Archive | July, 2015

NFL15: Bills’ Rex Ryan Tops Coaches on the Cue

28 Jul

The hot seat: That’s the term of the trade, coaching, that is.

Specifically, a term of warning that means, he, maybe she someday the way things are moving (See; Welter (AZ) & Hammon (NBA)), who sits on said seat had better get his rear-in-gear, find a winning touch or that proverbial pink-slip is certain to arrive by or before season’s end, depending on the equity said coach has accrued.

But that ain‘t this write, not exactly.

Coaching cats listed here would at least appear to be pretty well situated and are, in fact, not in immediate danger of getting the boot.

Some are new to their job but so popular they’d trigger an impromptu parade with local fans (Ryan). Others have recently received extension (Tomlin / Coughlin / Lewis) and most are in possession of Lombardi (replica) home décor.

Even so, not all is as rosy as it appears for these elite NFL sideliners.

While they’ve all had success and anticipation runs high as summer training camps are getting under way, each of them has struggled for extended periods time and failed, sometimes miserably, to meet their own particular expectations.

For some that simply means consecutive losing records and no post-season play; for others it means doing everything necessary in the RS to punch-ticket for prime playoff placement but then fail repeatedly to close the deal (GB).

If these expectations are not met, whether that‘s simply a >.500 record or Super Bowl birth, all of these coaching veterans could be looking for work next March or begin to feel a noticeable warming in their seats, contracts notwithstanding.

....Ryan.10.23.11.wc.M.O'Leary.thmb

Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills (1st year HC)

“A parade all by himself (Jimmy Cannon‘s description of Ruth)” would be bit of a stretch but Rex Ryan may be the closest thing we’ve got today, sans the whiskey, womanizing, wee-hour waltzes, hot dog eating contests, etcetera. Rex’s press conferences, anyway.

Ryan starts fresh in Buffalo after six seasons at the helm in Jetsland in the town the Babe called home for many years (1920 – 48), having left the Big Apple with mixed results. After reaching a couple AFCCs in the early going the wheels came off, offensive-side mostly, and a semi-amicable parting-of-ways was reached.

He hopes to dispel belief he’s an early-bloomer, inspiring with a positive persona in phase I, only to lose his grip in phase II when the bloom comes off the rose.

“Over-identification with his men,” is what Gregory Peck (“Gen. Savage”) called it in the classic World War II drama, Twelve O’Clock High (‘49). Big trouble. You want your men’s respect, even a little fear on occasion, not their friendship, not necessarily. Whether that’s factual with Ryan or not, only he and players can say, but it does give appearance.

Rex’s specialty, defense, is in the genes, evidenced by brother Rob (NO-DC) and their famous father “Buddy” having coordinated way back to those AFL title days in Buffalo (‘61-65). Like father, like sons, except James had some terrific guys on the O-side, including names like Kemp & Gilchrist (BUF), Namath & Maynard (NYJ), Tarkenton & Foreman (MIN) and Payton & McMahon (CHI), something with which Rex has rarely been assoc’d since his days in Baltimore (’99-08).

Mastering offense has proven his bugaboo, in particular, finding a quality field general. He ain’t alone. When young Mark Sanchez (NYJ) hit a wall, Ryan kept his cool but eventually was forced to make change and came up short (G.Smith).

As it stands, Bills QB question remains unanswered.

Veteran Matt Cassel, displaced in MIN by Ted Bridgewater, has two 10-5s under his belt (NE / KC) appeared the presumptive starter but Ryan wants to please everyone so everyone (Manuel / Simms / Taylor) will get a good look-see. He knows securing a signal-caller’s key to making his mark in Western New York State versus a likely last NFL head coach gig.

Bills fans are a frustrated lot, playoff-dry since ‘00 and though looking to be turning a corner under Marrone in ‘14 (9-7), saw him skedaddle and capable Orton call it a career at season‘s end. While playoffs in ‘16 is, to a Bills optimist, expected, the QB quandary permits RR something less, but with a seat-warmer handy. Gets cold in Buffalo!

...McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.7.TJ.Grant.thm

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers (10th yr)

The hand-writing was on the wall for this move.

On the one hand, you can’t blame Packers for taking Mike down a peg in having to fork over the play-call book, given GB’s recent playoff runs with unexpected Ls to visiting Giants (’12), Colin Kaepernick-led 49ers (x2), last one at home, no less (‘14), and then the Cheese Melt 2015 (1.18) versus defending champs, Seattle, in NFCC in what looked (late) like an earned trip to SB49.

One the other hand, while Packers fans & Mgmt are some of the best in the biz, great success will often breed over-inflated sense of self-worth and unreasonable expectations, i.e., big brats, and not the Usinger’s® or Klement’s® varieties.

