End of Bowden intrigue doesn’t clear up FSU mess

January 29, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

After a bit of delay, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden signed a contract extension this week, thereby ensuring that Bowden will coach the Seminoles for at least one more season.

But this hasn’t stopped the blogosphere and talk radio from constantly buzzing about the mess that still surrounds FSU. First there is the still not completely explained reason that Bowden did not quickly sign his new deal. Then there is the pending NCAA investigation that hovers over FSU athletics with radio hosts on Tallahassee radio going as far to speculate that FSU could be forced to forfeit football games. Their take: Does Bowden really want to stick around if he dropped further behind Joe Paterno in the all-time wins list?

Bowden bashers have already weighed in with their dismay that he is still the coach, suggesting it is time to make way for heir-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher.

I just can’t get there. And no, it’s not that I think that Bowden has earned the right to decide when he should retire. I think it’s better to wait for another season and hope that this intractable situation will work itself out on its own. That’s because I am still not sold on Fisher – and – just as importantly I think that the search for Bowden’s successor should be a wide open affair at the time that Bowden actually steps down.

At this point in time, I could make a cogent argument that bounced Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden has credentials equal to Fisher. I’m not saying that Bowden’s son deserves the job, but you get the picture. FSU fans should realize that the entire world of college football could dramatically change in a season and they could have a whole host of good contenders to follow Bowden. And just as importantly, fans would get another year to see whether or not Fisher can return the team to glory. Plus, it will good to see how Fisher responds to pressure. There will be greatly increased expectations that the offensive unit will take a step forward with so many key players returning.

With another year, FSU and its fans can see whether its worth hanging on to Fisher or whether its worth paying him $5 million to go someplace else. Given the fact that Fisher has previously entertained offers to bolt the Seminoles there is a distinct possibility that he won’t stick around anyway. Yes, I know that he has a clause that forces him to pay FSU if he leaves. But I bet that both sides would be willing to waive that penalty if everyone thought it was good to part ways.

Top 5 Super Bowls played in Florida

January 21, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

As we move ahead with two weeks worth of hype surrounding Super Bowl XLIII — or 43 for those less inclined to memorize Roman numerals – it’s important to remember that the game often fails to live up to the hoopla.

Except it seems when it is played in the sunny state of Florida.

Maybe it’s the families going to Disney World. Maybe it’s the palm trees. Maybe it’s the scene at South Beach. Who knows? But looking at the history of the NFL’s storied contest it jumps out that the games played here have been among some of the most memorable ever played.

The contest between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa will mark the 14th game to be played in Florida since the Super Bowl was launched in January 1967. Here’s my list of the Top 5 Super Bowls to be played here.

1. Super Bowl XXV – Tampa Stadium – Jan. 27, 1991: Last year’s clash between the Giants and the Patriots was a great game, but this contest may have been the best Super Bowl ever. It pitted the methodical and defense-oriented N.Y. Giants led by Big Tuna Bill Parcells against the explosive offense of the Buffalo Bills. The Giants were supposed to be the underdogs, but Parcells was able to use a solid running attack featuring Ottis Anderson to keep Buffalo off the field. The Giants had a 9-and-a-half minute scoring drive in the third quarter that sealed the Bills fate. Buffalo tried to march down the field in the waning seconds only to watch Scott Norwood‘s field goal sail wide. Final score: N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19.

2. Super Bowl XXIII-Joe Robbie Stadium-Jan. 22, 1989: Everyone knew that Joe Montana was a remarkable quarterback but this cemented his place in NFL history. Trailing the Cincinnati Bengals in the final minutes, Montana led the San Francisco 49ers on a remarkable 92-yard scoring drive that finished with a touchdown pass to John Taylor. In the end it seems the Bengals were truly cursed: On the night before running back Stanley Wilson was suspended when he was discovered doing drugs. Early in the game defensive lineman Tim Krumrie broke his leg. This game turned out to be Bill Walsh’s final game as the 49ers coach. Final score: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16.

