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The NFL gave out its season
senior superlatives "honors" the night before the championship game. The Miami Dolphins won the coveted Bridgestone Cluch Performance Play of the Year... for a trick play touchdown in the second quarter of a game against the Eagles that would see the two teams combine for forty-one more points after the "clutch" play. Hrm. It feels like a participation award. Thanks, Bridgestone.
But that wasn't the only trophy to go to someone still on the Dolphins' payroll. The award for the nebulously defined "comeback player" of the year went to Ryan Tannehill (who accounted for $18 million against the Dolphins salary cap despite not playing a single down for the team).
In 1972, Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for playing an integral role in leading the Dolphins' to the NFL's only undefeated season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Morrall had been discarded by the Baltimore Colts who preferred instead to give 38-year-old Johnny Unitas yet another chance.
In 1994, Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for passing for 30 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards on the way to a 10-win season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Marino had torn his Achilles tendon in the fifth week and ruined what was projected to be a division-winning season.
In 2008, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for surviving an 11-win season without suffering further injury. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Pennington had played in only nine games for the New York Jets, losing the eight of them that were not against the Miami Dolphins.
In 2019, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for coming off the bench mid-season to ultimately lead his team to the AFC Championship game. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Tannehill had been a Miami Dolphin.
Congrats to Tannehill for successfully getting out of the talent-sucking tar pit. And thanks to Friend Randy for passing along news that Tannehill was finally a winner. I'm sure he wasn't gloating. (Randy's a Dallas fan.)
I haven't mentioned the Miami Dolphins in over two months and for good reason. They're bad. They're even bad at being bad. Their best achievement in 2019 was having Dan Marino named as one of the 10 greatest quarterbacks of the past century. Too bad Marino retired 20 years ago. The team hasn't had a consistently decent quarterback since.
To solve that problem, the team started the 2019 season with the intention of losing more than anyone has ever lost before to secure the first pick in the 2020 draft. They ultimately finished fifth in the race to be worst, meaning they won't get the best available quarterback. They might not even get the second, third, or fourth.
The best option, according to just about everyone, is Joe Burrow, whose LSU team mastered the art of having offensive linemen get away without being called for holding. He is followed in some order by Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm. Two of them are/were Georgia Bulldogs, so I'd be fine cheering for them as Dolphins. On the other hand, Herbert is slow to make decisions, but is a nearly seven-foot-tall giant. Given that NFL scouts are size queens and Herbert is the one I like least, I figure he's the one most likely to be the Dolphins' eventual pick.
If there's any good news for the Dolphins, it's that their original target QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has fallen from his early projections and should still be available at five. (Maybe even at twenty.) Why? Because he's fragile. Would the team that famously passed on Drew Brees' wounded wing draft a player who's the real-life equivalent of a mid-80s G.I.Joe figure with a busted rubber band? We'll see.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins' last quarterback project, Ryan Tannehill, refuses to lose with his new team. Two games into the playoffs, two wins. That's two more than Ryan won in seven years with the Dolphins. Given that the Dolphins are still paying Tannehill against his last contract, they deserve at least some credit for those wins, right?
It remains possible, maybe even likely, that last year's starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick will return under center in 2020. In 2019, playing for his 8th team, Fitzpatrick became the oldest player (37) to lead his team in rushing yards (243) and rushing touchdowns (4) in a season, which implies that the Dolphins running game might be a bigger problem than whoever they've got under center. (Tannehill, for example, is now winning largely thanks to the legs of Derrick Henry.) I won't be surprised if the team decides to try losing another year's worth of games to address that problem in 2021.
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I didn't take that picture. That was broadcast by CBS, which is how I saw the game between Texas A&M and Georgia (final: Texas A&M 13, UGA 19). I post it only to remind myself of what I missed. What a great sunset!
I had a real debate with myself whether or not to attend today's game. The final decision came down to the (accurate) forecast of heavy rain. I went to the Kentucky game last month and was generally miserable. I ended up wet, cold, and bored by the lousy game quality. That wasn't an experience I was interested in having twice in the same season.
