Author Archives: dudeyoucrazy
For a guy who had a flat-out average year for a college football quarterback and a pretty good year for a true freshman college quarterback, there sure are a lot of varied opinions on Jacob Eason. He seems to either be great or awful per most fans (Georgia and otherwise), and there’s not much room for middle ground.
He’s hot take central. LeBron or MJ? Today’s Golden State Warriors or 1990s Chicago Bulls? Is Jacob Eason the next Tom Brady or is he Ryan Leaf on opiates? These are real conversations that people are having. Somehow, Eason a player who played exactly to normal expectations as a true freshman, is on one end of the extremes.
He’s excellent. Or he’s awful.
I guess if you take any snippet of his 2016 performance in isolation, you could convince yourself of anything.
- Good: He out-played the no. 2 overall pick and the top quarterback selected in the NFL Draft during a head-to-head matchup in 2016. Eason completed passes at a higher rate, threw more TD passes and accounted for nearly three times as many yards per attempt as North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky. Oh, and this was Eason’s first college game.
- Bad: Eason struggled mightily against some mediocre opposition. In a loss to Georgia Tech, for instance, he barely connected on 50% of his passes, threw two INTs vs. just one TD, and needed 27 passes to rack up 139 yards trough the air.
- Good: He played well in some of Georgia’s easiest games at home. Just ask Louisiana-Lafayette, Vanderbilt and Nicholls State.
- Bad: He struggled mightily on the road against some SEC foes. Against South Carolina and Ole Miss he connected on just 21 of 53 pass attempts for 168 yards.
But that good/bad ratio isn’t all that staggering for a true freshman playing for a first-time head coach behind an atrocious offensive line. And understand, that it’s “not all that staggering” to the positive or the negative. That is to say, you’re insane to think Eason merits Heisman consideration (one Fox Sports columnist has him one of 15 favorites for the award) and you’re equally insane to think he’s going to lose his job to incoming signal-caller Jake Fromm.
And yet, those are two of the more prevailing theories this offseason. Nowhere to be found is the notion that Eason may be, well, pretty good and improving. Normal is not allowed for Jacob Eason. And that’s not just because expectations are so high. Again, some fans actually want Lee Fromm’s son (sup?) to start. So what should we expect from Eason in the immediate future – meaning in 2017? Here are two base cases.
Low-End Scenario: Very Modest Improvement
I really like passing efficiency as an entry-level measure of QB play. It takes into account completion percentage, yards per attempt, TD/INT ratio and everything else that is easily measured.
By that stat, Eason was below average in 2016. His passer rating was 120.2 – good enough for only 90th in the nation among players with 15 attempts per game and an appearance in at least 75% of team’s games. That’s not very good and among 109 eligible QBs, that puts him squarely in the bottom quartile. But what’s interesting is that Eason’s outliers (on a game-by-game basis) fell much more to the downside than to the upside. You’d expect that from a true freshman in the SEC—at any position, really.
How do we see that? Well, let’s look at individual games. Eason’s season-long efficiency rating of 120.2 reflects the sum of all his attempts, completions, TDs, INTs and yards. It’s not just the average of each game’s efficiency rating. But his average single-game rating was 124.25.
If we remove Eason’s best game (185.9 rating against North Carolina) and his worst game (51.4 vs. South Carolina), his average game rating increases to 125.27. So his worst game was worse than his best game was good. This trend continues. If we remove his second-best game (165.6 vs. LA-Lafayette) and his second-worst game (70.9 vs. Mizzou), his average game output increases again to 126.83. If we remove his third-best contest (154.2 vs. TCU) and his third-worst contest (91.9 vs. Florida), his average game increases to 127.91. If we remove his fourth-best (148.4 vs. Vanderbilt) and his fourth-worst(92.5 vs. Tech), Eason’s average game efficiency increases to 130.9.
Now, this is a flawed experiment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that removing Eason’s four best and four worst games leaves only 5 games to measure. So let’s pause this side of the experiment at removing just Eason’s three best and three worst games. This leaves us with seven of 13 total contests and something close to Eason’s Middle-50% of games. His average efficiency rating in those games was 127.91. But here’s his entire statistical line for those seven games:
- Attempts: 232
- Completions: 135
- Completion Percentage: 58.2%
- Yards: 1,661
- Touchdowns: 9
- Interceptions: 5
- Total Efficiency Rating: 126.82
I think it’s reasonable to assume that the most-modest improvement for Eason would be something like that. I’m not budgeting anything on the upside (again, I’m taking out his best three games), but I am counting on his worst games to be less bad.
