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Too Early to Give Up on Florida Hoops

Jan 27, 2015 -- 3:39pm

Spinning across the radio dial . . .

  • I know the Patriots are cheaters, but I didn’t realize the arrogance of the franchise until I heard owner Bob Kraft’s opening comments after arriving in Phoenix for this week’s Super Bowl.

Kraft stated unconditionally the Patriots had nothing to do with DeflateGate and he demanded the NFL apologize to the Patriots, particularly Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, if the league couldn’t prove otherwise.

I just as unconditionally believe the Patriots orchestrated DeflateGate. I’m just as certain the NFL will not be able to prove it. Instead, a fall guy who reportedly acted on his own will be sacrificed by the Patriots. At the moment that appears to be some smuck locker room attendant.

For the record, if you believe any Patriots employee would do something to the footballs without the blessing of Belichick and/or Brady then you’re a fool.

So in summary we know the Patriots are a great franchise . . . and cheaters, liars and pompous asses.

  • This is quickly turning into a basketball season the Gators would love to forget, but I’d still take Billy Donovan as my coach it I was starting a college program.

I’m very aware of how Kentucky’s John Calipari can apparently charm recruits’ mamas and then convince 18-year-old super blue-chip players to play for the good of the team.

I know Duke Coach K just won his record 1,000th major college game.

In fact, there are a lot of very good college basketball coaches, but none is better in my mind than Donovan.

Donovan simply overrated the players who were supposed to be this year’s leaders. Point guard Kasey Hill and center Chris Walker were supposed to be a dynamic duo. They’re not by a long shot.

And Donovan’s message of effort-plus-defense-plus-unselfish play simply hasn’t gotten through.

It doesn’t look good for the Gators, but there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.

Don’t underestimate Billy Ball.

  • Some of my friends, who not surprisingly are old white guys like me, have been grumbling all week about Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour.

“That means all we’ll see and hear this week is Tiger, Tiger, Tiger,” growled one friend. “They won’t show anybody else on TV.”

He’s not far off, but I don’t have a problem with all the Tiger love because Tiger is still THAT important to the PGA Tour. Age, injuries, bad play and off-the-course problems are curtailed Tiger’s clout, but he’s still the man that draws incredible and unparalleled attention to pro golf as an entertainment sport.

In my lifetime four male golfers have stood above the rest when it comes to drawing non-golf fans to the sport. Arnold Palmer led the pack until Tiger came along. The others are Lee Trevino and John Daly.

So don’t tell my buddies, but I’ll be watching more golf on TV this week because of Tiger than I have in months. 

Off-season Critical to Jaguars

Jan 26, 2015 -- 11:48am

This offseason has to rank among the most important in Jaguars history. How much more losing can the fans tolerate? How much more understanding can they give General Manager David Caldwell and Coach Gus Bradley?

The Jaguars are 14-50 this decade. They’re 7-25 the last two years and as often as not haven’t been competitive

There’s only one way to stop the madness: Get better players.

So as the Caldwell-Bradley Duo go after free agents and map out plans for the college draft they’d better find some key replacements.

The biggest needs are . . .

Offensively, a pass-catching tight end should top their list. Marecdes Lewis IS NOT the answer.

A proven tackle, left or right side, should be next. I’m not saying it’s time to give up on Luke Joeckel. It does seem obvious he wasn’t worth being to No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, but that’s history. It’s also just as obvious QB Blake Bortles needs better protection from his tackles. If there’s a left tackle out there the Jaguars are convinced can help them then slide Joeckel back to the right where he played as a rookie.

Defensively, they still need the kind of pass rusher opponents have to game-plan for. These guys are hard to find and expensive but they’re more valuable to a team than any player who’s not a quarterback.

They desperately need help at outside linebacker. It’s impossible to find a good defensive team that doesn’t have that hybrid outside who is comfortable blitzing or in coverage.

Finally, a savvy, veteran safety is a must. Many of the Jaguars’ problems in the secondary are more mental than physical. Perhaps time will help solve some of the problem, but a proven veteran would be nice to help win in 2015.

Yeah, that’s a lot. That’s usually the case for a team that’s coming off consecutive seasons of 5-11, 2-14, 4-12 and 3-13.

Georgia Correct in Giving Richt a Raise

Jan 22, 2015 -- 1:41pm

I get the sense I’m in the minority, but count me among those who think Georgia did the right thing by giving football coach Mark Richt a hefty raise and a two-year extension.

I consider Richt an outstanding coach who plays by the rules and is an even better person. Georgia would have a difficult time finding a better guy to lead their football program.

I understand the frustration of many Bulldogs who bemoan the fact Georgia always seems to be snapping at the heels of the leader but seldom get to the front of the pack. But under Richt the Dawgs have maintained a high level play, and that’s not as easy to do as fans seem to think.

In 14 years in Athens, Richt has won 10 or more games nine times; has failed to win at least eight games only once; and has had only one losing season. He has won two SEC titles and nine bowl games.

Something Georgia fans who constantly complain about Richt need to understand is the school has never had a more successful coach. Richt’s winning percentage is better than that of the legendary Vince Dooley and the competition is tougher than Dooley faced.

(Don’t misunderstand: I’m not putting Richt ahead of Dooley on the school’s list of greatest coaches. In 25 years, Dooley won 200 games, six SEC titles and the ’80 national championship and he deserves his place in the College Football Hall of Fame. But in today’s college football culture, Dooley would have been fired long before many of those accomplishments.)

