Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday links: Now we play the waiting game

As of this morning, football season — including recruiting and the NFL playoffs — has officially come to a close, after the Giants beat the Patriots (again) in the Super Bowl last night in a pretty unusual game.  We have discussed this before, but it bears repeating: College football, if it truly wishes to adopt a postseason tournament, would do well to look at a model that does not reward regular-season mediocrity with a shot at the championship. Dr. Saturday said as much in the run-up to the Super Bowl:

Even if New York knocks off New England, it will finish the season with a lower winning percentage (.650) than six other teams — New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco, Baltimore and Pittsburgh — that happened to suffer one of their rare losses at the wrong point on the calendar. In the context of a 16-game schedule, the gap between New York at 9-7 and the top three teams in the NFC (all of which beat New York head-to-head in the regular season, en route to finishing 13-3 or better) was enormous.
But of course, thanks to the inviolable sanctity of the playoffs, the only streak that matters in the end is the Giants' three-game run in January. So here they are, and almost no one blinks. What a story!
Consider that the Giants lost twice during the regular season to the Washington Redskins (5-11), the second of those losses coming at home late in the season when New York was allegedly in "must win" posture. They were within one play of elimination twice vs. Dallas, before catching fire to win their division (worst in the league). And now they are champions of a league in which they were mediocre for the bulk of the season. Not their fault, but it's hard to believe a team this average is the "champion" at the end of the year.
(One other Super Bowl related note: Both quarterbacks in last night's game have history vs. Alabama, though no Bama QB has played in the Super Bowl since Joe Namath's guarantee. 

— Speaking of regular seasons and mediocrity, Alabama survived yet again over the weekend vs. Ole Miss, with Trevor Releford coming up with some crucial defensive plays — including a strip of the Rebels' Jarvis Summers on the last possession in OT, when he was badly beaten and really had no other chance — to allow the team to hang on. One hopes this is the kind of victory that can propel a team through the rest of SEC play. Tuesday night's Auburn game looms large. We shall see.
— The defending champs in gymnastics continue to dominate all comers. This weekend's victim was Florida, arguably the best team we've faced all year ... that went down and went down hard.
— Other things that will no doubt be the center of conversation for the rest of this interminable offseason: Recruiting, and specifically the ethics of it. Nick Saban and his staff at Alabama — excoriated in columns like this one from Montgomery or this story in the AJC — continue to look like bad guys for continuing the practice of "greyshirting" and "roster management." The reality — as OTS points out — is that coaches have little choice in the matter.
Coaches are, after all, doing no more than simply trying to maximize on-field success given the applicable rules established by those above them (which is, incidentally, their job), and many modern rule changes have made that job even harder. Long gone are the days when most coaches could freely take risks on players with potential academic problems or uncertain medical issues, for example. With each spot now unused being lost forever, coaches simply have to be certain that whoever they allow to fill those spots can, at a bare minimum, qualify academically and arrive to campus relatively healthy in the months immediately after National Signing Day. Evaluations, then, become even more critical, all the while the nature of the recruiting cycle changes such that -- due to earlier decisions of many prospects and the acceleration of the recruiting process as a whole -- evaluations must be made much sooner than in years past, with much less information, and a greater potential of a bad outcome with a missed evaluation. And when something inevitably goes wrong, the coaches, and not the system under which they are forced to operate in, inevitably become the scapegoats.
 The developing narrative in the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives — outside of whatever happens at Penn State, obviously — is the arrival of Urban Meyer, and him making everyone else having to, like, work hard at recruiting and stuff. Incidentally, Barry Alvarez doesn't see the problem.
— Your other refuge during the offseason? The Fulmer Cup. Enjoy it, and pray to God our teams' name stays out of it. Happy offseason.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Ken Stabler called...he wants to jog your memory about Bama QBs and the Super Bowl.