Busy weekend. There’s a lot to cover, including Nebraska basketball, Big Ten divisions and Tiger Woods, but let’s start with a quote.
Which coach said this over the weekend?
“Never seen anything like that in my whole life. I mean, I’ve never felt as defenseless as we were the other night, that’s for sure.”
Hmmm, any guesses? Perhaps Missouri State’s coach after watching Doug McDermott hit 14 consecutive shots? Nope.
“You know, any time you can go for 500 yards against a team like ____, you don’t need to say anything else. He just creates so many problems for your defense, and he knows what those problems are. And he understands them very well.”
At this point, the source is still a mystery, but obviously the quote is in reference to Colin Kaepernick, right? Or…
“They’re gonna be tough to deal with. If they can keep him out of jail or keep him eligible, he’s gonna be pretty good. If they can keep him off the Twitter, he might win three or four Heismans. He’ll have that type of ability.”
You probably know now it was Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops talking about Johnny Manziel. Stoops stirred the pot with the “jail” comment. But I’ll overlook that and make a larger point.
We’re going to look back at 2012 as one of the most stunning quarterback years in football history, a season that changed so many perceptions about the type of athlete who can play the position, how quickly they can succeed and what a dominant stat line looks like.
Manziel strutted into the SEC as a freshman and made Cam Newton look average. He put up 229 yards rushing AND 287 passing in the Cotton Bowl. Aside from Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl, has a college quarterback ever looked better?
The only thing crazier than going 229/287 against Oklahoma is going 181/263 on the Green Bay Packers.
What Kaepernick did to Green Bay in his first playoff game not only vindicates Jim Harbaugh’s decision to sit Alex Smith, it belongs with any quarterback performance in playoff history. (By my count, it would’ve been good for about 51 fantasy points!) And Kaepernick wasn’t even considered among the top three first-year starters in 2012.
Russell Wilson, RG3 and Andrew Luck demonstrated that experience isn’t nearly as critical as we always thought. Rookie quarterbacks don’t automatically struggle. In fact, they can be great.
Like Kaepernick, Wilson’s performance Sunday (385 passing, 60 rushing) will force defensive coordinators to step back and reconsider everything they know.
When the Atlanta Falcons blitzed Wilson on third-and-5 with 44 seconds left, every football fan in America was trained to think, “That’s a sack.” Somehow Wilson eluded Sean Weatherspoon and found Marshawn Lynch, which set up the go-ahead touchdown.
We’ve witnessed in 2012-13 the launch of a new age: quarterbacks who not only run like running backs, but throw with the accuracy of Brady and Manning. That’s the real difference between this crop and guys like Michael Vick, Tommie Frazier and Tim Tebow. Yes, they can run. But they can throw! And they’re working with offensive minds who have figured out a scheme to maximize their gifts.
Mike Stoops’ quote — the first part anyway — describes Manziel perfectly; he’ll be in the NFL someday, too. But it could’ve been any number of defensive coaches talking about Wilson, Griffin or Kaepernick. Together this season, they made the hardest position in sports look easy.
>> I’m so reluctant to praise a Nebraska basketball team’s grit in a loss. For 13 years, we’ve been patting the Huskers on the back for moral victories. It’s a loser’s attitude. It sets the bar too low. Barry Collier and Doc Sadler couldn’t recruit, and instead of demanding more talent, Husker fans awarded them a badge of honor.
Yeah, we’re starting Jay-R Strowbridge and Jim Ledsome, but look at ‘em hustle!
Nebraska’s two losses — at Michigan and at Michigan State — were right out of the Collier/Sadler playbook. But how can you look at Tim Miles’ program right now and not praise it? Without Brandon Ubel, without a true point guard, without an effective big man, NU had no business even being in the game Sunday. Yet if Dylan Talley makes an open 18-foot jumper with 2:16 left, the Huskers take the lead.
Two years from now, Husker fans better not be satisfied with a loss like Sunday’s. But in year one? With the talent Sadler left behind? Pretty impressive.
