So for the umpteenth year in a row, I’ve been forced to answer questions about why the league doesn’t have a Toilet Bowl. (For the uninitiated, a Toilet Bowl is a tournament for those teams who were not able to make the league playoffs. Some leagues throw prize money toward the winner of this sad, sad affair.) Here are my usual responses:
- Does the NFL have a Toilet Bowl tournament? Of course not. That would detract from the playoffs and be waste of everybody’s time.
- In regards to our league, who the hell would want to play in such a tournament?
- And who the hell would want to win it?
- Why would I give a dime of league money to a team that wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs? What would that do to the incentive to make the playoffs? Should I eliminate the traveling trophy and just give participation trophies to everyone who shows up? Do you realize the sheer amount of grief I’d get from Robbie and Stoner if I tried such a thing?
Anyway, what you’ve read above is most of what Lars and I talked about while watching the games on Sunday. Not as vehement as discussions with Mike and Carol have been in years past, but still exceedingly annoying. My league will not have the equivalent of an NIT. So it is written, so it shall come to pass. Or not pass. (I don’t do delusions of grandeur well.)
Let’s turn to more pleasant subjects, shall we?
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY GAME OF THE WEEK: Jack vs Mike
Yes, this might be the exceeding bitterness talking, but nothing about this game said these guys deserved to be in the playoffs…until the ending. Heading into Monday night, Jack trailed Mike by one point and had Jordan Cameron going. And Jack got…one point from Cameron. The result was a tie game that went to the league’s tie-breaker system: the Franchise Player. See, every week a team is required to designate one member of its starting line up as the Franchise Player. In the event of a tie, the team whose Franchise Player scored more points gets the win. Jack had designated Russell Wilson, whose 18 points were enough to trump Mike’s representative, Todd Gurley, who netted 17 points. How good was that finish? It’s the only time this season that the Franchise Player decided a game and it was decided by ONE point. The only person who didn’t seem excited was Mike, who was last seen in Rio de Janeiro on what drinking experts have termed “one raging f’n bender.”
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Odell Beckham Jr.
If you’re curious about the other first round game, it was also decided on Monday night. Chuck looked dead in the water (well, he always looks a LITTLE dead in the water) as he was trailing T.J. by 13 points and had only Odell Beckham Jr. going. Of course, Beckham was going against the Dolphins defense and currently leads the league in, “Incomplete. No, wait. Holy crap, he CAUGHT that?!” So nobody was handing T.J. the ballgame. Sure enough, Beckham caught two TD passes and had over 150 yards receiving. He propelled Chuck into the semi-finals and T.J. into another off-season of explaining to the lovely Mrs. T.J. why he wastes money on this fantasy nonsense. Beckham gets additional credit for being one of only two things saving the New York Giants season. The other being…
UNDER-RATED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Eli Manning
Manning was superlative on Monday night, going 27 for 31 (that’s an 87 % completion rate) with 337 yards and 4 TDs. And he needed to be. Having watched the Giants a handful of times this season, the only reason I can come up with for their contending in the NFC East (beyond the gross incompetence of the rest of the division) is the combination of Manning and Beckham. Seriously, they do running back by committee (the equivalent of the Bengazi Committee), they have no second receiver and no defense (the return of Jason “Hand me that M-80” Pierre-Paul has helped a bit, but Pierre-Paul is hampered by his right hand being covered in a cast so large he could hide a damn meat hook in there.) Even head coach Tom Coughlin, once the very image of piss-and-vinegar intensity, seems to have dispensed with the vinegar. He’s been reduced to issuing the Tom Coughlin-What-The-F**k Face a couple times per game and leaving it at that. Of course, the general football watching public is largely unaware of how good Eli has been. The focus seems to be on a one-time Super Bowl winning Manning who’s dragging down a good team rather than a two-time Super Bowl winning Manning who’s making a poor team better than it has any right to be. If only there was an annoying jingle Eli could sing all the time…
KICK IN THE NUTS AWARD: Andy Dalton and Cincinnati Bengals’ fans
Actually, if you’re looking for something that’s not fair, it was all over the field on Sunday afternoon. The Bengals have spent most of the season cruising toward a fifth straight playoff appearance, perhaps even a first round bye. Dalton, who in times past has resembled Ralph Malph more than the Red Rifle, was playing at an MVP level. If the Bengals weren’t the favorites to win the AFC, they were certainly in the discussion. Since the Football Gods seem to hate any team playing in Ohio, it was time to bring all this to a halt. In one play, early in Sunday’s game against the Steelers, Dalton threw an inexplicable pick to Pittsburgh lineman Stephon Tuitt then fractured his thumb while tackling Tuitt. Backup A.J. McCarron came in and tried to keep the Bengals in it, looking halfway decent at times, but the Steelers ultimately emerged with a 33-20 victory. Suddenly, the Bengals are 10-3 and no longer in position for a first round bye. In fact, with three games left and the surging Steelers at 8-5, it’s no longer a lock that the Bengals will even win their division. That Lewis Black-sized cry of “SON OF A BITCH!” you heard on Sunday night was coming from the Queen City, likely said by former Bengals coach Sam Wyche (if you pay him enough money, he’ll do that sort of thing.)