3. Super Bowl III–The Orange Bowl-Jan. 12, 1969: This is the game that made the NFL what is today. Everyone talks about how the overtime win by the Baltimore Colts over the N.Y. Giants in the 1959 championship game was a big moment for football in American history. But so was this one. No one expected the N.Y. Jets of the American Football League to win. That’s why there so much attention focused on Joe Namath’s improbable victory guarantee. But Namath backed up his guarantee in one of the “biggest upsets in sports history” and helped make the Super Bowl the premier event in American sports. And who doesn’t love that image of Namath wagging his finger in the air as he trots off the Orange Bowl field? Final score: N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7.

4. Super Bowl X–The Orange Bowl–Jan. 18, 1976: A great contest between two of America’s most storied NFL franchises. The Dallas Cowboys actually held a 10-7 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the final quarter but the Steelers were able to capitalize on the Cowboys mistakes to surge ahead. The biggest play of the game was a stunning 64-yard-touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann, who wound up winning the MVP award after his 4 catches for 161 yards. Cowboys great Roger Staubach tried to lead the Cowboys back, only to have one of his passes intercepted in the end zone in the closing seconds of the contest. Final score: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17.

5. Super Bowl XXXIX–Alltel Stadium–Feb. 6, 2005: This was supposed to be a cakewalk for the New England Patriots, but it didn’t turn out that way. They stumbled to a 7-7 tie with the Philadelphia Eagles at half time. In the second half, Tom Brady got the offense going somewhat, thanks to passes to wideout Deion Branch. Donovan McNabb showed why he is so beloved and so reviled in this game. In some instances he was brilliant and he was able to lead the Eagles on a fierce comeback attempt – with some help from a wide receiver with the name of Terrell Owens (who racked up 122 yards receiving despite having two screws in his ankle.) But McNabb also threw three interceptions, including one with less than a minute in the game that cemented the Patriots victory. Final score: New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21.

Drastic steps may not help Bucs

January 18, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Ok, everyone seems to be very, very impressed with Raheem Morris. In a matter of hours on Friday, Morris was elevated to head coach to take the place of Jon Gruden as the new head coach as the Bucs and the reviews are already glowing for the 32-year-old phenom who was a contender for other head coaching jobs in the league. He was introduced officially to the media on Saturday.

On the plus side, the Glazer family clear had a plan. They just didn’t jettison Gruden and go chasing after shadows, much like their ill-fated pursuit of Bill Parcells after they sent Tony Dungy packing.

But this drastic series of steps – which also included firing General Manager Bruce Allen – still may do nothing to improve the Bucs on the football field.

Let’s leave aside the fact that Morris – who a few weeks ago was an assistant coach – is green and relatively untested even as a coordinator. Buccaneeers co-chairman Joel Glazer on Saturday insisted that Morris would be able to relate with “today’s younger players” and help put the Bucs back on a winning path. (This is apparently a subtle swipe at Gruden, who some players say would quickly turn on players.)

In his initial comments, Morris made it sound as if he did not have any major plans to change some of the things that the Bucs are doing. Morris even went out of his way to praise Gruden and say that he had learned from his previous boss.

I’m not sure that’s going to work. A kinder, gentler version of Chucky is not going to create a miracle in Tampa. The problems with the Bucs are systemic – an aging defense, an unsteady situation at quarterback, a rushing attack in a constant state of flux due to injuries, a lack of big playmakers outside of Antonio Bryant.

Now the Glazers have tried to address the team’s personnel problems by bringing in a new general manager who will be given a chance to retool this franchise. Plus, the team is reportedly $46 million below the salary cap giving the ability to chase after free agents.

But it seems to me that this huge overhaul may actually create a step backwards. The Bucs were a game away from going to playoffs this past season. By cleaning house in such a dramatic fashion, this could be a sign that the Bucs plan to spend the offseason revamping the franchise.

I hope I’m wrong, but if I were Bucs fans I wouldn’t expect more than six to eight wins next year.

Tebow makes right decision to return to Gators

January 12, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

So Tim Tebow hailed my advice.

Well, not really. But the star of the Gators made the right choice when he announced this weekend that he would return to Gainesville for his senior year. As explained here Tebow is not ready for NFL prime-time. If he had gone in the NFL draft this spring, he would have either wound up on a really bad team, or he would have agreed to change his position.

