Category Archives: General Sports
Its taken me all week to feel up to writing this one, and I know it won’t make sense or do these people justice.
The past week in sports has been one with a lot of things to celebrate, and a lot of things to bemoan.
Tennessee fans learned that a Duck CAN pull a truck as they beat Florida for the first time since the first W administration. Georgia fans learned that the Kirby Smart era is a major work in progress. NBA teams opened camp with (insane unless you’re Golden State or Cleveland) optimism, and Notre Dame lost to Duke. In football.
Everything mentioned above is a petty reminder of why sports really matter: they are a great diversion from the realities of life. Age, the passing of time, unrest, and outright tragedy are all realities of life, and sports provided great lessons in each this past week.
If you don’t like Les Miles, you either hate LSU way too much or are blinded by your team’s colors. Miles is a man who navigated Katrina-devastated LSU through abject tragedy before coaching his first game in 2005, who told us to have a nice day after some careless reporting on the day of the SEC Championship Game, who constantly ate grass, and played it fast and loose with clock management to a terrifying extent for his 11 1/2 years in Baton Rouge.
Miles got fired on Sunday after an 18-13 loss at Auburn, when his Mad Hatter tendencies finally backfired and LSU’s last-second miracle touchdown was overturned.
Miles, escape artist that he is, was not fired because of that one result. He was fired because, as AD Joe Alleva put it (paraphrasing), “we didn’t want to start winning and go through this cycle again.” If you’ll recall, Miles was all but fired before triumphing in his ‘last’ game against Texas A&M last year. Boosters and administration still wanted him gone, and they got rid of him because they KNEW he’d survive again if they didn’t take swift action.
I’ve luckily never been fired from a job, outside of one where the North Carolina ABC threatened to shut down a pub at which I was pouring drinks at 16 years old. Les Miles was fired from a job he truly LOVED, and was able to handle it with grace I can’t imagine having.
From the Dan Patrick Show on Monday:
How were you told you were fired?
Face to face. Joe Alleva said we’re going to have to make a change. And I’m for the tigers. Anything they see that makes the Tigers better, I’m for it. I accepted the outcome and will support that decision and these Tigers going forward
Did you try to fight it?
It was beyond fighting. The enjoyment of being here, the enjoyment of community, the experiences that my family’s had, it’s too important to fight over. It’s history. It’s what we were are. If they see a change makes the tiger better, I’m for them.
If you beat Auburn, would you still be employed?
I want you to know something. How that game ends, with the Tigers fighting for their breath, maybe there’s a way the coach could’ve got them a second more. I would argue that I made those moves. One second. It’s certainly a decision that was made more appropriately over more than a second.
Was you being fired an undercurrent there or lingering?
If it was there, I went beyond it. I enjoyed going into my room and enjoying seeing the young men I recruited and I coached. If there was an undercurrent, it did not exist in the that building. What goes on inside the building just didn’t matter.
I’ve never had an opportunity to meet Les Miles. But Les Miles humanized a sport in a conference where robotic, calculated decision-making, soulless enterprises of football excellence, and canned, cold coachspeak are absolutes. He was the opposite of those things, and showed a humility, a reality, and a grace seen far too little in his profession or on this planet.
Whether he coaches again or not, I am more a Les Miles fan than on Saturday– I was already a big one. With the way he handled his exit, I hold that you should be, too.
My sports fandom began in 1995, as the Atlanta Braves won their only World Series. At 7 years old, I was conditioned to expect such success from all of my teams, and have been disappointed more times than I can count. Part of the draw of sports is the hope for triumph, but the overwhelming odds that disappointment will be the outcome. Again, the outpouring of human emotion for something that has no direct effect on your life is why we care.
Kevin Garnett started his NBA career in the same year, meaning that I have watched him toil, dominate, get close, toil, get traded, and finally succeed over the exact same lifespan as my fandom. He was the prototype of the modern power forward in the NBA, yet a tragic figure who could never get the supporting cast to get over the hump in the NBA.
Garnett was, by all measures, a freaking psychopath on the court. I think about how much I care about sports, and it feels trivial compared to KG. A 6’11 behemoth of athleticism routinely headbutted basket stanchions, give primal yells in meaningless December games, and wore his emotions on his progressively-broader shoulders– and he did so for 21 years.
Garnett played in the league for 13 years before reaching the top. To this day, there is no greater example of exuberance or joy in reaching the pinnacle, giving one’s blood, sweat and tears for a happy ending.
As KG’s skills regressed, he returned with much fanfare to Minneapolis, and in one year passed the torch to a cast of Timberwolves who may well represent the future of the NBA.
