Cavalcade Of Whimsy: Read It Right In The ...

Cavalcade of Whimsy: When to take a knee, Mariota as a pro, and Mr. Winston

Cavalcade of Whimsy

September 23

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Cavalcade of Whimsy
Part 2: Sleeper Playoff Teams coming Tuesday afternoon

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I came out dressed in full pads, warmed up and was all ready to go, but Jimbo Fisher asked that I go back into the locker room and change. The rest of the column struggled because of it, but I was right there to cheer it on.

Why doesn’t the painfully stale Howard Stern crash press conference bit work? It can’t match the goofiness of the real world … If there wasn’t any controversy in the NFL last week and it was all about the games and action on the field, James Winston would’ve only been suspended for the first half against Clemson, if that, and everything would’ve been fine. What Winston yelled wasn’t okay for a guy with a school investigation hanging over his head, and especially as the face and main representative of an entire university, but it all stemmed from a dopey and unfunny fake video and meme that made the viral rounds. Again, you can’t do that if you’re Winston, especially in the current sports climate, but relative to other things he has gotten in trouble for, this was all a silly waste of time and energy.

” Most days I wish I'd never met you 'cause then I could sleep at night. I didn't have to walk around with the knowledge that there was someone like you out there. I didn't have to watch you throw it all away.” … Yes, Winston comes across as a phony. Yes, he might have a slew of issues in his past. Yes, he’s brilliant in front of the microphone and on the field, and different in his actions as a representative of Florida State University. Yes, with all that’s happening in the NFL and with all the lockdown rules and regulations about to come in terms of player conduct, Winston is the textbook definition of a red flag.

He’s also one of the 25 best quarterbacks on the planet, college or pro, and he probably better right now than the starting quarterbacks for Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Tennessee, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland, Minnesota, Houston, St. Louis, Arizona, Miami, Kansas City, New York Jets, and yeah, I said it, San Francisco.

I have yet to come across an NFL type who has anything remotely nice to say about Winston’s character, but only a few human beings have ever existed with the potential to be a superstar of superstars at the toughest job in sports. However …

And somewhere, Tebow is cohosting Good Morning America Marcus Mariota is going to be drafted No. 1 overall even though he’s not a No. 1 overall prospect like Winston is. He’s an easy guy to love at the moment since he’s not a troublemaker, is a good guy, and really, really talented, but he’s not Andrew Luck, and he’s not Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, or on raw talent, JaMarcus Russell – no one had ever come into the NFL with a better arm - when it comes to No. 1 overall upside. He’s also not Colin Kaepernick.

The Kaepernick to Mariota comparison is easy since they’re about the same size, they can both run, and they both play – or played - on college teams that no one east of the Rocky Mountains have ever seen, but Kaepernick was actually a better pro prospect in terms of raw skills and upside than he ever got credit for.

Kaepernick was a more effective runner, but that only matters in the NFL to get out of a bad situation, and not as a key option to the offense. Even so, the tools were intriguing for a guy who ran for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and scored 59 rushing touchdowns.

Mariota has the running element to his game, and he has the wheels, but he’s not the threat Kaepernick was – granted, the collegiate offensive styles are far different and the two are asked to do different things. Mariota is a far more accurate passer than Kaepernick was at Nevada, but Kaepernick had and has the far, far better, NFL-caliber arm. Mariota is more like the you-know-what-you’ll-get guy, even after he tweaks his style, while Kaepernick was the big-time upside project. You want the better comparison for Mariota? The No. 1 overall pick the year before Russell, Alex Smith.

The former Utah Ute was a good runner and decision maker with a decent arm, and he wouldn’t make mistakes, but he never had the You’re Going To Win A Super Bowl With This Guy talent. That’s not to say that Mariota can’t play in The League or be a superstar, but he’s being considered the no-brainer No. 1 overall draft pick at the moment because, even as dynamic as he is, he’s safe – and that’s not a knock. Take the excess baggage out of the equation, though, and any NFL offensive coordinator worth his salt takes Winston – or 2016 No. 1 overall pick, Christian Hackenberg - over Mariota and doesn’t even blink. But there’s more to being an NFL quarterback than raw talent, and Winston needs to realize that.

”Dance, dance, dance 'til you're dead” … I don’t believe in corporal punishment, especially when it comes to children. I believe in settling differences through words, and teaching and disciplining by explanation and reason rather than violence or intimidation. However, as I write this, I’m enjoying approximately three square inches of total space around me in seat 15A on my flight back from Denver. I’m hitting my call button to politely request that the dude with the never-ending burrito in 14A who keeps reclining his chair back into my knees over and over and over again be disciplined with three-day vacation in Adrian Peterson’s “whupping room” followed up by brunch with a few lovely young men from ISIS while draped in nothing by an American flag and t-shirt that says Shiite Happens.

The other difference, of course, is that one actually won a championship … Stop comparing Winston to Johnny Manziel in any way. They both won the Heisman, and they both get way too much press and coverage - that’s about it. Winston is being accused of and investigated for some horrible allegations, to go along with being nailed for stealing. However, he’s 6-4, 230, mobile and has a big arm – he’s the NFL prototype. Manziel had a run-in with the law, but his three big issues were/are 1) his backup punter build, 2) his enjoyment of living the word party as a verb and 3) his love of really, really hot chicks – the same concerns that apply to approximately 93.6% of those of you reading this right now.