I know Gators fans believe Tebow is the best quarterback ever, but he just hasn’t shown the right kind of skills that would convince an NFL owner to hand over a team to him. So it’s better for him to stay where he is and have some fun.

But one word of caution: Gator fans should not automatically expect a championship repeat. For starters, their in-state rivals, Florida State, will probably be a better and stronger team than they were this season. And while Tebow’s return is now assured we don’t know if other star players – such as sensational wideout Percy Harvin – will join him. Harvin did say Sunday that he was “leaning” toward it according to other media outlets.

A quick look, however, at the history of college football can tell you it’s really hard to win when every team is seriously gunning for you. And because there’s no playoff system, one loss can ruin your whole season. Just ask Texas or USC. I would urge Gator fans to bask in their moment of glory while they can and be happy that their hero is not riding off into the sunset.

Tebow should stay away from the NFL for now

January 9, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Fresh off a big win in the BCS Championship Game, the biggest question for the Gators will be whether or not favorite son Tim Tebow returns or heads to the next level.

The way that “Superman” played in the title game may have people thinking the guy is a natural for the NFL. He’s passionate, he’s determined, and he never gave up during the tight game against the Oklahoma Sooners.

But here’s my piece of unsolicited advice to Mr. Tebow: Stay where you are.

I’m not Mel Kiper by the longest stretch of the imagination. But I know enough about the NFL to say that right now Tim Tebow would be lucky if he got drafted by the third round. Despite all the things that he does, I just don’t think that a NFL team will be willing to take a big chance on him.

That doesn’t mean he won’t get drafted. It just means that Tebow is not going to be a Top 5 draft pick commanding millions of dollars.

Maybe you can blame the spread offense system that Coach Urban Meyer runs and say it doesn’t give Tebow enough opportunities to show off all his skills. That may be true. But the plain fact is that NFL scouts will look at Tebow and see someone that could be a great tight end or fullback, but not a quarterback.

The fear will be that once Tebow enters the NFL he will be confronted by fast and mean defensive players who will be every much as determined as he is. Before he became known as a dog killer and convicted criminal, Michael Vick  came under constant criticism that he was a great athlete and fantastic runner but a mediocre passer who cost wins for the Falcons.

If Tebow wants a chance to go into the NFL as a top-flight prospect he needs to return to Gainesville and somehow convince Meyer that staying in the pocket and throwing 25 times a game is a good thing. Jumping into the NFL this year would be a risky move that may lead Tebow down the same path to football oblivion that has confronted other Heisman Trophy winners.

If Tebow wants to keep having fun playing football, the grass is greener where he already is.

10 bonafide reasons the Gators will beat the Sooners

January 7, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Some might be tempted to view Utah’s victory over Alabama as a sign that anything can happen in college football and that a Gators victory on Thursday night is far from assured.

I think that’s nonsense and I wouldn’t be surprised if Oklahoma loses by at least 10 points. And here’s my surefire reasons for the Gators victory.

1. The Heisman Trophy curse. I’m sure Tim Tebow – who lost his bowl game last year – will be more than willing to tell Sam Bedford about this one. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that winning the trophy equals diminished performance come bowl time. The spotlight and the publicity takes time away from preparing for the big game.

2. Oklahoma’s mediocre defense won’t be able to stop the Gators. The Sooners are ranked 63rd in total defense. That’s lower than Alabama, Tennessee, Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia etc. etc. You get the idea.

3. Florida’s defense will give Oklahoma more trouble than they realize. The Gators by contrast have the nation’s 8th ranked defense and is the 4th highest scoring defense. The Gators had 24 interceptions – the second best in the nation – this season. Despite all the hype surrounding Tebow and the offense, this is why the Gators have lost just one game.

4. The Big 12 Conference has already shown this bowl season that it’s not the turbo-charged dyanmo of college football that cheerleader ESPN claimed it was. Texas Tech was schooled by Ole Miss, while the Texas squeaker against Ohio State should not be seen as vindication. Remember USC? They beat the Buckeyes 35-3.