Richt isn’t a great coach, but he’s a damn good one. And at 55 he still has plenty of energy and passion.

Yes, his best days as a coach – that’s means titles for the Bulldogs -- could still be in his future.   

Bobby Bowden Still Tops in My Book

Jan 20, 2015 -- 12:14pm

Spinning the radio dial:

  • Call me an old stick in the mud, but I don’t find anything funny about the latest allegations against the New England Patriots. The NFL is investigating whether or not the Patriots knowingly deflated footballs in their playoff game against the Colts. Deflating footballs supposedly makes gripping a football easier.

Guilty or not, it obviously wasn’t a factor in the game. The Patriots routed the Colts 45-7.

The issue is cheating, something Coach Bill Belichick has been caught doing in the past and accused of on several occasions.

A lot of people brush off charges against Belichick and the Patriots as pushing the boundaries on rules. These people seemingly admire Belichick for his gamesmanship, his clever way of getting in the heads of his opponents.

  • I’m not one of them. I don’t think I’m acting holier than thou when I say cheating is cheating. There’s no gray area. And there’s nothing funny about cheating.I love baseball and part of the reason IS the pace of play. I love there’s no ticking clock to dictate action.

 I love the subtleties of the game such as the slight defensive adjustments and the chess match between pitcher and batter – fastball or changeup?

That said, I’m all for the rule experiment in minor league baseball this season that will use a 20-second clock between pitches. That’s the one area of slow play that does bug me. Some batters seemingly take forever between pitches, adjusting their gloves, tugging at their crotches, taking practice swings. Some pitchers are just as guilty of slow play as they walk around the mound between pitches, tugging at their hats and staring off into space.

  • 20 seconds in more than enough time between pitches. The rule is already in the rules book but it has been ignored for decades. It’s past time to adhere to it.I don’t care how many victories are restored to Joe Paterno’s coaching record. Bobby Bowden remains No. 1 in my book among college football coaches.

I don’t know why the NCAA felt compelled to restore 111 victories to Paterno’s record, giving him 409, the most in major college history. The fact that for more than a decade Paterno ignored the sexual child abuse being committed by Jerry Sandusky sickens me and I’d be fine if Paterno’s name was removed completely.

I know Saint Bobby wasn’t perfect. He bent a few rules along the way, but not only did he win 377 games and two national titles, he made the title “Coach” mean something to be proud of. 

Hiring Coordinator Tricky Decision for Bradley

Jan 19, 2015 -- 2:45pm

Recruiting, drafting and signing free agent football players is a tricky business. Have you properly evaluated the player? Will he continue to work as hard at his job?

Hiring football coaches is trickier.

I bring this up as the Jaguars continue their search for an offensive coordinator. Who’s the right guy? Who’s the right fit?

There are literally dozens of candidates who would do well. And there are just as many who’d fail miserably.

Forget about name recognition. Most of coaches in both groups are unknown to the vast majority of fans and media.

The “name” candidates are the ones who probably succeeded because they had the star players. I think I’d be at least a decent offensive coordinator if Tom Brady was my quarterback.

The secret isn’t to persuade the OC with the best statistics to join the Jaguars. It’s to identify the guy who’s flexible and doesn’t try to cram one system down his players’ throats; the guy with the self-confidence who isn’t afraid to take reasonable chances; the guy the players and other coaches will respect as a person and follow as a coach.

That isn’t to diminish the impact of drawing up the X’s and O’s, but the smartest coach in the world is a loser without the top-grade horses.

I do think too much emphasis is put on a coach’s preferred scheme.

“We want a coach who’ll run the ball,” barks a hardcore fan.

“We want a coach who’ll run a wide open offense,” demands a gung-ho fan.

Generally speaking, all decent coaches know the X’s and O’s. They all know effective ways to throw the ball and effective ways to run the ball – if they have the right personnel.

Bottom line is the next Jaguars OC will succeed or fail depending on how well Blake Bortles plays.

Surprised by Cardale Jones' Decision

Jan 16, 2015 -- 8:25am

Here’s wishing Cardale Jones the best, but I have to admit I’m surprised by the Ohio State quarterback’s decision to stay in school instead of opting for the NFL draft.

If the decision was made by Jones and his immediate family, fine. If he was pressured by the school and his coaches, not fine.

If Jones enjoys being a student-athlete and is truly getting a worthwhile education, then I say good for him. If he’s confident he’ll be the starter next season, then I say good for him.

But if Coach Urban Meyer made idle promises and gave him a rah-rah speech about playing for the Scarlet and Gray, then I say he took advantage of the young man.

Nothing in our future is certain.

Jones may wind up back on the bench next season. He could be a flop on the field or get injured. Then again, he could be the starter and lead Ohio State to another national title and become a first-round draft pick in 2016.

But what seemed like a good bet is he would have been drafted this year by at least the middle rounds despite his short but incredible playing career for the Buckeyes. That’s worth a guaranteed million bucks, plus it would have given him a head start on his pro career. That’s a lot of money for almost anyone. That’s a fortune for one of six kids of a single mother.

I hear my critics screaming about the importance of an education, but from everything I know Jones was at Ohio State for football, not academics. That’s a sad but true commentary about most of the top major college players.

They should cash in as soon as they can.

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