SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS : FEBRUARY 13
By Leo Haggerty
Lets wrap up the 2017 football season. My column is, needless to say, a touch controversial but you would expect nothing less, right?
DOES ANYONE HAVE A CLUE
WAS THE FIX IN FOR THE PATRIOTS
If you are a conspiracy theorist, of which I have been accused of being, you are going to have a field day with the American Football Conference Championship tilt. There we so many questionable calls, and non-calls, as this game unfolded that it ranks almost up with the way the Seattle Seahawks were jobbed in Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Let’s just examine the following facts which could have led to the Patriots getting a little help from their friends in the striped shirts. Then, I’ll let you connect the dots.
The National Football League, as well as the National Football League Players Association, had no idea that the protest involving kneeling during the National Anthem who be that detrimental to the NFL’s bottom line. The NFLPA never anticipated the backlash from fans who could not see past what they viewed as disrespecting the American Flag and that includes the military. Plus, Commissioner Roger Goddell never perceived their lack of action would be perceived as being sympathetic to the protest. Major errors on the part of the NFL as well as the NFLPA and it’s hit them hard in the pocketbook.
So, with viewship down and sponsors jumping off what they considered a sinking ship, the league was faced with financial Armageddon. With that being said, I will give you these questions to ponder.
Could the NFL afford to have a Super Bowl in a cold weather city, that being Minneapolis which was problematic due to the weather in early February, without a marquee quarterback leading one of the teams? Did the NFL believe that a Jacksonville-Philadelphia Super Bowl would lead to sponsors demanding that they pay less money supporting what they would consider a less than Super Bowl?
My answer is a resounding no to the first query and an emphatic yes to the second. For that reason, I believe that the New England Patriots got some preferential treatment from the officials.
Hey, I’m not saying the fix was in but the NE offensive line was not called for holding once against arguably the best defensive front seven in the AFC. That makes you wonder if the Pats got preferential treatment on any border line call, right?
It was in the best interest of the league to have the Pats and Tom Brady lining up for Super Bowl LII. It did lead to one of, if not the most, exciting and entertaining Super Bowls ever.
But the question still begs to be asked. Did that directive get New England to the Super Boel, mo matter what it took, filter down to the zebras? We’ll never know, will we?
Nobody right now is hotter than the Philadelphia Eagles. Left for dead after sure-fire Most Valuable Player QB Carson Wentz went down with a season-ended knee injury, the Eagles have done their best imitation of the mythical Phoenix. The Birds have risen from their own ashes to represent the National Football Conference in Minneapolis the first Sunday in February and, lo and behold, walked away with a franchise-first Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of Super Bowl LII.
Philly thrived on disrespect. Throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs, the #1 seeded Birds have been a home underdog.
First, in the NFC Divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles dispatched the Dirty Birds 15-10 with a late goal line stand.
Then, the NFC Championship contest had Philadelphia a home dog again against the Vikings. This time, after giving up an early touchdown to the Vikes, the Eagles posted 38 unanswered points for a 38-7 rout of Minnesota.
Finally, in Super Bowl LII, the Nick Foles led Eagles were dogs again to the Patriots. That didn’t even phase Philly. With a been there and done that already attitude, the Birds took an early lead that they didn’t relinquish until midway through the final stanza.
Then, with the Super Bowl on the line, #9 lead Philadelphia down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown but it wasn’t easy or without controversy. The Birds converted two third downs and one fourth down during the drive to move the chains. Also, the TD pass to TE Zach Ertz was reviewed for almost two minutes before the call was confirmed. That put the Eagles up 38-33 but the fireworks were just beginning.
First, your giving the ball to Tom Brady, the Super Bowl QB GOAT, with 2:21 left in the contest and the game hanging in the balance. If you’re an Eagles fan, what’s wrong with that picture? Everything, right?
Well, the Philadelphia defense, who had not given up a single point in the last two minutes of any game during the entire 2017 campaign, came up huge. On a 2nd and 2 from the Pats 33-yard line, #12 was sacked for the only time in the tilt by the Birds DL Brandon Graham. #55 was able to knock the pigskin loose and it was recovered by Philly’s 2017 first round draft choice DL Derek Barnett.
After 3 runs milked the clock down to 1:05 left in the game, rookie kicker Jake Elliott split the upright from 46-yards away. This gave Philadelphia an 8-point lead but the Patriots weren’t dead yet.
Brady, with no timeouts and just under a minute to work with, managed to get off nine plays and moved the football to just a yard shy of midfield with 9 ticks left on the game clock. His Hail Mary pass into the end zone was batted away as time expired.
Trust me when I tell you this, and I can verify the feeling because I was with over 500 Eagles fans at the Crown Plaza Hotel, a lot of us in attendance were holding our breath as the ball sailed toward the end zone. Plus, we would not have been surprised if a guy in a white jersey came down with the football.
Hey, we’re Philly fans so we’ve dealt with disappointment since 1960. I fall into that category because it’s where I grew up.
