Among the things I’ve been thinking about . . .
Holy Deacon Jones! What in the Dick Butkus is going on here? Can anyone tackle anymore?
Listen, I like offensive football as much as the next guy, but this is getting ridiculous. A record 90 touchdowns were scored Sunday in the NFL. Saturday I spent the day watching college football players run and pass up and down the field. Has Auburn’s Tre Mason been tackled yet?
Surely Bear Bryant is spinning in his grave. Vince Lombardi wouldn’t recognize today’s game.
I understand few fans are complaining. Fans – and that means TV viewers – like watching touchdowns, not gang tackling on 3rd-and-1. The TV execs and football lawmakers figured this out more than 30 years ago and that’s why all of the rules changes for decades have been made to boost offense, and that includes rules for player safety.
The credit – or blame, depending upon your point of view – can be traced to Steve Spurrier when he arrived at Florida in 1990 and, later, the growing concern about concussions.
Certainly there were coaches before Spurrier who came up with creative ways to spread the field and throw the ball all over the place. Heck, Spurrier did it at Duke in the late 1980s. But Spurrier’s Gators were the first to gun-and-run and consistently win championships. He forced the rest of the SEC to adjust, and practically overnight the country’s best conference went from pounding opponents to death to embarrassing them by air. It didn’t take long for the NFL to follow suit.
The sudden awareness of concussions and how they were impacting players long after they put away their cleats led to lawsuits and they led to changes in the rules to eliminate the intimidating defenders who liked to take shots to the head. It gave protection to quarterbacks in the pocket and receivers running across the middle of the field.
And before we realized it that great defensive conference, the SEC, had a championship game with Auburn giving up 42 points and still winning by 17. And we have offensive records being set almost every weekend in the NFL.
All of this makes it even more amazing that the Gators offense was so bad and that the Jaguars have just figured out how to score.
In closing, here are a couple of early predictions: FSU over Auburn 72-56 in the BCS Championship Game; the Broncos over the Saints 63-49 in the Super Bowl.
The national pundits are still cracking jokes about the Jaguars, but the coaches and players playing against them aren’t laughing anymore. The Jaguars have transformed themselves from a national laughingstock to a competent NFL team that has won four of its last five games.
The Jaguars, ladies and gentlemen, are the hottest team in the AFC!
Here was a team on the verge of establishing historical lows for bad play that suddenly has discovered some playmakers. Ace Sanders comes to mind. They’ve also uncovered some solid players such as right tackle Austin Pastzor and wide receiver Mike Brown. Some veterans seemingly have rediscovered their mojo, mainly MoJo. Their No. 1 Mr. Underachiever, Marcedes Lewis, is even making plays. They have stability at quarterback in Chad Henne, who is average as average can be but that’s a huge improvement from Blaine Gabbert.
It’s also been a huge turn-around when it comes to playing with poise. Remember all of those stupid unsportsmanlike penalties during the first half of the season?
Perhaps the biggest sign that this is a different Jaguar team from the one we saw in September and October was revealed Thursday night. The Jaguars 27-20 victory against the Texans ended a mind-boggling curse: the Jaguars won in front of its home crowd.
Jaguar fans are now actually expecting victories with the Bills and Titans coming to town.
Understand the Jaguars are by no means even an average team – yet – but it appears the seeds have been planted to produce a much brighter future. Who only a month ago dared imagine this turn-around?
Now the national pundits need to pay attention and get up to date.
Today’s topics are the BCS debate and the Gators’ coaching situation.
First, barring any upsets this weekend which teams should play in the BCS Championship Game?
Should any one-loss team jump ahead of the two major unbeatens, Florida State and Ohio State?
It makes for the perfect debate because major college football has such an imperfect system for determining a national champion. The most debated issue, of course, is the schedules the contenders play.
The debate goes something like this:
A one-loss SEC champion deserves consideration because the conference is easily the strongest.
The ACC and the Big Ten lack quality teams but they’re established BCS conferences. FSU dominated; Ohio State often did not.
The Big 12 doesn’t play defense. Besides, its top team Oklahoma State lost to a lousy West Virginia team.
Don’t bring up the nonconference schedules because all of them played a bunch of patsies. None of the contenders played more than one team from another BCS conference.
Give me FSU vs. the Auburn-Missouri winner.
Second, I hope Jeremy Foley knows what he’s doing. His faith in his football coach Will Muschamp is admiral, but is it smart?
The Gators athletic director insists Muschamp is the right man to lead the football program. At Florida, that means always being a contender for the SEC championship and being in the national title discussion most years.
In his first three years Muschamp has taken a program one year removed from winning the national title and turned it into a 4-8 team. Along the way the Gators offense has consistently been among the worse in the nation while going through two coordinators and four quarterbacks.
What exactly does Foley see in Muschamp? A nice young man with incredible passion for his job and football, for sure, but aren’t there hundreds, even thousands, of such men?
Can Muschamp succeed as a head coach? Can he hire the right people, delegate authority, recruit, develop, inspire and lead?
Gators can only hope now.
I had serious doubts about Gus Bradley and, admit it, so did you. Could the constant smile and the upbeat attitude week after week in face of one embarrassing loss after another be for real? Could this NFL rookie head coach really believe in what he repeatedly called “the process”?
Admittedly, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world and lately the Jaguars are winning games. Three out of the last four, in fact. And all on the road! Holy Auburn! What is going on?
The shocking turnaround has been aided by a much softer schedule. There’s no debating that. But winning in the NFL is difficult. It is a tough league built on parity.
Because we so thoroughly trashed the Jaguars while they were going 0-8, it’s only fair to give them and their coach their credit now. Sunday’s come from behind 32-28 at Cleveland was a royal flush.
The one constant positive during the Jaguars’ horrific first eight games was they seemed to play hard. Only once during that time did Bradley question his team’s effort. From the outside it was difficult to see that effort because Bradley wasn’t just talking about games. He insisted the players came to practice every day excited about going to work. Sure, he said, the losses hurt. I don’t ever recall him saying he or the players were embarrassed but you know they had to hear all of the jokes and harsh criticism.
Now the attitude down at Everbank Field is electric. With four games to go could the Jaguars finish 7-1? Of course, it’s still a longshot, but now it doesn’t appear to be out of the question. They play host to a team, Houston, this Thursday night they’ve already beaten. Then a struggling Buffalo comes to town followed by Tennessee, another team they Jaguars have already beaten. A season-ending trip to Indianapolis could be against a Colts team resting its starters for the playoffs.
Sure, I’m flipping out on the positive side, but we’ve already beaten to death the negative. This team still has, at best, a mediocre roster and wholesale changed are needed to make it into a playoff contender. But suddenly it feels like a team that just may have the right man steering the ship.
Gus Bradley, take a bow!
Now, could you and the Jaguars please win one at home?
In the spirit of Thanksgiving . . .
I’m thankful for Wayne Weaver because without him Jacksonville wouldn’t have an NFL franchise . . .
The Seminoles are thankful for Will Muschamp . . .
I’m thankful for former mayor Jake Godbold because without him our city and business leaders wouldn’t have had the stones to go after an NFL franchise . . .
The Dawgs are thankful for Will Muschamp . . .
I’m thankful for Rick Catlett, Tom Petway, David Seldin and the late Doug Peeples because they played such important roles in Jacksonville getting an NFL franchise . . .
Vanderbilt is thankful for Will Muschamp . . .
I’m thankful for Tom Coughlin for both his coaching and his humanity . . .
The Hurricanes are thankful for Will Muschamp . . .
I’m thankful I have a sense of humor . . .