For a 13-game season that projects him to do this (with minor rounding):
- Attempts: 431
- Completions: 251
- Completion Percentage: 58.2%
- Yards: 3,085
- Touchdowns: 17
- Interceptions: 9
- Season-long Efficiency: 126.82
Based on last year’s numbers, that would place him in the following spots nationally among qualifying QBs:
|Stat||Projection||Projected Rank||Comparison from 2016|
|Attempts||431||18||Daniel Jones, Duke (430)|
|Completions||251||26||Richard Lagow, Indiana (253)|
|Yards||3,085||38||Ryan Finley, NC State (3,055)|
|Touchdowns||17||60||C.J. Beathard, Iowa (17)|
|Interceptions||9||56||Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (9)|
|Efficiency||126.82||70||Daniel Jones, Duke (126.3)|
Where are all the hot takes on Daniel Jones and Clayton Thorson? Was C.J. Beathard (a third round pick in the 2017 Draft) about to get beat out by an incoming freshman? Is Ryan Finley going to win a Heisman this year? Is Richard Lagow the most polarizing player in the Big Ten?
If Eason improves only ever-so slightly, he’ll basically be an average QB. Given what Georgia historically does on offense, the strengths at running back and the talent on defense, I don’t think average QB play makes or breaks the Bulldogs’ season. You can get to Atlanta with the statistics above if the rest of the team is up to snuff.
High-End Scenario: The Next Stafford
For better or worse, Matthew Stafford is the obvious comparison for Jacob Eason. And based on freshman campaigns that’s not a totally inaccurate discussion. Both played in 13 games. Neither was the full-time starter. Both had tremendous highs and discernible struggles. Both had all the arm talent in the world, both needed to improve in decision-making, touch and accuracy.
Here’s how Matthew Stafford performed as a freshman and then as a sophomore.
Want to know the realistic ceiling for Eason in 2017? Apply those rates of improvement to Eason. Here’s where you end up.
- Attempts: 503
- Completions: 293
- Completion Percentage: 58.2%
- Yards: 3,505
- Touchdowns: 43
- Interceptions: 9
- Season-long Efficiency: 141.81
How would those figures stack up compared to the national landscape in 2016? Check it out:
|Stat||Projection||Projected Rank||Comparison from 2016|
|Attempts||503||6||Ryan Higgins, LA Tech (496)|
|Completions||293||9||Brandon Silvers, Troy (293)|
|Yards||3,505||20||Brad Kaaya, Miami (3,532)|
|Touchdowns||43||2||Jake Browning, Washington (43)|
|Interceptions||9||56||Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (9)|
|Efficiency||141.81||36||Greg Ward Jr., Houston (141.7)|
Again, this just isn’t a murderers’ row of noteworthy passers. There’s a little more name recognition here (Greg Ward Jr., Jake Browning, Brad Kaaya), but it’s not like Eason’s year-two ceiling is that of Deshaun Watson or that leprechaun from Oklahoma.
If we consider these data points — attempts, completions, yards, TDs, interceptions and efficiency — as the standard for how prolific a passer is (statistically), it’s hard to get too worked up about Jacob Eason. On the low-side (just removing his three best and three worst games), he projects to finish with an average national ranking of 44.7 in those major categories. On the high-side (Stafford-level improvement from year 1 to year 2), he may post an average national ranking of 21.5 in those major categories.
That seems about right for the rising sophomore. I think Eason will be a Top-45 QB in 2017. I don’t think he’ll crack the Top 20. For what Georgia wants to accomplish, that’s perfectly fine. But that’s not performance worthy of blatant disregard or blind praise.
So everybody chill out.
We can stop with the Jacob Eason hot-takes. After all, you can’t spell “National Championship Season” or “Losing Season” without E-A-S-O-N.
That’s all I got/
Conventional wisdom and (likely) prevailing logic implies that Myles Garrett will be the first man off the board during Thursday night’s NFL Draft. But last time I checked the Cleveland Browns have the top (and 12th pick). Cleveland’s perennial Draft mismanagement combined with a need for help at basically every position (except maybe offensive line) is a recipe for disaster. And at this late hour there are some rumors that North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky could take the top spot.