Now that the home schedule is over, I'd like to make note of two disappointing trends from the 2019 season:
- 1. Why is it getting so hard to get people to go to the games? Even putting aside the two rainouts, I had a hard time enticing anyone to come with me, and the seats around me were empty most of the time. Assuming this isn't purely a side effect of my own anti-social tendencies, is this a problem with the current state of Georgia football (which seems to win in spite of their anemic offense) or a symptom of some larger trend?
- What happened to bands at halftime? The only band marching in Athens in 2019 was the Redcoats. Was this a fluke in the schedule that no team playing in Athens this year had a traveling marching band, or are marching bands at football games becoming as archaic as the fewer and fewer fans attending them?
Maybe we'll get answers to these questions next year.
Meanwhile, good luck against Tech and in the SEC Championship, Dogs. I assure you I'll be rooting for you on the couch.
Only one team showed up to play in the annual Georgia/Missouri game. Luckily for Georgia fans, it was Georgia. Final score: Missouri 0, Georgia 27.
Above see the blue lights rolled out for the Veteran's Day ceremony at halftime. You know, this was the sixth home game of the 2019 season and I have yet to see an opponent's band on the field. Do schools not have bands anymore?
My guest for the evening game was Friend James (aka the man who paid me to make this), who had never attended a football game before. I spent most of the game explaining it, which was fine. With only one team on the field, there wasn't that much to see.
Not that I'm complaining about the Bulldogs pitching a shut out, mind you. It was just cold — very cold — and it would have been nice to have something to jump up and down about.
Mid-season update on Operation Fish Tank: the winless Miami Dolphins were on target in their quest for the first pick in the 2020 Draft until they ran into the one-win New York Jets. The resulting contest was a sad parody of what football is supposed to be.
Coach Brian Flores's season-long compromise between his competitive nature and his owner's desire for Tua Tagavailoa has been to score as many points as possible in the first half then stop playing after halftime. That strategy finally failed him. It's hard to blame him here, as how could anyone expect the Jets to be better at the same tactic? Both teams tried forcing a safety on the other, but the Jets' incompetence could not be overcome.
There are now 4 teams with one win, and the Cinncinnati Bengals lie alone at the bottom of the pile as the only remaining winless team. The Dolphins aren't even in second place among the tied-for-second teams. The NFL uses strength of schedule for draft tiebreakers, and the worst team with the hardest road is the Atlanta Falcons. (Echos of "28-3" continues to resonate.)
(UPDATE 2019-11-05: Oops. I misunderstood that tiebreaker. That should be the worst team with the *easiest* strength of schedule, which isn't Atlanta but Washington. Dolphins still in third, though.)
So here we are at the halfway point of the 2019 season, and it looks like the Miami Dolphins have scrapped all the talent on their team and endured a horrible, losing season... for the third overall pick. At least Atlanta isn't likely to take a QB, right? Right?
Way to find a way to lose at losing, Fins.
The forecast was 57° and rain. I asked Mom, and she declined to attend. I asked seven more people, and they all had better things to do. I went alone. I should have listened to what they were trying to tell me.
As forecast, the game was very cold, and very wet. So wet, in fact, that the Athletic Department decided not to allow any bands on the field, which made for a very unusual pre-game with no band welcoming the players onto the field and an equally odd Homecoming halftime, where the homecoming court was seen only on the video board in still photographs (taken on a sunnier day).
The football was as bad as the weather. There were 10 punts in the first half alone. (Six of those drives were 3-and-outs.) Georgia's strategy appeared to be "wait until Kentucky makes a mistake." It did work eventually when Kentucky badly shanked a punt and allowed Georgia to score on the following play. Congratulations, Georgia, but don't expect that plan to work in two weeks against Florida.
I was not prepared for the amount of rain. I lasted only slightly longer than Kentucky did. I left in the fourth quarter after Georgia finally shut the door, making a goal line stand to break Kentucky's spirit. I paused on my way back to the car to take one last look back just as Georgia scored their third touchdown. Final score: Kentucky 0, UGA 21.
Like I said, cold and wet.
The first evidence I saw that things were going to go poorly was at the start of the game when the three guys sitting behind me correctly predicted Georgia's playcalling on the first three downs. And they didn't just call runs and passes. They accurately predicted blocking assignments and routes. If the guys in the stands can do it, it should come as no surprise that the opposing coaches can do it, too. And they did. (Although, how hard is it to predict "run up the middle, run up the middle, pass to the outside" when it is repeated for 4 quarters and two overtimes of play?)
