FRANK FRANGIE: When is the time right for sports to return?

FRANK FRANGIE: When is the time right for sports to return?

By: Frank Frangie

The quick end to the Andy Dalton saga didn’t surprise me at all. Once you thought about it, going back home to Texas and becoming a backup to Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott makes perfect sense. Particularly if he can earn as much as $7 million in the process.

As soon as he was released by the Bengals and much of the attention seemed to turn to Jacksonville, and possibly New England, I said on air that even if the Jaguars were interested, I wasn’t certain Dalton would choose to come here. Despite the connection to coordinator Jay Gruden, I just assumed if Dalton was going to accept a backup role, it would be on a team that appeared to have higher external expectations.

In fairness to the Jags, I have no idea if they wanted him or even pursued him. As soon as he was released, local and national media connected the dots — the Jags don’t have a veteran presence in the quarterback room, Dalton had success with Gruden as his coordinator, he had played with new tight end Tyler Eifert, etc. But again, in fairness, we have no idea whether — or how hard — they pursued him.

I have been totally convinced, since the day they traded Nick Foles, that this was going to be Gardner Minshew’s team. As it should be. They may really have something in Minshew and probably want to know for sure. I get it. I never believed they were going to take a quarterback high in the draft or bring in a veteran to truly compete for the job. Just my take.

I like the idea of a veteran quarterback here, an insurance policy of sorts, someone to play in the event that Minshew gets hurt or really struggles. I like the idea of a veteran in the room who has been around, someone who can help breakdown video of opposing defenses, who can help a young quarterback grow. The added value of Dalton is he possibly could have helped Minshew understand and digest Gruden’s playbook more quickly.

Doug Marrone said recently on “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network that Minshew is the team’s quarterback, but that they are considering veterans to add to the quarterback room. He never detailed specific roles. Many assumed he was referring to Dalton. We’ll see if there are other possibilities. …

Speaking of expectations, this is the first time in a long time in which the Jags will go into a season with many not expecting much from this team.

Ever since Blake Bortles’ second season in 2015 — when he passed for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns — the expectations have been there. If not externally, certainly here in town. They existed in 2016 — when the Jags only won three games — but finished well. They really took off — nationally and locally — after the exceptional AFC Championship game season of 2017 season.

Since Bortles came into the league the same year as wide receivers Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns, it was reasonable to expect there were big things ahead. I’m always a glass is half full guy, I’ve often admitted that. And I’m a homer. But I really saw those four guys pitching and catching it well for many years. After 2017, it looked like there would be a youth-based defense to go with it.

This year, there are not many expectations. I’ve seen numerous way-too-early 2021 mock drafts and most of them have the Jags choosing first and taking Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Which means at least that group thinks the Jags will be the worst team in the league. Other power polls have them very low. I saw an over/under for wins at 4 and 1/2.

But maybe that isn’t the worse thing. Maybe it lessens the pressure. I have a hunch folks in that building believe they have a way better team than folks on the outside think. There is clearly an air of relief, a feeling that some of the distractions of years gone by are gone. Even though we can’t be in the building during these stay-at-home times, you sense the culture already is better. It feels more relaxed.

Yet I think it is more than that. I think the folks in that building believe their team is better than anyone else thinks it is. I wrote this last week — it is a very young team. Like, really young. But I also think it will be a fun team. We’ll know soon enough if it is a good team. …

One final Jags thought: I’ve gone from convinced Yannick Ngakoue and Leonard Fournette were going to be on the 2020 team, to convinced they wouldn’t be on the team, to now convinced again they will be on the team. The common perception — correct or not — is that the Jags had both on the trading block and found no suitable takers.

But I do know this — this is a HUGE year for both guys. And for their respective football careers. Both are talented. Both have had big seasons. Both are very young — they both just turned 25 earlier this year, Fournette in January, Ngakoue in March. Yet, there are questions about both. Is Fournette good but not great, can he make people miss? Is he a distraction? Is Ngakoue good but not great, he’s only had one double digit sack season and it’s believed he doesn’t always hold up well against the run. Both have been outspoken on social media.

In all likelihood, both will be on the market next year. So my advice: play your absolute tail off this season, be better than you ever have been, help the team be better than anyone expects, be a great teammate, and a really good payday is coming. It is the ultimate contract year for both. Fournette has already said on social media that is his intention. That is what both should do. …

So sad that we lost Buster Harvey last week at the age of 64. What a good, good man. Buster was known as the ultimate basketball coach — a former head coach at FSCJ and Edward Waters and an assistant and interim coach at JU. But he was so much more than that. He was a friend to everyone in the local basketball community and to so many others — including tons of young sports writers who came along and covered hoops in the area. The big grin and southern drawl was a staple in many of our worlds back then.

I can remember trips he and I took together when I was covering high schools in the mid-80s and he was recruiting. We went to regionals together as far away as Niceville and often to the state tournament then held in Lakeland. And always hung out after. We laughed. We drank beer. We told stories. We laughed some more. He will be truly missed.

Reminder that there will be a drive by processional tomorrow (Monday) for his graveside service. Anyone who wants to be in the processional should be at the Sears at the Orange Park Mall no later than 11:45 a.m. The police escort will take the processional by the graveside and family members will acknowledge from a distance. …

As we wait for other sports to come back, here is what we have been told so far:

Baseball may resume and have all the teams in Arizona. Or all the teams in just Arizona and Florida. Or all the teams in Arizona, Florida and Texas. Or all the teams in six hubs. Or now all the teams in their home stadiums just with no fans.

