Saturday, November 26, 2016

Well, Tennessee Just Butch'd The Hell Out Of The Vanderbilt Game

Same old BS.
Another week, another disappointing performance by Butch’s Vols.
At this point, why are we still even having this discussion? I’ve made the case for making a coaching change so many times it’s starting to make my head hurt. You can read those here and here and here.
Going 4-4 in conference, against THIS SEC East, with losses to 6-6 South Carolina and 6-6 Vanderbilt, is completely unacceptable for this Tennessee team, a group that was the overwhelming Eastern division favorites before the season began. With a probable Sugar Bowl berth on the line, this is the best performance this team could muster?
What the hell happened to this defense? I remember a time (like the first week of the season) when that side of the ball was the strength of the team. They were awesome against Appalachian State and Florida.  Now? They couldn’t stop a team full of deaf blind lepers. Vanderbilt was one of the worst offenses in college football for the first 11 games of the year, but it didn’t matter tonight because the defense Butch’d as hard as possible and got torched for over 600 yards.
They blew a 21-7 lead by getting outscored 38-13 on their way to an 11 point loss against Derek effing Mason. What an absolute crap show of a performance.
The only funny thing about this was that I could’ve seen this no show coming from a mile away. Why would I believe that Butch would win this simple game with an enormous bowl bid on the line? This is the same guy that presided over three blown leads of at least 13 points last year, and oversaw a team that played bad in the first half 11 out of 12 games this season. It would only make sense that they’d screw it up tonight.
Malik Foreman was getting killed on Twitter during the game, but he wasn’t the only one playing defense like he had cement in his shoes; how about Cam Sutton, this team’s “lockdown” corner? He was just as reprehensible. And outside of Derek Barnett, no one was generating any pass rush. Vandy just loaded up where he was and blasted everyone else off the line.
It's the same cow manure offense too. Three second half points from this Dobbs and Debord led offense was really fun.... if you just had a head injury.
And what the hell was Butch thinking on that last 4th down? Why not kick the field goal, go down eight, and then take your chances with an onside kick? If you don’t convert in that situation the game is over; at least get some points on the board and give yourself a shot to get the ball back. Just atrocious late game decision making from a guy who typically makes atrocious late game decisions.
And don’t give me this nonsense about them getting better; this season was way worse. At least the 2015 team had fourth quarter leads on Alabama and Oklahoma, both of whom made the playoff. And they went 5-3 in conference play. This year’s squad got blasted by the Tide, played horribly against App State, lost to two .500 teams, turned it over seven times against A&M, played one good first half all season (against Tennessee Tech), finished 4-4 in the conference, and needed a Hail Mary to avoid going 3-5. How exactly have things gotten better?
Any highlights? I guess it's good to know that we'll have a new coach for the 2018 season? They'll have a new athletic director by then who won't have any loyalty to Butch and will have a vested interest in hiring a coach that's actually capable of winning titles that aren't the "Championship of Life".

I don’t have anything else to say about it really; the play on the field speaks for itself. Good luck in the Capital One Bowl. That’s all Tennessee will ever get with Butch. 

