Shooting from the lip/Nov. 29th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
You can't blame the University of Miami for cutting ties with coach Randy Shannon, and you can understand why it did so after Saturday's game. It wasn't that Miami lost to USF, but because there were fewer than 27,000 people inside the 73,000-seat Sun Life Stadium.
The program has gone from being one of the most dominant from the 1980s to early 2000s to a nonfactor on the national landscape. This isn't a national powerhouse anymore. It's not even a Top 25 program anymore. Know what kind of football program it is? It's Kentucky. It's Pitt. It's Arizona. A little better than mediocre. Just good enough to get an invite to some dinky bowl game such as the Sun Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl.
Shannon took over for Larry Coker, who was fired after going 60-15, before the 2007 season. In four seasons, Shannon went 28-22 and did not win a bowl game. Even worse, the program lost its prestige, its standing, its swagger. And that is exactly what Shannon, a former player during the program's glory days, was supposed to bring back to Coral Gables. If anything, the program is in worse shape now than when Shannon took over.
So where does Miami go from here? There are rumors that Jon Gruden is interested, but that seems hard to believe. Gruden certainly is the type of name that Miami needs to revitalize the program and get it back to where it was 20 years ago. Problem is, this isn't 20 years ago. In 1990, a guy with Gruden's resume and standing might be interested in taking over Miami. But this is 2010 and, realistically, the job isnt good enough for Gruden, is it? Instead, the 'Canes might have to settle for someone desperate for a job (former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach) or an established coach who has worn out his welcome somewhere else (Georgia's Mark Richt, though he says he's happy at Georgia) or a coach ready to make a move to a bigger school (Rutgers' Greg Schiano or TCU's Gary Patterson). Whoever takes the job has small shoes to fill but big expectations to meet because the university still thinks it's an elite program even though it hasn't been in years.
Once again, this past weekend proved that the BCS creates exciting football. Auburn's remarkable comeback against Alabama and Boise State's heartbreaking overtime loss to Nevada were dramatically enhanced knowing seasons were on the line. If there was, say, a 12- or 16-team playoff, the outcomes of those games would not have been anywhere close to as crucial. But under the current system, an Auburn loss would have ended the Tigers' national championship bid. Boise's loss did end the Broncos' hopes. We see games such as these each and every weekend during the regular season, which is why it's the best regular season in sports. And, the way it's headed, Auburn and Oregon will meet for a national championship between the two most deserving teams in the country.
I completely agree with Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, who said small-conference teams such as Boise State and TCU don't deserve to play for the national championship as much as the big-conference teams do, but Gee picked the wrong year to say it. His Buckeyes did not beat a team that lost fewer than four games, and their nonconference schedule was Marshall, Miami, Ohio and Eastern Michigan.
Worst pregame moment, part I
Didn't CBS learn its lesson last season when NFL Today analysts acted like a bunch of frat boys when Victoria's Secret model Candice Swanepoel visited the set? On Sunday, it happened again as Victoria's Secret model Lily Aldridge was the guest on the predictions segment. The boys were better behaved this year until Boomer Esiason drove the segment straight into the gutter with a juvenile and completely inappropriate comment. Aldridge's analysis on her predictions was fairly knowledgeable, and analyst Dan Marino joked that he was going to peek at her notes. That's when Esiason thought it was okay to say, "Dan’s looking at the notes. Shannon (Sharpe) is looking at other things.''
Really, Boomer? I know CBS is trying to drum up interest for the Victoria's Secret special, but next year, it might be best to keep the models away from the NFL Today set.
Worse pregame moment, part II
The Fox NFL Sunday pregame analysts, for like the 813th time, fell in love with their own special brand of not-funny humor and cackled their way through some dumb segment about Jimmy Johnson being the leader in their predictions contest. Analyst Terry Bradshaw actually got out of his chair and was pounding a desk because he was supposedly laughing so hard. Host Curt Menefee said that in the 17 years of the pregame show, it was "the greatest segment'' the show had ever seen. A more accurate way to put it was to say it was one of the more embarrassing moments in the show's history. These guys might pass out if they actually ever do say something legitimately funny.
Fox NFL Sunday analyst Terry Bradshaw listed his best 10 quarterbacks under the age of 30 and the Bucs' Josh Freeman came in eighth, ahead of signal-callers such as the Giants' Eli Manning, Chicago's Jay Cutler and Houston's Matt Schaub.
"A strong presence, he is comfortable in charge,'' said Bradshaw, who compared Freeman to former Rams great Roman Gabriel.
Bradshaw's list, in order: Philip Rivers (Chargers), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Sam Bradford (Rams), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Mark Sanchez (Jets), Freeman, Manning and Schaub.
Most interesting comments
Talking about the Derek Jeter-Yankees contract negotiations on ESPN's Sports Reporters, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, "The Yankees talk a lot about protecting their brand. … Only now, they turn a contract negotiation with Derek Jeter, who has represented their brand as well as any Yankee in history, into a silly playground stare down.''
Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, talking last week about negotiations with free agents Jeter and Mariano Rivera, said, "As much as we want to keep everybody, we've already made these guys very, very rich, and I don't feel we owe anybody anything monetarily. Some of these players are wealthier than their bosses.''
What's wrong with that? After all, fans pay money to watch Jeter and Rivera play ball, not Steinbrenner sit in his office.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I usually like Fox announcers Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan, but it seemed as if they were sniping throughout the Bucs-Ravens game Sunday and it made us viewers feel like kids listening to mommy and daddy fighting.
2. Know the next time I want to hear the name Simon Gagne)? When he plays in a Lightning game.
3. Duke's basketball team looks even better this season than it did last season when it won the national championship.