NFL, you need to learn the catchphrase “violation of team rules.” … Following the lead from the NFL, and taking a proactive approach, I’m changing up the Cavalcade of Whimsy policy on domestic violence. Before, the COW policy was that it’s not okay to punch a woman in the brain. Now, the stance, like the NFL’s, is that it’s not okay, unless it’s on videotape, and then it’s all about where and when that tape was seen.

Your league has a team nicknamed Redskins. Your mega-sponsors were bluffing – they’re not going anywhere … College football has had its problems. Over the last several years there have been numerous scandals, several incidents of cheating, lots of academic controversies, a death stemming from a blast of “unremarkable” weather, and an all-timer of a horrific nightmare that, as this last weekend proved, still isn’t fully understood by a sizeable portion of the program’s fan base. College football has learned how to handle these things, and the NFL could use a lesson.

Wait … for … the … games.

I’ve tried to fight the good fight, but once the ball is kicked off, no one cares anymore no matter what the problem.

Roger Goodell and NFL PR types, let me help you out. Instead of that hot mess of a Q&A The Commish dealt with last Friday, Goodell should’ve walked out and said seven words - “You’re going to watch no matter what.” – before dropping trou, mooning the press corps, and topszn his way off the stage.

When animals start marching by two by two, it might be time to change your head coach … Michigan, it’s probably okay to drop that whole No. 98 jersey gimmick with Devin Gardner now.

And yes, the Big Ten is still a Power 5 conference … America, you have to get it into your head that the landscape of college football has changed in 2014 and we all have to think of things differently. Yes, in the BCS era it was important to figure out every aspect and every nuance because the journey to the championship was about the entire season – a game in late August meant as much as a game in mid-November. Now, though, it’s about the best teams at the end of the year – September isn’t irrelevant by any stretch, but at least in theory, the end result will probably be about the finishing kick.

So if Florida State had lost to Clemson in a tight battle, it wouldn’t have mattered since it could’ve been reasoned that the defending national champion would’ve won with Winston under center. As long as the Seminoles were rocking by the end of the year, and as long as they won out with Winston under center, the Clemson game was immaterial.

And that’s going to be the most interesting aspect of how this all plays out. Will the committee really go by the Best Four Teams theory, or will it reward an entire season, or will it be a mix of the two? Will it be deserve or perceived reality?

Whatever it is, until we get to November, please stop wondering what every score means to a playoff, and announcers, stop making this a key part of every broadcast. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said from the start. The four teams are going to come from Power 5 conferences – or Notre Dame – and at least three are going to be champs. Win a Power 5 championship with one loss, or go unbeaten, and you’ll probably be in.

Or just D up after you don’t take this advice and not let the other team rally … We live in a day and age of specialization, too many analytics, more numbers than you can shake a geek at, and hacked selfies of really pretty people, but even though every single thing about every single play in every single sport is broken down on some media outlet, football still hasn’t figured out a set and scientific way to properly close out a game.

First of all, when you’re winning late and you’re trying to run out the clock, no more shotgun or pistol snaps. Ever. No, really, EVER. If your quarterback can’t take a simple snap from under center, you don’t deserve to win a football game.

Second, if you’re trying to end a half, and you’re relatively deep in your own territory, don’t run the ball and then take a knee. Just take a knee twice and go on about your day.

Finally, teams have to know the clock. Case in point, I got to be in the booth for Campus Insiders doing the fantastic Florida Atlantic–Wyoming game. The Owls had the game won, up 19-17 with just over two minutes to play and on the Cowboy 11 - UW didn’t have any timeouts left. With a 40 second play clock, had FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson danced for a few seconds and taken a knee, it would’ve been second down with about 1:20 to play. Take another knee, and with a few more seconds accounted for, it’s third down with just about 40 seconds left. Ball game. Instead, Johnson tried to run the ball, fumbled, and Wyoming was able to come up with a miraculous finish with an 88-yard pass play to Dominic Rufran setting up the game-winning field goal.

I ain’t so smart at that whole mathing thing, so I welcome any and all ideas, edit and thoughts on how to actually do this, but here’s my best guess on how the chart should go when a team with a lead is trying to go Mariano Rivera and close.

- With a running 40 second play clock, if the defensive team doesn’t have any timeouts left, the leading team should be able to run the clock down to one and take a knee three times if there are two minutes remaining or less – but you can probably make it happen with 2:10 left on the clock. (First down, snap ball, wait for two seconds, take a knee, let clock run down to under 1:20. Second down, snap ball, wait for two seconds, take a knee, clock runs down to under 40 seconds. Third down, take a knee, win game, get smoochies from cheerleaders.)

- If the defensive team has one timeout left, then the leading team should be able to take a knee three times with 1:30 remaining or less.

- If the defensive team has two timeouts left, then the leading team should be able to take a knee three times with 50 seconds remaining or less.

- If the defensive team has all three timeouts left, then it gets dicey, but the leading team should be able to take three knees with around 15 seconds left on the clock as long as it can burn a second or two before taking the knee.

No, the discipline didn’t involve feeding a baby Subway … A few weeks ago, I wanted to start a campaign to rightfully give Reggie Bush the Heisman back that he won. Taking the Heisman away for dealing with a marketing company was wrong, but after Bush revealed that he “harshly” disciplines his one-year-old daughter, you can go ahead and keep that free space between Leinart and Smith.

Part One would’ve been better … but like Urban Meyer during his last days at Florida, mentally, I was broke.

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