LSU Craps Their Pants, Hires Ed Orgeron

When I texted my dad this morning to inform him that LSU was going to remove the interim tag from Ed Orgeron and hire him as their full time head coach, my old man, after the initial shock, replied by saying, “That is a good hire for the rest of the SEC”.
Mic drop?
Unfortunately for Tiger fans, he’s right. A few fun facts about Coach O and LSU:
1. He went 3-21 in the SEC, and 10-25 overall, during his three year tenure at Ole Miss from 2005-07. His predecessor there, David Cutcliffe, went 25-23 in conference and 44-29 overall, and had a 10 win season in 2003. When Orgeron took over full time, the Rebels slumped to 3-8, 4-8, and 3-9. For reference, here’s Derek Mason’s records in three seasons at Vanderbilt: 3-9, 4-8, 5-6. Keep in mind that everyone thinks Mason has done a terrible job in Nashville, and that he might be the worst coach in the state of Tennessee since Derek Dooley; but just looking at the win-loss record, couldn’t I argue that Mason’s had a better run at Vandy than Orgeron did at Ole Miss? If the Commodores beat Tennessee today, they’ll be bowl eligible! 
2. Look at his tenure at LSU thus far; where’s the big sexy win? Who have they beaten that they wouldn’t have defeated if Les Miles was still in charge? They ran all over a Missouri team that finished the year 4-8, beat an overmatched Southern Miss squad, knocked off an Ole Miss team that was in free fall, wore out an Arkansas team that just lost to Missouri, and handled a Texas A&M team that collapsed down the stretch AGAIN and AGAIN decided that they couldn’t tackle anymore. Their losses? They were shut out at home by Alabama, and scored 10 points at home against a very beatable Florida team. You’re telling me Les wouldn’t have gone 5-2 against that schedule? The guy won 10 games a year; Am I supposed to believe that he suddenly got dumb and wouldn’t have been able to beat Missouri?
3. All of this raises this question; why did you fire Miles in the first place? I was always under the impression that it was because of the ineptitude of his offenses, and his inability recently to challenge Nick Saban and Alabama. How does Coach O fix those problems at all? Couldn’t I argue that Orgeron is just a Cajun version of Les without the decade-long track record of success? He’s not an offensive wizard (the Florida and Alabama games made that clear), and what has he shown you that indicates he’s going to be able to even remotely challenge Saban? Zero points? Good luck.
Look, I get it, comparing your program’s success against what Saban is doing is ludicrous. He’s destroying people like prime Mike Tyson did in the 1980’s, and until he has his Buster Douglas moment, I’m not really sure there’s anything that can be done about it. But is Orgeron really the best you could’ve done? He’s not coming close to Saban; hell, I’d be willing to wager the entirety of my future earnings that the 10-0 score those teams played to this season will be the closest Coach O gets to Saban the rest of his tenure. I wasn’t the biggest Tom Herman fan (his Houston team lost THREE games this year as a double digit favorite), and it appears that he turned LSU down in favor of Texas, but pursuing a guy like that, someone known for offense, was the right move for this program that’s been challenged on that side of the ball the last decade.
Here’s a question; did you even call Bobby Petrino? I know I know, personally he’s unpalatable, but the offense would’ve been fixed overnight, and he would’ve at least made Saban sweat during the week before their game, worried about how he was going to stop that up tempo, hurry up attack. We know Nick hates those kinds of offenses; he's thrown fits about them, decrying them as "unsafe" on multiple occasions. It's obvious that he hates going up against them; why not at least make him miserable? But no, instead, you’ve given Alabama a scheduled “W” for the next three years or however long it takes before the powers in Baton Rouge decide that hiring a guy because he was a native Louisianan was a bad idea.
Which brings me to my next point; hiring a guy because he’s, “in the family” or, “from the state” is one of the dumbest rationales for giving someone an immense amount of power that I’ve ever heard. Why the hell should it matter if LSU’s never hired someone born in the state? That’s like saying, “I’ve been the CEO of this company for five years, but we just had to fire a member of our board of trustees. Who should we hire to replace him…. Hmmm…. I know! How about my alcoholic Uncle Ed! I know he’s got some issues, but screw it, he’s family!” I don’t care where the guy comes from, the most important factor in hiring a football coach should be how many games he’s going to win. The fact that “Orgeron is from Louisiana” was even mentioned is ludicrous.
BUT MATT BUT MATT BUT MATT!!!! HE'S BRINGING LANE KIFFIN WITH HIM TO RUN THE OFFENSE! THEY USED TO WORK TOGETHER AND THEY'RE GOOD FRIENDS! Kiffin's not coming to Baton Rouge; why would he? So he can lose to Saban every year too? Running Saban's offense is a great gig. There's a ton of pressure, but Kiffin doesn't bare the brunt of it; basically, he just calls the plays with the help of Saban, and gets piles of praise lumped on him when things go right, which they often have the last three seasons. Remember a few years ago, after his failed tenure at USC, when Kiffin was damaged goods? He didn't have a shot in hell at getting a college head coaching job again for a long time, maybe even ever. So what did he do? He went to Tuscaloosa and ran Saban's offense for him. Now, everyone's been recognizing his offensive mind again, and celebrating his play calling, and there's even been movement on the internet for Kiffin to get another head coaching job again. Why would he ever leave the best situation in college football, being around Nick Saban, to be on Orgeron's staff and get fired in three years? He wouldn't unless he was forced at gun point, and neither would anyone else. Here's the most incredible thing; I actually think hiring Kiffin to be their head coach would've been a better hire for the Bayou Bengals than Orgeron was. Yeah, he's got his own personality issues, but at least he knows offense and how to put points on the board. Orgeron literally brings you nothing.
Here’s the other problem; LSU just hired a guy who, if he wasn’t coaching college football, would probably be a middle school gym teacher in the midst of his third divorce. That’s never a good sign; Brady Hoke had the same look, and that submarined quicker than the Titanic. It’s just an absolutely reprehensible hire.
Good luck Tiger fans! Have fun going 6-6 the next three years!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Re-Examining Butch's First Four Years on Rocky Top

If you’ve read me at all this football season, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not exactly a fan of Butch Jones. He hasn’t done anything to indicate to me that he’s a top 20 college head coach, and I think that’s been reflected by Tennessee’s play on the field during his tenure, particularly during the last two years.
My position since mid-season has been that it’s time for the Vols to move on from Butch and hire a more competent coach who won’t blow three 13 point leads in one season, or preside over a team whose only good first half performance all year came against Tennessee Tech. Despite all the baggage, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino has been my pipe dream pick to take the reins on Rocky Top. He's a smart guy who’d score more on the field than he did with mistresses, while also winning a ton of games in Knoxville.  He’d also instantly become the best coach in the SEC East, and command a decently talented roster at a school that will pretty much do anything to win. Petrino's been wildly successful at Louisville and Arkansas, two schools that probably aren’t even Top 25 jobs; imagine what he’d do at Tennessee, a Top 15 job with a much larger recruiting budget, better facilities, better tradition, more money, etc.
Unfortunately, Butch will get a fifth year because Tennessee’s athletic director Dave Hart is retiring this summer, and he has no reason to get rid of a high profile staff member and start a coaching search while he's on his way out the door. And if Butch is as incompetent as I think he is, the new athletic director would want the opportunity to fire him and hire his own guy. He wouldn’t want to show up in Knoxville, stuck with a new coach hired by the previous AD who he’d now have to be committed to for the next three years. So unless a Butch-Horse sex tape gets leaked to the media, I think we’re probably stuck with him in 2017.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with my friends about Butch and Tennessee, and read entirely too many ill-informed message board diatribes posted by guys with names like 69VOLS69, in the hopes of figuring out how the fan base felt about the last four years and where we should go from here. The most common excuse I’ve heard (and it’s the same one they used for Dooley) is, “The program was in shambles when he took over! He just needs more time!”.
Interesting…. If that was the case, then why did it take Jim Harbaugh like 6 games to turn around Michigan? Why has Jim McElwain been able to win the SEC East in both of his first two seasons? Why did both Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops win national titles in their second years at Ohio State and Oklahoma?
Yeah, because Tennessee was the first program to hire a horribly inept and in over his head coach. He’s the first guy to ever leave a program in shambles. No one has ever done that before…. Wait a second, most of time when a football coach is fired, particularly after three seasons, isn’t it because the program sucked? Because it was “in shambles”? Yes, of course!
Here’s my uncontroversial thesis: if you’re a good college head coach at a big time job (which Tennessee is), you win a lot of games relatively quickly, regardless of what came before you. This has been spelled out time and time again at schools all over the country. But rather than just say it, why not show you?
Butch Jones- Tennessee

