Tag Archives: chip kelly

Huskies Ready to Go Duck Hunting

If you’re an Oregon Ducks fan, think about why you call yourself that before you read on and get all offended.  I’m betting most of you began rooting for them when Chip Kelly got there and won a Pac-12 title in 2009.  Spare me.

You had to know that stretch of success would come to an end.  When did you realize it was over?  Was it that bulldozing you took from Ohio State?  Or, maybe it was before that when Chip Kelly took off for the NFL and left you with Mark Helfrich.  Either way, you’re done.  It’s over.  I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Power in college football is cyclical.  There are no exceptions.  Oregon thrived over the better part of the past decade because a lot of things started going well.  Nike took over uniform design and ran with it.  At the time, it was impossible to know this was the first layer of a new strategy that would go on to revolutionize the sportswear and college recruiting industries.

I don’t think Nike wants to create a whole new Oregon football uniform for every single game, but the expectation is there now.  This one here is my personal all-time favorite, by the way.  To roll out something the Ducks have already worn would be to disappoint those checking in to see what they’re wearing.  That’s all many of us will be doing this weekend.  Seeing the score, we’ll either turn it right back to the inevitably closer game we’re watching or stay tuned to enjoy the duck hunt.

Breaking news: Dakota Prukop is not Vernon Adams, who was not Marcus Mariota.  I smell a couple picks.  If he even starts, that is. Really, it won’t matter who starts behind center.  The Washington Huskies are going to make sure there are no smiling Ducks this weekend.

Did you see what Washington did to a good team last Friday?  Now imagine what’ll happen Saturday against an Oregon team that’s lost to Nebraska, Colorado and Washington State its last three times out.  I mean, the Huskies laid a beatdown on Stanford the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2014.  That was the last time this game was played in Eugene, when the Ducks blew out the Cardinal, 45-16, on their way to that lopsided national championship duel with the Buckeyes.  More breaking news: this isn’t 2014 and the Huskies aren’t pushovers anymore.

If there is a bright spot for the Ducks this weekend, it’s that they’ll be remembered as the second-best road win on Washington’s Playoff resume.  The Autzen Stadium crowd brings the noise and it’ll be fun for them to have at least this one big game this fall, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re so clearly overmatched on the field.

There’s a new top dog in the Pac-12 North and you’ll get your double confirmation when the Huskies wipe the turf with the Ducks, no matter what they’re wearing.  I hope you like Chinese turkey.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Great Gatzke

Photo: Wikipedia

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Can the Oregon Ducks Come Out of their Downward Spiral?

Success can be a difficult thing to attain. It can also be a difficult thing to hang onto. If you doubt that, just ask any Oregon Ducks fan right now. There are more Duck fans flying off the bandwagon than there are actual ducks heading south right now. What has happened to the Oregon Ducks?

Depends on who you ask.

I believe it has come down to recruiting and the inability to develop a quarterback, but not Mark Helfrich.

Let’s start with recruiting.

The Ducks don’t recruit the type of player they have in the past. The lack of playmakers on the team is apparent to anybody that watches Oregon games. Players like Marcus Mariota, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, and Patrick Chung aren’t walking through the doors of the football facilities at Oregon anytime soon.

From 2010-12 the Ducks put together recruiting classes that ranked in the top-15 nationally. Let’s also remember that this was during the Chip Kelly years. The recruiting classes that Kelly put together had an average of 10 players that had a four-star rating attached to their name. Getting that many quality players for three years was bound to make a difference for the Ducks. Here’s the issue though:

Since 2013, the average rank of Oregon’s recruiting classes has been 21st. The amount of four-star players has dipped to seven on average, and the Ducks have only had two five-star players since 2013.

Let’s face the reality that coaches face. Talented players make their coaches look brilliant, but when the talent is running thin, that same coach doesn’t look so amazing anymore.

For the Ducks to get back to what the Ducks were a few seasons ago, they have to hit the recruiting trail harder. Oregon has to sell the University of Oregon much better. The mistake I think the Ducks make is that the their coaches believe that players are just lining up to come to Eugene. They are not lining up anymore. Not that they really were.

Oregon is not Ohio State or Alabama.

Secondly, since Marcus Mariota took his Heisman Trophy playmaking skills to the NFL, the Ducks haven’t had any consistency at the quarterback position. It’s hard to replace a legend at a school, but you need to at least have a plan in place to find someone to fill that role.

The logical choice may have been Jeff Lockie, but he came in and looked like he had never played football before. He was dreadful. Vernon Adams Jr, a graduate transfer, came from Eastern Washington University and played pretty well, but injuries hurt Adam’s overall effectiveness with the Ducks.

You would think the Oregon coaching staff would have a redshirt-freshman who might be able to take over the offense for the next few seasons.

Nope.

Oregon went fishing in the graduate transfer waters again, bringing Dakota Prukop up from the depths of Montana State. What has he provided?

Well, Prukop hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t horrible either. In effect, he has been a game manager. Prukop isn’t throwing for an insane amount of yards per game, but he’s not Jeff Lockie either.

With Oregon’s recent struggles, some have questioned whether or not Prukop can stay in his starting role. Some media types and fans want the Ducks to see what freshman Justin Herbert can do.

The most popular player on the team is always the back-up quarterback. However, Herbert has not taken any meaningful snaps and people want this young kid thrown out onto the field against the Husky defense this weekend? If you do that you risk his confidence being shattered into a thousand pieces. The Washington defense is nothing to take lightly. Put Dakota Prukop out there. It’s the smart move to make, Oregon.

Lastly, the coaching always comes under fire when things don’t go well. Especially considering the fragile mental state of most Oregon fans. The program has not been relevant for long, but the program acts like they have been around forever. This little downturn with their win/loss record is a reminder that you have to work hard to keep the talent coming.

Should Mark Helfrich be fired?

No.

Who do the Ducks think will come to Eugene? Not Les Miles or Tom Herman. Mark Helfrich is not Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, but those type of elite coaches are the exception, not the rule. I don’t see a better candidate available for this program.

The Oregon program has always wanted their football coach to represent the school in a classy way, positively represent the state of Oregon, and to conduct his life with integrity. To anybody outside the state of Oregon that may be hard to understand, but that is how it’s always been. Mark Helfrich does those things.

This is Helfrich’s first season of losing and now people want him gone. You want to fire a coach with a 35-11 record? That translates to a 76% win percentage. Yeah, that makes lousy sense. The tendency to have these knee jerk reactions is a symptom of social media. A quick fix is not going to change anything for Oregon. Helfrich knows the game and he relates to his players well. Helfrich is the guy for this football program.