You just can’t do that. Trubisky’s relative inexperience will be mentioned ad nauseum this evening but that point is worth belaboring. This is not the traditional blue chipper path to the NFL.
- Trubisky was the nation’s 6th-best dual-threat QB per 247Sports.
- He picked up many notable offers – the nation’s best program (Alabama), an allegedly resurgent SEC power (Tennessee), a Big 10 staple (Michigan State) and even his home-state Ohio State Buckeyes.
- He chose to attend North Carolina with a May 2012 commitment in a January 2013 enrollment.
- This made sense because North Carolina had dismissed its head coach Butch Davis the summer before his commitment (right before fall camp) and it had an interim head coach during the season preceding his commitment. Always a force, North Carolina was 3-5 in ACC play in 2011.
- The bullet-point above was mostly to rib Chad Floyd and to point out that it was odd for a truly elite prospect (if he was one) to choose North Carolina for anything other than home-state loyalty (which didn’t apply) or immediate playing time (which didn’t come).
- North Carolina played two quarterbacks in 2013. Both threw for more than 1600 yards. Neither had a Polish last name. Is Trubisky a Polish last name? I feel like it is. Either way, neither was named Trubisky. That guy redshirted. #Elite
- In 2014, Marquise Williams held onto the job. Williams was passable as a passer. His passer rating was 58th in the nation and only 61 full-time QBs posted better yards-per-attempts.
- Trubisky attempted 78 passes as a backup in 2014 and posted a QB rating of 114.2. His best game came against Virginia when, just 23 months after arriving on campus, he completed 100% of his passes and finished 1/1 for 16 yards and a TD.
- Always destined for greatness, Trubisky was a backup once again in 2015 as Marquise Williams improved by reducing his completion percentage and throwing for precisely as many yards as he did the year before. Trubisky attempted even fewer passes in 2015.
- But in 2016, he took off.
In his lone season as the go-to quarterback for the Tar Heels, Trubisky was pretty good. North Carolina turned a Top 15 ranking at the end of 2015 into a pre-season no. 20 (per the Coaches poll) and Heels were ranked in the Top 20 all the way up until the first game of the season. Trubisky opened his career at 0-1 thanks to a loss to first-year head coach Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs. He threw for 156 yards on just 40 attempts (nearly four yards per attempt) and didn’t throw any interceptions (or passing touchdowns). Recruited as a dual-threat, Trubisky was electric with his legs rushing three times for seven yards.
He rebounded and North Carolina climbed back into the Top 25, but they didn’t stay there and finished the year un-ranked.
As a starter (for his entire career – four whole years in Chapel Hill), Trubisky played seven FBS opponents with winning records against FBS opponents. This is, by my estimation, the broadest measure one can find of Trubisky’s starting experience against average-or-better opposition. Those seven games are detailed below.
Those numbers, on average, are fantastically pedestrian. For Georgia-fan context, these numbers are worse than what Greyson Lambert put up in 2015 in terms of efficiency. But, that should not surprise you. After all, Lambert and Jacob Eason threw for 29 more yards than Trubisky on 20 fewer attempts in 2016’s match-up. Seriously. Trubisky threw for 156 yards on 40 attempts. Lambert and Eason threw for 185 on 20 attempts.
Any GM drafting Trubisky is hoping for the type of performance he put up against Florida State and Pitt. But they’re equally likely to get the Trubisky we saw against the Dawgs or the one that threw for 58 yards on 33 attempts against Virginia Tech. There’s not enough film on this guy to merit a first (or Top 10) pick and what is on field is not consistently good.
Intangibles become huge this time of year, but it’s hard to put too much stock into Trubisky’s moxie, etc. He rode the bench while North Carolina went 13-13 over all and 8-8 in conference play in 2013 and 2014. The Tar Heels went 8-0 in conference play and 11-3 overall in 2015 while he attempted just 47 passes. The Tar Heels under-performed expectations (or at least rankings) and took a discernible step backwards offensively. In terms of scoring, this was the worst offense of the Larry Fedora era.
- 2015 – 40.7 Points Per Game
- 2012 – 40.6 Points Per Game
- 2014 – 33.2 Points Per Game
- 2013 – 32.7 Points Per Game
- 2016 – 32.3 Points Per Game
Who wants him?