Previous Coach: Derek Dooley
Dooley’s Record: 15-21 overall, 4-19 in conference
2010: 6-7
2011: 5-7
2012: 4-7
Dooley was a crap show, there’s no doubt, but he did have back-to-back Top 10 recruiting classes his first two years. The notion that the cupboard was balder than a baby’s bottom when he left is absurd, though he did make a monumental, unforgivable screw up by not signing a single offensive lineman in his last class.
Butch’s Record: 29-20, 14-18 in conference
2013: 5-7
2014: 7-6
2015: 9-4 (blew three 13 point leads)
2016: 8-3 (one good first half performance all year)
1-3 against Florida (though they could’ve easily been 4-0), 0-4 against Alabama, never beaten a top 10 team, vastly underperformed for the level of talent they had on the roster the last two years. Also, it’s hard to blame the previous administration when this entire roster is guys you’ve coached and recruited for the last four years. From a personnel standpoint, the stink of Dooley isn’t present at all with the current Vols. Oh yeah, and there's this; since 1992, every coach that has won the SEC Championship had nine victories in either their first or second year at the school they eventually captured the conference title at. It took Butch three seasons before he won nine games. Not a good sign. 
Jim Harbaugh- Michigan

Previous Coach: Brady Hoke
Hoke’s Record: 31-20, 18-14 in conference
2011: 11-2
2012: 8-5
2013: 7-6
2014: 5-7
After an impressive first year in which he went 11-2, Hoke went 20-18 during his last three seasons while looking like a sweaty middle school gym teacher going through his third divorce.
Harbaugh’s Record: 20-4, 13-3 in conference
2015: 10-3
2016: 10-1
If Michigan beats Ohio State tomorrow they win the Big Ten East and will play in their conference championship game, with a chance to make the college football playoff in Harbaugh’s second year.
Bob Stoops- Oklahoma

Previous Coach: John Blake
Blake’s Record: 12-22, 7-17 in conference
1996: 3-8
1997: 4-8
1998: 5-6
Blake took over a program that was struggling prior to him arriving and couldn’t do much better.
Stoops’s Record (first four seasons): 43-9, 25-7 in conference
1999: 7-5
2000: 13-0 (won national title)
2001: 11-2
2002: 12-2 (won conference title)
Stoops showed up to a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 1993 and won a national title in his second year. Couldn’t I argue Stoops inherited a much worse situation than Butch? OU went five years without finishing above .500 before Stoops arrived; Tennessee had gone just three.
Nick Saban- Alabama

Previous Coach: Mike Shula
Shula’s Record: 26-23, 13-19 in conference
2003: 4-9
2004: 6-6
2005: 10-2
2006: 6-6
Besides an impressive third year, Shula’s tenure is viewed as a universal failure by most Tide fans. Here’s something interesting though; look at Shula’s records again, compared to Butch’s, who has ironically coached as many games in Knoxville as Mike did in Tuscaloosa. Butch is three games better overall and one game better in conference, but isn’t Shula just basically Jones with a slightly higher peak and lower valley?
Saban’s Record (first four seasons): 43-11, 25-7 in conference
2007: 7-6
2008: 12-2 (won SEC West)
2009: 14-0 (won national title)
2010: 10-3
Since this time, Saban has won three more national titles and is the favorite to do it again this year.
Urban Meyer- Florida

Previous Coach: Ron Zook
Zook’s Record: 23-14, 16-8 in conference
2002: 8-5
2003: 8-5
2004: 7-4
The Zooker wasn’t a disaster, but compared to Spurrier, the talent and level of play had clearly slipped.
Meyer’s Record (first four seasons): 48-9, 24-8 in conference
2005: 9-3
2006: 13-1 (won national title)
2007: 9-4
2008: 13-1 (won national title)
Meyer reversed Zook’s downward trend basically overnight and won two national titles in his first four seasons. Did Zook leave UF better off than Dooley left UT? Sure, that’s inarguable. But Meyer’s first year in The Swamp was about as good as any campaign Butch has been able to put forth in four seasons. Again, every single player on the roster is recruited and coached up by Jones and his staff! You can’t keep blaming Dooley when all the players are Butch guys now.
Jim McElwain- Florida

Previous Coach: Will Muschamp
Muschamp’s Record: 28-21, 17-15 in conference
2011: 7-6
2012: 11-2
2013: 4-8
2014: 6-5
Muschamp, like Shula, is viewed as an abject failure by most Florida fans. The offenses his last two years might’ve been the worst in conference the last 25 years outside of some of the most porous ones at Vanderbilt (the Gators finished 13th in the conference in yards in 2014, and dead last in 2013). Interesting to look at the comparison of records between Muschamp and Jones. Butch is one game better overall, but is three games worse in conference play. Couldn’t I argue, just like with Shula, that Muschamp is basically Butch with a slightly higher peak and a lower valley? Not-so-fun fact: Muschamp is 3-0 against Butch.
McElwain’s Record: 18-6, 13-3 in conference
2015: 10-4 (won SEC East)
2016: 8-2 (won SEC East)
So McElwain takes over a program that couldn’t score and went a combined 10-13 in the two years before he got there, and proceeds to guide them to back-to-back division titles. What am I missing here? What’s Butch’s problem?
Pete Carroll- USC

Previous Coach: Paul Hackett
Hackett’s Record: 19-18, 10-14 in conference
1998: 8-5
1999: 6-6
2000: 5-7
Hackett took over a program that had started slumping under the previous coach, John Robinson, and couldn’t do enough to make the Trojans anything but mediocre.
Carroll’s Record (first four seasons): 42-9, 27-5 in conference
2001: 6-6
2002: 11-2 (won conference title)
2003: 12-1 (won national title)
2004: 13-0 (won national title)
Carroll, like everyone else on this list, took over and won big almost instantly, setting up a dynasty in Los Angeles during the first part of 2000s.
James Franklin- Penn State