Kevin Garnett: the gift that gave nightly through his antics, for 21 years, and may continue to give through his leadership. Despite unrealistic expectations of more, the above clip shows that 1 out of 21, in sports, is not bad.
I really didn’t know what to do with Arnold Palmer’s passing in this piece. To live a full life of 85 years, be by FAR the most-well liked of many legendary contemporaries, and have a delicious drink named after oneself…anyone can hope to live to that, and in passing, be a cause for celebration, not grief. I know no less than 25 people who met The King, and no less than 15 who posted pictures with him on Facebook on Sunday night. I struggle to think of a single negative thing I’ve ever read about the man– he was gentle, courteous, patient, and universally beloved.
That fits more into ‘grace’ or ‘finality’ than it does tragedy, but for the world to lose such a revered soul is always a tragedy.
The other sports death on Sunday was much, much harder to stomach.
Due to the waning popularity of baseball in my age demographic, I don’t know how many of my contemporaries got a chance to marvel at Jose Fernandez, or even knew who he was. Fernandez was a Cuban pitcher, 24 years old, and a Miami Marlin. From a team standpoint, a Cuban superstar in the heart of Miami was a marketing coup for a team always finding itself on the wrong side of the PR battle. Fernandez was certainly that and more on the field, compiling a 29-2 record with a 1.49 ERA in Marlins Park over his career. His career ERA of 2.56 was also remarkable given his age– better than Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, and countless other legends.
For his exploits on the mound, Fernandez was more an embodiment of what contemporary Bryce Harper so callously claims to do– “make baseball fun again”. Jose Fernandez epitomized that with his actions on a daily basis:
His story? Oh, one where he tried to defect from Cuba FOUR times before making it to the U.S., saving his mother from drowning on the successful journey. One where his grandmother, the most influential person in his life, sat on a tin roof in Cuba to listen to his starts. One where his girlfriend just last week announced she was pregnant with his child.
SBNation’s Grant Brisbee said it best about Jose: he was pure joy. Nobody knew to fully appreciate him until it was far too late, until baseball and sports reminded us why we can channel human emotion through the exploits of millionaires playing a child’s sport:
— Chad Floyd (@Chad_Floyd) September 26, 2016
— BeatinTheBookie™ (@BeatinTheBookie) September 26, 2016
The magic of sports: withdrawn from our personal lives, from the tribulations of the world, but still something that allows us to feel. We’ll see an all-too-soon 30 For 30 on Jose Fernandez, and it’ll be excellent. Billy Corben will be able to funnel all of the emotion of the past 72 hours and put it in a digestible format….and it won’t do the human Jose Fernandez was justice. One more snippet into that:
But he also had a big heart, McGehee said.
“The toughest part for me has been having to tell my son,” McGehee said, choking back tears.
McGehee’s son Mack has cerebral palsy and formed a close bond with Fernandez.
“I think everybody knows about my son and some of the struggles that he deals with,” McGehee said. “A lot of people don’t really know how to treat him. But for some reason, Jose had a heart for him.
“I’d get to the field and it wasn’t like, ‘Hey Jose, do you mind keeping an eye on him while I hit?’ It was, Jose coming to grab him and they were together from the time I got to the field to the time my wife came to pick him up. I think that really says a lot about what was truly in his heart and what kind of a guy he was.”
Sport, in the context of life, really should be less of a priority than it is for me, or anyone digging this deep enough into the internet on this Wednesday morning for a diversion– but that’s what it is, a diversion that humanizes us by allowing us to feel raw human emotion without having to experience it directly.
As Jim Valvano once said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s one heck of a day.” If you remembered the goofy, appalling, and downright hilarious exploits of Les Miles upon his firing, you laughed. If you reflected on KG’s or Arnie’s legacy, you had a chance to think. And if you reflected on the passing of Jose Fernandez, you are either a robot or you cried, at least a little bit.
I guess that’s why sports are important. We get to live and die by the actions of complete strangers in the name of what’s on the front of the jerseys. We fall in love with brands, individuals, and in some cases shape the human experience based on triumphs and failures. And we are provided an escape to express emotions– good or bad, jovial or furious– in a safe haven that, if done responsibly, allows us to grow emotionally without any real consequences to life.
If only life could be so inconsequential.
Rest in peace, Jose and Arnold.
Below is an update of all former Georgia Bulldogs on NFL rosters (as of Tuesday morning).
A few names notably absent:
- Marlon Brown: After going undrafted in 2013, Brown started 15 games and appeared in 38 contests with the Baltimore Ravens over the past three years. He logged 87 catches, 891 receiving yards and seven touchdown hauls. He signed with the Broncos in late July but was released about a week later. He has not been picked back up.