You know what changes things for football teams? Talent. Recruit playmakers, Oregon. You got great talent to come to the little town of Eugene before. You can do it again.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Email Mike at mike (dot) wilson (at) campuspressbox (dot) com or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Mark Helfrich Is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis

These days, the only thing more aflame than Oregon’s uniforms is coach Mark Helfrich’s hot seat.

Just two seasons after finishing runners-up in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Ducks stare down the barrel of extending a three-game losing streak to four in this week’s matchup against the #5 Washington Huskies. They’re allowing 210 rushing yards per game, they’re the sixth-most penalized team in college football, and they’re endangering their shot at earning a bowl invitation.

How have Oregon fans responded? By launching a GoFundMe page to bankroll Helfrich’s massive buyout.

Have faith Oregon fans. At the time of this writing, there’s only $10,999,790 left to go.

To his credit, Helfrich isn’t making any excuses. “Anything that’s bad in this program is my responsibility,” he insisted after a disappointing loss to Nebraska. “Anything you think of that’s bad is my fault.” Don’t get me wrong- that degree of integrity and accountability in a head coach is truly admirable. I like Mark Helfrich. Maybe he doesn’t know a lick about how to play defense (or how to choose a defensive coordinator), but Mark Helfrich is still a quality individual.

Except, quality individuals make awful head coaches. As far as I can tell, that’s the college football reality we live in. Show me a coach with 409 career wins, and I’ll show you someone who reprehensibly covered the tracks of a child rapist. Oh, is it too soon for those questionable Joe Paterno references? Apparently, it isn’t too soon for Penn State to roll out the red carpet in questionably honoring him.

Also, I’m almost certain one of the top five coaches in college football spends his Sundays posterizing middle schoolers at the local YMCA. Is that coach Jim Harbaugh? The world may never know.

Enabling sexual assault. Committing blatant recruiting violations. Hiring coaches recovering from alcoholism. That’s the kind of college-football-isn’t-supposed-to-be-fun mentality you need to coach in college football. Mark Helfrich lacks that mentality. Mark Helfrich looks more like Kermit the Frog than somebody willing to drown a litter of puppies to secure a five-star recruit. When I see Jimbo Fisher, I see a man who would trample a sea of helpless baby orangutans just to re-polish the encased ACC Championship trophies perched so prominently atop his mantle.

Helfrich is clearly more understated than his mentor and predecessor, and while that can have its benefits, it doesn’t help him in either recruiting or developing players and assistant coaches. Helfrich earned his reputation under Chip Kelly by tutoring a number of high-skill quarterbacks, including, most notably, Marcus Mariota. Truth be told, Chip Kelly and Scott Frost (currently at UCF) deserve an enormous amount of the credit assigned to Helfrich. As luck would have it, both men have surfaced in coaching carousel discussions surrounding a potential Helfrich departure.

Helfrich is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis. The latter halves of the comparison each continued onto questionable coaching careers in the NFL. The former half failed to fill the shoes of their coaching mentors. The University of Miami has finally left a downward spiral triggered by inept coaching. If the Ducks don’t act fast, now may be only the beginning of that spiral.

Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti built the Oregon program to stardom in the previous two decades, yet a decision to stand pat with an average coach in Helfrich threatens every last ounce of that stardom. The Ducks are currently trending away from a winning season and trending away from the offensive firepower that led them to a national championship. A handful of graduate transfers at quarterback have kept the program momentarily afloat, but in a matter of years, the full incompetence of the Helfrich regime will become fully exposed.

And by then, it’ll be too late.

Oregon tried and failed to maintain operations in-house. It’s time for the athletic department to expand the coaching search beyond the boundaries of Eugene- and whatever the hell they call that offense- to bring in an regularly-credentialed asshole with some know-how. If the Ducks waste the 2017 season with a proven lost cause at the helm, who knows whether the former glory of the Oregon program can ever be fully salvaged.

Then again, at least they’ll always have those jerseys.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia

Pac-12 Coaching Hot Seats for the 2016 Season

The Pac-12 football schedule is a brutal one for it’s coaches. The conference schedule doesn’t really allow for any team to take a “week off” in terms of preparation because any team can be any team on any given Saturday. Besides the bye weeks, there are no weeks off for coaches and their teams due to the great competition.

The toll this competition takes on coaches is immense. It creates a precarious job situation for them because the pressure to win is always present. With that said, what are the Pac-12 coaching hot seats for 2016. Let’s take a look.

Rich Rodriguez

How close was Coach Rodriguez to leaving the University of Arizona last winter? I would say pretty close. The job offer from South Carolina was real and was for about $1.3 million more than he makes from the Wildcats. So, why would the seat be hot for him?

Well, he is coming off a year in which his program underperformed. Arizona won the Pac-12 South division in 2014, with a little help from UCLA, but wasn’t even close to winning the division in 2015.

Injuries to Anu Solomon and Scooby Wright III hindered the team for a good portion of the season. Not having a ton of experience on their second string hindered what the Wildcats could do on the field. It didn’t happen for the Wildcats.

That speaks to his recruiting job at Arizona. Rodriguez isn’t exactly getting the results out of the guys he has recruited to Arizona. Can he turn this trend around? It remains to be seen and I have my doubts due to my belief that his heart is at Arizona for the long-term.

I don’t think his seat his hot. It’s more of a warm seat than anything, but he certainly has something to prove in 2016.

Rodriguez has to show the fans that there is something to be excited about when they come to watch the Wildcats. There isn’t any excitement around the program coming into next year and that can be a very difficult thing to change, especially in the Pac-12.

I’m not sure if he senses this, but if he is already sniffing around at other jobs, another sub-par season at Arizona just may seal his fate with Wildcat Nation.

Todd Graham

Arizona State is bit of an enigma to many people because it should be a school that is easy to recruit to due to its great weather and shall we say, pretty people. However, one thing has severely lacked in the last 20 years or so: consistent winning. Winning does cure many ills with a program and ASU just has not had it.

Todd Graham comes in with his no nonsense discipline and changes the culture of the program after Dennis Erickson nearly left it in shambles. With a sub-par season in 2015, the Sun Devil faithful are looking at the program with a bit of skepticism. The Sun Devils ended last season with a thud by getting beat by West Virginia in the  Cactus Bowl held in Phoenix.  They were beat in their own backyard. It was not a good look for the program and it put them at 6-7 for the year.