That’s all I got/
Note: Unless specifically noted all rankings, ratings, etc. via the 247Sports Composite. Also, publish time on this bad boy was 6:00 p.m. ET on February 1, 2017. So pardon any developments in the evening.
There’s an awful lot to like about Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class, but if you’re a light follower of recruiting like myself (and like Chad) it may be hard to know where to begin. So with that in mind, I’ve sifted through the rough to find the five diamonds that you—an avid follower of recruiting or a casual Georgia fan—will find most encouraging.
1. This is Georgia’s Best Class Ranking—Maybe Ever
If you believe in college football rankings, then this is the best Georgia recruiting class ever. I believe in rankings because 1. The correlation between success in recruiting and success in games is rich and 2. The correlation between individual player ratings and NFL futures is rich. I’ve talked about this at length so do some research if you’re a nerd (check this out).
So, as a believer this class is insane relative to Georgia’s already high standards.
The 247Sports Composite (which combines all major recruiting services) has the Bulldogs ranked third in the nation. They’ve never finished higher (data going back to 2000). The 2006 class was also third (but with a lower average rating, fewer 5-star signees and fewer 4-star signees).
Rivals.com has Georgian ranked third as well. That’s the best recorded on the site (which posts data since 2002).
Scout.com pegs Georgia with the second-best class in the nation. The Bulldogs have never topped that spot.
ESPN tabs the Dawgs as the nation’s third-best class. Again, this is the best class reported by the site.
So if you buy that class rankings matter, this is an epic success for Kirby Smart! Even if you buy the myth that Georgia out-recruits its peers (it doesn’t: See Alabama, LSU and Florida over the past decade), this is a huge class.
2. This Class is Incredible – Numerically Speaking
Georgia’s average recruit rating (per 247Sports) is 92.71. That’s the third-best tally in the nation behind Ohio State (94.47) and Alabama (93.61). That’s really a fantastic number. Consider other elite classes in the last ten years (2017 classes italicized).
- 2017 Ohio State (94.47)
- 2015 Alabama (93.64)
- 2017 Alabama (93.61)
- 2014 Alabama (93.59)
- 2010 Florida (93.55)
- 2010 Texas (93.55)
- 2013 Alabama (93.25)
- 2009 USC (93.16)
- 2012 Alabama (93.09)
- 2016 Alabama (92.85)
- 2017 Georgia (92.71)
Now, the numbers above just represent individual player averages. Another way to look at this would be by evaluating 247Sports (again, they compile all sites’ data) total class ratings. For 2017 the Top 5 classes are as follows:
- Alabama: 322.53
- Ohio State: 310.97
- Georgia 300.98
- Southern Cal: 296.12
- Michigan: 293.77
Those numbers take things into account like actual class size. In other words, these ratings give preference to Alabama’s 29 signees over Ohio State’s 21, even though the average rating of committed Buckeyes was higher. This is a combination of quality and quantity.
Where does Georgia’s rating of 300.98 stack up historically? Consider how many classes bested that total over the past ten years:
- 2017: 2 (Alabama, Ohio State)
- 2016: 1 (Alabama)
- 2015: 2 (Alabama, Southern Cal)
- 2014: 1 (Alabama)
- 2013: 2 (Alabama, Ohio State)
- 2012: 1 (Alabama)
- 2011: 0
- 2010: 2 (Florida, Texas)
- 2009: 0
- 2008: 0
3. This Was NOT a Weak National Class – Georgia Just Killed It
The bullet-points above support this case. At worst, Georgia’s class rating of 300.98 would rank third among its peers in any class over the past decade. And, this class would only rank third four times in the last ten years (this year, 2015, 2013 and 2010). So by that measure, this is a strong national class. Case in point, it would have been the second-best class in the nation in 2016, 2014 and 2012. It would have been the best class in 2011, 2009 and 2008.
- Best Class in 2008: Notre Dame (294.67)
- Best Class in 2009: LSU (291.33)
- Best Class in 2011: Alabama (298.50).