- Amarlo Herrera: A sixth round pick in 2015, Herrera appeared in just three games as a rookie with the Colts. He was released and claimed off waivers by the Titans but cut once more.
- Ramik Wilson: Herrera’s counterpart at middle backer from his Georgia days has also been cut. Wilson was a fourth round pick in 2015 and appeared in 10 games as a rookie (including two starts). He was released by the Chiefs two days ago. Expect him to show up on a roster sooner than later.
And on the bright side of things:
- Tavarres King: King has latched on with the Giants thanks to a strong preseason finale. A fifth round pick by Denver in 2013, King has bounced around but struggled to find a home. He logged seven catches for 126 yards and three TDs during the preseason.
- Orson Charles: Charles may have found a home in Detroit thanks to a slew of injuries at his position, but he’s poised to be the no. 2 man at his position behind Eric Ebron.
Here’s the full list:
|Drew Butler||P||Arizona Cardinals||Active / Starter|
|Aaron Murray||QB||Arizona Cardinals||Practice Squad|
|Chris Mayes||DT||Atlanta Falcons||Injured Reserve|
|Benjamin Watson||TE||Baltimore Ravens||Injured Reserve|
|Cordy Glenn||OT||Buffalo Bills||Active / Starter|
|Charles Johnson||DE||Carolina Panthers||Active / Starter|
|Thomas Davis||OLB||Carolina Panthers||Active / Starter|
|Cornelius Washington||DE||Chicago Bears||Active / Starter|
|Leonard Floyd||OLB||Chicago Bears||Active / Backup|
|Brandon Boykin||DB||Chicago Bears||Injured Reserve|
|Shawn Williams||SS||Cincinnati Bengals||Active / Starter|
|A.J. Green||WR||Cincinnati Bengals||Active / Starter|
|Geno Atkins||DT||Cincinnati Bengals||Active / Starter|
|Clint Boling||OG||Cincinnati Bengals||Active / Starter|
|Orson Charles||TE||Detroit Lions||Active / Backup|
|Matthew Stafford||QB||Detroit Lions||Active / Starter|
|Corey Moore||DB||Houston Texans||Active / Backup|
|Akeem Dent||ILB||Houston Texans||Active / Backup|
|Sterling Bailey||DE||Indianapolois Colts||Practice Squad|
|Abry Jones||DT||Jacksonville Jaguars||Active / Backup|
|Chris Conley||WR||Kansas City Chiefs||Active / Backup|
|Justin Houston||OLB||Kansas City Chiefs||Active / Starter|
|Alec Ogletree||LB||Los Angeles Rams||Active / Starter|
|Todd Gurley||RB||Los Angeles Rams||Active / Starter|
|Reshad Jones||SS||Miami Dolphins||Active / Starter|
|Blair Waslh||K||Minnesota Vikings||Active / Starter|
|Toby Johnson||DT||Minnesota Vikings||Practice Squad|
|David Andrews||C||New England Patriots||Active / Starter|
|Malcolm Mitchell||WR||New England Patriots||Active / Backup|
|John Jenkins||DT||New Orleans Saints||Active / Backup|
|Damian Swann||DB||New Orleans Saints||Injured Reserve|
|Dannell Ellerbe||OLB||New Orleans Saints||Active / Starter|
|Tavarres King||WR||New York Giants||Active / Backup|
|Jordan Jenkins||OLB||New York Jets||Active / Starter|
|Jarvis Jones||OLB||Pittsburgh Steelers||Active / Starter|
|John Theus||OT||San Francisco 49ers||Active / Backup|
|Garrison Smith||DT||Seattle Seahawks||Active / Backup|
|Ben Jones||C||Tennessee Titans||Active / Starter|
|Kedric Golston||NT||Washington Redskins||Active / Starter|
|Keith Marshall||RB||Washington Redskins||Injured Reserve|
A quick run down on every Georgia Bulldog currently (August 22, 2016) listed on NFL rosters…sorted by division:
New York Jets
- Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Rookie – 4 Total tackles, listed as starter
- Fernando Velasco, C, 7th Year – 2nd team
- Cordy Glenn, T, 6th Year – listed as starter
New England Patriots
- Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Rookie – 4 catches, 55 yards and an injury in debut. Out for several weeks with elbow injury but looking strong.
- David Andrews, C, 2nd Year – Listed as 2nd team center
- Reshad Jones, SS, 7th Year – Total boss.
- Shawn Williams, SS, 4th Year – One tackle in preseason, listed as starter at SS.
- A.J. Green, WR, 5th Year – One of the best receivers in the game. 5 catches for 48 yards in limited preseason action.
