Focus 2018. No more random dribble. Not saying me focusing is BETTER, but at least you know whether to turn off the subject immediately or not. One focused article per week is what I am hoping to achieve. And, yes, my last one not only was WRONG (Baker’s Game), but ties immediately into THIS one. Plus, it is more fun and make a prediction than to straddle the fence as I always say. So, without losing my old school terminology or lingo, let’s turn and burn.
DISCLAIMER: In my random dribble days, I had “Airplane Rants.” These were rants written with no ability to look up backing stats or numbers during the writing. And, since I have a full time job and am just getting back from a packed trip, I didn’t have much “prep time,” so forgive some of the generalities of the post with less numbers. I have at least 50 more to write this year.
DISCLAIMER 2: Relatively unedited. I typically post an airplane cast right after I write it on the plane, and don’t take time to clean it up. Sorry for any grammatical errors. Next one will be cleaner I promise, but this is an AIRPLANE RANT written in tight quarters in a limited timeline.
Control. Sometimes in our own lives, we have it, and sometimes we don’t. It is what it is. Same in the sports world. Sometimes a team or individual has it, and sometimes they don’t. And this blog isn’t splitting the atom, telling the teams or individuals HOW to get control, but I am pointing out a few times in the last few weeks where they DID in big situations…and blew it…or didn’t blow it…or simply kept it.
Let’s start by defining this blog’s term “control.” Not saying this is the forever definition moving forward, but this is what it is for this particular Cast. (Thinking as I am writing this impromptu on flight back from the Rose Bowl late at night on July 2nd…tired). Control is “not relying on someone else’s skill or lack of to control an outcome.” Control is “having the ability proactively to provide an outcome with limited feedback or altering activity from the competitor.” Control is basically “having more say in the outcome than your opponent.” How does that sound? Good? Ok. Well, let’s move this along then.
EVENT #1: Pittsburgh Steelers up 24-16 vs. New England Patriots midway through Fourth Quarter (Week 14)
Event #2 triggered this blog topic, but Event #1 has lost me sleep over the last few weeks without a doubt. Big Ben is a future HOF’er. He could quit today and would be in there. But, there are different LEVELS of being an HOF’er, and he had a big chance a couple of weeks ago. Problem was that the guy on the opposite sideline was ALSO a HOF’er. A higher LEVEL HOF’er than Ben. Ben had a couple chances late to close that level gap. He didn’t.
The MOMENT last year’s playoff game was done between Pittsburgh and New England, I sat on my couch and proclaimed out loud, but probably only audible to me, myself, and I since I was very sad, that the resolution of this problem was black and white to me. We needed NE at OUR crib before venturing into conversation about how embarrassing our zone was against Brady. Before contemplating ANY field x’s and o’s, we needed to get them at Heinz. Ok. Super Bowl comes and goes, winter comes and goes, and schedules are released. I smiled as I read the full schedule, seeing New England late in the year. I literally sat there the first day of its release and mapped out wins and losses for both teams. I had it close. VERY close. Then, I get the MONSTROUS treat of NE dropping not one but TWO early games they shouldn’t have lost. One of them actually kicked me out of a losers pool early and I didn’t even care. I knew the bigger picture. That picture was to play those guys at Heinz. The year continues, and then the week comes along like I freaking WROTE the script. It is story book crap. Here we go. One game to have THAT team control its own destiny. A game is AT Heinz to play LATER at Heinz. Perfect. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and it gets BETTER. Big Ben was taking the field UP 24-16 LATE in the fourth quarter. He was taking the field with time ticking down, and just needing a few first downs to get my year long dream taken care of. He had CONTROL of the situation. You can probably yell back at me “NO ONE HAS CONTROL WHEN Tom Brady IS PLAYING.” Fine. But, you know what? My definition is A) my guy is a HOF’er B) he KNOWS what Brady can do and C) he has the weapons to close this thing out. He had control because if the given in this geometry proof is that no one has control in a Tom Brady game, then what he had WAS the most controllable situation he could have had in this real world.
What happened? They gave the ball back, Davis dropped an INT that gave Brady a second chance on a drive, a score, another score, and then the TD call back that was discussed at water coolers for a whole week. What did I contribute to these water coolers? Not much, except for the following:
-Yes, I admit that losing AB was big, but shouldn’t have affected the entire outcome
-It shouldn’t have even come DOWN to that TD call. Ben already had multiple chances to close it out while AHEAD. I didn’t even want to discuss the TD call. It was irrelavent.
