By Larry Bisagni
Weekly snapshots will consist of quick observations. The only rule is three sentences or less per subject.
I wish I wasn’t beginning this column with such a serious issue, but Reuben Foster had to go. The 49ers have always been a very player friendly organization, and have equally led the way on many social justice issues. I applaud the Niners for putting their money where their mouth is and cutting ties over an issue like domestic violence, because it absolutely has to be publicly addressed and acknowledged for being the horrific crime that it is.
Gregg Williams clearly benefited from the four-year apprenticeship under Joe Gibbs. He is not the same head coach that he was in Buffalo. The Steelers still set the bar in that division, but I would not be all that surprised to see the Browns competing for division supremacy by 2020.
Baker Mayfield will continue to mature, but given his demeanor, his snub of Hue Jackson isn’t surprising. That said, taking the high road is what I would have liked to have seen from the face of the franchise if I’m the brass of the Browns. You won, you played well, you got the last laugh; just call it a day, and roll out with the top down.
Speaking of Sunday’s Browns-Bengals game, yes, Marvin Lewis stabilized a train wreck in Cincinnati, but that seat just got very hot. 15 years and zero playoff wins (0-7) will do that, but the Bengals are only half a game better than the Browns. If Cincinnati finishes in the cellar, they will clean house.
The win this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with Lamar Jackson running the ball much less led me to two conclusions: Jackson is extremely coachable, and Joe Flacco’s time in Baltimore has officially expired. Whether the Ravens do or don’t sneak into the playoffs, the purple and black seem to feed off Jackson’s energy and enthusiasm, and will ride or die with the rookie. Flacco becomes a hired gun next year, and likely ends up in Florida with the Dolphins or the Jags, but I wouldn’t rule out the Giants, or the Broncos cutting ties with Case Keenum.
It doesn’t take an organizational behavior degree to see that Aaron Rodgers is done with Mike McCarthy. With the loss to the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, Green Bay’s season is essentially over. The Packers have quit on their coach and Rodgers has to know that his personal window for winning Super Bowls is closing at an alarming rate.
The Chargers might be the lowest profile really good team to ever play in Los Angeles, and easily the most overlooked. Anthony Lynn has this nomadic team at 8-3 and a lock for the playoffs, yet they still face challenges filling up a 30,000 seat stadium. Should a couple of things break the right way, you could see an all Los Angeles Super Bowl and I’d bet that the majority of spectators would still call them the San Diego Chargers.
Alex Smith isn’t spectacular to watch, but he plays mistake-free football, which will win many games. His presence was missed by the Redskins last Thursday, and that compound fracture likely ended any run at the playoffs. Expect Doug Williams to do his legendary due diligence and see who he can find in the draft, because at 35 next year, there is no guarantee that Smith comes back from that injury, and while Colt McCoy has some essential quarterback intangibles, he simply doesn’t have a top-flight NFL arm.
Rivalry weekend used to produce classics, but it’s so clear which programs have been so soundly lapped by the arch-rival that many games weren’t worth watching. Notre Dame getting through unscathed has to make the TV executives happy, but the only real question is, after the Irish, Bama, and Clemson, who is the other team invited to the dance? If someone stuck a gun to my head, I’d probably say Georgia, but your guess is as good as mine.
Virginia Tech isn’t going to be as patient with Justin Fuente as they were with Frank Beamer, largely because Tech is Beamer’s Alma Mater, and had no established history as a national powerhouse. The Commonwealth of Virginia produces some of the best prep players in America, and Beamer built a bulletproof pipeline that kept an awful lot of talent from being siphoned off by out of state competition. Another clunker next season in Blacksburg, and Fuente had better start Googling moving companies in the New River Valley area.
Nothing excites MLB executives quite like a left-handed starting pitcher who can light up the radar gun. 27 year-old flamethrower Yusei Kikuchi of the Seibu Lions will be posted next week, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up in the Bronx, where being a southpaw has been an advantage for pitchers and sluggers for 100 years. Japanese players are considered the most sure thing for foreign-born players at this point, and he makes a lot of sense as the heir apparent to CC Sabathia.
Say whatever you want about LaVar Ball, but the man clearly did an awful lot right by raising his sons to work hard and be open to coaching. LeBron James doesn’t take just anyone under his wing. Lonzo Ball is incredibly driven and has a very high basketball IQ.
James Wiseman going to Memphis shows that you can go home again. Penny Hardaway’s deep roots in his hometown are bearing fruit and he could have the Tigers as a top-tier elite program by this time next year.
As a relentlessly proud San Francisco Don, it’s hard for me to admit this, but Gonzaga deserves to be the current #1 team in college basketball. The Kennel in Spokane rivals Cameron and Rupp as one of the toughest places for a road team to play in America.
Did you know that there’s a heavyweight championship fight this weekend between two undefeated fighters? It’s a testament to how well UFC has been promoted as opposed to boxing, because culturally, this weekends showdown between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury at the Staples Center in LA will barely move the meter, if at all. As recently as thirty years ago, this would have been a show-stopping event that had high school corridors and office water coolers buzzing, especially with a knockout artist like Wilder and a lightning rod like Fury involved.