Green Bay’s collapse, a worst in NFL post-season history, was a team effort. Call it Murphy’s Law, if anything could go wrong, it did. I call it Swing Time (’36), the best of Astaire & Rogers and apt name of what afflicts this NFL. A winning team loses all momentum which swings to the up & comers who turn the tables. Cause? Millennials don‘t handle pressure like Dad? It’s as good an explanation as any.

And orchestrating Brett Favre’s high-profile return to the Fox Valley just prior to opening of training camp, the prodigal QB, as it were (Luke: 15: 11-32), just when faithful are having serious doubts about keeping McCarthy‘s hands on the controls, was not Thompson‘s best play. Now fans have all summer to remind ’em of those halcyon days of Green Bay Renaissance when Wolf, Holmgren, Favre & White seemed invincible, until they met Elway & Co. (SB32), of course.

Though, it’s a bit rough for a guy who built his rep on offensive know-how (See; UP ‘89), relinquishing strategizing duties is, in big picture, nothing to stew about, when you’ve got a guy named Aaron Rodgers conducting the orchestra (MVP ‘14).

Packers problem every January is the same it’s been since Reggie and LeRoy Butler retired: defense, or lack thereof, in crunch time.

A panache for glory stats guys (Clay Matthews / Woodson) in sacrifice of tackling (See; SEA, CAR, SF), the heart & soul of football, has too often been their undoing. Moving out of the mid-pack (yapg (15) / papg (14)) by leaping Minnesota and Detroit and into the top-10 on these key defensive measures will punch Green Bay’s ticket to Santa Clara.

...Tomlin.wc.steelcityhobbies.9.16.7 thm

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (9th yr)

If I’d had ear of Steelers Chair Dan Rooney in 2013 I’d have advised Mike be dismissed from his coaching job at season’s close, giving Tomlin option of sooner if chosen, and pinned my own position of influence on the call.

Tomlin’s buffoonery in Baltimore on Thanksgiving, of all nights, where he clearly interferes with Ravens return man Jacoby Jones breakaway sideline run, gave the Pittsburgh organization a black-eye, traces of which still remain with the two-time Super Bowl (43 W / 45 L) coach’s continued presence on Steelers‘ sideline.

The fact he chose to step on the field while watching the ball-carrier approach (not Jumbotron as claimed), most certainly to divert Jones likely TD trot, was bad enough. That he wore a Cheshire grin immediately following his chicanery certified the misdeed. That he didn’t own-up afterwards was strike three.

Even as game officials failed to flag Tomlin, speaking once again to the fallacy of instant-replay’s purported necessity, the NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 for interference, one of largest penalties levied on a coach in the League’s history.

Tomlin just inked a 2-yr (K) extension with the Rooneys. Irony is that as long as veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger remains hearty & healthy, he, like Rodgers in GB, almost assures Steelers dbl-digit wins, which nearly assures Mike his continued employ in the Steel City that’ll pretty much assure Ben & Co. won’t be returning to a Super Bowl anytime soon. The steady slide in key defensive categories over the past few seasons (yapg 18 / papg 18) throws up another red flag.

...Payton.wc.2.7.10.VOA.s.schy.thm

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (9th yr)

Like Mike & Mike, Sean’s nearing a decade at the helm of the first and only NFL team he’s headed, and, could too be on the outs soon, add’l proof that winning a Super Bowl doesn’t, or in some cases, shouldn’t, guarantee undying loyalty from the faithful.

Though the Saints haven’t exactly been in free-fall post-Bountygate, making the PS 3 of 5 seasons, they’ve clearly fallen from juggernaut status since the scandal.

What almost assuredly differentiates the Steelers guru and his Saints peer is that while Tomlin arguably rode on coat-tails of Bill Cowher’s success, Payton, strictly in coaching terms, forged a title-club by his own method & means, as debatable as they were, while others before (Haslett, Mora, Phillips, etc.) came up short.

Call it a pattern, trend or an NFL norm (I miss Cheers (pre-Kristie Alley)), but here’s another team with a Super QB (Brees) that looks to’ve become over-reliant on his wherewithal and seen the defense go to the dogs (yapg 31 / papg 28).

Drew, like Eli & Ben, is a tough customer but won’t play forever. If the once stout New Orleans D doesn’t find it’s footing in ‘15 (the OL protects the franchise well (29sk ‘14)), Sean may be footing it out the door in ‘16.

...Reid.wc.USAF.SgtSTSturkol.thm.8.6.08

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (3rd yr)

Reid may be one of the few non-titlist NFL head coaches to get busted in Canton (See: Grant, Levy). In his 16 seasons at the helm for Philly (14 (’99)) and KC (2 (’13)), Andy’s had 9 dbl-digit, 12 winning and only 3 losing campaigns (2 @ .500).

Trouble with Andy (reads like a Hardy movie) may be, as with Rex, his teams come outta’ the gate strong but if they finish back, tend to fall back in later runs, not out of the money (show (playoffs)), but out of the big money (win or place (title)). Perceptions like that can be short on fact / substance but can carry weight, especially with a franchise that hasn‘t supped champagne since 1970 (Stram (SB4)).