The fans and administration want a return to what the program was trending toward at the end of 2014. The Sun Devils ended that year 10-3, and a bowl game win over a much-improved Duke program had Arizona State fans thinking that a possible playoff berth was in order.

Nope. It all came crashing down last year.

Graham has to right the ship to keep the heat off of him and his revamped staff. There were many changes to his staff last season and he has to get his staff all on the same page with what their goals will be, or 2016 could be even worse for the Sun Devil program.

Mark Helfrich

Is the run of winning big over for the Ducks? Many people are asking that question about mighty Oregon and they are turning their eyes right at Mark Helfrich.

The home-state guy who took over the program from Chip Kelly has certainly had some success. His Ducks made the first ever College Football Playoff. He had a Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota. I believe he is a good coach, but he’s no Chip Kelly.

For as much hate as Chip Kelly took from the Oregon faithful over his lack of kissing the fans’ backsides, he did what no other coach has been able to do at Oregon. Win and win big. He developed players, especially quarterbacks, and that is something people are starting to question about Helfrich.

For two straight years, the Ducks have gone fishing into the lower division school pond to get their starting quarterback. Last year it was Vernon Adams. This year it’s Dakota Prukop.

Is Helfrich going to be able to maintain the level of expectations at Oregon by doing this? I don’t think so.

Oregon Duck fans are a fickle bunch and when things appear to be headed down they get real impatient with the coaches. They will voice displeasure loudly and repeatedly in any forum they can use.

Helfrich’s seat is not boiling hot, but it is certainly toasty.

With last season’s bowl game disaster against TCU still fresh in everybody’s mind, Coach Helfrich has to have his Ducks come out of the gate like gangbusters in 2016 and have some very dominating wins. Otherwise, his toasty seat becomes hot.

Image: Creative Commons

Clay Helton Will Fight On

USC is a brand second to none in the world of college football and with that comes a ton of scrutiny on the program. Over the last few years it has been negative scrutiny that has many people thinking the program is overrated and not as attractive a job as it once was. I have always scoffed at that thought.

College has its blue-blood type programs such as Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, and certainly USC. Does every program go through some tough times? Absolutely and USC has been experiencing some of those tough times in the last few years. From the Reggie Bush sanctions, Lane Kiffin getting fired at LAX, Steve Sarkisian being an alcoholic, and having Clay Helton take over this storied program mid-season for the SECOND time.

For all these negatives surrounding USC and many questioning what AD Pat Haden is doing, they got one right with the hiring of Clay Helton. He’s an adult. He’s disciplined. The players respond to him. He’s won over the locker room. When players want to play for you and they buy into what their coach is trying to do, success is going to follow you. When I say that Helton is an adult, I mean he’s the coach. He’s the one in control, and he’s there to be the mentor for the young men that have chosen to be under his watch at USC.

The other part of this that people will talk about is the aspect of hiring from within the program. When programs hire from within some people get pretty nervous about that prospect. But if you look within the Pac-12, it has worked out fairly well. Stanford hired David Shaw, Utah hired Kyle Whittingham, and Oregon hired Mark Helfrich. When you hire from within you get the continuity that every program strives for. I get that people believe that the Trojans had a shot of landing any coach that they wanted, but would that coach come to them? I still don’t believe the Chip Kelly rumors about him coming out to USC to coach. Was Clay Helton an easy out? Possibly. Did USC AD Pat Haden have to interview anybody? No, he didn’t. If, in Haden’s mind, he had what he thought was a good fit for the program, then Helton fit the bill for him.

USC football will always be one of the top jobs in the country, but for the Trojans to wait would have been a mistake. Clay Helton went 5-2 over the course of the season. He destroyed cross-town rival UCLA on Saturday. He has USC playing for the Pac-12 Championship against Stanford. And he knows the culture of USC/Los Angeles area. Knowing how things run at a university is an important part of running a program and if the Trojans hired somebody else who didn’t know the culture of the school or city, it could have been a disaster for the program. Continuity can be one of the understated parts of running a program the size of USC.

The amount of talent that USC has is immense and the amount of talent that they will continue to acquire will be much the same. The kind of talent that is walking around the field at USC is the type of talent that can win national championships. National championships are the reason players go to USC to play football. They’re a big part of the program’s long, storied past.

What do the Trojans have in Clay Helton? They have a kind of vanilla, boring type of guy. He’s certainly not the media darling Pete Carroll who created a huge monster when he was in control of the Trojans in the early 2000’s. Helton gives boring answers to the media, doesn’t really talk about himself, and gives the attention to the players instead of himself. More importantly, he’s NOT Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian who brought drama to the program almost weekly. Most people don’t know much about Helton, except that he is getting things done on the field and that his players love him. For USC Trojan fans, that is exactly what they should want out of their football coach. For as many people that wanted or thought that USC should go out and get a big name coach, maybe, Clay Helton is EXACTLY what they need. Pat Haden believes so.

“Clay was not hired because his team defeated UCLA on Saturday. He was not hired because many current and former players voiced their support for him. And he was not hired because he is a Trojan. He is our choice because we believe he can win Pac-12 and national championships here.” Said Pat Haden in a statement on Monday.

For those who question this hiring, let me remind you of a USC hire that had many people scratching their heads. The hiring of Pete Carroll led many to question if USC had lost their swagger in the world of college football. We know how that went. Carroll brought back the brand of USC. Why can’t Helton do that? He can. Plus, he has more talent on the roster than Pete Carroll had when he took over.

We will get an early impression on what may be coming for him and the Trojans because USC is in the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford. It is a game that USC is fully capable of winning. Imagine all the talk that would come from that victory. It’ll get talk started on what he may be able to do in their bowl game and in their first game next year against Nick Saban’s Alabama team.

In the end, USC got this hire right. Clay Helton provides continuity for the football program. He knows the Los Angeles area for recruiting. He knows the pressure that being the head coach of USC brings. He’s a Trojan. And he has the players buying into what he is coaching them. For all the negative that has surrounded this program this year and all the questionable things that Pat Haden has done in the last few years, Haden got this right. Good job USC and Fight On.

More Than A Friday: Kill, Sloppy Football, and Site News

The Golden Gophers have been something of an uncomfortable subject in these parts, at least as a talking point. Understand, this is the Northern Illinois perspective that motivates that feeling of awkward towards the University of Minnesota, and specifically their departing head coach Jerry Kill.