Previous Coach: Bill O’Brien
O’Brien’s Record: 15-9, 10-6 in conference
2012: 8-4
2013: 7-5
Franklin’s Record: 23-14, 13-11
2014: 7-6
2015: 7-6
2016: 9-2
If Ohio State beats Michigan tomorrow, and Penn State knocks off Michigan State, then the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten East and will travel to Indianapolis for the conference championship game. If they win that game, they’d not only have a conference title, but also an excellent shot to make the college football playoff.  And if that were to happen, what a hell of job by Franklin, considering everything that school has gone through this decade. Sandusky’s crimes and Paterno’s knowledge of it rocked the program, and the NCAA, for no real reason, decided they needed to destroy the future of the football team by slashing the number of available scholarships AND banning them from postseason play for four years. The sanctions were eventually lifted, but not before the depth of the program was already shot. O’Brien came in and did a good job considering everything, but Franklin still faced an uphill battle when he took the job three years ago. Now, he potentially has them two wins away from a conference title and possible playoff berth. Uh Butch…. What’s the deal buddy?

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, Butch and Tennessee already won the most important title, the Championship of Life! How could I be so stupid! Sorry Coach Jones, everything I just wrote is now null and void! You can now go back to underachieving every year! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Donald Trump, Truth, and the Media

I was probably happier than anyone that this election cycle finally came to an end two weeks ago. I was tired of seeing the daily conglomeration of ignorant Facebook posts, and I was tired of hearing people who had no idea about any political issues like fifteen minutes ago suddenly pretended to be experts and started lecturing everyone with the intensity of Jonathan Edwards’s famous Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon.
However, the most concerning revelation to come out of this election season was one we've seen time and time again- the absolute blatant dishonesty by members of the media. Television and journalists has always been to the left, and talk radio and Fox News have always been to the right, but  this cycle seemed particularly dishonest. Each side lied time and time again and perverted their principles to cover the ass of the person they were supporting.
But it wasn’t just the media who were dishonest; it was also the candidates themselves! And when you have people running for public office that tell more lies than Pinocchio, covered or perverted by a media that regurgitates the same BS onto an ill-informed, polarized society that’s willing to believe just about anything, we end up with Donald Trump, and a country that’s as fractured as it’s ever been.
Hillary Clinton is as slimy, corrupt, and dishonest as it gets in American politics, but she’s not really the focus of this; she was so inept as a politician that she lost to a guy that had a recording of him hinting at sexual assault leaked to the public like four weeks before the election. Clinton was so terrible and unlikable that she couldn’t manage to defeat an orange buffoon with no real knowledge of the issues. During their first debate, Trump literally screamed that he had a, “winning temperament” while looking more flustered than Kanye West during a profanity-laced rant, and she still couldn't beat him. She’ll now fade into obscurity, and rightly so.
My issues now lie with Trump, the right-leaning media, and the American right at large, a group who entirely compromised their morals and principles in the name of defeating Hillary throughout the entire election cycle. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, two guys I didn’t have a lot of respect for anyway, were completely in the bag for Trump from the outset, and many people threw their weight behind The Donald as it got closer and closer to November 8th. I don’t particularly care if media members, whether it’s politics, sports, or culture, vocally support candidates, teams, or actors, but the problem arises when they outright lie for them, or twist their words into something that they didn’t really mean. For example, and if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, it’s pretty obvious that I’m about as big of a Tennessee fan as anyone could possibly be. Does that mean I should take it easy on them when they suck, or that I should betray what my eyes saw and make excuses for the program or the head coach? Of course not. The number 1 thing I owe anyone, whether it’s in this medium, or in my conversations, is honesty.
So when Trump laid out his plan for mandatory paid maternity leave a few months ago, many on the right who would’ve lost their minds if Obama or Bernie did the same thing suddenly raced to defend the plan as “conservative” and “necessary” when it was neither of the two.

It’s the same thing with this whole Mike Pence-Hamilton controversy. Ben Shapiro made this point on CNN on Sunday; if Joe Biden went to a NASCAR race and got booed, wouldn’t conservatives decry Obama if he went on Twitter and condemned NASCAR as a whole and demanded an apology for people exercising their right to free speech? Of course they would! So why is it ok for Trump to do that?  (To be fair, I think the Hamilton actors are idiots. But even people I disagree with have the right to free speech!)
Other disturbing trends; many conservatives have now abandoned free trade, embraced tariffs, and foolishly believed that the loss of that T-shirt factory to Indonesia is the reason life in the Rust Belt is now so terrible. Plus, Trump has flirted with a $15 an hour minimum wage and has done everything to position himself as a strong, powerful executive who has made overtures to racists and the Alt-Right. I’m also old enough to remember when conservatives absolutely lost their minds about Bill Clinton’s sexual assault accusations, affairs, and general negative attitude toward women. But when Trump does it, it’s just “locker room talk” or hearsay. For the record, I don’t think what Trump said in a private conversation a decade ago is the biggest deal in the world; I say things probably every day that I wouldn’t want broadcast to the masses, but it’s a little hypocritical for the right to so blatantly and egregiously defend a guy who has been through multiple divorces and extra-marital affairs when they killed BJ Clinton for his conduct less than two decades ago.
I understand that Hillary Clinton is terrible. You don’t have to convince me of that, and I could see the logic of voting for Trump to stop her. But now that we’ve elected him, how many people are going to actually going to keep paying attention? How disappointed are you going to be when that wall doesn't get built? He’s already pivoted on many of his immigration policies, like employing a deportation force, and he’s basically abandoned his promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the handling of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Why should I believe that he’s going to stand up for the second amendment or the pro-life movement? And what has he done to indicate that his “Repeal and Replace” of Obamacare is actually going to be an improvement, considering he’s been pretty mum on what he’s actually proposing. I have no reason to believe anything that comes out of his mouth, because he’s literally held every position imaginable. Here was an exchange he had with Bill O’Reilly a few months ago:
O’Reilly: There has to be a federal minimum wage. What would you set the federal minimum wage at?
Trump: There doesn’t have to be. Well, I would leave it and raise it somewhat.
What? Wasn’t that just three different policy positions in the span of two sentences?
 I suppose if you just hate the Clinton’s and getting what you perceive as new blood in there, no matter his policies, then a vote for Trump is justified. But if you care about the principles of limited, constitutional government, you’re taking the L for the next four years.
Is it fair to say that, even before he takes office, Donald Trump fooled the masses by pandering to their concerns and anger? He came out and presented himself as the swinging balls of America by saying brash, politically incorrect, and sometimes rude things about anything and everything, and was a direct backlash against the identity politics and the unfounded charges of racism, sexism, and bigotry from the Obama administration and the American left the last eight years. The Democrats had become so disconnected with the rest of the country that Americans rallied around an as establishment-as-humanly-possible celebrity to defeat the establishment and celebrity culture of the Obama White House and potential Hillary Clinton administration.
It’s not about principle anymore; it’s all about defeating the other side, no matter the cost, even if it means lying for or protecting the candidate you support. We went through the entire Obama administration without the leftist media ever asking him a tough question; Trump won’t have the same opportunity, because the left controls most of the major media outlets and they hate him, but are O’Reilly, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and most others on the right going to treat him with kid gloves?