Though not enriched with a fantasy-favored, statistically-elite QB in Alex Smith, who’s been stanchion under center the last four, compiling a 38-16 tally (SF / KC) with a tremendous TD-ratio (71-23), Reid’s Chiefs may have the best balance of all six teams listed herein.

Dropping in key offensive categories in ‘14 (ypg 25 / ppg 16), Chiefs still possess Alex’s matriculatory flair, the explosive, multi-man Jamal Charles and mythically mondo 3rd-yr TE in Travis “Zeus” Kelce, while the defense should take advice from nobody, coming in at #7 in yapg and just behind Seattle in papg (2).

Because full balance is attainable (more hands, top reserves on D), coupled with the Super drought (‘70), expectations are high for Reid in 2015. If KC boards the roller-coaster again (9-7) or busts early in the PS, no one in the Hunt household will hit the panic button but talk will begin on change v. staying the course.

...Lewis.9.16.13.wc.emeybee.thm

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals (13th yr)

Like McCarthy, Payton and Tomlin, Lewis too is making the most his first NFL head coaching gig, setting franchise record in wins (100-90-2) and compiling mostly winning marks (6-3-3) over his dozen seasons in the Queen City. In April, Marvin, like his friend Tom in NYC, signed a 1-yr extension to a deal that was to terminate at close of 2015-16 NFL season.

Cincy has been a regular post-season player under Marvin’s tutelage but have yet to advance in any session, going 0-6, whether it be capable field generals Carson Palmer (‘04-10) or Andy Dalton (’11-14) barking out the signals.

The team rankings are unimpressive though hardly distressing. In 2014, the Tigers were the epitome of adequate, or, as “George Costanza” would say, “a solid C, not falling behind, not showing off (Seinfeld).”

On offense, they came in at #15 in both yards allowed and points allowed per game, while the defensive ranks fell slightly lower at #15 (ypg) and 22 (ppg). And somehow, some way, the Bengals found a way to manage double digit wins again. Where there’s a will, there’s a way?

And maybe that’s Lewis in a nutshell. What he may lack in rah-rah he makes up for in a professionalism and coaching cool that inspires players and staff to perform. Taking nothing away from a fine Colts performance, it’s fair to write that in their last playoff go-round, a 26-10 wild card loss at Indy, injuries to key personnel left Cincinnati a markedly different team.

But while patience is a virtue, even Machiavelli had his fill (See; The Prince).

...Coughlin.Bush.Eli.4.30.8.USGOV.thb

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (12th yr (20))

Canton beckons for this 2-time Super Bowl winning coach (42 / 46), both roads to glory that ran through Green Bay (’08 / ’11) and culminated in competitive contests against one of the other ‘best’ coach (Belichick) / QB (Brady) combos in NFL annals.

Winning one Lombardi won’t guarantee a lifetime contract, that’s understood, but winning two in the fashion Tom (and Eli et al) did, well, if that doesn’t give an assurance of loyalty from owners and fans, I don’t know what does.

Even at 6-10 and a so-so run game, the Eli Manning (another Canton lock) -led offense finished impressively in ‘14 (ypg 10 / ppg 12T), with no small thanks to an O-line that knows blocking (28sk). But like the Saints, Bears & Falcons, this traditionally stout defense has fallen on hard times (yapg 29 / papg 24).

Though having in March signed a 1-yr extension that pays him through 2016 season, Misters Mara and Tisch will be honored to have Coughlin guide their Giants as long as they’re reasonably competitive (‘reasonably’ interpreted broadly: no playoffs since 2011 and combined 22-26) or Tom keeps competitive fires burning. But hard to imagine any result in ‘15-16? that’d stoke those fires sufficiently to bring TC back for another, add’l (K)-yr, notwithstanding.

.......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: Ryan, 8.3.8, wc, Allison; Ryan, wc, O’Leary, 10.23.11; McCarthy, 8.11.7, wc, Grant; Tomlin, wc, 9.16.7, steelcityhobbies; Payton, wc, 2.7.10, VOA, Schy; Reid, wc, USAF, Sturkol, 8.6.8; Lewis, wc, emeybee, 9.16.13; Coughlin.Bush.Eli, WH, wc, 4.30.8, USGOV; NFL-Wikiproject;
Posted: 7.28.15 @ 5:15pm; edit (photo) 7.29 @ 5:57pm EST
Copyright © 2015

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PGA 2015: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Out

22 Jul

“Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,”
Those days are gone but take no flight,
With crowded mantel that others crave,
The Woodsman can revel in bygone rave.

......Tyger.Poem.Wm.Blake.wc.thb

One would not be limb-walking to write that the bloom has now officially gone off Tiger Woods’ rose. He’s in full funk, game all catawampus.

