There is no disputing that coaches love to play games. Games with their opponents. Games with the public/media and even, games with themselves and their own staffs.
One of the biggest games that coaches like to play is withholding who might be starting for them at a key position all the way up until the last second. This is especially true with quarterback disputes or controversies. And, it’s in the name of “Competitive Advantage,” that they like to withhold information or updates.
And there has been no shortage of it in our state both at the pro and college level this season.
The most famous examples were once again this past weekend, when the Buccaneers had franchise quarterback Jameis Winston back off suspension and eligible to start the game with Chicago Sunday. Yet veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing “lights out” during most of his three previous starts.
Likewise, the Jaguars were dealing with Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury and his status for Sunday’s game with the Jets was once again a competitive advantage mystery.
In the Bucs case, coach Dirk Koetter continued to stonewall the media and the public, all week, even after he admitted that he had told Fitzpatrick and Winston who was going to start against the Bears last Tuesday. In the name of competitive advantage, the coach went all the way through the weekend and up until game time before Fitzpatrick trotted out onto the field to start Sunday’s disastrous 48 – 10 loss.
Winston did start and play the entire second half, when the issue had long been decided. He threw two interceptions and a fourth-quarter touchdown in the loss. More on the Buccaneers QB situation in a second.
For last weekend’s game with the Titans, Fournette was limited in practice and listed as “questionable” and again in the name of competitive advantage, the second-year Jaguars coach would not say definitively whether fournette was going to play or not. This went on all the way up until the inactives were released 90 minutes before the the Tennessee game, when Fournette’s name appeared on that list, and then everyone knew he was not playing.
The same thing held true this past weekend, when Marrone repeatedly refused to definitively say whether Fournette was going to give it a try. That’s despite the fact that he had practiced fully on Friday, and once again, was listed as questionable.
Fournette did play in the first half of the game, carrying the ball 10 times but re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the second half and did not return.
Now, in that case, Marrone is left to explain why they tried it this past week as opposed to waiting one more week. And, now, there’s a real possibility that the rookie of the year last season could miss at least another game or two with the hammy.
But don’t count on getting any straight answers, in the name of competitive advantage.
Interestingly, Koetter completely contradicted the whole competitive advantage thing, when he came right out of his Monday news conference and announced that Winston will start after the Bucs bye week against the Atlanta Falcons.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 1, 2018
While this conveniently relieves the Bucs third year coach of having to answer the questions for the next two weeks about who his quarterback will be, that also held true this past week and weekend. And yet, in the name of….. you got it, competitive advantage, he refused to say.
So, it’s worth pointing out: that the competitive advantage gained by not telling the Bears for sure that Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback was bigger than telling the Falcons, 13 days in advance, that Winston will be the quarterback.
And the Pro coaches are not alone, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt did the same thing with his quarterback switch for last Thursday night’s win over North Carolina. He repeatedly refused to announce to the media, fans or to the Tar Heels, whom his starter would be for the ACC showdown at Hard Rock stadium.
This again went all the way up until game time, when Richt told ESPN that Perry would be starting just before the kickoff of the game . As it turns out, senior Malik Rosier went to the bench and the red shirt freshman Perry played solidly, as the Hurricanes rolled to an easy victory.
And look, the preeminent college coach of this Century, Nick Saban did the same thing all offseason and all the way up until Alabama’s opening kickoff with Louisville in game one. That’s when Saban decided to start sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback over his previous starter from the last two seasons Jalen Hurts.
Again, no one can question Saban’s success, but still, it’s silly that Louisville and other opponents wouldn’t be preparing for both Tagovailoa and Hurts to play against them.
So, as this goes on, media members roll their eyes and continue to try to find out on their own, who’s going to play or not play.
The bottom line is other teams are prepared for anything too, and it’s just as easy for you to go ahead and say who’s going to play, or not, as it is to play competitive advantage games
Who is headed to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV after Sunday?
Two games remain to determine whom will tee it up at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. Will the upstart Titans pull off a third straight upset in Kansas City? Can the Packers get revenge over a San Francisco team that humbled them in late November?
We know this: the unexpected has already happened several times in these playoffs and don’t rule out the upsets Sunday.
First, the Baltimore Ravens had been favorites to win Super Bowl LIV for some time now. Pretty much since they destroyed the Pats in the middle of the season. They had already beaten the K.C Chiefs and a handful of other solid teams. And, once they defeated the the 49ers in December, it looked like the Ravens were the best team in the NFL .
Then, last Saturday night, this happened:
The Ravens appeared to be the most complete team in the NFL, but that’s the thing about the playoffs, all it takes is one bad game and you’re out.
The Tennesse Titans went into M&T Bank Stadium and surprised them last Saturday night. Jim Harbaugh got outcoached and the Ravens hit a brick wall of a Mike Vrabel defense. So, now they are gone.