You can take the boy out of the city but you cannot take the city out of the boy. Keep this in mind, as I have told you previously, when you cut me I bleed cheesesteak and I’m proud of it
But the ball fell harmlessly to the turf and the celebration began. No telling when it will stop but I’ll leave you with this last thought.
THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES ARE THE SUPER BOWL LII CHAMPS! Fly Eagles Fly. Dilly Dilly to Philly Philly!
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF COMMITTEE
OK, I’ll be the first one to say this. Alabama is not deserving of the title of 2018 National Champion and here’s why.
Basically, the Crimson Tide had no business being in the Final Four from the beginning. The only way the Nick Sabin led ‘Bama squad got in was because of the “eye test” and that is wrong on a whole bunch of levels for which I will explain below.
Before I delve into the specifics of my argument, don’t blame Saint Nick for sneaking in the Final Four’s backdoor. He stated, and perfectly I might add, that there isn’t any criteria put forth by the Committee and he would be happy if the Committee would initiate some concrete guidelines for being one of the four participants in the College Football Playoff at the beginning of the season.
Well said, your Nickness! Being that the Committee, along with its television partners and they are complicit in this conspiracy as well, really doesn’t want any hard and fast barometers for being selected into the “Alabama Invitational” which has been previous known as the CFP, let me be of assistance.
Let me help out the Committee being that they, for whatever reason, don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do it themselves. There are three boxes that need to be checked for any team to be considered for selection.
The first is, if your conference is divided into two groups, winning your division. The second is playing on Championship Saturday. The third, and final, one is winning your conference championship. You must check at least one box to even be considered.
So let’s go back to the end of the NCAA regular season. Has Alabama checked any of those boxes to be worthy of consideration for the Final Four of NCAA football?
The answer us a resounding NO. Did ‘Bama win their division? Nope, the Southeastern Conference West Champ was Auburn. Did the Crimson Tide play on Championship Saturday? Another negative response. Finally, did they win their conference title? No again, good buddy. That hardware went to Georgia.
So, what I’m saying is Alabama got into the Final Four by doing absolutely nothing on Championship Saturday other than gather around the TV and root for upsets. Blasphemy, you say? Well, let me lay it out for you chapter and verse.
If you looked at the pool of teams eligible to make the playoff when the 12-game regular season ended, here’s who was in the running. A 12-0 Wisconsin plus one-loss Clemson and Miami and Oklahoma and Georgia and two-loss Auburn. You had to at least consider the only other undefeated team and that was Central Florida but I’ll deal with that later.
So how does it play out on Championship Saturday? Clemson and Oklahoma along with Georgia punch their ticket to the Final Four with a win. Wisconsin loses a close game to Ohio State but still only had one loss and, to muddy the waters ever farther, UCF winds up now as the ONLY undefeated team.
So, Alabama sat home and did nothing but hope that the Committee would take the bait and choose them for the fourth spot because they looked like the best team. Not we’re but wished to be.
Well, the Committe bit hook and line and sinker. They didn’t take a one lost Wisconsin with a win over Michigan. They didn’t even consider UCF with a win over South Florida and two over Memphis They chose Alabama whose signature win during the season was, wait for it, Fresno State. So much for the powerful SEC.
This is two years in a row where two Power Five conference champions have been snubbed by the Committee for non-champions of any distinction. Two years ago, the winners of the Big 10 and Big 12 were left out in the cold. This year, the PAC 12 joined the Big 10 again as being all dressed up with no place to go. That m, in opinion, is unconscionable.
With all that being said, congrats to Alabama for winning the 2018 College Football National Championship. Put that trophy right next to the SEC title one.
Oh, you can’t, you say? That’s right, you didn’t win that. Well, just slide it next to the SEC West Championship hardware. Oops, I forget. Don’t have that one either.
So, if you compare apples to apples, the real 2018 National Champion is UCF. They beat Auburn who defeated Alabama and Georgia.
Common opponents makes it simple math. It’s a shame the Committee can’t, or won’t, see that. I’m almost ready to go back to the BCS.
Take the four best teams that have proven they belong and not the ones you think should be there. Committee members, you are what you record says you are. That needs to be the golden rule and not just lip service.
LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
SUPER BOWL & CFP PARTICIPANTS
So what’s left to do? Predicting who will make it to the 2019 football winners circle, that’s what.
In Super Bowl LIII, from the NFC look for Philly to get back especially if Eagles QB Carson Wentz comes back healthy and closer Nick Foles is in the bullpen. In the AFC, I’m going out a limb here and picking Houston. If, and these are two big ones, QB Deshawn Watson and DL J.J. Watt can make it through full season, the Texans play in what some would say is the weakest division and have all the pieces in place to get to Atlanta.
For the “Alabama Invitational”, here’s my call for the other three participants. I think Clemson still has some juice left so the Tigers are one. Washington is still smarting from not making the cut this year and it should be motivation for the Huskies to make it to the 2019 dance. Finally, look for the Big 10 to fill the last spot with Wisconsin going to Atlanta
That closes out the 2017 NFL and NCAA football season. Hope you enjoyed our coverage. See you for the Draft in April.