When Kill led our beloved Huskies, he did well. In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, NIU named Kill to replace the retiring Joe Novak after a disappointing 2007 season. Novak did many good things in Dekalb, but no one was writing home about what they did during that 2-10 season, which featured a 34-31 home loss to another directional Illinois school, Kill’s Salukis of Southern Illinois.

Kill went 23-16 in his three seasons leading the Huskies. He lost the Independence Bowl and the International Bowl in his first two seasons, and led the team to an 8-0 record in conference play before a devastating loss to Miami in the 2010 MAC Championship, which turned out to be his final game in the mid-major ranks. Were the Huskie faithful upset to be abandoned by their leader prior to the Idaho Potato Humanitarian Bowl? Sure.

Should they have been? Yeah, why not? No one, even a small school in rural Illinios wants to hear their program isn’t good enough for a man to finish what he started. Argue the flaws of the system, or the machine that is College Football as a business, if you will, but no matter how much I support the red and black, Minnesota is a better job than Northern Illinois.

NIU won their bowl game with an interim coach and ended up getting a huge win in the human resources department, poaching Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill. So, it’s been “screw Minnesota” for the last six seasons, but the next guy did them dirtier.

Now, to be fair, Doeren was a staggering 23-4 in his two MAC Championship-winning seasons at NIU. His 2012 squad was and remains the only Mid-American Conference team to crash the high-major party, but that Orange Bowl berth against Florida State would be another contest the student athletes would take on without their full time head coach. Doeren would see plenty of Florida State in his next gig, with a guaranteed matchup against the ‘Noles in the ACC Atlantic Division. To date, he’s had little success with NC State in that regard, where’s he’s 0-for-2, with 2015 contest yet to be played.

As far as Kill is concerned, it was another “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” case with Minnesota, with Tim Brewster’s 2010 squad failing to achieve victory against the Huskies in Week 4 at home. Raise your hand if you recall anyone coaching the Gophers between Glen Mason and Kill1Note: my hand is not raised.. I suppose we can anticipate Kill having a role on the Big Ten Network in the near future.

Kill isn’t walking away because he cannot win, Minnesota is 29-29 with three bowl appearances since he’s taken over. He hasn’t lost his passion for a game that seems to have threatened to take his life, at least from where I sit. He’s choosing his remaining years over the game, and that’s admirable.

Going back to 2005, his heath issues have been among the world’s worst kept secrets. He had a seizure while leading SIU in 2005, and in 2010, he was treated for dehydration after a game at Northern. From 2011 to 2013, Coach Kill had four gameday seizures, promoting a 2-game leave of absence in 2013, but all seemed well when he returned to the Gophers sideline in 2014, where he seemed to have coached without incident.

Then, this week, he retired, citing health reasons. And, it was admirable. Poof; the animosity from NIU was gone. They felt bad for the guy. You might even say they were grateful for what he did for the Huskie football program and maybe even his mark on the game of College Football. This led me to wonder if we might want to let the Doeren thing become water under the bridge, but no such thing was happening.

“Oh no. NC State can still suck it!” And there you have it.

Whatever I Watched Last Night, It Wasn’t Good Football

I honestly don’t know how, in a vaccuum, I could watch a 3 OT College Football game with a dog in the fight, and come away unentertained or unimpressed, but Oregon and Arizona State did just that on Thursday night in Tempe. The Sun Devils ran 100+ plays on offense, but ignored their bread and butter for the most part, running the football. The ground game is also Oregon’s go-to, but they got away with not going to that well tonight, with a 61-55 road victory.

I prefer physical football, and I think we got that from Oregon’s Royce Freeman and ASU’s Kalen Ballage, who exploited your garden variety poor tackling we’ve become accustomed to in Pac-12 Country. The visiting Ducks didn’t seem to need physical as much, as they relied on explosive plays and defensive breakdowns, and the Sun Devils were happy to yield the latter of just enough occasions to prevent the Ducks from flying back to Eugene with a 4-4 record in a disappointing season.

Oregon’s problems aren’t new. Through this dominant run that seems to have come an end this season, they’ve never been fantastic on defense. It just hasn’t shown because the offense scoring 60 points per game2That’s a perception stat, not a researched one., which masks a lot of defensive deficiencies. The code seems to have been cracked; pick them apart and don’t let them off the field on third down.

Another thing, Vernon Adams, for all he gives you, just isn’t Marcus Mariota. Say what you want about system quarterbacks, but Mariota would thrive in whatever system he played in. Ditto for Mark Helfrich. He isn’t Chip Kelly, and when the Ducks find their backs against the wall, they don’t have that guy on the sideline with the confidence to know they’ll overcome the adversity. It didn’t show so much in Year 1 with Helfrich, but it was there.

As for the Sun Devils, they have turned the corner as a program, but they’re not ready for prime time on a consistent basis. Give it up for Todd Graham, building this program into something better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, a team that plays with pride and counts on its defense to win, but they’re missing too many pieces to get it done in 2015. It doesn’t mean he should be on a hot seat3Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either., but he has to keep the Arizona high school talent in state and in Tempe. There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this state, and he’s still still going with Mike Bercovici.

Don’t get me wrong, Berco plays with the heart of a lion, and we saw plenty of that on Thursday night, but they can’t take the next step without more talent at the most important position on the field. Now, we just have to see if this 4-4 start is a slide back to mediocrity or simply a down year for Graham and the program. For a great program, these should be the worst of times, but if we’re back to business as usual at ASU, those three consecutive 10-win seasons we saw from Graham to start his tenure with the Devils will soon be easily forgotten.

MTAF News

I want to take a minute to introduce some additions to our More Than A Fan family. B. George Young, Chase Holik, and Nick Brzezinski joined our staff this month. BG will offer a little bit of local flavor to people in my neck of the woods, as our Arizona columnist, so stay tuned to what’s happening in the World of Sports, here in the desert from Mr. Young. Chase joins us from Austin, Texas, where College Football is kind of a big deal; he’ll opine on what’s happening in the state of Texas and the Big 12. Nick’s column will debut next week, with a zany breakdown on everything from the weekend, and I sincerely hope you look forward to that at least half as much as I do.

Josh Flagner is a familiar name around here, or at least he should be, he launched the site and handed me the keys last month. He’s been around with his football picks, and he’ll continue to do that for rising TV star Jeff Nomina’s NFL Pick ‘Em Contest, but I’ve given Josh a new role. It will be similar to what BG is doing for my local market, but back in Cleveland. Yes, we do have a fantastic regional site for Cleveland sports at MTAF Cleveland, but I felt it was unfair to neglect my native land on an all-sports site, like our publication’s main page is.