5. Tim Tebow may come off as a little bit too earnest for those aren’t members of the Gators faithful. But he’s unstoppable come game time. This year he has shown he will do anything to win, whether it’s pass or bulldoze his way down the field. And if you think he’s been motivated before, can you imagine how pumped up he’s going to be now that Oklahoma cornerback Dominque Franks called him the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12?

6. That crazy spread offense gets ridiculed by folks like Bama coach Nick Saban but right now no college can figure out how to stop it. Saban ought to know because first he lost to the Gators and he still couldn’t figure it out when the Utah Utes ran his team out of the Sugar Bowl.

7. Speed, speed, speed. This gets repeated a lot but it’s true. Gators Coach Urban Meyer has one of the fastest all-around teams ever in the history of college football, with several defensive and offense players who boast amazing 4.3 or better speed. Speed at running back, speed at wide receiver, speed everywhere.

8. The return of Percy Harvin will not just be a psychological boost for the Gators. Harvin is a difference-maker plain and simple. Defenses can’t just key on Tebow and expect to win. They have to worry about whether Harvin catches the ball or runs the ball.

9. Oklahoma’s dismal record in BCS games – losing the last four – is not just some throwaway statistic. It’s a sign that Sooners Coach Bob Stoops has trouble keeping his team focused and ready for the bowl game. One of the biggest problems for a lot of college football teams is that month-long layoff between the end of the season and the bowls. There’s a reason that a lot of NFL players don’t even like a two-week layoff between the playoffs and the Super Bowl. When your team is clicking you want to keep playing.

10. Florida’s special teams are nothing to forget about. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brandon James – the nation’s 13th best punt returner takes one back against the Sooners and starts the rout.

BCS mess could taint Gators bid for championship

January 3, 2009

meyer1 Well, let’s hope that the masters of the BCS oligarchy are happy.

They once again have a mess on their hands that threatens to taint next week’s Bowl Championship Series championship game between the University of Florida and Oklahoma. In other words, even if the Gators win, are they really the national champions?

The fact that Oklahoma got into the title game through some sort of bureaucratic technicality was bad enough. But Utah’s solid drubbing of the Alabama Crimson Tide has again shown that the BCS selection process remains a complete farce. All season long that BCS masters have proclaimed that the computers and polls and schedule strength and conference schedule, etc. etc. would produce the two best teams.

Well, guess again. Utah, the only undefeated team in the entire nation, has discredited all this talk about superior conferences. The 13-0 Utes manhandled the second-best team in the Southeastern Conference. Bama was never ever in this game. Nick Saban, the so-called master of the college universe, had a team that was totally unprepared to deal with Utah’s offense and defense. All the talking heads who blathered on about the inferior Mountain West conference were dead wrong.

But that’s not the only problem. The entire bowl schedule has exposed the ongoing weaknesses with this BCS madness.

Take for example, the USC Trojans. This one loss team – just like Oklahoma and Florida – dominated Big 10 champion Penn State University in the Rose Bowl. Oh, but the rap on Southern Cal was that they play in that lowly Pac-10 conference. Hmm. Except that that lowly conference is now a perfect 5-0 in bowl games.

Oh, and by the way, did you notice that in Ole Miss defeated Texas Tech, the team that supposedly cost Texas a shot at the national title? I guess it could be argued that this helps the case of the Gators, since the Rebels beat them. But the fact that Tech was never in the game could reinforce the idea that the Big 12 was OVERRATED as a conference. (Maybe ESPN gave the conference a tad too much exposure that influenced poll voters, but that’s a separate rant.)

The bottom line is that a college playoff is needed. Fox Sports and the BCS masters need to stop deluding people that the current system works. The championship should be determined on the field, not through a series of polls and computer programs. There will always be upsets in sports and there were always be teams that don’t fit into the nice box that some talking head wants to put them into.

And I happen to be just fine with the idea of the federal government stepping in and making it a reality. The TV networks are too closely tied at the hip with the colleges that prefer the flawed, completely illogical system which relies primarily on the opinions of people WHO DON’T EVEN watch most teams that play college football.

I have no doubt that the Gators are the best team this year in college football. But unfortunately they are being denied a chance to prove it.