$.01— Houston Texans owner Bob McNair became a lightning rod for his controversial comments during the NFL’s meeting with the NFPLA about the ongoing national anthem protests. McNair was quoted by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham as saying “We can’t let the inmates run the prison”. His misplaced use of the colloquialism was incredibly tone deaf and led to immediate and intense reaction from the NFLPA reps in the room and other owners who were trying to defuse the entire situation. McNair, 79, is a white multi-billionaire who made his fortune in the energy industry, including once selling a company to Enron just before that house of illegal cards collapsed.
McNair’s own players reacted strongly, as would be expected. They did not appreciate being referred to as inmates. Given the protests have their genesis from the movement to recognize systematic oppression and inequality of people of color, calling a predominately black group of players “inmates” when the rate of incarceration for black males is astronomically higher than McNair’s own ethnic background is careless at best.
I won’t judge McNair’s intent. I’ve never met him and it’s unfair to blindly label people like that. Of course most don’t see it that way, which is why McNair, the players and the NFL are in the mess they’re in, by and large. Even if you’re not personally offended by his statement, you have to understand why others would be. If you cannot, you are missing the most fundamental human right—the one to think for oneself. I don’t like being told what or how to think and you shouldn’t either. The lack of empathy or willingness to consider that your own position might not be 100 percent correct or universal is destroying America, from both my left and my right.
That’s why McNair’s shot of gasoline on the fire is so disappointing to me. The NFL has a chance to lead the healing and unity here, but instead they choose to punt and foster even more dissonance. That’s incredibly discouraging for both the NFL and our society as a whole. It’s loathsome to have to keep covering it, but it’s also necessary to paint the whole modern football picture.
$.02—Those who did tune out the Texans/Seahawks game missed one of the most entertaining contests in a long, long time. This game was flat-out fun to watch, even if you have no rooting interest in either side. The offensive output was incredible…
The only 2 QBs in NFL history to throw for 400+, 4 TDs, and rush for 30+ are Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, who both did it today.— Jacs O’ Lantern 🎃 (@JacsonBevens) October 29, 2017
And that doesn’t even capture the thrilling back-and-forth between Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. It was one of those epic “anything you can do, I can do better” duels. Wilson was spectacular in rallying the Seahawks to the win, smartly capitalizing on a gassed Texans defense to get the final touchdown. That came after Watson had worked magic all afternoon, carving up the Legion of Boom like nobody ever has before.
Seattle won 41-38 thanks to having the more experienced quarterback and the better coach. Pete Carroll managed the end of the game far better than Bill O’Brien, a fact the Texans coach acknowledged in his postgame press conference.
It’s a shame one of these offenses had to ultimately come up on the short end. Given the backdrop of the pregame, Houston and Seattle could not have possibly played a better game for the fans. This was a great example of why we love football and why fans will keep tuning in. There’s nothing else like it when football is played at that high and entertaining of a level.
$.03— Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller made one of the best catches you’ll see all year, especially given the context of the situation. Miller made a one-handed catch while falling away from a defender in the end zone on a well-thrown ball from Mitchell Trubisky. As he landed, Miller’s right leg bent in a way no human should ever witness. It’s easily the most disgusting injury I’ve seen since then-Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith suffered a similar-looking injury two years ago.
Miller held onto the ball all the way to the ground and landed with it cradled in his left elbow and forearm. He deliberately put the ball down on the turf well after he had landed to reach out at his grotesquely injured knee. Somehow, some way, the officials decided upon further review to overturn the touchdown and rule the pass incomplete.
There are times where I support the receiver completing the process of the catch. This is not one of them. Miller quite clearly caught the ball and was in control of it when he put it down to tend to his injury. He had the ball in control in his possession for two feet and a butt to land, then roll, then put his other hand down, and then put the ball down. If that’s not a catch—regardless of his injury—they NFL is trying too hard to make the rule too contrived.
That overrule wound up costing the Bears a win. Instead of it being a TD to pull to 14-10, the ensuing field goal only made it 14-6. The Bears scored a later TD and went for 2 to try and cut the lead from 17-12 but failed. That terrible call fundamentally changed the Bears offensive dynamic for the rest of the game.
Prayers up for Miller. If you saw the play, you’ll want to pray too.
$.04— This is coaching hot seat season, and it’s getting uncomfortable in the pants for several head men.
Cleveland’s Hue Jackson is now 1-24 over two seasons and remains winless in Year Two with the Browns after the Vikings dumped them 33-17 in London. His litany of poor coaching decisions weighs on the team, which has quite a bit of talent on defense and could develop into something special but hasn’t been close to that so far.
Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter is presiding over a stunning underachievement with his Buccaneers. Jameis Winston is regressing, and that can’t happen to the coach of a franchise QB. Tampa Bay was lifeless and mistake-prone in a 17-3 loss to Carolina to drop to 2-5 and two full games behind Atlanta for 3rd place in the NFC South. This was a team that many (myself included) to perhaps win a division title and a playoff game this year. He might not be the highest head to roll for the Bucs, either…
Chicago’s John Fox is 3-5 and has formed a solid defense, and the Bears arrow is pointing up with Mitchell Trubisky. Unfortunately Fox is not the right guy to develop a quarterback or conduct an offense that can help the young gunslinger.
But perhaps the hottest seat belongs to Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis. The Colts are terrible, 2-6 but going on 2-14. Their only wins are over the league’s two winless teams, Cleveland and San Francisco (with a rookie coach). Many fans have been calling for Pagano’s ineffectual head for years, and this time they might get it with new GM Chris Ballard watching Pagano’s endemic lack of in-game adjustments and stalled player development.