The picture above is of the South Carolina players celebrating at midfield and tearing branches off the famed hedges after their win. Some Georgia fans were up and arms about this, but that's what underdog visiting teams do when they beat #3 ranked Georgia. Or, as in this case, #3 ranked Georgia beat itself.
There was a lot of blame to go around in this 20-17 loss in double overtime, but quarterback Jake Fromm does deserve special mention in no small part because he's typically been so good. He played so badly today — missing open receivers, throwing three interceptions, and fumbling once — I have to wonder what recently went wrong in his life. Dumped by his girlfriend? Dead dog? Payoff? Did no one tell Jake the cautionary tale of Quincy Carter? Bad games against South Carolina can ruin promising careers, Jake.
Oh well. Better luck next week, Dawgs.
Five weeks into the 2019 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins are 0-4 in their quest to go 0-16 and claim the first pick in the 2020 draft. What should we call this? Tanking for Tua? Failing for Fromm? Horrible for Hurts? Why any of those kids would declare to go pro to end up on the Miami Dolphins is beyond me. College is supposed to be for smart kids.
The bad news for the Dolphins is that there are 3 other teams who are also winless: the Bengals, Jets, and Redskins. The Dolphins have to play all of them (the Jets twice). With all of them no doubt also interested in getting a shiny new quarterback, it's going to be a fight for the bottom in 2019.
The good news is that none of those other teams started the season by jettisoning all their talent like the Dolphins did. Therefore, they're going to have to actually try to be worse than Miami. Can they do it? So far, it looks like the answer is no. They're bad. The Dolphins are terrible.
It's fitting that the only franchise with an undefeated NFL season should also own the absolute worst. The Dolphins have been outscored 163-26 in 4 games, a margin of -137. The worst point differential in NFL history, set by the woeful 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was -287 (in 14 games). Child's play! The 2019 Dolphins are on pace to be outscored by 548 points. They are also looking to own NFL records for fewest points scored per game, most points surrendered per game, and yards allowed per game. Go Fins!
I'll be watching on Sunday when the Redskins visit Miami. While technically it is possible for the game to end in a 0-0 tie after one overtime period, I want to remind the Dolphins' coaching staff that NFL rules allow a team to force points to their opposition: A safety is worth 2 points. Be sure to score it late so the Redskins can't respond. Suckers.
Nothing was usual when Notre Dame came to Athens.
What you see above is the new LED lighting installed in Sanford Stadium earlier this year. Those of you who see a lot of live sports may be familiar with the old metal halide lights that warm up slowly. These are not those. Quick on and color changing, the new lights made for some very impressive stadium effects during the big game, including the red out at the start of the fourth quarter. Nice addition, Georgia.
It didn't take red lights to notice the difference between Notre Dame and a "regular" game. Despite adding extra seats to the stadium for this meeting of top ten teams, Athens was still expecting 50,000 people without tickets, and they arrived early and took all the parking places. We had a flyover of F15s and about two dozen returning Dawg football stars on the sideline (including David Pollack, Champ & Boss Bailey, and Knowshon Moreno, just to name a few). When kickoff finally arrived, the atmosphere was truly electric.
Speaking of the crowd, although ticket costs had bloated from their $75 cover price to a rumored $600 and up on the secondary market, it didn't keep the drunks out. Nor did it keep them in their seats. For reasons that remain unclear to me — credit my naturally welcoming personality, perhaps — Mom and I had plenty of elbow room in an otherwise packed stadium when the couples to our left and right simply disappeared at halftime. That gave us plenty of space to bite our nails when Notre Dame made their late comeback attempt.
Final score: #7 Notre Dame 17, #3 UGA 23. Great football game. It just might have been worth $600.
Footnote: During the pregame, all ten Ugas were showcased on the big board. However, instead of being presented chronologically, they were ordered alphabetically by Roman numeral: I, II, III, IV, IX, V, VI, VII, VIII, X. That probably says terrible things about a Georgia education, but at least the football team is good.