Here’s what I want for the next four years and beyond; a media that isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, and commends presidents and politicians when they do well and hammers them when they are dishonest or betray their principles and constituents for personal gain or political purposes. Truth has to become the most important factor in analysis and reporting again. I have my doubts it ever will be, considering their behavior the last two weeks. Principle and truth have gone out the window in favor of pandering to certain segments of the population and winning elections. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Deconstructing Jalen Hurd's Twitter Explanation

Jalen Hurd has finally spoken on his sudden, but not overly impactful, departure from the Tennessee football team. Last night, he posted a two page “explanation” on his Twitter page, in order to put to bed the “multiple storylines” created by the big bad media. Yes Jalen, you were victimized in your two-plus seasons in Knoxville.
I wrote about this last week, but I thought it was worth revisiting now that Hurd himself has spoken out on the situation.
Here's his post: 

Just for fun, I thought I’d run through his statement, and highlight a few of the sentences that really stood out to me.
“I want to say thank you to the University of Tennessee for everything it did for me”
My BS meter went off instantly, considering your uncle's message board post was basically a mirror image of the rest of your Twitter statement. “I’m a warrior and I want recognition for literally removing a full body cast before I played every game” and “The coaching staff didn’t entirely change their offensive scheme to fit my skill set” is the entire point of you transferring correct? According to you, they stunted your growth as a player and didn’t bend over backwards to recognize you as the toughest and most courageous person in the history of the United States. You made it sound like your time on Rocky Top was a terrible experience, one where everyone didn’t bend to your will. What exactly are you thankful for?
“While everyone may not agree with it (his decision to transfer), I feel it is in my best interest”
No, actually Jalen, I’m pretty sure we’re all ok with you transferring. Or at least I am. Not a great fit for the scheme, bad attitude, quit on his teammates by walking out mid-season when things didn’t go his way…. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
“I understood that the media would create multiple storylines as to why I made the decision so I want to inform you the truth”
Now it’s getting good! Yes Jalen, you’re right, the media is the bad guy here! It’s all their fault! They shouldn’t ask any questions, speculate about anything, or report what they’ve heard! They shouldn’t fact check you at all!
“I don’t want anyone questioning my character because I have always tried my best to be respectful of my coaches and considerate of the Vol community throughout my career”
Again, probably not true at all, considering one of the main reasons your transferring is because the coaching staff isn’t bending over and grabbing the ankles for you. And then there’s all rumors about him losing his cool multiple times, screaming at the coaches, and storming out of meetings.
I don’t know if he’s a bad dude or not, but it’s probably not a good sign for him that his mother got arrested during the Florida game this year for causing a disturbance in the stands. I don’t know about you guys, but how many times has your mother gone to a football game and caused such an uproar that she literally had to have her freedom taken away from for a short time? And that’s the person that raised him; no wonder he has an alleged anger problem.
“I have suffered multiple injuries this year that were not and should not have been disclosed including a concussion that sidelined me for the A&M game”
My least favorite thing about this entire saga is the idea that Tennessee somehow didn’t do enough to reward or acknowledge Jalen for playing through injuries. I joked about this before, but what did he expect, President Obama himself to fly to Knoxville and present him with a Purple Heart? Did he expect to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPY’s? And when did Tennessee leak that he had a concussion? That’s been speculated by a few people, but it was never confirmed by the University. In fact, Butch told the media that a lower body injury was the cause of him not traveling for the A&M game.
“Coming to Tennessee, I understood the read option offense may not be the best fit for me, but I put that aside for my love of Tennessee and wanting to be part of a beloved program. While I had hoped for scheme adjustments to suit my strengths, this did not happen on a consistent enough basis”
Again, Jalen, no one made you come to Tennessee! You acknowledged yourself that you knew going into your time with the Vols that the offensive scheme run by Butch didn’t suit your skillset, and yet, you chose to do it anyway! There are a zillion programs in the country, many of them elite (like Alabama) that run an I-formation attack that would allow you to get your momentum going before you received the ball. Going to Tennessee and then complaining about the offense is like ordering a fresh cup of coffee and then whining about it being too hot.
And why would you hope for scheme adjustments? What indication has Butch ever given to anyone that he would change his offensive system? His “word”? Butch’s alleged “promises” are all hearsay as far as I’m concerned. Butch has always been a read option coach, and the quarterbacks he’s recruited have fit that mold. Why would he compromise his quarterback’s skillset for the running back’s when both guys knew the offense that was going to be run and still chose to come to the school anyway?
“This did have a factor in my decision as I want to play in an offensive scheme that highlights my abilities to run but also expands to allow me to show my abilities to catch the ball and be a mismatch for defenses”
So the plan is to transfer to another school, sit out for an entire season, and switch to receiver or tight end, a position you haven’t played in any competitive or high level game in your entire life? Good luck with that…
Also, just as a side note, if I had to list Jalen’s 25 best attributes as a football player, pass catching would be 26th. This positional transition is going to go horribly wrong, and if he’s smart, he’ll figure that out.
My guess? He ends up working out all winter and declares for the NFL draft. I can’t see him sitting out a year and then starting the 2018 football season at a new position, competing for playing time against guys who have played those positions their entire football lives. Since he’s not staying at Tennessee, going pro probably makes the most sense even if he’ll be a late round pick.
“Thank you to all the fans and the entire Vol nation. Y’all are amazing and one of the best in the country!!”
And that’s why I’m quitting on all of you and my teammates mid-season! Goodbye suckers! I’m on my way to a failed NFL career! Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Now That The Cubs Have Won An Epic Game 7, Who Is The Most Tortured Franchise In Sports?