-If the Steelers lose this year in Foxboro, no one will be sadder than me, but I will blow it off in an easier way this time around, because the fact remains that Big Ben tried to let Tom Brady GIVE him home field advantage, and Tom Brady simply pulled the rug out from under that weak plan. Ben needed to TAKE it from him. The Steelers had a home game AND the lead in that game to get them to the Minnesota this year, and they BLEW it. Can they still do it? Sure. I get that. But, if THAT goes down like I fear again this year, I will know WHEN it ACTUALLY went south.
EVENT #2: Oklahoma Sooners up 45-38 vs. Georgia Bulldogs late in fourth quarter
This obviously triggered this whole control topic for The Fillerbuster, as he is currently on a plane coming home from Cali, with Pasadena being the focal point of visit. Sucks to be on the losing end of a great, great, legendary football game, but that is what happened. Midway through the fourth quarter is when I started feeling that I was watching a special game, but my allegiance was reigning over that feeling obviously at the time. Tough to enjoy when so stressed.
I am not mad at the Sooners losing the game. I am mad at the fact that I asked for ONE more simple Baker magic trick and it didn’t happen. But, my request wasn’t just for ONE drive, or asking anything from the defense either. I wasn’t being greedy. Down 38-31, you felt the mood shifting BIG time in the stadium. It was now or never. Fumble recovery TD tied it up, and Baker lead a long drive to take the lead after doing NOTHING in the entire third quarter. 45-38 OU. But here is where it gets loose:
- UGA scores to tie the game up. All runs pretty much as they averaged 13 yards per carry between Michel and Chubb FOR THE GAME. Opportunity #1 for Baker magic JUST needs a FG after starting from the 25. Can’t do it. Should have at least gotten an attempt off. Zero points.
- OU wins the flip, and gets to match or overcome UGA’s drive total. FG by UGA makes it even more plausible. Baker fails. FG ties it. This is when I thought it was TRULY coming together. OU even got a free play on an offsides, and missed it. 1st and 10 at the 15 yard line, and couldn’t get it done. THIS was the chance, and a very reasonable one.
- 2ND OT: Now, possession is in reverse order, and this was when control was LOST. Baker could have dictated what UGA did, but instead they missed a chip shot FG, giving UGA the chance to not just tie, but WIN. Baker had now lost control. And that was my first REAL feeling the game was done ( I successfully fought off that negativity when they were done 38-31 and told my wife I was in a “Positivity Bubble”). Why? Because Baker is best with a FULL field. The college OT restricts everything to within the 25 yard line. Less space. What goes good in space? Blocking and running. Who is the best team in the nation at blocking and running? UGA not only scores the winning FG, but just scores from a run to win by 6.
Baker had THREE shots at winning with the game in his control. Two of them were WELL within his grasp, with the last being a little scary. Baker is already a legend. But, just winning that game and GETTING to the title game would have made him generation-less. He would transcend folklore. He would eternally back up his brashness with the eternal scoreboard. He would have been even more if he somehow was able to complete the title task. But, he lost control in that 2nd OT, and then lost all of that. He is obviously more that just a hothead QB talking trash. Sure, and he WILL have an NFL job. But wouldn’t it have been GREAT to hear him talk some trash with a team trophy too? Love or hate him. You know it would have been fun. He lost control of that game.
And sure we could write this off to the defense or the three points their special teams gave up right before the half oddly (really odd sequence to watch live too). And sure a team that scores 48 in a playoff game SHOULD win the game. The lobby group to fire their DC has been going on for quite a while and my wife’s family even follows them on FB and the various sites. But, in the end, Baker had not one, not two, but three chances to make that game his, WITH control, but lost it. Once UGA had regained the control, it was over.
EVENT #3: Alabama realizing NUMBER of plays was a primary downfall vs. Clemson in previous year
This is a more gray area item, but included as it seems SO simple, but the delta was so REAL. Clemson, both the last two years along with this year, were very diverse teams. They had the very scary defensive fronts in all the games, but their offense had someone running the offense WITH weapons at various skill positions, making them dangerous on all plays. If you play more situational ball, and limit that sample size of danger, you limit the actual danger. Through better control on THEIR side, through strategic timeouts, clock management, and various looks on pivotal downs, they DRASTICALLY reduced the AMOUNT of plays Clemson ran on offense, and therefore limited that big play ability from those skilled players. They also kept their defense OFF the field. Clemson ran about 90 plays last year again Bama (sorry-Airplane Rant, and more fun sometimes to go on my on the fly recall). This year? They ran only 51 plays before their last 16 play fourth quarter drive. At that point, the score was 24-6, so the game was already out of their hands anyway. Bama might not have purposely TRIED to eliminate the number of plays during the entire game, but they ended up doing so anyway, and that gave them SIGNIFICANT and very obvious control during that game.