>> Jim Delany is reconsidering “Legends” and “Leaders” for his divisional names. Let me present a bold, creative alternative: “East” and “West.”
>> Adam Rittenberg, always worth reading, takes a look at Big Ten schedules in 2013. The traditional powers have easier paths.
>> A Tampa columnist rules in favor of Nebraska in the greatest dynasty debate. And he identifies his top 10 four-year runs.
>> For Sunday’s World-Herald, I wrote part one of a Shawn Eichorst profile. Eichorst has built a sterling reputation working alongside big personalities like Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Barry Alvarez. But Eichorst’s biggest accomplishment was turning around his alma mater.
>> Is Doug McDermott the best player in the country? USA Today asks that question after McDermott scored 39 at Missouri State Friday night, including 28 in the second half. (You may want to swallow your pride and start watching this guy, Husker fans.)
When you play in the Valley and you’re never on ESPN, it takes a lot to get noticed nationally. Doug is gonna need a few more jaw-dropping nights to earn player of the year. But he has the game, no doubt. And his competition — Mason Plumlee? Trey Burke? — isn’t all that dominant.
>> Back to the NFL. As I mentioned on Twitter Sunday, the difference between victory and defeat for the Seahawks was likely 2 or 3 inches. If officials had determined that Marshawn Lynch didn’t reach the goal line on first-and-goal with 34 seconds left, the clock would’ve been running.
Seattle would’ve called timeout, but surely not right away. Which means the Falcons would’ve had to use one of their timeouts. Seattle runs another play, maybe two. How much time is left when the Seahawks finally score? 20 seconds? Maybe less? Instead, officials awarded Lynch the TD, which gave Matt Ryan enough time (and timeouts) to complete two big-time throws.
If I were a coach or a player investing 80 hours a week into winning, the slim, slim margin between jubilation and agony would be enough to drive me an insane.
>> Good for kickers who take a practice shot when opposing coaches call those last-second timeouts. Perhaps Pete Carroll and his colleagues will realize icing a kicker is a silly waste of time — the stats show it. Ten years from now, we’re gonna look back and ask, “Why the heck did coaches do that?”
>> I would not want the Arizona Cardinals coaching job. How good is the NFC West going to be the next few years? Not only do San Francisco and Seattle have elite young quarterbacks, they have very good — in San Francisco’s case, I’d say elite — defenses. A few years ago, the NFC West was a laughingstock. Next year it may be the best division in football — aside from the SEC West, of course.
>> Tweet from Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow: “What could have been: Broncos had 2 TOs with 31 seconds left and took a knee. Atlanta had 2 TOs and 26 seconds and kicks game winning fg.”
Considering the score was tied and the weather was bad, John Fox did what most coaches would’ve done. Honestly, had Denver started its possession where Atlanta did — the 28 rather than the 20 — I think Fox would’ve let Manning take a few shots. That’s a big eight yards when you’re making the decision.
>> Peyton Manning reminds me of Phil Mickelson. Polished in every way. Amazingly talented. But a man who — on the big stage — has failed as much as he succeeded. There’s one more similarity.
After Saturday’s loss, Manning went out of his way to congratulate Ray Lewis not only on the field, but in the Ravens locker room. I love that kind of stuff and I’m a big fan of both guys. But I’m surprised that Manning doesn’t get flack — as Mickelson does — for being fake or insincere with his good deeds. What’s the difference?
>> I thought Dan Dierdorf was having a bad broadcast Saturday in Denver. Then I heard Brian Billick Sunday in Atlanta. How did that guy win a Super Bowl? Ah yes, Ray Lewis.
>> Peter King hits all the big NFL stories in his Monday Morning Quarterback.
>> An unbelievable column on Jason Taylor and the pain he endured to be an All-Pro. One of the best things I’ve read all season.
>> Buzz Bissinger’s mea culpa on Lance Armstrong.
>> Nice work from Mitch Sherman on how Texas, California and Florida remain the top launching pads for college football prospects.
>> Finally, the new Tiger/Rory commercial — a nod to Bird and Jordan — is outstanding. Hopefully 2013 is the year we finally see them in the final group at a major.