After another dismal showing, this time at the 144th British Open (missed cut), won on Monday by American Zach Johnson by way of a thrilling playoff, it’s been made abundantly clear to even the most Pollyannaish of Woods’ supporters that the seemingly inhuman & unstoppable Tiger of pre-2009, before personal problems befell, is and will never be that same superlative sport star again.

Having been named the PGA Player of the Year as recently as 2013 (7) with five tour victories, at 39 (12.30.75), this era’s greatest golfer seems to’ve had all the air let out of his tires since that awarding and gone completely flat.

Woods has “miles to go” before gracing the senior (Champions (50)) but the way he’s mishandling what used to be a malleable PGA tour it can’t come soon enough for the former wunderkind and would-be Nicklaus (18) – Snead (82) surpasser.

It’s gotten so bad it appears he may be emotionally sabotaging his game from the get go, as evidenced by a post-British comment (“doomed…(by) second swing”), almost willing a Jack & Jill result down the hill, sans the crown lost years ago.

.....Tiger.4.23.9.T.Hipps.Army.wc.thb

With this sad state engulfing Tiger like a heavy fog, missing cuts with regularity of an over-sleeping greenskeeper, attempts by his detractors to deconstruct his tremendous legacy and it’s record of accomplishment (79 PGA / 14 major) have begun in earnest.

The line of attack: Woods wasn’t a truly great golfer as the quality of competition was such that any good golfer could take advantage, rise to the top and stay there for a long, long time. Imagine?

QoC can be a valid line of inquiry. I’ve used it myself for historical comparison. But who’s to say that some champions cannot, to some degree, play a role in shaping or affecting that competition?

On the Woods topic one must consider the real possibility that he and his near suffocating PGA dominance had a negative mental impact on the mind-games of many a potentially starry golfer from 1997 – 2009 (‘13).

Imagine what the average pro in 2000 was telling his wife, family on Monday mornings after a tourney: ‘Helen, you wouldn’t believe this guy, he’s a machine!’

....Nicklaus.J.Dye.9.27.6.FL.wc.thmb

The Golden Bear most certainly had a similar psycho-impact on his peers but arrived on the golf scene (‘58) at a time when competition was famously fierce. But the generations of which Nicklaus was part was arguably more adept at handling pressure than is our own. Early 20th century folk (Depression / WWs), some who grew up around outhouses and horse-drawn transport had a wherewithal we don’t see as much today, not on a broader, societal scale anyway.

Some feel the lucrative endorsement deals in a post-Nicklaus age, in a consumerocracy where golfers act as walking billboards, have played a bigger role in adversely effecting current player performance, i.e., motivation.

While that point holds some merit, to believe it explains Woods near total dominance for a decade that saw a dearth of serious, regular competitors to the Tiger challenge (Mickelson, Singh, Els, etc.), would seem somewhat specious.

The golfers Tiger faced have all, like he, been weaned on competition. A passion for winning won’t wane simply because money‘s flowing in, especially when your own trophy mantel is sporting few pieces, or few of the ‘Wow!’ variety.

And then Tiger had (has) the spiffiest sponsorships deals of anyone and it clearly did not cut into his own drive to win. It may’ve in fact encouraged it.

.....Tiger.7.4.7.wc.M.Burgess.USN.thb

Bottom line: The desire to win is engrained in the brain of every PGA player from the time they handle their first Playskool® putter. Tiger had no monopoly on that emotion.

One would be no nearer to ascending that proverbial tree and it’s limbs of liability by suggesting a fair percentage of those detractors are driven by one or more of the following motives:

1) Prejudice, be it either of the jealousy or racially-based variety;
2) Love of sport: A circumstantially-based belief that Woods partook in the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in his prime period; or
3) The California-born golfer named Eldrick Tont Woods has conducted himself too often with airs of arrogance, bratty course play and deserves comeuppance.

Whatever the motive, Eldrick’s record of achievement will withstand a battery.

So what to do about his gamey game, getting back in the swing of it?

The tried & trues have been tried and have proven mostly erroneous, so it may be time for Woods to embark upon a new path, venture onto Drastic Highway.

Go on sabbatical, re-charge the batteries, learn to live without golf? He’s young enough to give it a whirl and chance the comeback. Sponsors won’t likey.

...gluten.baked.wc.S03311251.15.thb

Find a new sponsor (Nike), if terms & tact permitting? Maybe marginally relevant to his funk but everything, excepting family and true friends, are subject to review.

Find a new club (religion) or new variety? Born-again PGA’er Bernhard Langer would say it changed his life.

Keep pluggin’ away? Persistence can pay off but then stress is a killer.

Work a change in diet? Bingo.

Woods looks kinda’ haggard these days, even before he tees off.

If he hasn’t, get off the gluten and HFCS. The move is helping millions. Can a wheat-free and low-sugar diet help him bag tourneys again? No promises, but he’ll feel, look a new man, born again, as it were. That’s when new life begins.

“As the old Scotsman said, golf is a humbling game (M.Rooney).” A truth.

A line from the movie Blade Runner (’82): “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long (J.Turkel).” And Tiger did burn bright.

......macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.wc.2011

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: T.Woods, 7.4.7, M.Burgess, USN, wc.cca; W.Blake, Tyger-poem, wc; T.Woods, wc, T.Hipps, 4.23.9; T.Woods, wc, 7.4.7, M.Burgess; J.Nicklaus, wc, 9.27.6, J.Dye; gluten.baked.spongy, S03311251; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011.
Posted: 7.22.15 @ 7:22pm; edit 7.23 @ 3:45pm EST
Poem reference: “The Tyger” by Wm Blake, 1794 (“Songs of Experience”)
Copyright © 2015

 

“Gods & Monsters:” Recalling ’85 Bears Catalyst McMahon

16 Jul

It has been called the greatest team in the modern NFL era.

Some will prefer a broader definition of greatest, one incorporating a sustained success or dynasty in today’s sport vernacular. For them, one of the following title teams would likely fill-the-bill:

1960s Green Bay Packers;
1960s Houston Oilers, San Diego Chargers & Buffalo Bills (AFL);
1970s Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins & Pittsburgh Steelers;
1980 – 90s San Francisco 49ers;
Joe Gibbs Redskins (1980s – 90s);
1990s Dallas Cowboys & Denver Broncos;
2000 – 10s New England Patriots & New York Giants.

......McMahon-F16B.wc.5.1.88.D.Sutherland.crop

But the greatest compilation of players to ever lace ‘em up and dish it out over course of a single NFL season is without much serious doubt the 1985 Chicago Bears, a run culminating with what had been the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl history (until SB24 (’90)), a 46-10 drubbing of AFC champion New England in SB20.

When the Bears (Decatur Staleys) commence their 95th summer training camp on July 29th at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, just north of Kankakee, hope will spring eternal (if Fox tightens that D), and it will mark the 30-year anniversary (UW-Platteville (‘85)) of the first leg in an 6-month journey that would culminate in the best football showing in NFL history.

Detractors mutter dictum along this line: ‘Those ‘85 Bears were a flash in the pan, one-hit ‘Monster Mash’ wonder.’ Fair enough, but WHAT a hit they were. Pow!

While it’s true those 80s Monsters of Midway were no dynasty, losing four of five straight playoff runs, three in a row at Soldier Field (‘87-89), for one spectacular season they were nonpareil, unmatched in might & means, before or since.

What comes to mind immediately with those Bears is defense. The particular image associated with that word can vary, depending on your particular taste.

Some start at the top with Cantonized player and Bears head coach, Mike Ditka (‘82-92) and his no-nonsense approach, while others dig deeper and tag the purported mastermind of Chicago’s D-scheme, player favorite, long time NFL guru and father of NFL coaches Rex and Rob, Mr. Buddy Ryan.

Still others vest their vision of greatness in the workhorses, men on the field who made it all happen. Hall of Famers like Mr. Intensity, defensive captain Mike Singletary and linemen Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, along with a half-dozen All Pros who would prove integral, i.e., Marshall, McMichael, Gayle, Wilson, Duerson & Fencik.

.....Bears.wordmark.sportslogos.thb.wc.74

Move to the numbers and it comes crystal clear, these Bears were special.

The W-L gets your attention (15-1), the defensive rankings will win you over.

Team-averages on yards allowed per game (258.4) and points (12.4) were both League toppers in ‘85 but a stinginess on scoring not unseen before or since.

In 2000 both Tennessee (238.9 / 11.9) and Super champ Baltimore (247.9 / 10.3) bested Bears marks, only to be topped again in ’02 by Gruden‘s titlist Buccaneers (252.8 / 12.2). The 1972 “No Name Defense” Dolphins, the only undefeated championship campaign in modern era (‘07 Pats (16-0) lost SB42 to NYG, 17-14), set the standard with miserly marks of 235.5 (yapg) and 12.2 (papg).

But then both those Bucs and Ravens succumbed to opponents a total of four times respectively in the regular season (12-4), Brian Billick‘s men suffering a 3-game skid at mid-point before righting the ship, while Miami ran a gauntlet of slightly shorter version at 14-0. Every game matters, in more ways than one.

That toggles a key word in the debate on GTE (greatest team ever): dominance.

All four of those championship defenses, Bucs, Bears, Dolphins and Ravens, where shut-down variety, to be sure, but nothing shows greatness like dominance and nothing shows dominance like post-season play. Built for pressure and proving it against the best.

In their respective playoff runs, these are the opponent’s point totals:
Buccaneers (‘03): 6-10-21 (SB (OAK));
Ravens (’01): 3-10-3-7 (SB (NYG));
Dolphins (‘72): 14, 17, 7 (WA);
Bears (’86): 0-0-10 (SB (NE)).

.....Ryan,B.wc.P.Souza.thb.10.7.11.WH

While Ravens, Dolphins & Bucs matched da’ Bears in defensive prowess, it was Chicago who best displayed the balance of greatness by way of a notable offensive output as well, a side of their game that’s gone largely ignored by pigskin historians.