That’s all for this week; I wish you all the best for a great weekend, as my two worlds collide at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, where the Cardinals visit the Browns for the first time since 2003.

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1. Note: my hand is not raised.
2. That’s a perception stat, not a researched one.
3. Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either.

Which Direction Should USC Go?

Getting past any distraction is the key for any college football program. But when the football team loses its coach in the middle of the season it creates a scenario that nobody surrounding the program wants to deal with.

Welcome to the current world of USC Trojan football. By now we all know what has happened to the premier college football program on the West Coast. Steve Sarkisian was put on a leave of absence and less than 24 hours later Sarkisian was terminated as the Trojan Head Coach. Clay Helton has been named the interim coach for the remainder of the season, but after that, what should the Trojans do with their search for a new head football coach?

First of all, we have to realize that Pat Haden isn’t going anywhere. Personally, I think he needs to go, but realistically he won’t be fired anytime soon. The fans, alumni, and the big money boosters who want him gone are going to have to wait on that possibility because the powers that be at USC, especially the USC President Max Nikias, gave Haden the vote of confidence.

“I look forward to working with Pat Haden as our USC AD for many years to come.” USC President Max Nikias said in statement on Tuesday.

Now, onto the bigger issue of a head coach for the Trojans. Where do they go? Does Clay Helton even have a chance at getting the head coach job? Do they go outside the “Peter Carroll” tree?
These are all questions that are being asked since the firing of Steve Sarkisian on Monday. It is my belief that the USC brass need to go outside anybody that is connected with Peter Carroll and anybody that is connected with the university. With that being said, Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher, two ex-Trojan players, should not be on the list, but in reality, they are not leaving the NFL to come back to college anyway. I don’t believe they would have any interest in going back out on the recruiting trail to get players to come to USC.

The name that was brought up almost immediately was Chip Kelly, former head coach at Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagle Head Coach. Chip is not going anywhere, he’s not leaving the pros right now. He just signed a $35 million dollar contract a couple of years ago and leaving this soon after coming from the college ranks would be an admission of failure. I don’t think he’s ready to leave Philly at this point. The other aspect of hiring a guy like Chip Kelly is that he is not a “shaking hands, kissing babies” type of coach. He wasn’t well liked by alumni and boosters at Oregon because he wasn’t kissing their backsides in terms of giving them the time of day, so I don’t think that would play well with the big money people at USC.

What about Brian Kelly, Head Coach of Notre Dame? Kelly’s coaching style will be on display for USC this upcoming weekend because the Trojans are playing Notre Dame on Saturday. Would he leave the Irish and go coach for one of their long-time rivals? He might. He has said that coaching at Notre Dame is something you can do for 15 years. He’s in year six with the Fighting Irish and if the Trojans bring an open checkbook I could see him listening at the very least. The other part of what might make Brian Kelly attractive to USC is that he has a classy persona and that persona is rooted in coaching discipline to his players. He’s a possibility for the Men of Troy.

Somebody mentioned Jim Mora, Head Coach at UCLA. How crazy would that be? Leave the Trojans’ crosstown rival to go coach USC? I don’t see that happening at all. Mora has a great thing going with the Bruins, is raising money like a madman for the program, and everybody associated with the program LOVES him. UCLA has plenty of money to keep Mora away from anybody and they would not let a Mora move to USC happen. To me, Mora is off the list.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes Head Coach is getting some mention as well. What he has done at Utah the last few years and having his team currently ranked in the top five in the polls will catch the eyes of the hiring committee at USC for sure. He’s also in the same conference and the same division as USC, so I would think people around the program are talking about him already. It’s no secret that Whittingham has had some difference of opinion with administration at Utah in the last couple of years, so he just might pick up the phone if the Trojans call. Some people might ask “Why would he leave?” People leave jobs because it’s just time for a new challenge. Is Utah going to be Alabama or Ohio State? Probably not, so a new challenge or a change of scenery might be something Kyle Whittingham wants in his life at this time. Imagine what he could do with the talent the USC brings in on a yearly basis? Just let that thought sink in.

Finally, what about Kevin Sumlin? Currently, he is overseeing the program at Texas A&M and has done some great things with facility upgrades and raising money at College Station. Before Sarkisian was hired, Sumlin was contacted by USC to be their coach two years ago. Nothing got done between the two parties back then, but could it get done between Kevin Sumlin and USC a second time around? I think it could. With the amount of money that USC could bring to the table and the talent they can bring to the field, why wouldn’t Sumlin take the call? I think Kevin Sumlin should be near the top of the list, if not at the top of the Trojan wish list. He’s young, innovative, runs a spread type of offense, he can recruit, has shown that he can handle the media pretty well. And to survive in Los Angeles you need to be media savvy.

The problem at USC is not lack of talent, that’ll never be an issue for them. The Trojans can go anywhere in the country and get the type of talent they are accustomed to getting. The issue at USC is there administrative leadership. They have allowed things to get out of control with their decision making.

“USC has four and five star athletes, do they have four and five star leaders?” Former Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti questioned the other day on ESPN.

That’ll be the question that any prospective coach will have going forward with USC. If they want to get somebody like Kevin Sumlin, Brian Kelly, or Kyle Whittingham to come to USC then they have to show that they have their act together. Right now it’s the leadership at the top that is not together, so until that happens the Trojan program will suffer.

Ranking the Power Five Job Openings from Best to Worst

There are currently several jobs open within the power five conferences that are available for different coaches to take advantage of. Each of these openings have come open during the season. Some coaches, such as Frank Beamer and Gary Pinkel will remain with their teams for the remainder of the season. Others, were fired on the spot and are currently led by interim head coaches. With that being said, some of these programs are in worse shape than the others. Let’s take a look at my list of top job openings in power five conferences ranking them from best to worst.
1. Southern Cal– It’s no surprise that this would be the top job opening of the power five jobs available. The first reason is it is located in one the top recruiting hotbeds in the country. Southern California usually has some of the best players high school football  has to offer, and to be able to pull these players right from your back yard is very enticing. It is said that Southern Cal has one of the nicest campuses in the country and with it being located in LA, that isn’t very hard to believe. Being able to recruit any kid from the west coast, or country in general to come to LA should speak for itself. Southern Cal is one of the few destination jobs in the country. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham may be a sleeper pick to get the job.