Think about this. Don’t try and truly compare Bama-Clemson III to the last two years. Saban had a week to prepare the last two years for Clemson. He had a full month this time around.
EVENT #4: Jon Gruden evidently close to signing as coach of Raiders
If this WAS on Janet’s legendary album back in the day, this would probably be Nasty. This is a strong one. Jon Gruden has been called and involved in coaching rumors for YEARS. Realize that although we FEEL he has been around forever, his early winning actually alters the actual amount of years we think he has been in coaching. The guy is only 54 years old. He could be Bill Snyder’s CHILD and Bill is still trucking. Anyway, that is neither here nor there.
Gruden is in full control. Three reasons why in my opinion.
- There are no upcoming analysts after his job. He is solid on air, well respected, liked by fans, UNDERSTOOD by fans, and has created an unmistakable niche. He is in a perfect bubble for job stability.
- There have been past years when there were some other good options out there for coaching. But, he is hitting a PERFECT time in finally answering (allegedly) calls. Well, I say allegedly, but it is out that he is on the down low trying to put a coaching staff together. Anyway, think about it. There are less past pro candidates out there. They either have other jobs, have retired, or already have new jobs. Also, the college ranks had some MAJOR positions open up, so that took a lot of the up and coming assistants and out of work top profile guys. He IS the #1 option, hands down.
- Some NFL jobs LOOK like a Rams turnaround possibility. Bottom line. Some of the openings are GOOD ones. Some of the openings DON’T look all that bad.
- Oakland: Franchise QB. Legit #1 WR. Check. Defensive focal point and leader. Check. Stable and young offensive line. Check. The rest of the D needs some work, and they could use a prime time RB, but overall, this needle is moving up and to the right.
- Detroit: Franchise QB, fringe of playoffs, talent at skill positions, and opportunistic D.
- Chicago: Franchise QB and simply the coach lost the team.
- NYG: HOF QB…at least that is taken care of, and a pretty darn good WR to throw to.
- INDY: Allegedly a franchise QB coming back healthy?
Overall? Not horrible situations. And the Browns and Bengals amazingly are bringing back THEIR guys, so they aren’t even in the conversation.
EVENT #5: Baltimore Ravens at home vs. lowly Bengals to make NFL playoffs
This was a late add, so let’s just keep it simple. Bottom line. When you play a couple inconsistent games during the regular season and put yourself in a certain position, and play a bottom feeding team at HOME with the playoffs on the line and needing NO other help from anyone, you need to close it out. They failed. They blew it. They went into Sunday morning WITH control, and let it slip away.
That was all from the hip. The above are events that I realized were falling into the same category and didn’t even know it. The above events are sporting events where one team had control. And sure there are more. But I work a full time job and just have a little extra time, so this is what you get. What happens when something LOSES control of a situation? Things random like creating a possible championship team IN the year it is housing the event (Vikings, UGA Bulldogs are examples), and the tragedy of recreating the Roseanne TV show immediately come to mind. Another thing that comes to mind is traveling a far way to a game and knowing it will be one of the better games one will ever see. Happy to say that lack of control for my wife and I DID turn out well, even if we were on the losing side.
And being on this plane is another example of no control. If this thing goes down, NOTHING I can do can change one single thing, so why sweat it?
Future focus blogs will have: one focus article, a couple of tidbits, and some fun links to read. Still ironing out the names of each section (line, hook, net, etc.). No tidbits today except for this.
Lindsey’s dad decided to give us a tour of his old crib way back when yesterday before we headed back on the cheaper flight. We drove by and to his old houses, places of work, places of play, etc. But, the BALLER move was this. He takes us to this watering hole, Blackie’s and just says he spent some good times here. Well, it has been like forty years, so what real proof is there of this? I got one way. When he was in the bathroom, I took some pics of the place. This was one of them.
When he came out of the bathroom, I found him looking at one of the pics I had shot randomly:
Closest view and BOOM-there Steve is.
THAT, my friends, is BEYOND “BALLER.” He was ON the freaking wall. Aside from the game and the beach visits, it was my favorite part of the trip.
Here are some fun links to keep with the new style:
And, as always, the best two weekly reads of the week:
As is usual when I write an airplane cast, the time FLIES by. They are about to make me put down my tray and return my seat to its upright position. Gotta go. I hope you enjoyed or are at least more informed from Focus Article #2. Will I blog again? We will talk to you in Focus Article #3. No ideas yet, but they will come. Or events will come. Basically, that is a CLOWN question, bro, AND the topic of the next blog is A) needing some events and games to happen B) totally OUT of my control at the mercy of the sports world. Peace.