The ‘85 Monsters ranked top-10 in yards gained (364.8 (7)) and points scored on average (28.5 (2)), with the later tally coming in just behind the record-setting Air Coryell (Fouts) Chargers (29.2), whilst the Bucs and Ravens were fair-to-middling in matriculation, Tampa Bay as low as #24 in yards (312.6), #18 in points per (21.6), the Ravens slightly better at 313.4 yards (#16) and 20.8 (#14).

That Namesake Miami offense that included notables like QB Earl Morrall (9-0), Griese (5-0), Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Yepremian and All Pro lineman Langer, Little, Evans and Kuechenberg, together make a strong case for perfect balance, leading NFL in both ypg (359.7) and ppg (27.5). The totals, however, do fall just below Bears key scoring averages in ‘85. Phew! “That was close (Encounters).”

Every once in a blue moon the scoring side is subject of an ‘85 Bears roundtable and one name quickly comes to mind. Not Ditka nor OC Ed Hughes (d.2000), but Mr. Walter Payton (d.1999), aka, “Sweetness.” No surprise there, as Walter had a dozen seasons that’d make a career for most backs and 1985 was no exception.

In his 11th season (13) he rushed for his 4th highest yardage total (1551) and posted 2nd best career marks in reception yards (483) and run average (4.8). Teamed with fullback Matt Suhey (471 / 4.1) they together made a very formidable backfield tandem.

Helping making that all possible was Chicago’s cohesive and highly-regarded offensive line of Covert, Bortz, Hilgenberg, Thayer and Van Horne. Formidable.

.....Singletary.wc.12.17.00.MLTaylor.USAF.thb

But if you thought it was high-steppin’ Walter, “Iron” Mike, Singletary or Ryan who was key to this team’s success, a standard for greatness by which all other single-season team performances are still measured, you’d be mistaken.

The real catalyst to the ‘85 Bears, a man most often overlooked by corporate historians, was Chicago’s wild & wooly signal caller, James Robert McMahon, Junior.

I can hear the cackles: ‘You mean that cocky, gum-chewing, oft-injured, headband rebel (“Rozelle”) who introduced the helmet-howdy-do and led what may’ve been the most painful-to-watch music video all-time (“Super Bowl Shuffle“)? Him?’

‘Yeah, him.’

In those heady, bygone days, Jim could put people off when his confidence would turn, as it sometimes did, into boyish arrogance.

So, how pray tell did I arrive at this choice? It was one big performance which left an indelible memory.

The date: September 19, 1985;
The time: 8:00pm (EST);
The place: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was a rare Thursday night (?) telecast, the network, I don‘t recall. Assume it was ABC, birthplace of off-night Monday Night Football, which had been a national happening with “Dandy” Don Meredith’s colorful cowboy quips and Howard Cosell’s hearty halftime review of Sunday’s action. But by 1985 only Frank Gifford remained of the original trio and the former ratings topper was starting to tank. It’s never fully recovered.

But they had a humdinger in store this night.

...Ditka.wc.8.31.06.JJPerry.thb

What happened in 2nd half would give Bears’ confidence a jolt of adrenaline that would carry through all the way to Super Bowl 20 where it swelled to gargantitude.

Chicago entered the game 2-0, home wins by combined score of 58-35. Impressive, but not the frighteningly good football that would blitzkrieg the NFL in weeks to come.

With Vikes up 17-9 midway through the 3rd quarter on heels of a Tommy Kramer TD toss to all-purpose Anthony Carter, McMahon, who’d taken the two earlier wins but had sat this start (injury?), came in to relieve a capable but uninspired Steve Fuller. What happened next would set the wheels of destiny in motion.

Within seconds, Jim hooked up with deep threat speedster Willie Gault for a 70-yard TD strike: Score, 17-16.

Next Bears possession, McMahon matriculates to Minnesota’s 25 and hits sure-handed Dennis McKinnon for a second TD pass in just over five minutes. Visitors take the lead. The score, Bears 23-17.

Minutes later the former BYU field general throws third TD strike to his man McKinnon covering 45 yards. Bears up 30-17, a contest but the befuddled Vikes don’t know what hit ‘em and the Monsters of Midway have found their momentum-maker in McMahon.

Vikings would add another TD in the 4th but sure-footed Kevin Butler ice’d it and Chicago exited the Metrodome with a 33-24 divisional road win and a mojo that was bursting at the seams just looking for another opponent to turn into mash.

Talk about turning points.

Some men feed on pressure. Mobile pocket-passer Jim McMahon (early career) was just such a cool customer. Stan “The Man” Musial understood the type.

...McMahon.93.wc.Diz28.thb

In discussing some of the toughest moundsmen he faced in his long & storied career, the Cardinals’ legend identified the great relievers Elroy Face and Clem Labine: “Both of them also had that extra something…they loved to come into the game in a tight situation, thrived on pressure and challenge. The tighter the spot, the better they loved it (The Complete Handbook of Baseball (‘76 ed., Z.Hollander)).”