Further, consider how the nation’s third-best class has held up each of the ten years prior to 2017.
|Year||No. 3 Class||Average Rating||Total Rating||5-Star||4-Star|
Now Consider Georgia’s 2017 class:
|Category||Result||Better Than No. 3 Class AVG||Rank Among Previous 10 Classes|
|Average Rating||92.71||YES||Tied – 2nd|
|5-Star Players||2||NO||Tied – 5th|
|5 & 4-Star Players||20||YES||First|
4. Georgia Landed Elite Players All Over The Field
- Richard LeCounte III is the no. 2 safety prospect in the country.
- Jake Fromm is the the no. 3 Pro-Style QB in the country.
- Deangelo Gibbs is the no. 4 safety in the country.
- D’Andre Swift is the no. 4 running back in the country.
- Malik Herring is the no. 4 strong-side defensive end in the country.
- Isaiah Wilson is the no. 5 offensive tackle in the country.
- Nate McBride is the no. 6 inside linebacker in the country.
- Netori Johnson is the no. 7 offensive guard in the country.
- Robert Beal is the no. 8 weak-side defensive end in the country.
- Jaden Hunter is the no. 9 outside linebacker in the country.
- Andrew Thomas is the no. 9 offensive tackle in the country.
- D’Marcus Hayes is the no. 2 JUCO offensive tackle in the country.
In total, 12 new Georgia signees rank among the nation’s Top 10 at their respective position. Six play offense, six play defense.
Seventeen of the nation’s Top 200 high school prospects signed with Georgia. That’s staggering. Only Alabama snagged more Top 200 players (with 18).
5. Georgia Locked Down the State
I do think in-state recruiting can get a bit blown out of proportion. Get the best players you can get; I don’t care where they’re from. But by practically every measure Georgia held its own in Peach State.
The state’s top prospect was a QB, Davis Mills, heading to Stanford. He’s regarded as the top QB in the class. Georgia got the third-best Pro-Style passer in the class (Fromm) and the No. 2 Pro-Style QB last year (Eason), so it’s not a shock that Mills went elsewhere. Aubrey Solomon, no. 3 in the state and the nation’s second-best DT went to Michigan.
Outside of that, it’s hard to find much fault with what Georgia did in-state.
Five of the Top 10 players in the state are staying home. In addition to Mills and Solomon, Georgia missed on three defensive backs—AJ Terrell, Xavier McKinney and Jaymest Williams were ranked 7th, 8th and 9th in the state respectively. But, Georgia signed two DBs who ranked second (LeCounte) and 6th (Deangelo Gibbs) in the state.
Players 11-16 in the 247 Composite State Rankings ALL chose Georgia. So 11 of the Top 16 will suit of for the red and black.
That’s all I got/
Atlanta is a better sports town than Boston. Period. And I don’t even like having sentences that simply read, “Period.” But to open this article with anything less definitive, less concise or less accurate would be a disservice to the loyal readers of this online watering hole.
“But Boston has more titles than Atlanta,” the Massholes will surely contend. I’ll yield that point, but not before posing a question. When did sports become all about numbers? People who waste time counting things rather than enjoying the moments are precisely what’s wrong with the sports world. Advanced analytics, PERs, DVOAs and BYOBs have diluted every bit of the art that once defined sports. Just ask Meryl Streep. There’s actually some underlying truth to her observation that football is not “art.” It’s not. At least not according to the Bean Counters in Beantown counting championships. Football—and every other sport for that matter—is math in Boston. I hate math. Real sports fans hate math.
In Atlanta, football is art. Atlanta fans don’t love the Falcons for the number of championships they’ve won or for the PSI figures representing deflation of balls or for the number of hours between the time their QB found out his GF was pregnant and the time he dipped out or for the number of people their former tight ends killed. No, Atlanta fans love the Falcons because they passionately enjoy the art of sport. Advantage: ATL.
And that theme—the edge for Atlanta—isn’t just a football thing. It’s across all sports.
Nerds will point to the Red Sox and their 93-69 regular season mark in professional baseball last season as proof of Boston’s “superiority.” If you’re an analytics guru that probably does seem like more than Atlanta’s 68 wins. But Braves fans value things other than wins. Atlanta fans value…well…value. With a payroll of $166,770,400 a year ago, the stuck-up, private school punks from Boston cashed in on their daddy’s credit card in a major way as the Red Sox paid $1,793,230.11 per victory. The humble, grinding, hard-nosed, never-given-anything Braves only paid $1,195,424 per W. Sports aren’t just about the money in Atlanta.