- Geno Atkins, DT, 7th Year – Another monster and staple of this team. One sack in preseason.
- Michael Bennett, WR – 2nd Year – Deep in a position battle for a roster spot. Of note: bio has the wrong Michael Bennett – not a great sign.
- Clint Boling, G, 6th Year – Starter at LG.
- Ben Watson, TE, 45th Year – Listed as starter at TE
- Jarvis Jones, OLB, 4th Year – Listed as starter at ROLB.
- None. Though Isaiah Crowell is listed as the starter at RB.
- Ben Jones, C, 5th Year – Starter at center.
- Amarlo Herrera, LB, 2nd Year – Herrera just arrived after getting cut by the Colts (where he appeared in 3 games as a rookie). He’s not on the depth chart, but that’s probably just a timing thing.
- Abry Jones, DT, 4th Year – Jones went undrafted in 2013, but has appeared in 39 career games and made two starts. He’s listed as 2nd on the depth chart.
- Corey Moore, DB, 2nd Year – 6 total tackles in two preseason games, listed 3rd on the FS depth chart.
- Akeem Dent, ILB, 6th Year – 4 tackles in preseason play, listed 2nd on the depth chart.
- Starling Bailey, DE, Rookie – Totally forgot about this guy. but he’s logged 4 tackles in preseason play and listed as second on the depth chart at LDE.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Ramik Wilson, ILB, 2nd Year – Wilson has logged 6 tackles this preseason and is listed 2nd on the depth chart.
- Justin Houston, OLB, 6th Year – Preseason is for suckers not named Justin Houston.
- Aaron Murray, QB, 3rd Year – Murray is in a fight for a job with the addition of Nick Foles, but he’s 8 of 154 passing for 110 yards. 3 Fumbles (one lost) in week 2 won’t help, though.
- Chris Conley, WR, 2nd Year – Conley is competing for a starting spot.
San Diego Chargers
- Keith Marshall, RB, Rookie – Not a great start for the 7th round pick. Marshall has 15 carries for 25 yards. He got plenty of shots last week though (10 carries, 26 yards, long of 10). He’s also added three catches for just seven yards. Practice Squad might be the best hope, but he is currently listed as 3rd on the depth chart so who knows?
- Kedric Golston, NT, 11th Year – Listed as starter.
New York Giants
- Tavarres King, WR, 3rd Year – King has one catch for eight yards. He’s listed as third team at the WR1 spot which puts him in contention for a roster spot.
Green Bay Packers
- Matthew Stafford, QB, 8th Year – Stafford will be the starter in Detroit; you heard it here first.
- Orson Charles, TE, 4th Year – Insane that Charles hasn’t caught on more securely. But he’s showin’ up in Detroit – six catches for 55 yards. Injuries to guys in front of him have him in position to make the team.
- Jake Ganus, LB, Rookie – Ganus has logged three tackles in preseason play and the Vikings are undefeated so he might be the key to that. He’s listed third as his position and should at least get a spot on the Practice Squad.
- Blair Walsh, K, 5th year – Walsh is 2/3 on FG this preseason. He’s the starter and only Kicker listed on the depth chart.
- Toby Johnson, DT, 1st year – Listed fourth on the depth chart and struggling for PT.
- Cornelius Washington, DE, 4th year – 3 tackles and a sack in week one.
- Leonard Floyd, OLB, Rookie – 4 total tackles in preseason play and half a sack.
- Brandon Boykin, DB, 5th year – He’s in Chi-town now, apparently.
- Chris Mayes, DT, Rookie – Listed 4th on the depth chart.
- Arthur Lynch, TE, 2nd Year? – Really would have pegged Lynch as a solid NFL TE. Alas, he’s been on several rosters (Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Falcons) and yet to make headway on a roster. No catches this preseason.
- Charles Johnson, DE, 10th Year – 1 tackle this preseason, starter at LDE.
- Ray Drew, DE, 2nd Year – Fourth at his position with no logged stats.
- Thomas Davis, OLB, 12th year – 2 tackles this preseason, starter at WLB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints
- John Jenkins, DT, 4th Year – 2nd on the depth chart.
- Damian Swann, CB, 2nd Year – 1 Preseason tackle, third on depth chart, battling concussion issues.
- Dannell Ellerbe, LB, 8th Year – 6 tackles in last week’s preseason game, listed as starter.
- Drew Butler, P, 4th year – Starter at punter position, he’s licking well.
San Francisco 49ers
- John Theus, OT, Rookie – Listed 3rd on the depth chart. Will at least garner Practice Squad time.