Men like Jim, Favre, Ray Lewis, Chancellor, Mannings, Doug Williams, Montana, Lilly, Brady, Stabler, Joe Greene, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Jon Toews, LeBron and Curry, all grasp the leadership talisman and beckon their cohorts to follow.

And to that one, lone blemish on Bears record in taking a loss at Miami (24-38, W13)? It should be noted that Fuller started the game which was officiated at a time before the NFL began to seriously monitor crowd noise shenanigans to help keep the playing field level. Unlevel, Mr. Shula (See; Deflategate cmts).

McMahon would only start parts of three more seasons for Chicago after the memorable ride of ‘85. Injuries, more than Jim’s sometimes awkward confidence, defined his career as he bounced around the League, playing for five other teams which, ironically (See; C.Martin ‘86 (GB)), included Bears rival Green Bay, picking-up another ring in the process as a clip-board man in SB31 win over Bill Parcell’s Patriots (35-21).

But for one, glorious season, Jim McMahon and the rest of the Bears were the best that’s ever been. Of course (gum smack).

......macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.wc.2011

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: J.McMahon, F16B, wc.cca, 5.1.88, D.Sutherland; J.McMahon, crop, wc, D.Sutherland, 88; Chicago-Bears, wordmark, sportslogos, wc, 1974; B.Ryan, wc, P.Souza, WH, 10.7.11; M.Singletary, wc, 12.17.00, wc, M.Taylor, USAF; M.Ditka, wc, J.Perry, 8.31.6; McMahon, wc, 93, Diz28; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011.
Title Reference: Bride of Frankenstein (‘35);
Posted: 7.15.15 @ 9:22pm EST
Copyright © 2015

MLB15 Chin Music: The Perfect Game That Wasn’t

6 Jul

.......Ruth&Shore.Bain.wc.LoC.thmb

Perfection.

It’s a rare bird in this wild we call life, but it is out there, if you‘ve the inclination and eyes to spot it.

The varieties are many.

The following are a sampling of some of the perfects this watcher has spotted:

The perfect rain: warm, windless, not heavy but a good soak (‘bow optional);
Snowfall: Big flakes, 3-5, 24° still as Sunday and seen while snug inside;
Summer blooms: zinnia (color-burst) and gardenia (smells like Trix®);
Revolutionaries: Emiliano Zapata (1879-19) and Spartacus (111.BC – 71);
Perfect gams: Ginger Rogers, “zowie!;”
......Crawford.Rain.1932.wc.cca.thmbPerfect Hollywood profile: Joan Crawford;
Perfect British film noir: They Made Me a Fugitive (47);
Perfect American film noir: Murder, My Sweet (44);
Perfect comedies: Midnight Run (88) & The Party (68);
Perfect sporties: National Velvet (44) & Bull Durham (88);
Perfect ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ movie: The Verdict (82);
Summer cine: Caddyshack (80) & American Graffiti (73);
Tragic figures: Vincent Van Gogh & Bobby Driscoll;
Anti-hero: Steve McQueen, Hell is For Heroes (62);
Star-crossed romance: Waterloo Bridge (40) and Bonnie and Clyde (67);
......Clemente.wc.cca.thmbSaturday sandwich: peanut butter & bacon (crispy);
70s voices: Karen Carpenter & Gordon Lightfoot;
Gamers: Tinkers, Evers, Chance & 1907 Chicago Cubs;
B-ball rivalry: Magic Johnson (LAL) v. Larry Bird (BOS);
Baseball player: Roberto Clemente;
Baseball pitcher: Christy Mathewson;
Pick-up gun: Rossi M720;
Sedan: 2007 Honda Accord®;
Hearty casserole: Ore-Ida® Tater Tot®, cooked crisp. Oh…my…gosh.

Perfection can be grand but can be taken it a bit…too…far.

Those perfect 10s judges hung on the gymnastics of Nadia Comăneci in 1976 rocked the Olympics. Imagine the hubbub today. Nadia’s routines were sublime but maxing the math don’t leave much room to maneuver: 10.5?

.......Whitmore&Garner.wc.8.19.77.NBC.thbPerfection, more precisely, “pretty,” was the norm in the classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” After counseling & cajoling from Richard Long and early super-model Suzy Parker, Collin Wilcox opts for conformity to become #8 model (“Valerie”). “Life is pretty, life is fun, I am all and all is one!”

A favorite episode of The Rockford Files stars Tom Selleck in one of his early TV roles as the dashing but dumb-lucky private eye, “Lance White (“White on White and Nearly Perfect”).” James Garner and the writing staff composed it as only Cherokee Productions could:

A ‘Lance White’ admirer: “He’s just…perfect.”
Jim: “Yeah, it’s his only flaw.”