But who fills the void, now that the supposed “best team in football” got eliminated, and whom is the favorite to win it all now headed in to Championship Sunday?
The Titans and veteran QB Ryan Tannehill are on an epic run. They are the beast slayers, so to speak. But it isn’t them. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the NFL, and the Packers have won six games straight games after last week’s close one at Lambeau over Seattle.
However, it’s not them either. The 49ers are in a position to win it all for the first time since 1994 and they have the best pass defense in the league. But again, it’s not them.
That leaves just one team: Andy Reid and his “Kool-Aide-Colored” Chiefs.
Kansas City leads the Super Bowl Futures odds charge at +135. The SF 49ers can be found around +165 and both the Packers are Titans are sitting at +650. So, Las Vegas has the Chiefs to win, with the 49ers close at second.
But does this mean the Chiefs and their perennial runner-up coach, will win out?
Many smart sports handicappers have their picks with the Titans to at least keep the game close enough to cover the point spread Sunday. More like the rolling Titans to win outright.
The same goes for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers game. The Niners are big favorites, but we are dealing with a team whose recent situation performance shows, they would actually win –but maybe not cover.
So, we have two conference championship games with clear, heavy favorites … that could both lose.
The Chiefs showed us a few things in their incredible Division-Round win over the Houston Texans. The first thing they showed us is that their defense and special teams units are vulnerable. This was made apparent when the Texans went up 24-0 and looked to be dominating the game.
Next, the Chiefs showed us that they can adjust better than anyone. They shook it off and put up 28 points in the second quarter to retake the lead. Then they poured it on in the 3rd and 4th, adding 23 more to the board, showing us that they are still the best second-half team in football.
That said, the Texans are not the Titans. They showed us this season that they really only get consistent wins against sub-500 teams. Houston ranked way back at No. 23 in the league for scoring defense (and way worse in their last 3 games allowing 35 per affair) and 26.7 overall while playing on the road.
The Titans on the other hand, only allow 16.6 points per game on the road. They have a top-ten defense overall and have been absolutely stellar in recent games. In their last 3, they’ve only allowed 13 points per game. KC has allowed 18.3 per game in their most recent three.
On the flip side, the Super Bowl favorite has scored 29 points per game at home and averages the same overall. But, the Titans have upped their average to 25 points per game both overall and on the road. So, we should see a very close game, indeed.
Can the SB LIV favs beat the Titans and go on to win it all in South Florida? Perhaps, but it won’t be easy.
Titans QB Tannehill on Wednesday- “I wanna win”
The Tennessee Titans are readying to play in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. And on Wednesday, former Dolphins quarterback now turned Tennessee starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, met with the media about the opportunity for he and his teammates to play their way into Super Bowl 54.
And, Tannehill made something abundantly clear again, it doesn’t matter about his own personal pass attempts or stats, he’s mainly concerned with getting another victory:
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 15, 2020
“We’ve put in a lot of work to win multiple ways this season. You don’t forget how to throw and catch…. Being a quarterback, I love throwing the ball, but I just wanna win.”
Tannehill has only thrown the ball a total of 29 times with 15 completions in the Titans two playoff wins over the Patriots and the Ravens. So, it’s obvious the Tennessee’s game plan of grinding teams with the run and Derrick Henry bruising them, and, then, playing sound, physical and opportunistic defense has worked thus far.
However, Tannehill also acknowledged Wednesday that it might be different against the Chiefs, who certainly are more explosive then either New England or Baltimore on offense. The Texans found that out firsthand at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, when their 24 – 0 lead evaporated in the second quarter and Patrick Mahomes and Co. proceeded to put 41 unanswered points on them.
Now, Tennessee’s defense is better than Houston’s overall and it’s one of the big reasons why they’re still alive at this stage of the postseason. Still, Tannehill may be called upon to make a bunch of big throws and plays in this game if the Titans are going to have any chance.
His first start was at home against the Chargers and threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a win. Tannehill then led them on a run of winning six of seven starts total. And, in every one of those games, Tannehill threw for either at least 300 yards or for at least two touchdowns or a combo of both.
His play has been consistent, and at times, very good for Tenneessee.
Further, when you total up his 11 games started, Tannehill now has an 8 – 3 record (including these two playoff wins), and he has only one game, a 30 – 20 loss at Carolina in early November, where he had two interceptions.
One, essentially “bad game” in 11 starts.
And, since that November Carolina game, Tannehill has thrown only 3 picks total, while throwing 19 TDs. Oh, and Tennessee is now 7 – 2 over those next nine games.
And, one of those games is the previous win over Kansas City in Nashville on November 10th, when Tannehill threw for 181 yards and two scores and no picks.
Now, they will head to frigid K.C. to play the biggest game of Tanehill’s and several of the young stars on offense’s biggest professional game ever. And, you get the sense that the veteran signal caller whom the Dolphins gave up on this off-season, is ready to throw it 10 times or 40 times to try to get it done.