Tuesday morning, I heard Bill Curry, ex-Alabama coach, say something that struck me as borderline laughable. If he were Texas A&M’s coach, Curry said, he’d sit Johnny Manziel down, look him in the eye and ask, “Did you do it?”
If you believe Manziel’s story, then play him. If you think he’s lying, then sit him.
“I think it’s going to boil down to whether Kevin (Sumlin) trusts him,” Curry said. “I really believe that.”
And I really believe the Cheetos I eat every night at 11:30 are healthy. Look, I recognize that A&M could face NCAA trouble if Manziel plays — and is later deemed ineligible. I get that Sumlin technically has an option to bench his Heisman Trophy winner before the NCAA closes its investigation. But it’s about as far-fetched as Roger Goodell canceling the NFL season to prevent more concussions.
Truth is, Johnny Football is too big to fail. For Texas A&M and maybe even for the NCAA. He generates too much interest, too much money, too much exposure. The train is rolling along at 100 mph and there’s no way Sumlin can stop it, especially 72 hours before the opener. If he even tried, the A&M administration and fan base (not to mention the TV networks) might stage a coup d’état.
There’s no way Sumlin trusts Johnny Football. But if he truly considered sitting or suspending Manziel, he would’ve done so after that scathing ESPN profile, when the Manziel family opened fire on Sumlin and the university. But not now. The Aggies have to ride this out and hope like heck the NCAA doesn’t have the evidence and/or the guts to take a stand.
Two weeks from Saturday, the two-time defending national champs will storm into Kyle Field. And the Heisman Trophy will play. You can bet your Johnny Manziel autograph on it.
>> I’ll give Curry (whom I like as an analyst) credit. He did say this on Mike & Mike: “Here’s the deal and I’ve said this since day one, since I was a college player: With the NCAA system, and I’m not suggesting anybody’s doing this, but if you’re willing to deal in cash and if you can lie with a straight face, you can beat the system.”
>> I’ll also give credit to Mike Greenberg, who pointed out the insanity of NCAA rules in this case. If A&M plays Manziel now and he’s deemed ineligible on Sept. 18, why are the Aggies subject to penalty for playing him the first three games?
“That, to me, just doesn’t make any sense. It’s putting the school, the coach and everyone else in an impossible situation. … It seems to me if they rule him ineligible three weeks from now, then he should be ineligible three weeks from now. And what happened in the ensuing time should not be retroactively punished.”
>> Coaching in the NFL is pretty simple. If you have a quarterback, you have job security. If you don’t have a quarterback, that glazed look in your eyes — demonstrated best these days by Rex Ryan — is only a matter of time.
Ryan’s failure in New York is sad because he’s turned into a man he once mocked. But it’s really no surprise. Lasting a decade in New York with Mark Sanchez (let alone winning a Super Bowl) would’ve been a Meadowlands miracle.
Let’s take the best 10 quarterbacks (pay no attention to the order) of the past 5-10 years:
I’ll even throw in Matt Schaub, whose passer rating always exceeds his reputation.
Over the past decade, how many coaches have been fired with those quarterbacks? The answer: Three. Marty Schottenheimer (Brees), Wade Phillips (Romo) and Norv Turner (who was canned only after Rivers turned terrible).
In a league where only seven coaches have tenures dating back pre-2008, that’s an amazing fact. I’m sure that Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, Tom Coughlin, etc., are excellent coaches. But where would they be with Sanchez or Kevin Kolb or J.P. Losman?
In other words, I’d think twice about taking a job in a place like Jacksonville or Cleveland, where there’s no quarterback in sight.
>> Can anybody stop Alabama from four titles in five years? I know that popular opinion says ‘Bama is invincible these days, but we’re talking about a team that lost once last year — and needed the final seconds to avoid two more defeats. The Tide would be a lot more vulnerable, of course, if they didn’t have the easiest schedule in the SEC. They don’t play Florida, South Carolina or Georgia.
>> 100 things to love about college football, by Gene Wojciechowski. The Huskers (their fans, actually) make an appearance at No. 46.
>> Mack Brown is in loser denial, says Jim Weber.
>> “The System,” a new book by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict, unveils the seedy side of college football. Dan Wetzel calls it the best sports book in recent memory.
>> Random top 5: Best Blackshirts of the post-Osborne era.
1 — Ndamukong Suh
2 — Lavonte David
3 — Mike Brown
4 — Ralph Brown
5 — Adam Carriker
Honorable Mention: Barrett Ruud and the four-headed monster of Amukamara/Hagg/Gomes/Dennard.
>> Great YouTube research by Corn Nation in compiling each year of the Tunnel Walk. It’s fun to watch the old, simple versions in the mid-90s. And I’ll never forget that 2007 edition with Husker players imitating paratroopers. Yikes.
>> Marvin Sanders begins Season One as a high school coach in Los Angeles.
>> Eric Martin and Brett Maher were released this week. Rex Burkhead, meanwhile, is still expected (barely) to make the Bengals 53-man roster, says this Cincy beat writer.
>> The 10 people you’ll meet at your Fantasy Football Draft. Friends tell me I’m the Mel Kiper type.
>> Division III football players in New Jersey accidentally entered a store after hours. What happened next is pretty cool.
>> You have to watch this: a 4-year-old with leukemia sings “God Bless America” at Fenway Park.
>> Finally, as you probably know, our college football preview section Sunday was all about speed. My contribution was an examination of up-tempo offenses across the country.
I feel like I have a decent grasp on the history of the game. Then Tuesday I ran across this story from Sports Illustrated, with this sub-headline: “The referee’s arms are in the air and defensive coaches are up in arms as sophisticated offenses, quarterbacks who run and the sudden urge to gamble bring touchdowns everywhere.”
When was the story published? Nov. 4, 1968! I’ve excerpted the first few graphs (including a classic lead from Dan Jenkins) for your entertainment. As the saying goes, the more things change…
At a time when it seems to a great many of us that the whole world is either on strike, on fire, on dope, or on a sneezing jag because of all of the hair dangling in its face, it only stands to reason that the religion of college football should reflect some kind of fierce neurosis. And it does. With only half of the 1968 season gone, the computer can verify what the startled fan, the bewildered coach and the out-of-breath tackier have all been thinking. Briefly this: nobody can stop anybody. Or as Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles puts it, “There isn’t a defensive coach in America who can sleep at night without taking pills.”
Like none before it, the current season is a display of what can happen when several trends come together at the same time. Specialized athletes, permissive rules which favor offense and inventive coaches have all combined in 1968 to bring absolute ruin to both defensive thought and ability.
The result has been an explosive season, one in which, in the first five weeks, the number of plays per game (148.7), the total offensive yardage per game (629), the total points per game (39.3), the number of pass completions per game (23.2), the number of pass attempts per game (50) and the total yards passing per game (299) all proceeded at a record-breaking pace. And meantime, we slump back and listen to results that make us wonder how a sport that produced the Seven Blocks of Granite can suddenly come up with the Seven Dabs of Mayonnaise instead.