Take Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan as an example. Matt Ryan loves football. He loved it so much that he agreed to play the sport for free for several years in Boston. How’s that for passion? Unless you’ve played football at the collegiate level, you can’t comprehend the sacrifice Ryan made just to toss his beloved pigskin. But after four, arduous, miserable years in the sports-unfriendly town of Boston he just couldn’t take it any more. He took a job playing football in Atlanta. Sure, he’s making money but this was never about money for Matt Ryan. He would have kept playing for free if Boston wasn’t such a crappy town, probably. And even though he is getting paid, he’s working for a discount compared to Tom Brady. Brady took home nearly $29 million in cash this season. Ryan, a lover of sport, made less than $16 million.
How’s that for money ball, Billy Beane? Oh that’s right! Billy Beane wisely turned down overtures from the Red Sox back in 2002 so he could stay in a real sports town (Oakland). How about that? Now that’s real foresight by Mr. Beane. After all, most of Boston’s sports heroes get out of town as quickly as possible. Beane skipped that part of the process by avoiding Beantown altogether.
Think about it. Larry Bird retired at the age of 35 (from the Boston Celtics) just so he could come back out of retirement with a less flashy job back in Indiana. How insane is that? He left the spotlight in an alleged sports town so that he could take on a behind-the-scenes role in the midwest. That would be like Ryan Gosling capitalizing on whatever the hell La La Land is, retiring, leaving Hollywood and resurfacing in Nebraska as a guy who works lighting on local car dealership commercials. That would never happen because L.A. is actually a viable contender as a “good town for celebrities and movie stars.” Boston, however, is not a good town for sports. Just ask Larry Legend.
Larry wasn’t alone. Hell, the entire Boston Braves baseball organization eventually found its way to a real sports town (by way of Milwaukee) before making their way to an even realer sports county (well, that part might not be true).
And mass-exoduses aren’t just a thing for athletes and teams from Boston. It happens to sportswriters too. Bill Simmons is literally nicknamed “The Sports Guy,” and he left Boston as soon as he could. Even media personalities who criticized Simmons for leaving eventually came to their senses and left Boston for New York City.
But what about all those SPORTS in Boston? These teams are great at everything!
I bet the 17,565 people who attended Bruins games (on average) during the 2010-2011 season sure appreciated that Stanely Cup run. It’s wild that one out of every 38 Boston residents checked out those games. Oh, but I shouldn’t poke fun of hockey game attendance, should I? After all, Atlanta lost the Thrashers because attendance was so poor. Yeah, Atlanta (a real Sports Town) did dump the Thrashers after the team averaged just 13,469 fans per contest during the 2010-2011 season (the same year as the Bruins’ title). When that happened, the Thrashers were still pulling one out of every 33 Atlanta residents to home games. Atlanta was putting more butts in seats per capita than the Bruins but that wasn’t up to Atlanta’s standards, so GTFO.
But Boston fans really “get” sports. Boston is great at everything. Just look at the Celtics. Right now the Celts are sitting on a 27-18 record, well ahead of the Hawks’ 27-19 mark. Further, the Celtics are absolutely owning the Hawks in head-to-head play this year, boasting a 1-0 record thanks to a 103-101 win. Can’t compete with that success.
I mean it’s clear why teams from Atlanta are so incredibly intimidated by Boston sports teams.
It’s just hard for us Atlanta fans to not be daunted by Boston’s sports prowess. After all, Boston hosts all kinds of major events. Oh, wait. I’m thinking of Atlanta.
- Olympics: In Atlanta in 1996 // Never in Boston
- Super Bowl: In Atlanta in 1994, 2000 and upcoming in 2019 // Never in Boston
- NCAA Football Playoff Championship: In Atlanta next year // Never in Boston
- NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four: In Atlanta in 1977, 2002, 2007, 2013 and upcoming in 2020 // Never in Boston
- NBA All-Star Game: Last in Atlanta in 2003 // Last in Boston in 1964
But I’m sure all these events are in Atlanta because it’s such a crappy sports town. I’m sure they’re not in Boston because the selection committees just don’t want to make things too much nicer for such a great sports town.
But on to the game at hand.