- Garrison Smith, DT, 2nd year – 7 tackles and one sack in strong preseason play, he’s listed as 3rd on the depth chart but has a real shot this year.
- DeAngelo Tyson, DE, 4th Year – A utility d-lineman, Tyson should make the roster.
Los Angeles Rams
- Todd Gurley, RB, 2nd year – Best RB in the game?
- Alec Ogletree, OLB, 4th year – Locked-in starter at OLB.
There you have it. That’s the crew. Nearly 50 damn good Dawgs. I’ll check in later in the preseason with an update.
That’s all I got/
(Post-publish edit: I cherrypicked data for simplicity because I have a day job, but am hoping to make a part 2 about what Georgia can do to change this later.)
Despite the recent struggles and Les Miles drama, LSU has consistently been the second-best recruiting program in the country over the Alabama Death Star Dynasty Era. Why have they been able to do this, despite HEAVY coaching turmoil, a slipping defense, and an offense that puts out top-flight NFL talent but struggles at the collegiate level?
They absolutely DOMINATE the state of Louisiana.
Of their current 22 commits (in potentially the first class ever to consist of 20 4 and 5-star talents), a whopping 16 are from the gumbo state. Given the lack of power conference competition in-state, it makes sense. They have border rivals in Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and of course always have Alabama lurking for the cream of the crop, but they have been able to lock down the state in a way Georgia hasn’t.
I’m not going to ignore the fact that Georgia has more ‘local’ recruiting rivals. Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, and to a lesser extent Florida State, Tennessee, and South Carolina likely have their primary focus on the Peach State. And the metro Atlanta area is imminently more transient than anywhere in Louisiana– many high school players (not researching these numbers) relocate to Georgia over the course of their lives and don’t feel the pull to stay at home.
It still begs the question, though: why isn’t Georgia keeping more of these guys at home, where a drive from metro Atlanta to Athens for parents is a 90-minute drive?
We all recall the ‘Georgia Dream Team’ from the 2011 recruiting class, which can now be classified as a failure. The fact is, Georgia could build an even stronger recruiting and gameday force if they could keep even half of the state’s top 25 at home. DeShaun Watson and Cam Newton come to mind. But just going back to 2013, you see:
2013: 0 of the top 7, including Robert Nkemdiche, Carl Lawson, and Montravious Adams. #8 was Tray Matthews, so Georgia essentially was shut out of the top 10. Of the top 15, Georgia had one on campus for more than one year: Brice Ramsey.
2014: 3 of the top 5: Carter, Chubb, Parrish. But famously coming in late on Watson indirectly cost Mark Richt his job. Raekwon McMillan is a future first-round pick at Ohio State. And the Dawgs were shut out on players 6-15, losing three each to South Carolina and Auburn, and two more to Clemson.
2015: Richt’s strongest effort in recent memory. 5 of the top 10, including Trent Thompson, Roquan Smith, and Terry Godwin, among others. The losses of Taj Griffin and Clemson’s day-1 starting LT, Mitch Hyatt, though, sting.
2016: Currently, Georgia is shut entirely out of the top seven, with enrolled DT Julian Rochester the highest-ranked Georgia commit.
To compare to LSU:
2013: 8 of the top 15, 7 of the top 8. Sweet Jesus.
2014: 8 of the top 15, 5 of the top 10, and a guy named Leonard Fournette.
2015: 9 of the top 15, including the top three.
2016: 10 of the top 15, including ALL EIGHT current commits ranked in the top 10.
Over the past 3 1/2 recruiting classes, LSU has secured commits from 35 of its state’s top 60 players. Georgia? 17, with the likelihood that they’ll add 1-3 more next week.
All told, LSU has struggled on gamedays due to scheme and being just slightly less Alabama than Alabama. Given Georgia’s recent struggles, we’re in the same boat except with lesser talent. If the Dawgs are to successfully challenge Alabama (which, given the Smart hire, they intend to do), they need to fence the state.
The 2013 class, of which Georgia has zero top-15 contributors, could have been an early sign of Mark Richt’s demise. The 2014 failure to bring in a QB, namely Watson, was the death knell.
There may be a followup to this, but the simple fact is this: LSU is crushing recruiting in-state, and is a schematic adjustment away from being the LSU juggernaut of the past 10 years. Georgia is getting killed by local rivals, and needs to shift its focus to keeping its top players (in the top per-capita state for collegiate talent) at home.
Got the opportunity to chat with Max Tyler of ESPN specifically about his piece on Tennessee football and the Abernathy brothers, and about race in the SEC in general. This was recorded last Wednesday, prior to the activism of the Mizzou football team, give it a listen.
Read Max’s piece here.
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