$.05—After a couple of weeks with great games, Thursday Night Football reverted to must-sleep TV. Baltimore blistered Miami 40-0 in a blowout where the final score doesn’t do justice to the level of ass being kicked.
Here’s the thing: Baltimore didn’t even play all that well, certainly not on offense. Joe Flacco was efficient but unspectacular. The receivers weren’t getting open all that well early on, save the first touchdown. They only converted 3-of-13 third down attempts. While Alex Collins broke several tackles, most of those came on runs well after the game was long decided.
The Dolphins were as bad as any team you’ll see all year. Apparently they really missed the leadership and stability of Jay Cutler, as the Miami offense under Matt Moore appeared to be the Miami offense under water. Baltimore scored on two separate pick-sixes in the second half.
Moore finished the game, but Flacco did not thanks to a vicious hit from Kiko Alonso. The hit was similar to the one which got Danny Trevathan of the Bears suspended, as Alonso dove into Flacco’s head as the tall QB was in his slide. Alonso, unlike Trevathan, did not lead with his head. It won’t matter much to Flacco, who left with an obvious concussion as well as a badly cut ear.
It probably will matter for Alonso. I doubt he gets suspended. Even though it appeared clear to me Flacco was already sliding, others I respect disagree with that point. Hitting a defenseless player in the head should be an automatic ejection and suspension if the NFL is truly serious about protecting its players, but they’ll likely weasel out of that here on a subjective technicality. Did I mention how hard it is to like the NFL sometimes…?
$.06-- Ohio State shook up the College Football Playoff picture just before the first official CFP ratings come out on Tuesday. The Buckeyes, clad in grey and darker grey uniforms more befitting of an underfunded JUCO, stunned Penn State with an epic comeback. J.T. Barrett was phenomenal in the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes rallied behind their senior leader to stun No. 2 Penn State 39-38.
Much like the Houston/Seattle game on Sunday, this was a fun watch for football fans regardless of their rooting persuasion. The recurring theme in this one was great players making big plays. From Saquon Barkley housing the opening kickoff for the Nittany Lions to Barrett leading a 19-3 fourth-quarter surge for the home team, it was a fantastic display of football.
The upset win shakes up the playoff picture. So did No. 4 TCU to Iowa State, where the Cyclones are quickly becoming the feel-good story of the year. Alabama is a clear No. 1, and Georgia looks like the top dog behind them. Notre Dame has one loss, a 1-pointer to Georgia, and has whipped USC and NC State—both top 15 teams when they met—in consecutive weeks.
That fourth team is a huge question. Wisconsin is undefeated but hasn’t played anyone currently ranked; Northwestern is the only team with a winning record they’ve even played, and they could realistically go the entire season without playing a ranked team. Tough to love the Badgers then over teams with marquee wins like Ohio State, Oklahoma (which beat Ohio State), Clemson (3 ranked wins), and TCU if the Frogs can recover and run the table. If Miami somehow beats Notre Dame, the currently undefeated Hurricanes are deserving too.
It’s going to be a fun November sorting all this out.
$.07—I don’t have a Heisman vote but if I did it would look like this:
1. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
2. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
3. Stanford RB Bryce Love
4. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
5. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
6. Notre Dame RB Josh Adams
With apologies to Arizona QB Khalil Tate, who is probably the most dangerous runner in the nation despite playing quarterback.
Barkley stays up top, and his opening salvo in the loss to Ohio State gives him his Heisman signature moment. Every great candidate needs one, and he’s got like four.
Jackson seems to get overlooked for his magnificence. That’s unfortunate. He is going to throw for over 3500 yards and rush for close to 1500 even though defenses know what he’s going to do on most plays. His speed, elusiveness and improved passing accuracy have made him the preeminent weapon in college football. Barrett elevated himself up with the dramatic win, and he’s more responsible for Ohio State’s success than Mayfield is for Oklahoma’s. Love and Adams are both underrated backs who have largely sprung on most from seemingly out of nowhere, and that’s tough for them to overcome in the voting process.
$.08—This is the final cent for this week. My Sunday schedule was wacky as the three teams I get paid to cover (Browns, Texans, Lions) for various entities all played at different times on the day. It’s a logistical nightmare as a writer.
Since it’s Halloween season, we’ll end on a sweet note. Though some of you might find it sour…
I don’t like candy very much. My sweet tooth leans more towards frozen dairy treats than unwrapped candy. I’ll still wolf down Tootsie Rolls and York peppermint patties but those are really the only candies I seek out.
My son is even less of a sweet tooth. That has always made Halloween a difficult holiday for him. All his peers get geeked up over all the candy. He’ll have a sucker or two but has no interest in anything chocolate or chewy. Fortunately he has outgrown trick-or-treating, but it was always an added stress for us. He would put on a brave face and graciously accept whatever got dropped in his bucket and then get home and parse it out to his sister, who would eat nothing but candy 100 percent of the time if we allowed it.
It turns out we are not alone in this predicament. Several friends have indicated their own kids don’t really like the candy treats. I know it’s hard to believe but there are kids out there who would rather have a snack-size bag of pretzels or snack crackers.
So here’s my plea, on behalf of my son but also me: have a little stash on the side for the trick-or-treaters who might want that. Don’t give them a toothbrush or dental floss, though my son would have indeed enjoyed the latter. Maybe have a handful of the snack cracker packages or festive vanilla wafers or even popcorn packages. You might not realize it, but you’ll make some kids’ holidays that much better.