City Chiefs (35-10) in 1967 and the Oakland Raiders (33-14) in 1968.

Then came Super Bowl III. The Colts were favored by nearly three touchdowns over the Jets. Namath wasn’t hearing that. He made some kind of semi-flippant remark to reporters that many of them interpreted as a “guarantee” that the Jets would win.

Then they did. They manhandled the Colts. The AFL had gained “parity” with the NFL.

And Joe Namath had just written his ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Allow me this bit of heresy, which is that Namath’s role in defeating the Colts is the only reason he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame in the first place. His career was otherwise, shall we say, not exactly sparkling. I won’t debate the issue here, except that one game can enable someone to gain athletic immortality.

Joe Namath did on that day 50 years ago. Man, some of us are getting old.

Kliff Kingsbury channels Forrest Gump

I want to offer a salute and a “well done” to my friend Jon Mark Beilue for a fascinating commentary on a former Texas Tech University head football coach who has redefined how one can land on his feet.

Beilue calls Kliff Kingsbury the “real life version of Forrest Gump.” Beilue knows of which he speaks. He’s a Tech grad, a longtime West Texas journalist (including several years as sports editor of the Amarillo Globe-News). The man knows his business.

Kingsbury has managed to parlay a mediocre college coaching career into a head coaching gig with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Beilue noted this: Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave. 

That brings me to the point of this blog item. I do not understand a lot of things, and one of them is how athletic coaches can fail to do their job and still get big-time money after they get fired for non-performance at their jobs.

As Beilue points out, Kingsbury took a header as Tech coach. He didn’t win half of the games he coached. Yet he still gets $2 million for departing a job from which he was fired. He now will get another well-paying gig coaching a team of multimillionaire athletes.

Oh, boy.

***

Here’s Beilue’s essay, posted on Facebook:

Kliff Kingsbury is the real-life version of Forrest Gump. Both are likable guys that have seen timing and great fortune shine on them in their storybook life. Don’t believe me?

Start with:

1. After his record-setting career as a Texas Tech QB, Kliff didn’t really have the skill set for the NFL. He was drafted in 2003 by the New England Patriots in the sixth round. He hurt his arm, and was put on injured reserve. He was ineligible to play, but in his one year, he still got a Super Bowl ring.

2. After bouncing around the NFL briefly and in NFL Europe, he decides to go into coaching. He hooks up with Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston as quality control assistant. The next year, he’s the QB coach and offensive coordinator just in time when talented QB Case Keenum is a senior.

3. Sumlin goes to A&M and takes Kliff with him in 2012. Who’s there but Johnny Manziel, a generational college QB. Kliff I’m sure refined some of Johnny Football’s play, but Manziel basically ran around like his hair was on fire, and made plays with his legs or threw it up and let WR Mike Evans make a play. Manziel, in Kliff’s only year there, wins the Heisman.

4. Tech is looking to unite a fan base fractured by the firing of Mike Leach and the rocky tenure of Tommy Tuberville, who abruptly left. They go to favorite son Kliff, and give him the keys to the convertible, head coach of your alma mater at age 33 with a whopping THREE YEARS of coaching experience.

5. In his first year in 2013, with the previous staff’s recruits, Kliff goes 7-0, and then loses the next five. In the Holiday Bowl, Tech beats a disinterested Arizona State. Based off that, Tech AD Kirby Hocutt gives Kliff a lucrative contract extension. His $3.7 million salary is 30th highest in the country and has a huge buyout.

6. Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave.

7. Six weeks later, he signs a four-year contract to be a head coach in the NFL.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Injured Dallas Cowboy earns a new BFF

It’s getting late in the day and I’m feeling a bit sentimental, so I want to share this bit of good tiding with you.

Allen Hurns, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, suffered a gruesome injury Saturday during the Cowboys’ pro football playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks. His ankle snapped; it was an ugly sight to see on TV.

Eight-year-old Luke McSwain of Frisco watched it in real time along with his family and penned a letter to Hurns, wishing him well and expressing hope that he recovers fully from the hideous injury. Luke wrote: “I saw the Cowboys Seahawks game last night. I saw you get hurt. I prayed 4 times for you. You will get way better shortly.”

Hurns heard about the letter and then Face Timed young Luke to say “hello” and thank him for the youngster’s good wishes. Hurns’ gesture to the young fan made the young fan’s day.

Hurns promised to send Luke a Dallas Cowboys’ trading card to add to his collection. Luke’s mother, Kim, said her son will continue to pray for Hurns’ recovery.

This, I believe, is how professional athletes become positive role models for young fans. Well done, Allen Hurns. And to you as well, Luke McSwain.

‘Act like you’ve done it before’

I must be in a fuddy-duddy mood today. I’ve already posted something that suggests that awards ceremonies aren’t the place for political speeches.

Now this: I am not a fan of those elaborate touchdown celebrations we see when National Football League players score points for their team. The picture above is of a Seattle Seahawks player doing some kind of dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.

Accordingly, I am glad college football has decided to prohibit that kind of show-boating; players who prance and preen after scoring a touchdown draw penalties levied against their teams.

The NFL ought to ponder a similar rule, although I doubt it will. Pro football fans think it’s entertaining and that players have some kind of “right” to express their sheer joy at scoring a touchdown. I do admit to liking the Lambeau Leap, where Green Bay Packers jump into the stands to get some “love” from their adoring fans.

However, I still prefer the Earl Campbell, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson, Jim Brown approach to scoring TDs: Cross the goal line, flip the ball to the nearest official and then run back to the sidelines and get the pats on the rear end from your teammates.

It might have been the late great coach Vince Lombardi who said it. Whoever it was, he gave some good advice: When you score a touchdown, act like you’ve done it before.

How do you ‘prepare’ for NFL draft?

I do not understand this development, so someone might have to explain it to me.

Will Grier, a top flight quarterback for West Virginia University is the latest top-tier athlete to forgo a football bowl game to “prepare for the National Football League draft.”

Let’s ponder that for a moment. The Mountaineers are going to play a game against Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl.

Grier received a scholarship to play football in Morgantown, W.Va. The school paid for his education. The school’s fans packed the stadium to watch Grier play QB. So now he wants to exhibit his loyalty to the school by skipping the team’s final game of the year?

To prepare for the NFL draft? What in the world do these guys do to prep for a draft? Spare me the excuse that they are seeking to prevent career-ending injury; that event could happen at any time of the year.

Royce Freeman, a running back at Oregon, stiffed the Ducks a year ago. So did Christian McCaffrey at Stanford a couple of years before that. These high-profile athletes occasionally bail on their schools to, um, get ready to be drafted.

I keep circling back to a series of questions: What in the world do these fellows do to prepare to have their name called as a member of an NFL franchise? Do they run wind sprints in their front yard? Do they practice blocking and tackling in the garage? Do they, um, memorize play books?

Moreover, is there no more loyalty to the schools that shell out good money to pay for their education?