And it’s been a centuries long custom that a Persian rug is woven intentionally to include an flaw into the weave so as to, in Muslim belief, not offend the only force permitted to bestow perfection in all existence, that being God (Allah).

......Ruth.Culver.1916.421k.wc.thbMost believe the called Creator endowed people a mind to not only delineate perfection wherever they find it, i.e. the killing (living) machine that is the shark, but to design it as we see fit.

In truth, we’ve got perfection coming out of our ears.

One example in sport: baseball’s designation of the so-called perfect (pitched) game:

“An official perfect game occurs when a pitcher (or pitchers) retires each batter on the opposing team during the entire course of a game, which consists of at least nine innings. In a perfect game, no batter reaches any base during the course of the game (mlb.com).”

There’ve been 23 perfect games in MLB history dating back to it’s birth in 1876.

Lee Richmond of Worcester tossed the first on June 12, 1880 (1-0), quickly followed by another just five days later when Providence Grays’ John Montgomery Ward pitched his own perfect outing on June 17, 1880 (5-0)). The most recent perfect picture was painted by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Seattles (Mariners) on August 15, 2012 (1-0 v TEX), the third of three in that season alone (See: M. Cain (SF) & P. Humber (16-23)).

Today we’re closing in on the 100 year anniversary of one of the most curious pitching occurrences in major league annals.

......Ruth.wc.1933.Goudey.thbIt didn‘t make the official perfection roster but calls attention because it reminds us of the strict standards that baseball and the perfection thing both require, as well as the man who starred in it’s brief opening act and who made a quick and ignominious exit, stage strange.

It happened on June 23, 1917.

The place: The Hub City at the still spanking new Fenway Park (b.1912);
The teams: Red Sox (H.Frazee) and Washington Senators (C.Griffith (10%)); and
The principals: BoSox southpaw starter, George “Babe” Ruth, Boston reliever, Ernie Shore and AL umpire Clarence “Brick“ Owens (b.Milwaukee).

The gist: Ruth, in his last full season as a moundsman (and though future Sultan a’ Swat would surprisingly ding a mere two taters in 142 PAs in ‘17), would face just one bats-man in his brief outing, issuing a free-pass before being tossed by umpire Owens for excessive arguing and, as some recounted, hostile intent. Not exactly the Bambino legend we‘ve come to appreciate.

A closer examination of Ruth’s pitching line suggests he was likely off base.

Though a two-time 20-game winner and post-season stalwart (WS: 3-0, 0.87), his walk-to-SO ratio was always iffy and grew steadily worse: 85-112 (‘15), 118-170, 108-128, 49-40, 58-30 (’19). Benefit-of-the-doubt: umpire.

.....Shore.wc.1915.Harris.Ewing.thmbWith his hot-tempered starter hauled off in human handcuffs, BoSox mgr. Jack Barry turned to his other big man, righty Ernie Shore who was pretty spiffy himself in October (WS: 3-1, 1.82) and was 48-28 in three seasons through 1917 (13w).

What happened in the next one hour plus was…unexpected.

Red Sox took care of the initial walkee after Ernie’s first offering in a failed stolen base attempt. It was a good omen for the Papagos (beaneaters).

He then proceeded to set down 26 consecutive Senators, issuing no hits, no balks, no walks, no past-ball nor error-induced base-runners for a 4-0 Red Sox victory and a perfect outing.

Shore had pitched perfectly, but not a perfect game (See: above).

Unfortunately for the man from East Bend, North Carolina, whose 13 wins in ‘17 would be his last productive season, the official line, while initially tagging as perfecto, would eventually term the performance a combined, no-hit shutout win for Ruth, Shore and Boston. Not too shabby, but a no-no ain’t necessarily perfect and then sharing it is, well, kinda’ like kissing your sister’s very pretty but very married best girl-friend.

Baseball is baseball and rules are rules.

Ernie’s career would peter-out not long after, heading to rival NYY for a brief 2-year run to pave the way for his colorful cohort Ruth (’20 (1895-48)) whose name came to be synonymous with every towering shot (Ruthian), sans Statcast, as he embarked on what’d become the most memorable life in our sporting lore, a legend that grows bigger each year with the tainted ‘tistical tallies that today populate the scene.

But to Mr. Shore (1891-80), Red Sox rooters and those who drink in life like it were a long, cool glass of perfect brew, they’ll reflect on June 17, 1917 as a day of perfection, for what constitutes perfect is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

......canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: Ruth, wc.cca, LoC, 1919; Ruth&Shore, LoC, Bain, wc; J.Crawford, Rain, MGM, 1932, wc; R.Clemente, wc; Whitmore&Garner, NBC, wc, 8.19.77, TRF; Ruth, wc, 1916, Culver; Ruth, 1933, Goudey, wc; Shore, wc, 1915, Harris-Ewing; canned-corn.
Posted: 7.6.15 @ 12:09 am; edit 11:26am EST;
Copyright © 2015