2. Miami (FL)– Miami comes in at number two on my list because to me, the pro’s of Miami outweigh the cons for the right head coach. As far as recruiting goes, there may be no better place in the country to recruit than south Florida. I know it has been a while since “the U” has actually had the swagger it once had, but we have seen it done before. One of the main problems with Miami is the facilities. Miami is far behind most schools having very outdated facilities such as weight rooms and practice area’s. This is a tough task for the next head coach as rival programs can simply wow recruits with state of the art facilities. Houston head coach and former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman would also be a great fit. He currently has the Cougars undefeated and in the top 25 in his first season, and is also a great recruiter.

Al Golden was given many chances, but couldn't deliver for the U.
Al Golden was given many chances, but couldn’t deliver for the U.
3. Virginia Tech– Frank Beamer laid the foundation for what this VT program can be, but it hasn’t quite been what it once was in recent seasons. There is a good history of winning football left behind by Beamer that a new coach could sell to recruits. There is good talent to recruit from in the state of Virginia, and the Maryland, D.C. area is in close distance as well to get good players in place. Playing in the ACC which hasn’t been very good is a plus as well. Ohio State Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash would be a good candidate for VT to go after. He helped transform a bad Ohio State defense into a very good one. If VT wants to get back to their winning ways, it will start on the defensive side of the ball.
4. South Carolina– The South Carolina job is my second job on the list. Before Spurrier arrived, this would never have been this high on my list. The ol’ ball coach brought success to the program it had never seen before, and proved that you can succeed at South Carolina. With the headway he made in his time at the school, he paved the way for the next head coach to have even more success. The coach that comes in wouldn’t have to completely sell the program as an upstart, and the recruiting base is there being right near the heart of SEC country. The tough part is, going up against the likes of Alabama, Florida, LSU, Georgia, and you could even throw Florida St. into that ring as far as fighting for recruits. Michigan St. head coach Mark Dantonio, who is a former South Carolina defensive back has already been linked to the job. This would be a great hire as he has a 81-31 career record.
spurrier-clowney
Steve Spurrier made South Carolina relevant like never before.
5. Maryland– Maryland is new to the Big Ten, and has a huge talent base to recruit from with the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area’s all having lots of talent to pick from. With the right coach, Maryland can recruit and develop that talent base into a Big Ten mainstay. Maryland also has the support of Under Armour where the founder is an alum of the school. They have some pretty cool jersey options if you’ve ever taken notice. The problem for Maryland, they play in the same side of the  Big Ten conference as Ohio St., Michigan, and Michigan St. Fighting against two of the top coaches in all of college football in Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh for a division crown every season doesn’t sound very enticing at a school like Maryland. A candidate I could see filling this position would be Toledo Head Coach Matt Campbell, who has his Toledo program in the AP top 25 and has a 31-13 career record at the school.
 6. Missouri– Gary Pinkel proved you can build a winner at Mizzou, even in the best conference in college football the SEC. Missouri was once an afterthought nationally, but now is a program people talk about. Pinkel won in the Big 12, and also in the SEC with two championship game appearances in recent memory. There is good talent to recruit from in the St. Louis area, and playing in the SEC is a good chip to use to lure those recruits in. There is also a good history of sending players to the NFL as well. The real problem will come with recruiting players to play at Missouri with the issues with racial tension on campus. This is a tough sell for whomever the next coach may be. Lane Kiffin would be a coach I would go after. He would a bring a well known name in recruiting, knows the SEC, and also could help revive the lifeless Missouri offense.
7. Illinois– Last on my list of power 5 jobs is the job at Illinois. The school has not seen success in quite some time and has fallen to the bottom of the Big Ten totem poll in just about every aspect. Being close to the Chicago recruiting base is nice, but they compete with Northwestern and Notre Dame for those prospects, and pulling a top player out of Ohio to go to Illinois is a stretch as well. Any coach that takes this job will have an uphill climb ahead of them. I would search for a hungry head coach with a solid resume at a smaller school who is looking to prove his worth on the big stage. Easier said than done, but at this point what other way do the Illini have to go? Northern Illinois Head Coach Rod Carey could be an option, who has done nothing but win in his time with the Huskies with a 26-9 record and two 11-win seasons.
For me, even if every coaching position in college football was open for my choosing, Southern California would be one of my top choices as a destination job. The recruiting, the weather, the facilities, and rich tradition would be hard to pass up. That is why I have the Trojan opening as number one on my list. In the end though, each coaching job is what that coach makes it. With the right coach, these programs could see their problems turn around sooner rather than later.

Rob’s 2015 NFL Season Predictions

It’s that time of year again, it’s time for football and I am back on More Than a Fan for a special NFL 2015 Season preview with my picks to win each division and my picks to advance to the Super Bowl round by round until we crown a winner at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara. Before I do that, here are FIVE bold predictions for the season.

  1. THE AFC EAST HAS 3 PLAYOFF TEAMS: For years the AFC East has been looked at as a joke. But this season the talk of that could change as the Dolphins ad Bills are set to make noise and the Patriots now find themselves with some healthy competition.
  2. THE CARDINALS WIN THE WEST: Everyone is on the Seahawks bandwagon but what some fail to realize is despite what they are saying; the stress of two straight Super Bowl appearances will be their downfall. The Seahawks still make the playoffs but the division goes to the Cards this year.
  3. THE REDSKINS GET THE NUMBER 1 PICK: The Redskins are a joke and will prove how much of a joke they are by winning the number one pick by losing a majority of their games. The Only question is whether they go quarterback again.
  4. THE OAKLAND RAIDERS IMPROVE: Believe it or not, despite the record I have posted for them, I would not be the least surprised if they did significantly better. The Raiders have the pieces now for a foundation which we couldn’t say last season.
  5. THE RAMS AND RAIDERS MOVE BACK TO LA: You know it’s happening everyone. The Rams and the Raiders are both going to be in Los Angeles by this point next year. The only thing in the way of it happening are now both dead. Stan Kroenke has bought some land in Los Angeles and he intends to build a new stadium and the Raiders have no deal pending in Oakland. The only team that gets screwed here is the Chargers as they are forced to stay in San Diego with a fan base that knows they wanted to leave.
Peyton Manning gets one more shot and one more hope at a Super Bowl this season. (AP Images)
Peyton Manning gets one more shot and one more hope at a Super Bowl this season. (AP Images)

We’re going to start with each division and go from there starting with the AFC West.

AFC West

  1. DENVER BRONCOS 11-5: No surprise here. The Broncos win the division on the last day of the season by beating San Diego and advance to the playoffs for yet another season. They won’t be unstoppable this year but will be there when the postseason calls. Manning has enough left in the tank for a good run.
  2. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 9-7: The Chargers miss the playoffs by inches as they are eliminated in the final weekend in a loss to the Broncos. The Chargers have questions on both sides o the trenches and don’t know how well Melvin Gordon will be able to perform.
  3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 7-9: The Chiefs don’t have the firepower or the depth to keep up with their western rivals. They will be able to steal a game from the Broncos but will not be able to handle their heavy workload which includes a showdown at Lambeau Field against the Packers, an opening week battle against the Texans and of course games with the Ravens, Steelers and the London battle with the Lions.
  4. OAKLAND RAIDERS 5-11: The Raiders will be better this season but still will struggle as they need more depth. I think the real story will have to do with whether they will be moving back to Los Angeles which almost looks imminent.

AFC North

  1. BALTIMORE RAVENS 11-5: The Ravens have probably the best balanced team in the AFC when they are firing on all cylinders. How their defensive backfield deals with pressure will determine how far they go but I have them sorting out the kinks and making a deep run.
  2. Joe Flacco is back to lead the Ravens to an AFC North title and another deep playoff run. (AP Images)
    Joe Flacco is back to lead the Ravens to an AFC North title and another deep playoff run. (AP Images)

    PITTSBURGH STEELERS 9-7: The Steelers will get eliminated from postseason contention on the last day of the season. Missing LeVeon Bell for the first two games will hurt as will a defense that is still young and inexperienced. Their offense will win a lot of games for them.

  3. CINICNNNATI BENGALS 7-9: They won’t lose in the playoffs this season because they won’t be there to lose in the playoffs this time. With a daunting schedule that features the NFC West and AFC West, winning games is going to be a challenge for a team that might be changing quarterbacks and possibly coaches by season’s end.
  4. CLEVELAND BROWNS 6-10: The Browns still don’t know where they are going. I can tell you exactly where they are going; another last place finish. With a pathetic offense and a defense that is going to get run all over, this team has some holes and it’s going to get exploited weekly.

AFC South

  1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 12-4: The Colts didn’t do much to shore up their run defense but did add depth to what is probably the best receiving core in football. With one of the best young quarterbacks in football in Andrew Luck, the Colts will be firing on all systems at all times. This Colts team is similar to the model of the Green Bay Packers where they utilize turnovers and an elite quarterback to win games. That will be the only way the Colts take the next step
    It's time for Andrew Luck to take the next step and that step is the Super Bowl. (Celebrity Networth)
    It’s time for Andrew Luck to take the next step and that step is the Super Bowl. (Celebrity Networth)

    this season. I see four losses all season; the Steelers, the Bills, the Dolphins and the Panthers.

  2. HOUSTON TEXANS 8-8: I wanted to pick the Texans as a trendy pick to win the division and make the playoffs but their quarterback and running back situation is so iffy. Brian Hoyer is not really a name you are going to talk about and Alfred Blue is a pretty mediocre backup for Arian Foster who is dealing with yet another groin injury. The Texans could easily be a great team and maybe even a Super Bowl Champion if even a decent or good quarterback like Joe Flacco was their quarterback. Sadly for them, they have to make do with what they have.
  3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 5-11: The Jaguars are improving but losing their top draft pick to an injury for the entire season hurts and we are still not sure what Blake Bortles is going to be like. T.J. Yeldon looks like a solid future piece but will the line allow him any room to run. The Defense must get consistent on all levels.
  4. TENNESSEE TITANS 3-13: I don’t see Marcus Mariota succeeding at all. I want him to but I just do not see it happening especially with this team and the rigors of the NFL. The Titans have a long way to go before getting back to respectability.

AFC EAST

  1. MIAMI DOLPHINS 11-5: Surprise!!!! The Patriots do not win the division (they come close). A new and improved defense for the Dolphins does it along with a core of young receivers and an improved Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins also have a talented running back in Lamar Miller.
  2. Suh will be the main difference in Miami as the Dolphins emerge as division champions.  (AP Images)
    Suh will be the main difference in Miami as the Dolphins emerge as division champions. (AP Images)

    NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 11-5: Believe it or not, the last time the Patriots did not win the division this was their record and they were tied with the Dolphins who did win the division via tiebreaker. I’m not going to be predictable, I am taking a chance. The Patriots will lose five games and I will call them right here; the Bills, the Colts, the Broncos, the New York Giants and the Dolphins.

  3. BUFFALO BILLS 9-7: The Bills barely make the playoffs by an eyelash as good fortune finally swings their way. The Bills still are searching for a permanent quarterback and their schedule early is daunting as they face the Colts and Patriots.
  4. NEW YORK JETS 3-13: It’s a rebuild year in East Rutherford and the Jets have their work cut out for them if they want to contend in this division which contrary to popular belief is not soft.

 

NFC WEST

  1. ARIZONA CARDINALS 10-6: The Cards win the division that they should have won last season. There will be issues as always like pass blocking but the final game of the season (conveniently against the Seahawks) will crown a division winner. Carson Palmer needs to stay healthy the entire season for that to happen and this go round, I think he will.
  2. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 10-6: Some will think I am crazy for giving the Seahawks so many losses but take a look at their schedule. They face the AFC North and NFC North and also have games with the Panthers and Cowboys. Their first two games are road games against a team that did beat them last year (The Rams) and a team that should have beaten them (the Packers). The Hawks were very lucky to even be in the Super Bowl with their sloppy play in the NFC Championship game and will be lucky to make it back there again with everyone gunning for them.
  3. A full season by Carson Palmer will work wonders for the Cardinals as they win the NFC West. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
    A full season by Carson Palmer will work wonders for the Cardinals as they win the NFC West. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    ST LOUIS RAMS 7-9: The Rams will be distracted all season with the rumors of coming back to Los Angeles. I expect the defense to be amazing and the offense to be inconsistent. A lot will hinge on the health of Todd Gurley who is already missing Week 1 against the Seahawks. The Rams will need to win a lot of games they usually lose. In this case, the losing record will be attributed to a division rival.

  4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 5-11: The 49ers will win five games at the worst. Believe it or not, two of those five wins are going to come at the hands of the Rams. The 49ers lost more than a coach last season; they lost more than four star players. They lost something else along the way; they lost their heart. Like the old song ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’, that is the perfect way to describe this team that seems to have trouble finding something and sticking with it.