What a Game 7, and what an incredible night for the city of Chicago and sport of baseball. The Cubs displayed the most un-Cub-like behavior possible throughout the entire postseason, a swagger that always prevailed whenever this team looked down and out. It started with their incredible ninth inning rally in Game 4 of the Giants’ series, continued with their three straight wins to end the Dodgers’ series (after they got shutout in both Game 2 and 3), and ended with their most improbable achievement of all, the erasing of what looked to be an insurmountable three games-to-one deficit against Cleveland. Amazingly, the 108 year drought is finally over.
And what a devastating demise for the Indians. Blowing a three games-to-one lead is bad enough, but Cleveland made it even worse by doing just enough all game to keep the hope of victory alive. It all came together when Rajai Davis crushed that tying two run homer off the previously unhittable Aroldis Chapman in the eighth. At that point, I didn’t think there was any way the Cubbies were going to win, because we’d all seen this story from Chicago before, as the pressure of the “curse” and over a century of losing slowly crept in and crushed them.
But then Chapman came back out for the ninth, and despite  not having the gas to throw his 100+ mile an hour fastball, got through the inning unscathed. And after the rain delay, the Cubs bats woke up for the top of the tenth and knocked in two runs, giving them an 8-6 advantage heading to the bottom of the tenth. Carl Edwards Jr., who weighs like 120 pounds soaking wet and holding a brick, and Mike Montgomery were able to do just enough to close out the Indians, ending one of the best games I’ve ever watched and securing the most elusive championship any organization has ever pursued.
It’s the greatest win in any sport in my entire lifetime. How many times has a team, with one victory, won a championship, erased a seemingly insurmountable deficit, broken a 108 year curse, changed the narrative around their entire franchise, exorcised all their big game demons,  and invalidated a bottom-dwelling nickname like “The Lovable Losers”? The Red Sox title in ’04 was legendary, but their biggest victories in that playoff run came in the prior round, the ALCS against the Yankees, a series that saw Boston erase a 3-0 deficit. That World Series was never in doubt, as they jumped all over the hapless Cardinals on their way to a sweep. The 2016 Cubs? Not so much. No one was sure Chicago was going to be champions until the ball passed from Kris Bryant’s hand to Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the last out.
But back to Cleveland; have they now replaced the Cubs as the most tortured franchise in all of sports? I ran across this idea for the first time like seven years ago when it appeared in a column by Bill Simmons, and I've been fascinated by it ever since. Let’s consider the Indians for a moment:
1. They haven’t won a championship since 1948.