The NBA was going to open up facilities in states that allow it tomorrow. But now they will wait a week to do so. They may have all the teams play in Las Vegas. Or all the teams in Orlando. Or just have a post-season tournament that involves some of the teams.

The NHL may just have a postseason tournament. But it may not because it can’t play until the U.S.-Canadian border reopens.

Sheesh.

I’ll give NASCAR and the PGA Tour credit. They made a decision. The cars start turning left on May 17 and the golfers return June 11. Nobody knows if those are perfect decisions and everyone wants these leagues to return only safely. I get that.

But at least NASCAR and the Tour MADE A DECISION. I’m not saying anyone should rush back unsafely just so we sports fans can have our sports back. That isn’t the point. But I don’t think the back and forth is good for any of us. At some point everyone needs to know. …

College football is the hardest sport to predict, in large part, because the key officials in the sport — conference commissioners and school presidents — have emphatically said they won’t resume play until students are back on campus. The theory makes sense — if it isn’t safe for all students to return, why is it safe for 100 football players — who also are students — to do so.

But you do get the sense that football, all football, will be the least affected by COVID-19. Yes, that sport has the luxury of time — it wasn’t supposed to start until the fall. But I also get the sense leaders of both the NFL and college football have an idea of what they are going to do.

The NFL has made it clear that, as far as anyone knows so far, they plan on starting on time. Nobody has discussed whether that means with or without fans, but they plan on starting. I’m guessing now that college football will, too.

The schools that don’t return to campus may sit out. And schools that do play might have to alter their schedules to accommodate. For the states that have not yet reopened, that could mean schools in that state sit out, even if other schools in the same conference play on. I could see that. But somehow, I get this sense that football will look more normal than we assumed even a few weeks ago. …

My guess, after the NBA gives them their projections, Andrew Nembhard will stay in the NBA draft and Tre Mann will come back to the Florida basketball team. Just a guess but the same one I’ve had all along — Nembhard out and everyone else back. Although most of us were sort of shocked to see Mann test the waters this soon.

The one gigantic plus for Mann to return is to play point guard on what suddenly could be an athletic, up tempo team. As noted many times, post player Kerry Blackshear and Nembhard are very good players, but neither is fast or particularly athletic. UF’s tempo reflected that.

Even if Mann returns, there are two other point guards on the team — sophomore to be Ques Glover and transfer Tyree Appleby. But you would think Mann, a combo guard, will get to run the point some. And playing with the likes of Scotty Lewis, Keyontae Johnson, Omar Payne and transfer forward Anthony Duruji could make for a real uptempo attack. I would think the NBA would love to see a prospective newcomer in that role. …

Speaking of the NBA Draft, most mocks have the FSU tandem of Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams going between picks 10 and 20. Both are going to be really good players. It continues a trend of FSU players in the draft. Since 2016, the Noles have seen Malik Beasley, Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengale taken. Isaac was the only lottery pick of the group, but the others all went.

I think, before it’s over, Williams might be better than all of them. Even Isaac. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Trent Forrest snuck into the second round this year. …

I trimmed the beard so now it is scruff. You know, like the movie tough guys wear it. Still looks dumb. …

Did you see the E:60 on Alex Smith? It was great. And hard to watch. Inspiring. And at times, stomach-turning. I came out of it thinking what a tough, awesome guy Smith is. He’s 36 and still trying to play football one more time. I can’t imagine that after watching it. But I admire him for trying. You have to watch it. …

I’ve never been a binge watch the all the rage Netflix/cable shows guy. I’m sure Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, Ozark, etc. were/are great. I trust you. Just not for me. But tonight Billions returns. On Showtime. Now THAT is the one. If you haven’t watched, you’re missing out. Try it out. …

Also, The Last Dance, episodes 5 and 6. Got to pick which to watch live. Won’t be easy. …

I’m concerned the Colts might be really good. Philip Rivers is so freaking feisty, still has something left, and has something to prove. The line is great, they were very good in free agency and the draft. …

Just saw an ESPN/Football Power Index Top Ten and Florida wasn’t in it. Homer alert, I know. But really? Not in the Top Ten. Went 11-2 last year, losing to LSU on the road and Georgia in fourth quarter games, have the best returning quarterback in the nation’s best league and a ton of other returnees and can’t break the Top 10? Damn. …

I think Mayor Lenny Curry has handled the coronavirus wonderfully. He has been clear in his addresses, he has been sincere without political grandstanding. He has encouraged us to do all the right things, to take it seriously, but has not been afraid to make decisions. That included shutting down the city. And it included slowly reopening it when time was right. I truly believe that. …

My friends from Alhambra Theater and Dining brought food for our show last week. It was awesome. I forgot how good pecan pie is. I think my sweet tooth has gotten worse.

The wife: You gonna eat that whole thing, like the carrot cake?
Me: …

When the world finally re-opens for good, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. We’ll also mourn deeply for the many lives lost and those who lost loved ones. We will hurt for the businesses wrecked or badly hurt. We will try to help as best we can.

But I also think we’ll see the world differently. I think more people will work from home if they can. I’m not sure everyone will go back to their cubicles, desk, office. I’ll take more walks with the wife. I’ll play more golf. I’ll stop and appreciate the things I see in nature more. Corny, I know, never been much of a nature guy. But I really will. …

Cheers.