NFC NORTH

  1. GREEN BAY PACKERS 12-4: The Pack are angry, real angry. They want what they feel is rightfully theirs. They won’t choke this time around. Green Bay intends to get the home field advantage and then they will beat the Seahawks this time around. Jordy Nelson is out for the season but the positive being that the Packers have depth and the best quarterback in football and this happened before the season giving them ample time to prepare.
  2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS 8-8: The Vikings will be improved but can Teddy Bridgewater take the next step? Adrian Peterson is back but if he the same beast he was before? The Vikings have a lot of questions to answer before they move into their beautiful new stadium next year.
  3. DETROIT LIONS 8-8: The Lions take a step back this year as the loss of Suh and Fairley will hurt but their offense will still be potent. They have to run the ball better and the drafting of Abdullah might help them get there.
  4. CHICAGO BEARS 5-11: John Fox is only one man and it’s going to take more than a man to solve this issue in Chicago.
Aaron Rodgers gets that second ring this season as the Packers get back to the Super Bowl. (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Aaron Rodgers gets that second ring this season as the Packers get back to the Super Bowl. (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

NFC SOUTH

  1. CAROLINA PANTHERS 9-7: The Panthers at least have a winning record this time around. They will be the first NFC South team to win the division three years in a row. There are still huge issues on the line and the loss of Kelvin Benjamin will hurt. I see them winning a lot with their soft schedule but also losing games they shouldn’t have any business losing.
  2. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 9-7: The Saints inch back to the playoffs with a 9-7 finish behind a rejuvenated Drew Brees and a solid albeit inconsistent defense. However, their shortcomings will simply be better competition as this is probably the last chance Brees has of winning another title.
  3. ATLANTA FALCONS 7-9: A poor defense will be their undoing but Matt Ryan will keep them in and win them a lot of games. They need to improve their run game and get off to early leads if they want to win more.
  4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 6-10: The Bucs will be improved. They have talent but their depth is porous. One injury to a key player and they sink like a paper boat. Time will tell if Jameis Winston is a boom or a bust.

NFC East

  1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 11-5: Chip Kelly’s gamble pays off and the Eagles improve and make the playoffs as division champions. They also hook a 2 seed and get a first round bye. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews form a solid backfield and enable the Eagles to prosper.
  2. NEW YORK GIANTS 9-7: The Giants improve thanks to Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. as well as an improved defense. The Giants do barely miss the playoffs thanks to tiebreakers thus missing the chance for another Super Bowl in the fourth year (they won it in 2008 and 2012).
  3. Cam Newton will lead the Panthers to a third straight division title but can he lead them to the Promised Land?  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Cam Newton will lead the Panthers to a third straight division title but can he lead them to the Promised Land? (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

    DALLAS COWBOYS 8-8: Say what you want about that offensive line but the running game also needs talent to make it work and the three men assigned to replace Murray don’t fit the bill. Tony Romo is amazing as a quarterback but even he cannot save a team that will give up big plays constantly. The Cowboys need to come out of the gate and be aggressive.

  4. WASHINGTON REDSKINS 3-13: The biggest joke in the NFL. The Redskins are so bad that they beat themselves.

PLAYOFFS

WILDCARD ROUND

  • Ravens Beat Bills
  • Patriots Beat Dolphins on the Road a week after losing to them in Week 17.
  • Cardinals Beat Saints
  • Seahawks Beat Panthers on the Road after losing to them at home during the regular season.

DIVISIONAL ROUND

  • Ravens Upset the Broncos in Denver avenging a Week 1 shellacking and knocking Denver out of the playoffs for the second time in four seasons.
  • Colts Beat Patriots finally knocking the Monkey off their back.
  • Packers Beat the Seahawks ending all talk of back to back to back Super Bowl appearances.
  • Chip Kelly's gambles will pay off and the Eagles will win the NFC East with a number 2 seed. (Matt Rourke)
    Chip Kelly’s gambles will pay off and the Eagles will win the NFC East with a number 2 seed. (Matt Rourke)

    Eagles Beat the Cardinals.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

  • Colts Beat the Ravens in the AFC Title Game at home and finally take the next step.
  • Packers Beat the Eagles getting back to the Super Bowl.

SUPER BOWL

My Super Bowl Pick is

PACKERS 31, COLTS 27: The Packers come full circle and win the Super Bowl an Aaron Rodgers takes home MVP for the second time. Andrew Luck is heroic but falls short as the Lombardi Trophy eludes him once again.

Cleveland Browns Draft Prospects: Marcus Mariota Part 2

In part one of this scouting report I took a look at Marcus Mariota’s football abilities and how they compare to NFL quarterbacks. In this post I will do a little film analysis, and look at just how likely it is for the Browns to trade up.

For the film analysis I decided to look at some of his tape against Florida State. I chose Florida State because they have a strong defense especially in their secondary, which boasts 3 NFL ready players. The first play that jumped out on me was this play. In it he evaded two would be tackler and made a strong accurate throw off his back foot.  I also really like this beautiful touchdown he threw to clinch the game right here. I do have some concerns over his decision making on the next level as most of his passes tend to be thrown on the first or second read, or found after he extended the play using his legs. Overall he had an excellent game showing off the skills that made him successful in college and could very well make him successful in the pros.

Now here is the fun part: Will the Browns actually trade picks to move up to nab a quarterback, only one year after drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round? My guess is not.  The Browns made a huge investment into Johnny and we haven’t really seen anything from him on the field besides his awful first two starts. Johnny hasn’t made any news this off-season besides going to rehab to try to help better himself as a man and as a teammate. If all is right with Johnny the person, Johnny has potential to lead an NFL team to a winning season with some help. It would be rather stupid for the Browns to trade crucial draft picks the team needs to fortify their offensive and defensive lines to select another Heisman winning trophy quarterback with a similar skillset if Johnny can be at least competent. Plus the Tennesse Titans might not even be looking to trade down as they have a hole at quarterback that could easily be filled by Mariota.  Do you really think the Titans are excited about Zach Mettenberger at quarterback? Probably not. And I feel that Chip Kelly’s Eagles would be willing to trade Sam Bradford and the kitchen sink for the rights to draft Mariota and it’s never smart to try to outbid a madman. So in conclusion I don’t think Mariota will get past the Titans and I don’t think we should be trying to trade our picks, most likely the 12, the 19, and perhaps a first rounder next year or 2 mid round picks. I feel our team will be better if we solidify our defensive line and add a lineman and hope Manziel is ready or McCown is not terrible, than trade the tools we need for a quarterback who is the certainly isn’t a lock to be a franchise quarterback. Nothing should be considered out of the question considering the the unpredictable nature of the Browns, but I would be genuinely surprised if Mariota dons a Browns jersey next year.