2. They’ve lost two heartbreaking Game 7’s in the World Series in the last 20 years. In 1997 the Indians headed into the bottom of ninth with a 3-2 lead against the Marlins, before they watched in horror as their closer Jose Mesa blew the save on a sacrifice fly by Craig Counsel that sent the game into extra innings. They eventually lost in the eleventh on Edgar Renteria’s series winning single. And then there was this year, an intensity ridden affair that saw the Indians hang around all night and trick their fans into thinking that they actually had a chance to win. Instead, they choked away a three-games-to-one advantage.
3. The 1954 Indians won an American League record-at-the-time 111 regular season games and were heavily favored to knock off the Giants in the World Series that year.  Instead, they got swept, thanks in large part to a couple of heroics from New York players in Game 1; Monte Irvin’s walk off home run and Willie Mays's sensational over the shoulder catch.
4. They missed the playoffs every year from 1955-1993, finishing with a losing record 29 times during that stretch.
5. Held a two-games-to-none lead over the Red Sox in the 1999 ALDS, before losing the next three games on their way to a playoff exit.
6. Held a three-games-to-one lead over the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS, before doing the exact same thing they did eight years prior, as they lost the next three games and allowed Boston to advance to the World Series.
7. It’s brutally cold at least half the year in Cleveland. Don’t rule this out. Imagine losing an enormous playoff game in devastating fashion. You’re pissed, sad, and probably even slightly depressed. Then you wake up the next morning and are bombarded with three degree weather. Your car is covered in snow and ice, so you have stand outside and scrape off the windows while it’s colder than Jack Frost himself, and you’re thinking to yourself as you’re doing it, “My god, my team just absolutely destroyed me emotionally last night, and now I’ve got to deal with this for the next 5 months? Where’s my sleeping pills and Jack Daniels?” Fans in warm weather cities don’t have to deal with this. A Miami team might lose a heartbreaker, but then their fans wake up the next day and it’s 75 degrees outside, and a daily existence is still really comfortable. It’s not a joy to exist in a world where it’s in the single digits for 12 straight weeks. Warm weather has a way of soothing people and calming them down because it helps keep sports in their proper perspective by giving those who live in it more escapism options. My team just broke my heart? Oh well, it's 80 degrees, let's just go the beach today. You don’t get that in cold weather cities, because when it’s January in Cleveland, the only thing you have to look forward to for the next three months is swirling winds and bone chilling temperatures.
8. The Indians have done a great job fooling their fan base and getting their hopes up that they might actually be able to break through multiple different times with multiple different teams in multiple different generations. Being poorly run and sucking for 50 years isn’t fun at all, but no one has ever thought the Detroit Lions were going to break through and win a championship. They haven’t fielded a team that’s been capable of doing so. But getting the fan base’s hopes up hasn’t been a problem for Cleveland. It just happened in this series.
Sheesh. There’s not another baseball team with that much baggage. If I was fan of the Cleveland sports’ teams I’d have slit my wrists by now because they’ve all had their fair share of absolutely soul-crushing losses. Thank god the Cavaliers won the NBA title just six months ago because if they hadn’t, the suicide and alcoholic rate in Northeastern Ohio would’ve skyrocketed in the next 24 hours.
Speaking of the other Cleveland teams, I actually had to go to football to find teams that met the “No title in a long time, multiple devastating losses, and cold weather” standards. And no, it’s not the Browns, though their kidney punch losses are worth examining as well:
1. They haven’t won a championship since winning the NFL title in 1964.
2. The Drive. In the 1986 AFC Championship Game, Cleveland took a seven point lead with a little more than five minutes left to play, before John Elway led Denver on an improbable 98 yard that tied the score with 37 seconds left. The Broncos then kicked a field goal in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl.
3. The Fumble: In the 1987 AFC Championship Game, the very next year, Cleveland’s Earnest Byner was carrying the ball towards the goal line virtually uncontested for the game-tying touchdown before he inexplicably fumbled the ball, allowing Denver to recover while basically killing their chances in the process. The turnover turned out to be the deciding factor in the game.
4. Red Right 88. In the 1980 AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Browns were trailing the Raiders 14-12 with 49 seconds left but had the ball at Oakland’s 13 yard line, a position on the field that was well within field goal range. Rather than send out the kicker, Cleveland, who had had kicking troubles all day, decided to call the pass play, “Red Slot Right, Halfback Stay, 88”. Quarterback Brian Sipe was supposed to throw the ball away if his receivers weren’t open, but he instead mistakenly decided to force it in to his tight end Ozzie Newsome. His throw was instead intercepted by Oakland’s Mike Davis, killing their chance to try a field goal and ending their season.
5. The Move. Cleveland’s owner Art Modell became the most hated man in Northeast Ohio history when he inexplicably moved the team to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Cleveland was without a franchise until ’99, when the NFL granted them an expansion franchise.
6. The “new” Browns have been the worst run franchise in all of sports since they came back, as they’ve made one playoffs one time and have had 15 losing seasons.
7. Cold weather city.
8. Tricked the fans into thinking they had a shot a few times.
God might really hate Cleveland.
But how about another NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings? Let’s look at their history:
1. The only championship they “won” was the 1969 NFL title, but that got crapped on the following week when the lost the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs. So basically they’ve finished a year as the best team in football.
2. Lost four Super Bowls in eight years.
3. Were defeated in the 1975 NFC Divisional Playoffs by the Cowboys on a Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson. It was controversial because many people felt that Pearson pushed off to get himself open.
4. In the 1987 NFC Championship Game, Minnesota lost 17-10 after running back Darrin Nelson dropped the tying touchdown in the end zone on fourth and goal.
5. In 1998, the Vikings went 15-1 in the regular season and were the prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl. In the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons, they took a 27-20 lead and had driven down the field to set up what would’ve been a game clinching field goal. They sent out their kicker, Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a field goal or extra point all year, to attempt a 38 yarder. It was a no brainer, right? Whoops…. Anderson shanked it, Atlanta got the ball back and went down the field, tying the game with 49 seconds left to send it to overtime. In the extra period, Minnesota couldn’t get anything going, and the Falcons got the ball back and scored on their first possession to win the game and end the Vikings’ season.
6. In the 2000 NFC Championship Game, Minnesota, a favorite on the road in New York, were blasted by the Giants 41-0 for their worst playoff defeat in franchise history.
7. During Week 17 of 2003 season, the lowly Arizona Cardinals completed a 28 yard prayer on the final play of the season to eliminate the Vikings from playoff contention.
8. In the 2009 NFC Championship Game at New Orleans ended with despair once again as the Vikings lost 31-28 in overtime. They nearly doubled the Saints’ yardage output, but were decimated by five turnovers, including a back-breaking Brett Favre interception near the end of regulation that occurred with the score tied and Minnesota on the verge of field goal range
9. In the 2015 NFC Wild Card Game, on a bitterly cold day in Minneapolis, the Vikings lost 10-9 to Seattle after their kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip shot 27 yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining.
10. They play in a cold weather city.
11. Tricked the fans into thinking they were going to win like a million times.
Geez, about every decade the Vikings find a way to absolutely guillotine their fan base. Cleveland gets a lot of press for having devastating losses and low fan base morale, and deservedly so, but no one’s had it worse than Viking fans the last five decades. They've got to be the "winner" right?
We used to be able to throw the Cubs at the top of “tortured franchise” list. Now they’re off it. Will any of these others join them? For their collective sanity of the city, I sure hope so. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jalen Hurd, Butch Jones, and "Friend of a Friend" Stories

The Jalen Hurd experience has abruptly and shocking petered out, as Butch Jones announced yesterday that Hurd was indeed transferring from the program, confirming the numerous and wild Twitter rumors that were furiously ablaze on Sunday night.
I appreciate the 2+ seasons that Jalen spent in Knoxville, but honestly, this isn’t a huge loss for the program. He’s a downhill runner who needs to build up momentum towards the line of scrimmage before he gets the football, something he’s never afforded in this spread, shotgun-heavy Tennessee attack. Alvin Kamara (or a back like him) has and always will be a better fit in backfield for Butch’s system, something that was made abundantly clear during Kamara’s absolute destruction of Texas A&M’s defense a few weeks ago.
It’s also become apparent over the last 48 hours that Jalen might’ve been more trouble behind the scenes than he was worth. Someone purporting to be his uncle posted this long, angry, rambling rant on a UT message board, throwing Butch under the bus for supposedly lying about how he was going to start featuring more I-formation sets in the Tennessee offense, and about how he’d played hurt and given his all and how he didn’t feel that anyone appreciated his sacrifices.