First things first: This “dynasty” we hear about from New England? I find such chatter to rank somewhere between hilarious and incomprehensible. You do realize that the Patriots are one loss to the Falcons away from having 1-3 record in the Super Bowl over the past 12 seasons, right? Do you get that Bostonians? And the Falcons are simultaneously one win over the Pats from matching Belichick’s total number of titles over the past dozen years and quadrupling his winning percentage in Super Bowls over the same time period. Will the Falcons have a Dynasty if they win? Apparently anyone with a Super Bowl title over the past 12 years can claim a dynasty. So in that regard, I personally am one Lombardi Trophy shy of having a dynasty. Calling the Patriots a “dynasty” is like saying American Idol is the most popular show on television. I’d listen back in 2005. But I was also in high school then.
But who am I kidding. The Falcons don’t really have a chance against the Patriots.
Oh, those dominant Patriots! You know, the ones who have been outscored 300-249 in 13 all-time match-ups with the Falcons.
No one could ever match Boston’s football prowess—not this year! No one except the mighty Seattle Seahawks (who lost to the Falcons 36-20 just a few short weeks ago) and the mighty Buffalo Bills (who canned their coaching staff). Oh, who could every beat those 2016 New England Patriots?
May the best Sports Town win.
Prediction: Falcons 38, Patriots 33
Dabo Swinney, It’s OK to Act Like You’ve Never Been There Before; But You Should Act Like You’ll Be Back
I gained a lot of respect for Dabo Swinney during the playoff. I think a lot of people did. I’ve been pretty “meh” on the guy in general. The Clemsoning meme was always pretty good, but as a Georgia fan I know all about missed should-be-easy opportunities. So in that regard, I thought he was probably a better coach than the nation assumed. But I wouldn’t have classified him as a great coach. The fact remains that he lost an average of nearly four games per year over his first six full seasons (2009-2014, which excludes a 4-3 opening campaign in 2008). I thought he benefitted from a weak conference/division with a diminishing Virginia Tech program and rebuilding projects at Florida State and Miami. Obviously, Florida State is fully “back” and Miami and Virginia Tech may be headed there. But there’s something to be said for a coach who can lose five games in a season but still win his division (which Swinney did in 2009). The guy won his conference despite losing four total games in 2011.
So heading into 2016, the 2015 season seemed like it might have been an outlier. No matter how you slice it, last season stood out. Consider Dabo’s season win totals: 9, 6, 10, 11, 11, 11, 10, 14. That last number seems to pop. How about final rankings (Coaches Poll)? Unranked, Unranked, 22, 9, 7, 15, 2. Again, that second-place ranking kind of stands out.
But at the same time I felt all season long that Clemson was deserving of the playoff and on the shortlist of teams capable of beating Alabama for two very related reasons:
- They had almost beaten Alabama in last year’s national championship game*.
- Deshaun Watson is the best player in college football.
Notably, I didn’t give Dabo Swinney much credit for either of the points above. Sure he was the head coach and he got Watson on campus and put coaches in place to develop his talent and built a roster around him. But I didn’t give the guy that much credit. But credit is due now.
You’ll see the asterisk next to point number one above. And I think this is as good a place as any to remind everyone of that game. We’ve apparently all moved on from how epic last year’s national championship game was. Everyone is talking about Monday’s game and comparing it to the iconic Texas/USC BCS National Championship as the greatest title bout in modern college football history. I guess we’ve re-written or forgotten Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson last year. There were eight lead changes in that game:
- Bama leads 7-0.
- Clemson ties 7-7.
- Clemson leads 14-7.
- Bama ties 14-14.
- Bama leads 21-14 then 21-17.
- Clemson leads 24-21.
- Bama ties 24-24.
- Bama gains 31-24 lead and doesn’t relinquish it.
And there was no shortage of individual accomplishments:
- Deshaun Watson racked up 478 yards of offense and four scores.
- Jake Coker threw for 335 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs on 25 attempts.
- Four Clemson Tigers registered more than 60 yards receiving (Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Hunter Renfrow, Charone Peake).
- Derek Henry ran for 158 yards and three scores.
- O.J. Howard logged five catched for 208(!!!) yards and two TDs.
- Kenyan Drake had a 95 yard kickoff return for a TD.
That game was an all-time classic. But now that we have a newer version with an underdog victory and a revenge story, that game is forgotten. Now it’s Monday’s game vs. all the others. A 45-40 championship game is an “also ran” after a 35-31 championship game, I suppose.
