Peak Harbaugh, insanity from the Florida Panthers and #IslesTwitter and the Giants’ gutcheck draws nigh
I’m a well-known apologist for Thanksgiving weekend. I’m no Grinch, but the emphasis on football and food has always lifted the more casual and anxiety-free Thanksgiving weekend over Christmas on my Winter Holiday Mount Rushmore.
This holiday weekend, however, we had something extra to thank our Football overlords for; a double dose of peak Harbaugh.
There’s nothing I love more than a good coach freak out in football. From Belichick to Shula to Green, football coaches bring something extra, something intangible, to the table that other heads of teams don’t. Football guys reign supreme.
The captain and first mate, respectively, of the football guy fraternity are the Harbaugh brothers, with Jim in the top throne and John just below him. We were blessed with a pair of memorable moments from that family on this Thanksgiving weekend.
First, The Game gave us the best of what college football and the Harbaughs have to offer. Jim stalked down the sidelines draped in khaki, breaking headsets, whipping play cards around like darts and nearly steering his outmatched Wolverines to a victory over perhaps the country’s best squad on the road in Columbus, Ohio. He fell just short, but he did so in brilliant fashion.
His brother John was there to finish the job, however. He took a page out of the Belichick playbook by finding a loophole that says the football game can end on an offensive penalty, even if that offensive team is punting the ball away. So, with just a few second left to spare, Harbaugh told his Ravens punt team to do whatever they could to run out the clock, including committing about a baker’s dozen worth of penalties and taking an intentional safety rather than give their opponents a chance to run the kick back for a TD.
Gotta love the Harbuaghs.
Sports often stands in a somewhat uncomfortable middle ground when it comes to morality, and, like Bane and Batman, college football coaches were born in this amoral mud, while other sports have just adapted to it.
It happens every year, without fail. Coaches lie to reporters, fans, probably their players, perhaps even their own families, about where they will be working a few days, weeks or months down the line.
My first recollection is Nick Saban holding the Miami Dolphins hostage while he negotiated with Alabama. This year, Houston’s Tom Herman embarrassed reporter after reporter doing their job by asking questions before taking a new job so quickly, he won’t even finish out the season with the Houston team that helped him earn this pay raise.
That’s their prerogative, and given how big-name schools like Texas treat head coaches like Charlie Strong, their decision to delude schools is certainly defensible. But, next time someone calls foul on a 20-year-old college football players mistakes, let’s remember just how nefarious the people paid to teach them can be.
Despite all that moral latitude in college football, some moments can make it all worthwhile, and people that do earn their right to be coaches. The latest example of that is LSU’s Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron has a rocky start to his head-coaching career, to say the least, as this profile from early 2015 can tell you. But he’s genuinely worked to better himself both as a man and as a professional, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see a guy who has done so earn himself another shot.
No, Orgeron was not good as the head coach at Ole Miss. His record and the stories from Mississippi at the time can tell you that. But he did his interim jobs damn well at USC and LSU and earned a second chance.
Yes, his record as a head coach may once again take a nose dive if Orgeron falls into old habits or players tire of his schtick. So it goes with passionate college football coaches.
In the sea of gray area that makes up college football, it was nice to see the right job go to the right guy, even just for once.
As most of America packed its bagged and returned home after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Florida Panthers told Gerald Gallant to do the same, relieving the head coach of his duties over the weekend.
I’ve called the Panthers the most confusing team in the NHL all season, and this only secures that ranking. The Panthers have been neither great nor terrible this season, posting 23 points through 22 games and finding themselves fifth in the Atlantic Divison and 11th in the Eastern Conference, but that wasn’t good enough to save Gallant’s job. The team spent on veterans like Keith Yandle after a promising playoff appearance last year, have some aging stars in Luongo and Jagr and want to win now. So an average performance from Gallant was deemed not good enough, past successes are damned.
That decision in Florida is causing some serious speculation in Brooklyn, where the ax seems to be dangling over Islanders’ head coach Jack Capuano. Fans and media members around #IslesTwitter wondered if Gallant could be Brooklyn-bound, given his apparent predilection to developing talents like Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.
Maybe I’m not alarmist enough, but I don’t see it. I certainly think its time to part ways with Capuano, but the bell also tolls for Snow. Plus, you should never fire one coach just because a different one got fired. Don’t let other teams make your decision for you.
The Islanders and Panthers are a pair of young teams that are beginning to worry their blueprints may not be destined for Stanley Cup Glory, and are taking opposite paths to attack it, with one waiting it out and one acting immediately. We’ll have to see who wins out.
The arrival of Thanksgiving has given some NHL players that were beginning to grip the stick a tad to tightly some reason to celebrate.
Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes got the monkey off his back and celebrated in style (see above) as he tallied his first goal of the season, and was, in fact, his first since February 24, including 35 games. Some other stars also felt the feeling of sweet relief this weekend, as Auston Matthews ended a 13-game scoreless streak with a trio of goals this weekend.
It wasn’t just skaters, though. Connor Hellyebuck finally got the big animal of his backside with his first shutout of the year and the third of his career.
Something tells me there will have plenty of more nights to celebrate for that threesome…
Listen, I know LBJ is a proud resident of the Buckeye State. I know he was raised in Northeast Ohio, outside of Cleveland, and has carried that and used it to fuel much of his career. He’s the native son, the prodigal son, the one who made good and finally delivered a championship to the title derived city. He deserves all the accolades he’s gotten.
But does he really have to show up at every Ohio sporting event? The World Series, The Game, he’s there, he’s celebrating in pre-orchestrated fashion. And we all we know exactly where he is in real time. Far be it from me to rain on the Chosen One’s parade, but he’s become Ohio’s equivalent of Bill Murray, somehow “randomly” appearing at every major sporting event, doing those “wacky” things he does and generally causing a scene. And like Murray’s schtick, it’s getting to be a bit played out.
LeBron, it’s basketball season again. It was cute during baseball, but enough is enough. Stay in your damn lane for once.
From a loud Ohioian to a quiet one, as Kevin Martin quietly ended his career over the weekend, announcing his retirement in the paper he grew up reading in high school in Zanesville without much pomp and circumstances. His strange shooting motion netted him a nearly 44 percent career shooting mark, and he was capable of scoring points in bunches, but that’s how most basketball fans will think of him. Instead, it’s the deals that are associated with him that will live on most after he retires.
And with that, the James Harden trade beings to write it’s final chapters. Harden is now thriving in Houston under D’Antoni, and his time with the Thunder seems now to be but a distant memory. The Oklahoma City power structure has been blown to bits; KD is no longer in OKC; Kevin Martin is no more.
Kevin Martin was a fine NBA players and probably deserves to be more than just a footnote on one of the biggest trades in NBA history. But for better or worse, he’ll be remembered as one of the catalysts for the deal that may have kept Oklahoma City from rising to the top of the NBA mountain.
It seems like Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr may need to get Jason Pierre Paul’s advice on dealing with life with damaged digits, as the young MVP candidate needed a glove to help hold his hand together on Sunday.
The injury was a dual reminder. First, it served to show that maybe we don’t all want to be NFL QB’s (just ask anyone who’s played under center for the Browns over the past decade or so). Second, it proved once again just how tenuous any team’s grip on greatness could be.
Football, at every level, is a contest of who can take the most punishment, who can stand the longest, who isn’t injured at the end of the year. Eli Manning’s longevity has covered up some of his faults; Tom Brady’s has elevated him to perhaps the greatest passer of all time and Brett Favre’s made him a legend.
But one bad cut, one blown tendon, one crunched finger, and what seemed to be such a promising season can turn to black dust. Can Carr overcome?
A few weeks ago, I said the Giants stunk. I believed it then, and I’m still not convinced this team is all that good. They’ve beaten some bad teams in unimpressive fashion after falling below .500 in the early part of the season, and the quarterback play continues to make me worry that 2016, the year that I wrote my Eli Manning defense, will be the year we mark as the beginning of the end of #10.
All that said, 8-3 is 8-3. The Giants have earned the second spot in what’s looking like a fairly formidable NFC East, and are the lone blemish on the Cowboys’ impressive resume. The defense continues to look stout and well worth the offseason investment, and like we’ve been told time and time again that you are what your record says you are. So maybe I wasted my breath by arguing with fellow Giants fans over just how good this team is over the holiday weekend. Lord knows I’ve been wrong before.
Maybe their record will be a bit more honest in a few weeks, however. After winning for most of the cupcake part of the Giants’ schedule, with victories over the lowly Bears and Browns the past two weeks, snatching victory away from the jaws of defeat at home against the Eagles and beating the Rams as the road team in a foreign country, the Giants will enter the gauntlet next week.
They’ll play every game left on their schedule in a cold-weather environment. Every opponent they play currently stands at .500 or above. They’ll be the underdog in all but one of their five remaining games. They’ll play three of the five remaining on the road.
That’s a tough way to finish, and it will say a lot about this Giants team, and the players on it. Eli is battling to remain in the upper echelon of QB’s, or even to get back into that elite group. Landon Collins wants to earn that DPOY and Steve Spagnuolo’s defense needs to finish what they’ve started this year. It’s time to find out what the answers to those questions are.
The Giants have done what they needed to do during the soft part of the schedule, given themselves a chance to disrupt the playoffs once again. It’s time to find out if these Giants are contenders or pretenders.
Have a good week, everybody. For more, follow @MurraySportTalk on Twitter.