Just stop. Look, I’m in the “Butch should be fired” camp, but if a guy’s attitude is, “Things aren’t going my way, so I’m going to announce midseason that I’m transferring, despite the fact that my teammates who I’ve bled with for almost three years now still have a lot to play for” then I don’t want you on my sidelines. You went to Tennessee knowing the offense that was going to be run, despite the fact that you had a zillion other programs that would’ve run more traditional offense that would’ve suited your skillset much better. Is Butch supposed to drastically change his scheme for a few plays a game just to make you happy? If you want to be angry at someone at Tennessee, blame that terrible offensive line that’s been incapable of opening holes for you for most of your career.
Good luck with the transfer, the ridiculous notion that it would somehow be a good idea for you to change positions, and the year you’ll have to sit out. I hope it works out for you. Maybe the next school you end up at will treat you like the GOD you are.
Interestingly enough though, the Hurd transfer itself is actually the least interesting part of this story to me. It’s the 2016 version of last year’s Butch-Mack Crowder punching incident that only came out because Tennessee was in the midst of an extremely disappointing campaign that saw them lose three different games that they held 13 point leads in. If they hadn’t lost all those games, that story never surfaces because everything would’ve been right with the program and the wins would’ve blotted out and suppressed every negative piece of information. Bad feelings either create negative stories, or bring inflammatory reports to the surface. The enthusiasm around the program is as low as it's been since the Dooley years; if the Vols were 7-1 or 8-0, do you really think Jalen Hurd would be pissed off enough to transfer? No, of course not, because then he’d look like the most selfish athlete of all time, and he’d get killed on every local and national sports talk show. But because this has been perhaps the most disappointing Tennessee football season of my life, and because morale is so low, any problems that the players on the team have bubble up and explode into massive issues. Butch is losing the fan base, the boosters, the administration, and perhaps most importantly, the team.
I also want to go back to those Twitter rumors though, something that, in my opinion, is the most fascinating part of this story. On Sunday night, as I was flipping back and forth between the World Series and Cowboys-Eagles, I started seeing tweets about Hurd quitting the team because he was angry about… something? I was instantly skeptical, of course, first because that’s about as general and uninformative of a statement as you’d could possibly make about this issue, and secondly, because all the people that were “reporting” this were average Joes with no legitimate sources who were saying things like, “My friend’s cousin lives in the same apartment complex as Cam Sutton, and he told him that Jalen was quitting”. Wait, what? If “My brother’s uncle’s sister’s baby daddy went to high school with Jalen’s cousin, and he told me that he was quitting” passes as Tweet-worthy and reliable information to thousands of people, then what does that say about the gullibility of our society and our ability to think critically and discover the truth? And the Hurd Twitter rumors turned out to not be entirely true either, considering they left out that he was actually transferring and not just quitting, that he was changing positions, and that he supposedly had irreconcilable problems with Coach Jones.
Plus, in the last two days I’ve heard/read a bunch of different stories about Hurd’s season from "friend of a friend or a friend" from multiple different "sources", including:
1.      Jalen didn’t play in or travel for the Texas A&M game because he had an alcohol related arrest and quit the team for a week, only to have the coaching staff lie about an injury to protect his image.
2.      During the Georgia game, when Hurd fumbled close to the goal line after getting clocked, he actually suffered a concussion on that play. The only reason he was allowed to come back in was because the training staff screwed up the concussion protocol and sent him back out there, only to realize he was actually concussed after he caught a touchdown pass early in the second half. They then lied to the media and said he had a “lower body injury” to protect their asses.
3.      A fake Twitter account claiming to be ESPN’s Brett McMurphy “reported” that Hurd had been kicked off the team. The tweet actually appeared at the top of the “Jalen Hurd” search results for a little while.
And those are just the biggies. All of these claims were either completely untrue, or came from “a friend of a friend of a friend”, meaning there’s no way to substantiate them at all. Way to go, “Investigative Twitter Media”; you guys really nailed it. If Hurd got busted for alcohol, then why did he miss virtually all of the second half against Georgia? Was he doing shots of Don Julio between plays? And if he did get busted for alcohol between UGA and A&M, then where’s the police report? Why has he not appeared in a Knoxville busted paper? And if he got concussed during the Georgia game, then don’t you think that one of his teammates, a member of the coaching staff, or Jalen himself, would’ve accidentally let it slip that Jalen got knocked out? After all, there’s nothing more “commendable” and “tough” than playing through a concussion, and we all know Hurd wants to be worshipped for all the “sacrifices” he made.
But the willingness to believe whatever the most sensational story that pops up on social media is ridiculous. A few weeks ago, there was a rumor started out of, as far as I can tell, nothing, indicating that Vol backup QB Quinten Dormady was going to transfer. It blew up Twitter for a while before dying down when everyone realized there was nothing to it. Just because someone posts something on the internet, or prefaces it by saying, “sources say” or, “my friend of a friend of a friend” doesn’t mean it’s even remotely true. If you hate the mainstream media, that’s fine, but when it comes to investigative reporting they’re always more reliable than Jim Bob who is living in a trailer in a Tennessee holler with 312 Twitter followers. They’re way more connected, have way better sources, have greater access, and have higher standards of truth to meet before they can even think about publishing the information they’ve gathered.
Because Tennessee was so mysterious with Jalen’s injury, and because people are so desperate for answers, they’ll believe anything that attempts to answer their questions, whether they’re true or not. Oftentimes, the juiciest stories are the ones we believe the most, because we have a desire for each and every situation to be more interesting than it actually is. But common sense, reasoning, and patience help us sort out what’s true from what’s fictitious.

So don’t give credence to Twitter nonsense. Consider the source. Do your own research. Ask yourself, “Does what I just heard make sense?” and “Is this worthy of a retweet/share?”. If it comes from Billy Bob from Bluff City, or “Random UT Student X”, then I’d go ahead and move on.