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart, (soon to be ONCE AGAIN, the funniest man on TV) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The NFC coaching hot seat
I’ve got to be honest: the coaching carousel is my favorite part of the season. WAY more than the Super Bowl (it isn’t even close, really.) The last four weeks of the season always provide a great deal of who’s staying/who’s going discussion. So let’s focus on the NFC this week and engage in some reckless speculation, shall we?
Covered in detail last week.
Jim Caldwell (Detroit)
Caldwell’s an interesting case. He’s the only authority figure who survived owner Martha Ford’s purging at the end of October. And as recently as a week and a half ago, I would’ve said Caldwell had a halfway decent chance of staying. His team had won back-to-back games and were beating the hell out of the Green Bay Packers at home. Then the second half and the Hail Mary occurred, followed by an inexplicable loss to St. Louis. Now the Lions are 4-9 with back-to-back losses. In my heart of hearts, I believe that Ford wants to retain Caldwell. He’s a good man and took the Lions to the playoffs just a year ago. But a new GM will want to bring in his own head coach. And each additional loss makes Caldwell harder to back. It will take at least two wins, probably three, over the last three games in order for Caldwell to return.
Sean Payton (New Orleans)
To be completely honest, I don’t think Payton’s going to get fired. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned being in this discussion. Yes, Payton won a Super Bowl in New Orleans and that should never be discounted. (When I was a kid, I thought I’d see first contact with aliens before I’d see New Orleans win a Super Bowl.) But the Saints have missed the playoffs three of the last four seasons and will likely finish below .500 for the second season in a row. Beyond that, the defense is a mess and the QB is aging. Payton was able to scapegoat his way out of the defense situation by canning coordinator Rob Ryan. But you’re only allowed one of those. Again, I don’t think Payton’s in real danger of being fired. But the seat might be getting a tad warm next year.
Jim Tomsula (San Francisco)
While Tomsula’s only in his first season, he’s already got 49ers fans longing for the Jim Harbaugh era. And I don’t mean the three straight NFC Championship Game era. I mean, the 8-8 49ers of last season. THAT Harbaugh looks like William the Conqueror compared to Tomsula. Beyond beating a playoff bound team in the first week and ripping a fart in a press conference, there’s been very little to recommend Tomsula. Which is exactly what should happen when you fire a successful head coach for being a big bad man and replace him with Skippy the Intern. Tomsula has looked and acted in over his head from day one. The Niners brain trust (?) has enough to answer for in hiring Tomsula in the first place. I don’t think they’re anxious to explain why they’re bringing him back for year two.
Jeff Fisher (St. Louis)
I’m not a hundred percent certain Fisher’s on the hot seat, but he ought to be. As I’ve alluded to in this column, Fisher’s been a head coach for 21 seasons. Of these, he’s produced 6 winning seasons. If you factor in .500 seasons, he’s had 10 non-losing season. That’s it. For all the perception of Fisher as a great coach, he’s never won a Super Bowl and he’s produced losing teams more than half the time. Right now, he’s one loss away from his fourth straight losing season in St. Louis. Seriously, who manages to get a fifth season when they haven’t produced a winner in their first four? However, Fisher knows how to manipulate a clueless owner and he seems to be doing that with Rams owner Stan Kroenke. SI’s Peter King reported that Fisher and Kroenke have “a great relationship”. If I were a Rams fan, that would send a chill down my spine. I don’t want my owner to have a great relationship with the head coach. I want them to have a professional relationship; the kind that says, “Once you aren’t doing the job to my expectations, you’re gone.” Worse, if Fisher’s history means anything, he’ll come back and coach the Rams to a 9-7, out-in-the-first-round-of-the-playoffs performance that will earn him another four years of underachieving. Don’t believe me? Ask Tennessee Titans fans. They watched it play out for 17 seasons. Oy.
Peyton’s Heroes (Carol) vs Favre’s Dong (Jack)
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) vs Chuck (Chuck)