Along those lines, my fear here is that recency bias and revisionist history will change the narrative of Clemson’s dramatic win over Alabama on January 9, 2017. The narrative may soon be that Deshaun Watson (again, the best player in the country by my estimation) came out and rolled the tide for 463 yards of offense and four touchdowns. The narrative may soon be shortened to “Alabama didn’t have an answer for Deshaun Watson.”
That storyline is an injustice to Watson, however. The reality is nobody has really had an answer for Deshaun Watson over the last two seasons. Sure, he racked up 941 yards of offense and eight scores against Alabama in sequential championship games. But he’s accounted for 10,431 yards of offense and 97 touchdowns over the past two seasons. This is as much about Deshaun flourishing as it is about Alabama struggling.
And that ties in to another potential injustice: a lack of credit for Dabo Swinney. People may forget Deshaun Watson’s early-game struggles. They may rightfully be overshadowed by the sum of his four quarters. But we shouldn’t forget what Dabo Swinney and his staff did for the entirety of the game.
Offensively, Clemson ran 97 plays on Monday night. 57 passes. 42 rushes. That’s nearly 23% more plays than the second most prolific play-runner Alabama faced all year—Ole Miss with 79 total plays. The Crimson Tide defense wore down. That go-go-go offensive game plan, simple and perhaps obvious, was well-executed throughout the contest even when the Tigers weren’t scoring points. Clemson had 19 plays of offense in the first quarter despite kicking off to start the game and committing a turnover. The Tigers then reeled off more than 25 offensive plays in each of the game’s final three quarters.
Defensively, the Tigers remained tough even as Alabama mounted an early lead and things seemed destined to get out of hand. After taking a 14-0 edge in the game’s first 20 minutes, Alabama was held without a touchdown for nearly 25 minutes of game time.
Swinney kept his squad tuned-in even as Alabama took a seemingly insurmountable lead. He stuck with his game plan, trusted the game plan and put his team in position to win the game. Late in the contest, he trusted his play-makers, showed patience even as some (myself included) panicked about clock management and left the Crimson Tide reeling from a gut punch with just one second remaining (is that familiar, Bama fans?).
I mention all this (the 900 words above) to say simply: I’ve got no problem with Dabo Swinney acting like he’s never been here before. He hasn’t been here before. And a lot of people, including me, didn’t expect him to be here. The dude was in elementary school the last time Clemson won a Natty. His name is Dabo for goodness sake. Dabo’s don’t get nice things. Dabo’s don’t get respect. And yet, here he is.
I gained enough appreciation for Dabo Swinney during the playoff that I’m willing to overlook post-game comments like:
And to see my guys fight, just believe me. I told them tonight, I told them that the difference in the game was going to be love. It’s been my word. My word all year’s been love. And I said, “Tonight we’re going to win it because we love each other. We’re going to love each other.”
The difference in the game was
Pick Plays Deshaun Watson Mike Williams’ recovery from multiple headshots Philanderer Lane Kiffin being replaced by recovering drunkard Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator a week before the national championship game Bo Scarbrough breaking his leg with 17 minutes to play love.
I can look past those comments because I recognize that Dabo Swinney is a better coach than I thought and I appreciate that he’s never been here before.
But going on the offensive against a sports talk radio show host like Colin Cowherd in your post-championship presser? Come on, dude. What is that? Cowherd’s certainly not above reproach. But you just won a national championship and in your press conference you’re doing this?
What was that? “I’m not a fraud, you’re a fraud. You didn’t do your homework. Print that, media. You guys only had us ranked second in the nation in the preseason behind Alabama. And guess what, we might have been the second-best team in the country with two seconds left on the clock, but with one second left and with no seconds left we were the best. You might be a fraud too. Let’s talk about all the people who didn’t see that final drive coming. I’m gonna name names while these two gentlemen flank me and look confused. We’ll celebrate tomorrow. Tonight, we name names because what’s the point of being a champion if you can’t be petty?”
I’m not calling Dabo Swinney a fraud. Colin Cowherd did that. But I will say that Dabo Swinney looks unbelievably desperate in the exact moment at which he should be at his career’s pinnacle of comfort and confidence. He just won the national championship and he looks shaken by a radio guy.
Dabo, you’re the most desperate national champion in the history of college football. You gonna call me out on that next time you win the big one?
Probably not. Because there won’t be a next time.
That’s all I got/