NFL14 Cherry Picks W17: Why Divisions? States United

26 Dec

“Sea to Shining Sea”

Bemoaning & Groaning have been the grumpy guests at NFL gatherings in recent weeks as the League’s divisional alignment and its role in playoff birthing is once again under strict scrutiny as if it were an over-baked ham, with NFC South preparing to crown a 7-9 ‘champion’ after Sunday’s closing act pitting Carolina against the Falcons in Atlanta.

I used to be Scroogey myself about the set-up, a proponent of ‘division ditch’ since the 7-9 NFC West winners Seattle bumped-off defending champ Saints back in ‘11, a Seahawks squad that we now know was beginning to show the results of a master craftsman in his first campaign (Carroll).


But I’ve come around, broadened my perspective, seen the light. I’m hangin‘ with the wise men (& women) now, at least on the spiritual meaning of football.

The automatic bids and heightened seeding awarded each winner of the eight divisions is clearly in design of respect for regionalism. It benefits the game, the nation in ways that go beyond mere tradition and coinage, even while its precedence over a simple win-loss as first-test for conference playoff admission & rank can appear unfair in some years.

Maybe Roger (NFL), DeMaurice (NFLPA) & friends all figured we fans were strong enough to handle a few minor imperfections, given the broader benefit divisions afford.

NFL’s tip o’ the cap to nationalism, as it were, awarding playoff slots and then top seeds to division winners, is not a practice shared throughout sport. MLB uses a similar method, but on the college scene, the regional respect that conference alignments had previously been afforded is now, sadly, entirely toxic to the gabagoul greed grab (See; “(MSG) to Host Big Ten Conference Tournament in 2018” / / Thamel / 12.6.14).


NFL might throw the hound-dogs a bone in proposing a compromise by retaining division structure and its automatic playoff birth but base seeding strictly on a win-loss basis.

And keep in mind, sometimes the difference between a playoff-caliber club and a “train wreck (“Staring“ / Banks / SI / 11.26)” is a meager one. A-Birds & Cats are both playing competitive ball of late. Whomever comes out on top of their South showdown in Atlanta Sunday will no doubt be playoff worthy and may prove “The Little Engine that Could.” Toot, toot!

They who are hottest will often hoist it.

The Carroll Template

This Jim Harbaugh story’s like quicksand, the more you move around in it, the deeper it pulls you in and end up no closer to an answer than when you started.

Jimbo definitely has something special, something Nick Saban and Peter Carroll did not yet have in their respective, first NFL forays.

Jim’s four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (‘11-14) show these results: a 43-19 record, three NFCTs in four (43-18), should’ve had two Super Bowls, including ’12 vs NYG, and an unrealized but on-the-cusp position to greatness in SB47.

That written, Jim, like anyone, also has his limitations.

He’s defensively minded. That’s a good place to start in football. But the Harbaughs (brother John) are not offensive tacticians nor innovators. Colin Kaepernick’s “red-zone blues” are a shared melody with his head coach who apparently has done little to ‘connect the dots’ for Kaep Krusader in crunch time (SB47 & NFCT14). The Yorks ‘no likey.’

The Carroll template may offer Jim his best career-touring road map.


Harbaugh made good showing in his short college coaching stint at Stanford (‘07-10), where he improved each season, closing at 12-1 (4) and an Orange Bowl win. And it’s a setting that might respond somewhat more favorably to his style of coach (rah rah), as well.

He clearly favors the run-QB (40s single-wing tailback) formation that now thrives in the college game, evidenced by his Kaepernick for Smith swap (‘13). No surprise there, for the coach whose tool kit lacks offensive hammer, flash QB provides short-cut to success. Just hand-off the pigskin to Mr. muscle-man and he’ll do the rest. It’s a college cinch.

After brief tenures in the NFL, coaching legends Saban and Carroll returned to campus and turned it around. Now they can write their own ticket. If Harbaugh were to take and then succeed at Michigan where he’s been offered a mint, put Wolverines back in blue, the NFL would always remain an option for a later challenge, a la, Carroll.

Jim Harbaugh certainly craves the Lombardi silver that brother John holds. Wherever he lands, NFL or the collegiate setting, it’s a can’t miss for Jim. He earned it, but what a life!

Curious Quote

When speaking last Sunday of Jimmy Clausen and his heated-exchange with referees and Lions after what the Bears new starter deemed a cheap-shot, NFL Network‘s GameDay host Chris Rose had this to say about Jay Cutler‘s replacement:

“He just showed more emotion in 8 seconds than Jay Cutler showed in 4 years.”

Howse ’bout some salt in that wound, eh, Mr. Rose? Oh brother.


As my grandparents might’ve said, some folks like to ‘parade their emotions’ for all to see. That doesn’t mean an on-looker must charge to the front of the procession and trample a benched bystander (JC) in the process.

Besides being ‘Harry high school’ and Johnny Obvious in making comment on Cutler’s well-known stoic expression, and then in his presently humbled state, no less, Chris figures everyone must be cut from the same cloth.

I’ve seen some of this guy’s duds. He’s no tailor.


Cherry Picks Week 17

Bills (8-7) @ NE (12-3): 12-28 CBS 1:00 EST: Pats win
SD (9-6) @ Kansas City (8-7): 1:00 CBS: Chiefs win
Rams (6-9) @ Seattle (11-4): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Lions (11-4) @ GB (11-4): 4:25 (GOTW3): Packers win
Panthers (6-8-1) @ Atlanta (6-9): 1:00 Fox (GOTW): Falcons win
Cardinals (11-4) @ San Francisco (7-8): 4:25 Fox: 49ers win
Bengals (10-4-1) @ Pittsburgh (10-5): NBC 8:30 (GOTW2): Steelers win

Record: 84 – 50 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-map, Lokal.Profil.Astrokey44, wc.cca, 2007; USA, DrRandomFactor, wc.cca, 9.12.12; NFL-map, Lokal.Profil.Astrokey44, wc.cca, 2007, thumb; Harbaugh, Dempsey-CJCoS, wc.cca, Cullen, 7.26.12; Cutler, wc.cca, Schadle, 11.1.09;
Posted: 12.26.14 @ 1:56am; edit 1:03pm EST


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: